Keyword research is at the heart of every successful SEO campaign. If you don’t do it correctly, you won’t receive any meaningful organic traffic that will translate into eCommerce sales.
In other words you are wasting your hard earned money on keywords that don’t drive ROI.
How does Google process keywords today?
Back in the old days, SEO was a very straightforward process. All you needed to do to rank well was to find the right keywords, to insert them within your page content, and to add some backlinks.
The search results, however, were far from perfect. Keyword-stuffed websites received higher ranking than quality content providers – and that sucked.
That’s why in the past years Google has made several big changes to its algorithm, to enable it to better rank quality and relevant content, and punish SEO spammers.
With the introduction of Hummingbird, Google is heading in the direction of Semantic Search by interpreting both the searcher’s intent behind the keywords and their meaning when used on websites, and then how they are related to each other.
A great example would be the situation when you type into the search engine “convert usd to euro”. In this case, as you can see, Google understands your real intent (you want to know how much $X are worth in euro) and offers to give you the answer in the search result.
This means that when you’re performing your keyword research, you should think about which words are related to your main keywords, and how to use them in your content. To do that you must understand the different types of keywords according to SEO.
Types of keywords
Search-engine marketers most often divide keywords into three main categories depending on their length and the difficulty of ranking for them.
- Head: These are most often one-word keywords with large amounts of search volume and insane competition. They are also not very specific, and as such they don’t convert as well. These are words like “notebook”, “watch”, “t-shirt”, etc. They don’t express if the user wants to find out products from that category, or just the meaning of the word.
- Body: These are two- or three-word phrases that get decent search volume (2,000+ searches per month). They almost always have lower competition, and are more specific than head words. Some great examples of such words are “summer vacation offers”, “notebook promotions”, and “shipping services”. You can see how they express the intent behind the search better.
- Long-tail keywords: These are really specific phrases, usually composed of four or more words. Single long-tail keywords typically have fewer searches per month; but if you combine them, you’ll be able to rank for the majority of the searches in your niche. These are words like “Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook”; “Where to buy books online” and “Flights from San Francisco to Buenos Aires”.
Your main goal with keyword research should be to find as many long-tail and body keywords as you can, as they are easier to rank for and have higher buying intent. This is how to begin.
Step 1: Understand your customers
Start your keyword research by first understanding your target customers and their search intent, so you can find keywords that will attract them to your site. The best way to start is by creating buyer personas and mapping out your customer journey.
Extracting keyword ideas directly from your clients: To do this effectively, you need to listen to and observe your target customers. What are the words they’re using when they’re talking about your brand, company or products?
The most effective ways to find this out are to:
- conduct interviews or run surveys.
- check out recorded sales and customer-support calls.
- read customer-support emails.
- read product reviews on yours and your competitors’ sites.
- read posts and comments on your brand’s social media channels.
After you’re done with extracting keyword ideas from your customers and ready for the next stage, separate them into groups. Each group must represent a different perspective and angle on the products and services that you’re offering.
Step 2: Think about how keywords are related to each other
Once you have extracted keywords from your customers, think about how they are related to each other. Put them into different groups, and brainstorm about other words you could include.
Read this post to learn more about How to use mind mapping to organize keywords.
To better understand related keywords, look at this example:
Say I am running an e-commerce store that sells Air Jordan basketball shoes. I can start with the main phrase “Air Jordan”. I can then step into their shoes and start brainstorming other words/phrases they might search for, such as:
- Michael Jordan
- basketball drills
- how to dunk
Remember, you will only come up with great new keyword ideas if you put in the time getting to know your customer.
Step 3: Expand your keyword ideas
Once you’re done and happy with the mind mapping, it’s time to investigate further for new keyword ideas.
Find keywords with Google Keyword Planner: Login to your AdWords account, then go to Tools > Keyword Planner.
Click on “search for new keyword” and “ad group ideas”. Type in your desired keyword. For this example we’re going to use Air Jordan.
Try to find some long-tail keywords with lots of search volume and low competition, such as “Air Jordan Black”.
Find keywords with Google Autocomplete: Start typing keywords into Google, and you’ll see that the search engine will give you suggestions for completing your search. This is a great way to generate new keyword ideas.
Find keywords with UberSuggest: This tool uses the power of Google Autocomplete without the need to type the words manually.
These are the suggestions that we get for “Air Jordan + b”.
Find keywords with Site Search: Optimize for the keywords that your visitors are already using on your own website’s search engine to find products or services that you offer.
To find them, simply go to Google Analytics > Behavior > Site Search
You’ll then see the keywords you want to rank for in search engines.
Check them out to see which ones are worth ranking for by reviewing their average monthly search volume and competition in Google Keyword Planner.
Find keywords with Webmaster Tools: Sometimes your site will be getting organic traffic from keywords that you don’t even know exist. You might not be ranking on the first page, but you’re still getting traffic. If these keywords are worthwhile, it makes sense to optimize for them – you just need to find them first. This is how you do it.
Go to Google Webmaster Tools > Search Traffic > Search Queries
Then you’re going to see all the keywords your eCommerce site ranks for, including the number of impressions and clicks that you get.
Find keywords with Google Correlate: With this tool you can easily find related keywords that you can use for semantic search. Let’s see what happens when we type “jeans” into the search bar:
As you can see, we get a list of related keywords with a correlation number: in this case, “fit jeans” has the highest correlation to “jeans”.
Find keywords on Wikipedia: The largest free encyclopedia is a great resource for finding new keywords ideas. Here’s why:
- It is one of the best ranking websites on the Internet (for almost all keywords).
- You can find information on the site about almost anything you want.
This means that if you check out a page about a brand or product that you’re offering on your eCommerce site, you’ll probably get tons of keyword ideas.
Here’s what we find when we visit the page of Air Jordan:
We find keywords like: “Michael Jordan”, “basketball player”, “Jordan’s”, “J’s”, “Nike’”, “Footwear”, “Clothing”, “Athletic clothing”, “Retro 6 Infrared Pack”, etc.
Find keywords on Amazon: the king of eCommerce ranks well for almost every product being sold online. Take advantage of this by learning which keywords they are using.
For example, if you’re selling the Smart TV Samsung UN48H6350. Go to Amazon and find the product page. This is where to search for keywords:
We find words like: “Electronics”, “Television & Video”, “LED”, “LCD”, and “TV”.
You may also want to check out the reviews for additional keywords.
Find keywords on Quara: This great community allows users to ask, and receive answers to, all types of questions. When there’s so much content, it’s always a good idea to search for keywords.
The way to do it is simple: just type your main keyword into the search engine. For our example, we’ll use “air jordan”.
You’re now going to see a list of search results. Check out different questions related to your product – such as this one: “What are the best-selling Air Jordans?”. This is a long-tail keyword in its own right that you can use for your blog.
Inside the questions and answers you can find additional keywords which you can use for your SEO strategy.
Find keywords with SEOquake: This is a great free tool that lets you analyze your competition and find out which keywords they’re using to rank in search engines.
Go to your competitor and his product page – in this example: Amazon.com and Rode smartLav+ Lavalier Microphone for iPhone and Smartphones
Click on your SEOquake bar and select “Page info”. The following information will be displayed:
Now you can see the title, description and meta-keywords of the page.
Step 4: Refine your keywords
When you’re happy with the keyword ideas you’ve generated and expanded, go back to the Keyword Planner tool and examine their average monthly search volume and competition.
Remove all keywords that:
- are not related to the products you sell.
- have low search volume.
- have high competition.
- are not specific enough.
Instead, focus on words that:
- are related to your core business and products that you offer.
- have high search volume.
- have low competition.
- are long-tail and more specific.
Go to Google Trends, and see whether the search volume for the keyword is increasing and decreasing with time.
As you can see, the trend for Air Jordan is definitely upward, so the market for these sport shoes won’t bottom out anytime soon.
Step 5: Design your keyword strategy for revenue, not just traffic
Don’t just use keywords with high search volume and less competition – optimize your eCommerce site for revenue.
To better understand how to choose highly profitable keywords for your business, we’ll group them into five categories depending of how deep the desire of the searcher to purchase a product or service is:
Buy-now keywords (Buy, Coupon, Discount, Deal, Shipping): These are most likely to convert at the first visit, so that’s why they should be in the highest priority on your list.
Product keywords (Review, Best, Top 10, Specific brand name, Specific product, Product category, Cheap, Affordable, Comparison): These have less chance of converting from the very first visit, since the buying intent here is much lower.
Information keywords (Review, How to, Best ways to, Ways to, I need to): These have a lower chance of converting than buy-now and product keywords; but they are still important, because at this point the user is still researching the niche. He might not buy now, but there is a chance that one day s/he will become a customer.
Navigational keywords (Company and brand names): The searchers use these to find the site of a company or a brand. Such keywords are usually helpful when your business is already popular enough. Keep in mind, though, that you shouldn’t try to rank for your competitors’ keywords – it just doesn’t work well.
Tire-kicker keywords (Free, Torrent, Download, For free, etc.): These keywords have no buying intent in them. The users want to find recent free products or information, and it will be extremely hard to convince them to buy something.
That’s why in your keyword strategy you should focus mainly on choosing a large volume of buy-now and product keywords, along with some information keywords for your blog.
Spending the time performing an in-depth keyword analysis for your eCommerce store will pay off in the long term. If you implement the lessons learned from this article, you will generate tons of new ideas and profitable niches you can easily target with your SEO strategy. Only then will you be able to gain the top positions in the search engines.
What methods were you using for your keyword research before reading this? Have you learned anything new? Let me know in the comments below.