Today, a sale for an e-commerce business could start with a search query. The text typed out into the search bar of a search engine gives search results. If your e-commerce website ranks on top of the search results, the searcher would click the first link and lands on your e-commerce website. That’s how instrumental it is to rank on top of the search results. How relevant your e-commerce site is to the keyword in the search query determines your rank. And that could make all the difference between a potential buyer landing on your site or ending up on your competitor’s website.
There are various tactics under SEO, however, the principle of them all is that you’re helping search engines like Google, Bing, etc. to understand your e-commerce site better. And in exchange, these search engines help in increasing the visibility of your site, providing you with the opportunity to rank high on search results pages and inviting more customers to come and browse through your site.
One of the crucial and primary tactics of SEO is keyword research.
What is keyword research?
Keyword research is simply the way to determine the terminologies that are used by your potential customers when they are trying to find products that you are selling. Once you identify these terminologies, you include these keywords in your e-commerce website pages and in your marketing strategies.
This guide covers the basics of keyword research for e-commerce businesses, why should you care and how it helps you boost your ranking and attract high-quality traffic to your online store. You will also find out how to build your list of relevant keywords for your e-commerce store to optimize pages of your online store and create relevant website content like product descriptions and blogs.
Why is keyword research for e-commerce necessary?
When you start out, there are chances that not many shoppers know about you. You need to rely on potential customers finding you when they are searching for products that you are currently selling.
And when you rank for keywords that your potential customers are not interested in, chances are that not many people will find your e-commerce website and shop in it. That’s where keyword research makes in impact. It lets you identify keywords that are specific to your e-commerce business and helps you factor the ones that are widely searched and matter a lot to your business.
Keyword research is important for e-commerce because it is one of the key factors that search engines use to display websites for a specific search query.
Whenever one searches for something, the search engine decides to present a handful of results, from a thousand possible pages. This is determined by the algorithms that display the best and most relevant matches for each of the searches. Thus, it is vital to choose your keywords carefully- relevant keywords will ensure that search engines display your site on the top ranking pages.
Keyword research is not just about getting your e-commerce website rank on top of the first page of search results, it is about featuring your webpages for relevant search queries. This can increase your site traffic exponentially leading to more opportunities to convert visitors and generate more sales.
Ecommerce keyword research: the basics
Before finding out how to do keyword research and choose the best keywords for your online e-commerce business, let’s take a look at some of the basic terminologies that are likely to pop up.
Keywords are search phrases or words that describe the content of a website or a page. Keywords can either be a single word or a phrase through which the content of the page can be summed up.
They are a part of a website’s or web page’s metadata, which aids search engines to match and display your content upon appropriate search.
Long-tail keywords are those terms that contain three or more words and are highly specific in nature. These make up a large part of online searches but tend to have a low search volume due to their specificity. These long tail keywords tend to offer maximum opportunities for conversions since searchers who use these keywords are further down the buying journey.
For instance, “shampoo” is a keyword that is something a searcher will look up when they are at an information gathering stage. But when someone searches “color protectant shampoo for damaged hair”, we can assume that they are looking for a specific product. Shoppers performing these searches are somewhere further down the buying cycle and closer to purchasing the product.
Keyword intent gives you an idea of what the searcher’s purpose was. It gives you a glimpse of what a shopper intends to do when they perform a search and gives us an understanding of what their goal is likely to be.
Keyword intent varies based on the type of search involved.And there are four primary kinds of search intent:
Keywords with an informational intent imply that the searcher is looking for answers to questions and concerns they have. These keywords would fall under “I want to know…” searches and will place the searchers at the top of a sales funnel.
These keywords are intended to explore concepts and provide tips but it may not be a good idea to sell something to them. This is where you can create gated content like online courses, whitepapers, ebooks, and guides for collecting emails and initiating conversations.
Navigational searches are when shoppers know exactly where they want to go and most times, it is related to a specific website. These kinds of searchers involve brand names. They may use the search engine to locate the website in case they are unsure of the exact URL of the website.
Searches belonging to this intent will look something like “Medium sized X brand shirt size”
But that shouldn’t stop you from optimizing your content for these kind of searches. In this type of search, you don’t need to sell something new to searchers. For your e-commerce store, you can ensure that you include brand names for products, appropriate description, other important product details so that it appears on the search results directly.
This falls somewhere between informational and transactional search intent. it may simply cater to those who are searching for queries and are considering the idea of making a purchase. It reveals a searcher’s interest towards a specific product. These searches invite the users further into the sales funnel in comparison to informational searches.
People, with investigational intent, are often trying to compare prices, product features, or specifications, or simply doing further research to understand something.
Some examples of this type of keyword would be a review, compare, for women, best, etc. Essentially, you can optimize your store using these keywords to convince the users that you are better than your competitors.
When users search with transactional intent, they are ready to purchase something. These are known as high commercial intent keywords. And some keywords that indicate this intent are sale, price, free shipping, where to buy, coupon, discount, etc. This can also include product keywords like sweatshirts or coffee makers, specific products like Nike shoes or north face jackets, and other branded searches.
These keywords can be used to optimize product pages that have CTA buttons.
Search volume is a measure of searches for a particular keyword within a specific period. For example, it is the total number of monthly searches for a particular search keyword or phrase. The search volume determines how popular and competitive a keyword is within a specific duration.
Ideally, your keyword research should include keywords with the highest search volume in your niche.
Using keywords with high search volume means ranking higher, driving more traffic, creating more opportunities for conversion, and generating revenue for your e-commerce business.
However, adding high volume keywords to a page cannot make it rank. Your keyword research must include highly relevant keywords with a good search volume that would capture your target audience’s attention.
Keyword ranking difficulty gives you an ideal of the effort required to get your content to rank on the first page of the search results. A high-ranking difficulty score means that the competition is tough to rank on the first page. Thus, it is an indication that you need to spend a lot of time and skill for a page to rank for that keyword.
If you are a new website, incorporating keywords with low keyword difficulty can help you start off. Another suggested approach is to target medium difficulty keywords that will have good search volume but low competition. To incorporate keywords with high difficulty, you need to invest a lot of effort into SEO and backlinking to start seeing results.
There might be times when you spot a keyword or a phrase with a high search volume and you’re confident that you’ll be able to rank for it. But, you should take a step back to consider the relevance of the keyword to your online store and your e-commerce business.
For example, if your online e-commerce store sells clothing, you need to look at keywords around fashion and apparel. Including keywords that are related to pharmaceuticals may bring in traffic who are only interested in purchasing pharmaceuticals products.
For instance, 10 prospective high search keywords could bring in 1000 or more visitors to your site. Relevence will determine if these visitors will end up converting and buy from you or simply bounce since your online store doesn’t match their requirements. Using keywords with low search relevance will not only dampen the conversion rate, but it will skyrocket the bounce rate (this is something you should be avoiding).
How to research keywords for your e-commerce SEO strategy
We have covered what keyword research is, its benefits, and the basic terminologies involved. Let us look at how to research keywords and shortlist them for your e-commerce SEO strategy.
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Identify your keyword universe
Narrowing down keywords varies when it is for a new e-commerce stores than for an existing one. If you are an e-commerce business owner with an already established store, then you would have already compiled all the data points to create a comprehensive list of keywords as a part of your keyword research.
Let us assume that you are just entering the market with a brand new online store for your business.
But since you are a new site, you will have to depend on competitor research.
There is a right way to conduct this research. First and foremost, steer clear of the giants- Amazon, Walmart, eBay- and other established e-commerce sites. However, you can make use of Quora and Wikipedia- these are very helpful when it comes to keywords, terms, and topics.
You can use an SEO tool like Ahrefs, Semrush, or Google Keyword Planner to aid your research.
Find niche keywords to win
It can be difficult to compete with industry giants these days, this is even more complicated if you are a newbie to the space. Therefore, search your niche keyword research with a focus on your hyper-niche i.e a niche within your niche.
For instance, if your niche is knitted sweaters, your niche within this niche could be y2k-inspired knitted sweaters.
By highlighting this specialization, you can easily identify keywords that are relevant to your business by doing a simple search on google. Like:
This basic google search can provide you with keywords that are auto-suggested by the search engine itself. You can take this one step further by adding Keywords Everywhere to Chrome and Firefox to view search volume and CPC.
When your research keyword data as a part of the overall research process, you should realize the identified keywords based on the initial run and search attempts are just the filtered ones from the tip of the iceberg. To dwell deeper into this, you will have to place yourself in the shoes of your users and potential customers to identify new and relevant keywords.
For further reference, remember that terms with a search volume that falls on the higher end of the spectrum, it is highly likely that it has a treasure trove of related keywords and phrases that you can use based on relevance. For instance, the y2k-inspired knitted sweaters can have related keywords like y2k-inspired knitted sweaters for men, y2k-inspired knitted sweaters for women, y2k-inspired knitted sweaters pastel colors, y2k-inspired knitted sweaters patterns, y2k-inspired knitted sweaters small business, y2k-inspired knitted sweaters aesthetic, etc.
Create a research process
You should be running through the above-mentioned steps at least 15-20 times to build a significant list of relevant terms that you can utilize. This process is made easier by softwares like Ahrefs and Google Keyword Planner.
In this instance, your list will look like this after including terms regarding the shopping funnel, like specific knitwear, styles, colors and “how to” etc. Under each of these terms will be a plethora of relevant keywords.
This exercise will help you realize why you need to pull data and have an evidence-based approach instead of making guesses, as this influences your content maps and can hamper the process of prioritizing the best keywords. So conducting a thorough research and filtering process is very crucial.
Build a topic map
A topic map is essentially a spreadsheet where you group all the related keywords and categorize them into small lists, for ease of reference, that roll under a single representative topic.
By simply categorizing keywords and grouping them into specific lists under a topic, you have an at-a-glance list for future referencing and use. The only thing you need to ensure is that the grouping is sorted and makes sense based on the content type.
Google prefers to rank specific content types for specific queries. And if you wish to rank for that particular keyword, term, or topic, you need to create and alter your content to what Google presents to you.
The common types of content are:
- Product catalog pages like Product detail pages, Sub-Category pages, or Category pages.
- Informational pages like famous blog sites and Wikipedia.
- Blog posts can be its only content type as well
- Reviews and Testimonials
- Infographics and visuals
Map the different content types
It can be really helpful to detail a plan for the types of content you need to cater towards for the best target for your keywords. Again, the most straightforward to approach this is by going through a good ol’ google search and the subsequent search results.
Put all the research into a spreadsheet for your reference and cross-check with your shortlisted keywords from your research or exported list from the software you used to conduct the keyword research and shortlisting.
You can create columns in the spreadsheet, for categories:
- Search Volume
- Ranking Difficulty
Although this may be a tedious task, it will prove to be worth all the effort.
After you have gone through this sheet with your priority keywords and content types all mapped out, you should focus on how to put out this content. Creating a content map is the first step where you can outline your requirements like your ideal keywords, your blueprint i.e the content that you need to produce, and your structures (the bars and bricks) i.e the roadmap to help you produce your content.
Develop a content calendar
Now, with your priority keywords list your content maps, and your thorough research of the topics, it is time to ideate and create a content calendar that can help you get the content live on your site and you can start ranking for your choice of target keywords.
And to do this, you need to add some more sheets and columns to your existing content/topic map and bifurcate them by funnel stage.
You should also combine all of the other factors involved in this process.
- Topic in focus
- Content type (based on the list presented in the section above)
- Test Title 1
- Test Title 2
- Test Title 3 (having a set of titles can give you the choice to pick one that fits your content the best and is beneficial for On-Page SEO)
- Target Keywords and terms
- Additional keywords and terms
- Target length
Then, proceed to create a sheet for the schedule with specific columns:
- Draft Completion (Add the actual date)
- Publishing Date (Add the actual date)
- Date the draft needed by (Can be an estimated date)
- Expected publishing date
- Status (Not started, assigned, WIP, reviewing, published)
- The type or category of the post
- Post topic and description
- Example site
- Recommended URL
- Recommended Title
- Recommended Heading1
- Recommended meta description
- Target Keywords
Here you have the highly efficient and incredibly detailed spreadsheet that can help you conquer this high-reward SEO tactic.
Once you complete doing your keyword research and slowly implement the results of your extensive research, Google will learn and understand the workings of your e-commerce business store and will help better match you to the correct and relevant search.
Do remember that SEO and Keyword research as a tactic is an ongoing process; you will be constantly updating and researching for the same if your want your results to constantly be positive.
It is a time-consuming process and requires a lot of patience to research, implement and wait for the efforts to come to fruition. This is because SEO changes, search engine algorithms are ever-changing and customer behavior is also subjected to change. Therefore, make it a routine, to make it seem less tedious of a task and keep on top of your keyword research SEO tactic.
After all, your keyword research process is proportional to your progress. Most e-commerce business owners do not have a process in place either because they don’t know how to create one or simply are short on time. You need a game plan, in these cases, a proper step-to-step guide. You can check out our SEO checklist guide to help with this and improve your SEO marketing strategy.