Keyword research is the process of finding out what terminology/words your potential customers are using when searching for your products, or similar products, on the internet.
This process forms the foundation of your SEO strategy as you come to understand just what keywords you'll need to receive meaningful organic traffic with high conversion potential.
If you're new to the neighborhood, SEO stands for search engine optimization and is the process of making sure your website content tells search engines what your eCommerce site is about and what it sells.
This allows the search engine algorithms to correctly index your site and increases the chances of your site and products being listed on the search results pages.
Most traffic you'll get is from the string of text users type into a search box, so SEO is vital for the success of your eCom business.
The key is to think about which words are related to your unique business and how to best use them in your content.
If you're running an eCommerce store, your goal is to make sales, just like any other store.
Brick and mortar stores showcase their products easily with eyecatching window displays, sale signs, seasonal themed decor, and other strategies that draw customers in as they walk past. Well, the internet is essentially the mall for your online shop and your keywords are the displays that get your products noticed.
For eCommerce, it's important to know what keywords are relevant to your products and potential customer searches. This allows search engines to match and display your site in the search results, displaying your products and store to the right customers and leading to conversions/sales.
Keywords are what help you find your customers and help your customers to find you.
Imagine a store with no window display, no adverts, no sale signs! It would fade into the background while other stores get all the attention. This is why you need a list of keywords that will help bring in organic traffic.
Before you begin your keyword research journey, let's introduce you to, or recap on, the three types of keywords and the three different types of search intent that they fall under.
Your three types of keywords are as follows:
- Short Tail Keywords: These are also known as focus or head keywords and do not specify what the user is looking for. They'll be vague search terms such as SEO, Handbags, yoga outfits, etc. and it's difficult to rank for these as they are so broad
- Mid-Tail Keywords: These are a little more specific but show that the shopper is not quite ready to buy. Search volumes are moderate and examples include SEO tools, Blue handbags, yoga pants, etc.
- Long Tail Keywords: These are more specific and consist of three or more words. They won't have the high search volume of short-tail keywords but, because they are so specific, help your page rank easily and have a far higher conversion rate. People searching these terms are further along in the buying cycle and may be using long-tail keywords such as "best free SEO tools", "blue sling handbag for work", or "three-quarter yoga pants for summer".
These fall under three kinds of search intent:
- Informational intent: When searchers want to know or do something such as try a new recipe or find out how to handle dog allergies. These will contain 'question words' such as 'what is', 'how to', etc. and don't indicate that the searcher wants to buy anything.
- Navigational intent: When a searcher is looking for a specific website, brand, or physical location. These are often hard to rank for because the search terms are broad and not specific to one product (Nike, Lululemon, Florida, LinkedIn, etc.)
- Commercial/Transactional intent: A searcher wants to learn more about a specific product or service with the intent to buy.
Now that you understand the basics, let's look at the process of identifying and meeting your potential customer's needs by uncovering the search intent behind specific keywords and how to best use those organic keywords to your advantage.
We'll be using Ahrefs for this tutorial, but there are many paid and free keyword research tools available.
- Understand Your Customer And What They’re Searching For 🕵️♀️
- Brainstorming and Keyword Mapping 👨💻
- Refine Your Keywords 🎯
- Design Your Keyword Strategy For Revenue, Not Just Traffic 💸
How do you choose good keywords that align with your customer's search intents? By understanding your customers of course!
You can kick start the keyword research process by checking out what your competitor's customers are up to and using keyword research tools.
First, go through your competitor's websites then look for community forums and social pages that contain content relevant to your products.
You can also paste your competitor's URL into a site explorer and save yourself some time. The site explorer will show you a lot of information about the website including the organic keywords it is ranking for.
This will give you insight into your potential customers, what they’re talking about, and what they’re looking for.
From this, you can identify your base or seed keywords and jot them down. These will be fairly broad keywords.
Once you know your potential customers a bit better and understand what seed keywords align with your products, you can start looking at related keywords and mapping them out.
I like to think of keywords as a spider’s web, with your base keywords in the middle and related keywords of different lengths branching out from those. This is where mind mapping comes in.
Let’s use our online yoga store as an example. Some examples of seed keywords could be "yoga equipment", "yoga mat", "Pilates mat", "yoga pants", "yoga and meditation", and "yoga straps".
We would then use a keyword research tool to check for related keywords and build a mind map (spider’s web).
The first step is to go to the Ahrefs Keywords Explorer tab and type in your seed keywords.
Click on the search icon and you'll be brought to a page that shows those specific keywords and their details including keyword difficulty, search volume in the country you selected, global volume, etc.
An easy way to start looking for related keywords is to look at the SERPs for each one. You can do this by clicking on the little SERP drop-down on the right-hand side of the table. This will show you the top search results for that keyword along with the details for each result.
There is so much you can find here, from the search volume to backlinks, domain rating, and so on. But we won't bog you down with unnecessary information!
We want to focus on the keywords column and the volume column. These will show you the keyword list for that particular link and the top keyword search volume respectively.
The keyword volume will let you know which site is getting the most visits for that keyword and the keyword list will give you related keywords that the site is ranking.
These related keywords are good to dive into as they might suit your products.
We can see that the first URL has an estimated 128k monthly searches, on average, and that there are 11 120 top keywords. Let's click on the keywords column and see what comes up.
We can now see potential keywords that link to the generic keywords we started with. We can also see the keyword difficulty and the search volume for each one (more on those in a bit,we promise!).
Repeat this process and grow your mind map or list of keyword ideas.
Don't be afraid to also check out the search suggestions section, this will bring up related keywords and the parent topic along with the usual domain rating, organic search volume, etc.
By now you should have a comprehensive list of keyword suggestions/relevant search terms branching out from your primary keywords.
The next step is to refine your list to only include solid SEO keywords and high-converting keywords, that is, the ones that will help your site rank and will bring in the most sales.
To find the best keywords on your list we'll need to look at the monthly search volume and the keyword competition level, or difficulty level, for each one.
Start by first removing all irrelevant keywords; the ones not related to the products you sell and that are not specific enough. This will include short-tail keywords because they have high competition and will do little to help your online store.
Now you can go back to the Ahrefs keywords explorer and type in all the keywords left on your list. What you're ideally looking for are high-volume, low-competition keywords that are relevant to your customers' search intent/the products you are selling.
Most of these keywords are relatively easy to rank for. You can see this by looking at the KD (keyword difficulty metric) column.
Also, note that the search volume is relatively good for each one. For example, ‘yoga blocks’ isn’t that hard to rank for with a keyword difficulty of 13. It also receives roughly 13k searches per month in the US, around 33k searches per month if we look at global volume (GV), and is relevant to our store and potential customers, so this would be a good keyword to keep on the list.
Ahrefs changes the color of the KD block depending on the difficulty so you can quickly and easily see where each keyword stands.
Right at the bottom of the list is 'yoga straps' which has a low keyword difficulty metric, but also a low search volume. So, this probably isn't a keyword we would prioritize because it's not as strong as the others on the list.
Let's see what happens if we type in a string of keywords that we know are popular among site owners and searchers.
Things look a little different, don’t they? Look at the above list and see if you can pick out the best keywords in relation to difficulty and volume of searches…
"Nike running shoes" is definitely top of our list because it has a nice high search volume while having an attainable keyword difficulty. On the other hand, "sports shoes" is really hard to rank for and has a much lower search volume so it wouldn’t be worth the time.
We’ve spoken a lot about creating your keyword list or mind map using the keyword difficulty and search volume, but when it comes to eCommerce, we need to go a little deeper.
It’s great to have an optimized site that brings in traffic, but not so great if no one is buying your products. What you really want is a site optimized to bring in customers with a high intent to buy.
High commercial intent keywords bring in qualified traffic (people who are most likely to buy) which is far more likely to convert than less qualified visitors.
These are more specific and often contain keyword modifiers like "for sale", "coupon", "free shipping", "buy", "compare", etc.
For example, "yoga" is not a very high 'buying' keyword as the user could be looking for anything from "what is yoga" to "how to do yoga" or "who invented yoga mats".
However, "yoga pants on sale" shows us that the user is looking to buy yoga pants and is searching for a good price.
These subtle differences are what you need to take into account when optimizing your online store. Buying intent is the cherry on the cake for eCommerce keywords and will help you reach your goal of making more sales.
Now you know how to find relevant keywords and are ready to put together your eCommerce SEO strategy!
As a rule of thumb, the ideal kinds of keywords will come from keeping the following criteria in mind:
- Keyword difficulty - the level of competition for a keyword/how hard it is to rank for a word or phrase
- Monthly search volume - the number of searches a particular keyword is getting
- SERP results - the websites/articles/products that are ranking on the search engine results page
- Relevance - how relevant the keyword is to your products and in customer searches
- Buying intent - search terms that show clear intent to buy
Keyword search volumes change over time so it's advisable to keep track of your results and use your keyword tool to adjust as needed and stay ahead of the competition.
If you found this helpful, feel free to check out our other how-to guides on building the perfect eCommerce store.