Let’s face it — most keyword research tutorials out there cater to non-ecommerce sites, and they’re not as simple as you want them to be. It’s frustrating, right?
And that’s exactly why we created this guide. To walk you through the step-by-step process of keyword research designed for ecommerce sites, in the most effortless way possible.
At the end of this guide, we can guarantee that you — someone confused and has no idea where to start — should be able to do ecommerce keyword research like a pro.
Before you begin
If your website is built using Shopify, check out our Shopify SEO guide here before you kickstart your e-commerce keyword research.
For WooCommerce site owners, we did not forget about you. Check out our WooCommerce SEO guide here. It contains the exact SEO steps we took to bring our client’s website to page 1.
Don’t forget to grab a free copy of our e-commerce SEO checklist too.
What Is Ecommerce Keyword Research?
Ecommerce keyword research is the systematic process of discovering what words or terms potential customers are using to look up companies or products on the web.
The ultimate goal of ecommerce keyword research is to make more sales rather than just drive organic traffic.
Using keyword research tools is the most efficient way to pick your prospects’ brains. Don’t worry, there are dozens of paid and free keyword research tools available to help you out. You’ll get to know some later on.
Why Is Ecommerce Keyword Research Important?
Keyword research lays the groundwork for any SEO campaigns. Done wrong or skipping it altogether makes for a perfect recipe for disaster.
Keyword research is critical in driving valuable traffic to your ecommerce site. But there’s so much more than that.
If you do paid ads, ecommerce keyword research will maximize your ad spend by targeting the right keywords rather than keywords borne out of guesswork. And like I said, it’s a systematic process so it saves you lots of time and energy, not to mention the cost.
Ecommerce keyword research can help in many ways, but here are the three most important:
1. Better Understand Your Target Customers
In ecommerce, any organic or paid traffic won’t work. It has to be targeted to convert well.
Keyword research allows you to get a good grasp of the terms your prospects are typing in the search bar when looking for products or services online. Not just any other terms, though, but terms with buying intent.
2. Know What’s Driving Business to Your Competitors
If you have a competitor that’s already ranking on top of SERPs, you are losing on so many clicks and potential customers.
A study on 5 million Google search results that Brian Dean’s team at Backlinko conducted has confirmed this.
The #1 result in Google’s organic search results has an average CTR of 31.7%.”
By doing keyword research for ecommerce, you will understand what search terms your strongest competitor is ranking for and driving business through. And, it will give you at least a rough idea of how much work you need to beat them.
3. Map Out Good Site Structure
Site structure or architecture is how you set up your navigation, category pages, subcategory pages, product pages, and others. A simple and scalable site structure makes you look good in the eyes of search engines and make your website easy to use.
Ecommerce sites — whether it’s built on WooCommerce, Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, etc. — have inherently messy site structures. If you are not going to take the reins of it right from the get-go, it’s going to be a lot of work down the line.
Without proper e-commerce keyword research, you are building your entire e-commerce business on a house of cards. And you know what that means — leaving your chances for success to luck.
You might still find success in your e-commerce store by playing charades, but chances are razor-thin.
Keyword Selection Criteria
Finding keywords for e-commerce sites works a lot like any other site.
The four keyword selection criteria are:
- Search volume
- Search intent and relevancy
- Search engine results page (SERP) intent
- Keyword difficulty
1. Search Volume
Search volume is the number of searches a keyword receives, usually measured in average monthly searches.
How much search volume you should look at boils down to your niche. But as a rule of thumb, anything over 20 monthly searches is at least worth pursuing.
|Pro tip: Some keywords are popular in particular seasons. Use Google Trends to look at past and real-time trends in your niche.|
2. Search Intent and Relevancy
What is the searcher looking for? How relevant or important to the searcher is the keyword a page has?
People make searches with either of the three intentions: informational, transactional, or navigational.
Informational intent means one is seeking answers and is not exactly looking to buy anything.
Often these keywords start with modifiers such as “what is,” “how to,” “where,” “things to do,” and more.
Transactional intent has a high commercial value. A transactional keyword usually means the searcher is ready to buy or considers buying, so they are suitable for the category and product pages.
These keywords could be product keywords (e.g. men’s running shoes) or branded keywords (e.g. Adidas NMD R1).
Some have modifiers like “for sale,” “coupon,” “buy,” “compare,” “free shipping,” “discount,” “coupon,” “review,” and more.
Navigational intent means the searcher is looking for a specific brand (e.g. Nike), website (e.g. LinkedIn), or location (e.g. New York).
This keyword isn’t easy to appear for because they’re too broad.
3. SERP Intent
SERP intent shows you how Google and other search engines are prioritizing which content or page to rank.
Counting the SERP intent allows you to be more specific about which keywords rank better and which keywords matter most to the users.
What is the search engine showing? You can tell what the SERP intent is by the content type or format dominating the search results. The SERP intent is highly dependent on what searchers are looking for.
For instance, if SERP shows you mainly product and category pages for a certain keyword, that means people have buying intent for that query. If most results are tutorials or guides, searchers are looking for how-tos.
Remember, search queries that trigger mostly tutorials or guides are difficult to rank for if used on a product or category page.
If you push that page’s ranking up, it’s pointless because people will find it irrelevant, and they won’t likely click on it. As a result, that page is going to be buried deeper in SERP no matter what.
|Pro tip: Use SERPs as a compass to navigate on what type of content to map later on.|
4. Keyword Difficulty
Keyword difficulty measures how hard it is to rank for a query. Different keyword research tools use different ways to tell you this.
How easy or difficult is it to rank for a certain keyword? Different keyword research tools use different ways to tell you this.
For instance, Ubersuggest is a free keyword research tool that gives you an SEO Difficulty score from 1 to 100 to determine how hard or easy it is to rank for a certain keyword in organic search. The higher the number, the more competitive.
The search query “running shoes for men” and its related keywords can be hard to rank for.
At the bottom of the results, you will find the keywords that are very much easier to rank for.
But then again, you may have found easy to rank for keywords, that’s just one piece of the puzzle as you need to consider search volume, search intent, and SERP intent.
|Pro tip: High volume keywords are very competitive. So when you see high volume keywords that are low competition, you’re hitting the jackpot!|
Keywords That Matter for Ecommerce SEO
Remember the four keyword selection criteria — search volume, search intent, SERP intent, and keyword difficulty? Yes, you need to take them into account.
However, to be ecommerce-specific, look beyond search intent and pore over buying or purchase intent instead.
Buying intent is the probability that a consumer will buy a product or service.
But what type of keywords have buying intent? As mentioned, transactional keywords have high buyer intent.
That’s why they are the ones that matter most for your category and product pages. Though informational keywords are best used for blog pages, you can sprinkle some informational keywords on these pages as well.
Transactional keywords can either be generic product keywords or branded keywords.
But which should take precedence on your category and product pages?
Branded Keywords Vs. Generic Keywords
Branded keywords usually have high buyer intent. On the one hand, generic keywords (a.k.a. head keywords, main keywords, and seed keywords) are high volume keywords. Often they don’t have any buyer intent at all.
Branded keywords normally have high buyer intent and are less competitive compared to generic keywords. Often only people selling the brand are competing for them.
On the one hand, generic keywords (a.k.a. head keywords, main keywords, and seed keywords) are high volume keywords but are more competitive. Often they don’t have any buyer intent at all. But that doesn’t mean you should put them in the back burner or scrap them altogether.
You can use them as your focus keyword on category and subcategory pages. You can include them as secondary keywords on your product pages too.
For instance, a user is searching for “shoes.”
The buyer intent is low or ambiguous because there’s no way for you to find out what exactly the goal of the query is.
Whereas, a user searching for “best running shoes” is probably just looking for information and isn’t exactly ready to buy; hence buyer intent is medium.
If the searcher looks up “Nike Air Zoom Vomero” or “buy men’s running shoes” or “running shoes for sale,” the user is most likely looking for the best pair of running shoes to buy; hence buyer intent is high.
How do you measure a keyword’s buying intent, though?
Well, tools like Ahrefs have this functionality, but they are all a diamond in the rough at this point. The best way to determine a search term’s buying intent is just to rely on your intelligence.
Keyword Themes Vs. Exact Match Keywords
If you’ve done SEO before, you know it’s not impossible to rank for search terms that you didn’t target. That’s just how Google works.
Ahrefs looked at 3 million searches to know how many keywords on average a page can rank for. The result is mind-blowing — about 1,000 keywords.
“The average #1 ranking page will also rank in the top 10 for nearly 1,000 other relevant keywords.”
This is why researching by theme is much better than targeting exact match keywords.
A keyword theme is a group of LSI (latent semantic indexing) keywords, otherwise known as closely or semantically related keywords.
Keyword themes help search engines identify what a page is about, which means keywords themes also enable search engines to rank a page for other keywords, and in many cases, even without the exact keyword on the page.
Case in point: the screenshot below is a category page that ranks for over 1,900 keywords despite not having all those keywords on this page.
[semrush running shoes for men road runner sports.jpg]
Later I will show you how to find keywords a page is ranking for using SEMRush and get a good grasp of how search engines group keywords together.
|Pro tip: Map 1-2 keyword themes per page.|
How to Do Keyword Research for Ecommerce Sites
This is where the real work begins. In this chapter, you will learn how to:
- Gather as many relevant keywords as possible
- Group keywords according to themes
- Identify all category page URLs
- Optimise category pages
- Derive naming convention for product pages
1. Gather as Many Relevant Keywords as Possible
Two ways to find keywords relevant to your niche:
- Manually look them up (a.k.a. the relatively hard route)
- Competitor research (a.k.a. the easy route)
Prepare a spreadsheet to keep tabs of keyword themes, keywords, search volume, and keyword difficulty. You are free to add more metrics like buyer intent score, CPC, etc.
Download this FREE Keyword Research Excel Spreadsheet Template if you don’t have one yet.
SEMrush is one of the best keyword research tools out there, whether it’s for SEO or PPC campaigns. It has a treasure chest of 3.5 billion keyword and ranking data.
How to Do Keyword Research With SEMrush
Enter the seed keyword in the search bar and then view the related keywords section.
For instance, “running shoes.”
This specific query has more than 4,000 related keywords. You can examine all of them.
But for simplicity’s sake, let’s export only the top 50 keywords with their search volume and keyword difficulty.
As you can see, we get many informational keywords. We don’t need most of them right now, but just keep them for another day because you’re going to need it for your blog content.
How to Spy on Your Competitors Using SEMrush
To know what your competitor is doing, simply load their domain.
In keeping with “running shoes,” we are using RoadRunnerSports.com as an example. The site ranks for over 190,000 organic keywords.
To simplify this, let’s look at their top 25 organic keywords in the top 10 positions. You can add some of these keywords to our initial list if you’d like to.
Looking at their top 25 organic keywords alone, you can already see that Road Runner Sports is ranking for some of the keywords we are going after.
This should give you at least a rough idea of how much work you need to beat their position for that keyword as well as some keywords you didn’t have on your list that they are ranking.
Now turn to top organic pages to get an idea of how much traffic their pages are getting for keywords they are targeting and how many keywords those pages are ranking for.
From the top 25 pages alone with the term “running shoes,” mostly are category pages. This gives you an idea of how to work out your category pages’ URLs.
Using SEMrush also allows you to reverse engineer top listings to find the two- or three-word phrases you should target. Long-tail keywords (four-word terms or more) are great but don’t be scared to target two- or three-word keywords as well.
How Google Groups Keywords
This is where SEMrush comes in more handy. It allows you to understand how Google groups keywords.
This category page ranks for 1,900+ keywords, and 30+ keywords rank in the top 3. Of the 30+ keywords, only 13 actually appear on this page.
Despite Road Runner Sports don’t have all those words on that page, the entire website itself is filled with content and information about running shoes, sports shoes, sports brands, etc. The semantic core is built around those themes.
In addition, links coming from sites with the same semantic core as yours would just further advance your chances to drive traffic for related keywords.
Also, the site’s backlink profile plays a crucial role here.
The biggest takeaway here is don’t obsess over ‘fat head keyword.’ Think in terms of keyword themes or groups.
If you are selling running shoes, analyze the list above to find a low difficulty keyword, and then build content on your site around that.
Happy with your list? Feel free to skip to Step #2.
But if you want to validate your initial keywords list and spy harder on your competitors, you would want to use more keyword research tools like Google Keyword Planner, KWFinder by Mangools, Amazon Suggest, Keyword Tool Dominator, and Can I Rank.
Google Keyword Planner
Google Keyword Planner (GKP) is a free keyword research tool originally designed to help Google Ads users to find high-volume, low competition keywords for their pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaigns. It also gives generous information on average monthly searches and closely related keywords.
How to Keyword Research With Google Keyword Planner
To use Google Keyword Planner, start with some seed keyword ideas. Let’s use the same seed keyword — “running shoes.”
Running shoes is too broad of a keyword. That’s why you need to go after closely related keywords that have clear buyer intent.
Underneath the seed keyword is a long list of keyword ideas. Note that I filtered this list to remove branded keywords first.
Download the list of keyword ideas.
Don’t get thrown off by the competition column. Competition here doesn’t equate to keyword difficulty. GKP’s competition benchmark is for paid ads only and has nothing to do with organic keyword difficulty.
What GKP does best is that it renders countless semantically related keywords to your target keyword.
Check them out line by line, and then de-duplicate them against your current list.
Pick the ones that have high buyer intent.
|Pro tip: To know buyer intent, analyze the average monthly searches and cost per click (CPC). The higher the CPC, the higher the buyer intent.|
If you want to get a clear idea of a keyword’s commercial intent, Ahrefs is the best keyword research tool to use. However, it’s quite expensive if you are not planning to use it long-term.
We already have a list of keywords and search volume. Now we need to find keyword difficulty.
KWFinder by Mangools
KWFinder by Mangools is an affordable keyword research tool that gives you a more specific average monthly search estimate than GKP and organic keyword difficulty scoring.
KWFinder ranks keyword difficulty from 0 to 100.
- 0-14 = easy
- 15-29 = still easy
- 30-39 = possible
- 40-69 = hard
- 70-84 = very hard
- 85-100 = don’t do it
The keywords “running shoes,” “running shoes for men,” “running shoes for women,” and “good running shoes” are possible to rank for. We can, therefore, use these keywords to optimise our pages.
Update your sheet’s keyword difficulty like so:
If you think you don’t have enough keywords for selection yet, look for more.
Amazon has overthrown Google as the first port of call for people looking to buy a product, according to data intelligence company Jumpshot.
People using Amazon have high purchase intent, and so this makes its search bar a gold mine of high-converting keywords.
Go to Amazon.com and type in your seed keyword in the search bar. Look at the real-time auto-suggestion and choose which keywords suit your product well.
Standouts that we don’t have yet are “running shoes for boys,” “running shoes for girls,” and “running shoes for women on sale.”
However, the relevance of these keywords all depends on your product and exactly what it’s for. Include ultra-specific, branded keywords as well because they tend to be really high-converting and easy to rank for.
Add them to your keyword research spreadsheet. Include the search volume and competition using GKP or KWFinder.
We now have a few long-tail keywords on our list. Let’s look for more.
Keyword Tool Dominator
If you need an easier and more comprehensive way to look for actual product search terms on Amazon, Keyword Tool Dominator saves the day! This free tool allows you to conveniently look for hundreds of keywords (Amazon gives you up to 10 only) and filter them according to popularity.
On a scale from 1 to 10, 1 is the lowest and 10 is the highest, this tool scores the difficulty of each keyword.
For “running shoes for men,” here are the keywords that are less difficult to rank for:
And here are the keywords that are difficult to rank:
Make sure to check their search volume and competition on GKP and KWFinder if you want to add them.
Can I Rank
If you already have your ecommerce website up and running, you can use CanIRank.com to analyze your ranking probability.
Go to Amazon.com or the website of your top-ranking competitor and find the product page similar to yours.
Copy the URL, and then go to CanIRank.com to paste the URL. Plugging the URL into CanIRank allows you to find possible keywords too.
2. Group Keywords According to Theme
Keyword mapping is the final step in our keyword research.
Dare not downplay this part of your ecommerce SEO strategy. After putting in all the work, you really don’t want to let your time and effort go down the drain, do you?
With keyword mapping, you can be sure that each target keyword is covered well on a page and that none of your pages is cannibalizing the other.
Identify 5-6 keywords to create a keyword theme. A keyword theme is a set of keywords that are closely related to one focus keyword.
When grouping keyword together, think of search intent. Each keyword theme must answer the same question.
To make it easier, make a copy of your initial keywords list and start grouping similar keywords by color. You can sort your keywords by sex and by brand.
From the initial keywords list, we got four keyword themes so far:
3. Identify All Category Page URLs
Decide which keyword to put on your category pages’ URL. Use transactional keywords for categories and subcategories.
Some URLs may have extra folders like “category” or “collection.” They can have a negative impact on SEO. As much as possible, you want to avoid them to shorten URLs because Google likes that.
For ecommerce sites in more competitive niches, having a more readable and search-friendly URL can make a big difference.
If you are selling a bunch of stuff other than shoes, the following formats will also do:
You can also add subcategories according to brands. Based on our keywords list, your site’s structure might look something like this:
4. Optimise Category Pages
Category pages are critical pages yet hard to rank. If Google shows them, your potential customers immediately get access to all your products in that category.
To optimise your category pages, include 1-2 themes per page or about 10-12 closely related keywords per page.
Make sure to include your primary keyword in the URL, title tag (H1), image alt text, and meta description.
The title tag of category pages should have the primary keyword. If possible, put it as close to the beginning as possible.
Most category pages don’t have a body copy — which is a huge mistake. Google won’t like that.
Write at least 300 words to describe the category and optimise it with your main target keyword at least 3 times.
Like the screenshot above, the body copy contains the target keywords “running shoes” and “men’s running shoes” so Google further understands what this page is about.
And at the bottom part of the same page, the target keyword “men’s running shoes” and “running shoes for men” appeared a couple of times on the same page alongside other relevant keywords.
Image Alt Text
Google only depends on the alt text to read images. Make sure to name the alt attributes of your images that include your primary keyword.
Don’t have any idea how to use an image on your category page? Create a small banner and place it on top of the category page.
Metadata or description tag is the gray text that appears in your search listings.
Including a keyword in your metadata hasn’t proven to directly affect search rankings, but it can improve CTR, which has been proven to impact rankings.
Google bolds the main keyword in the metadata, like so:
5. Derive a Naming Convention for Product Pages
Product pages are super important because they are the conversion page.
To make it easier for you to optimise your product pages, have a system in place on how to write your product title, product descriptions, etc.
Ideally, you have to include every bit of detail of your product, such as:
- Brand name
- Model name/number
For instance, [Brand name] [Model name/number] [Variation]. Following this format, our product title starts with the term this: Adidas NMD XR1.
You never know which detail a potential customer might use. Note that if someone uses the most specific detail possible, that only means that a person is ready to buy.
Put your target keyword in the URL, title tag (H1), meta description, image alt text, and body copy.
Remember to include semantic keywords in your product description so there’s a higher chance for you to rank for all of them.
A caveat though — jamming a page with a seed keyword and some semantic keywords is only one piece of the puzzle. You need to get the main target keyword first right.
Ecommerce Keyword Research Checklist
Keyword research for ecommerce sites can be a bit daunting, especially for beginners.
To streamline the entire keyword research process, here’s an ecommerce keyword research checklist to help you out:
- Gather as many keywords as possible that are relevant to your niche.
- Download our FREE Keyword Research Excel Template to store your keywords.
- Pay attention to search volume, keyword difficulty, and buyer intent when looking for keywords.
- Spy on your competitors and know what they are doing as far as SEO and PCC go.
- Group 5-6 keywords according to a theme.
- Identify all category page URLs.
- Optimise category pages with keywords in your keyword themes.
- Target high-volume, low competition keywords. But don’t be afraid to go after competitive keywords too.
- Include long-tail keywords, product numbers, brand names, and as many product details as possible.
The keyword research and mapping process is a great way to ensure your visitors are getting the value they are looking for no matter the point of entry to your website. This too is something search engines will love.
Once your keyword research and mapping are done, you are well on your way to letting search engines discover your ecommerce site easily and creating a smooth user experience for your potential customers.
But most importantly, you are setting your ecommerce site up for more conversions.
We hope this ecommerce keyword research guide has given you something to finally put your ecommerce site into a money-making machine.
Questions? We’d love to hear them in the comments!
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