Keyword Research for Ecommerce
The main objective in any eCommerce business is to sell, sales tend to come from qualified traffic. That being said, proper keyword research and the architecture of your online store are essential to obtaining that motivated and ready-to-spend traffic.
1. Traffic sources of a new eCommerce site
The three main sources through which we will get traffic in our eCommerce site are going to be (almost always):
- Brand traffic
- Social traffic
- Organic traffic.
We won't get brand traffic at first.
Don't be fooled, no one will look for your online store by name before you're established. "Jim's cafe" is only looked for that way by Jim's mother, his wife and one of his brothers.
We could say the same about direct traffic. If you have just launched your website, no one knows you and no one is looking for your name. For this to happen, you have to work on your brand and have satisfied customers who are excited to return.
Make no mistake, "big brands" are called that for a reason. If you try to compete with them from the beginning, you will most likely not get great results. If you've just started Jim's cafe and you're looking to overtake Starbucks, you might not see the results you want...ever.
If you optimize your social presence and capitalize on social traffic, it can become the main source of traffic for your business.
I know several success stories in eCommerce based solely on an excellent social presence. But this also depends a lot on the sector. And, in my opinion, all of these cases had enormous untapped SEO potential that could have overshadowed what was achieved in social networks.
Organic traffic, however, will come from people searching for your product. Well, no...they are not really looking for your products.
Users seek solutions to specific problems or that meet certain needs. You are the one who has to make it clear that your products are the ideal ones to satisfy their needs in that moment.
That's the way you'll get qualified organic traffic.
If you know the needs of your target audience very well and how they seek to meet them on Google, then you do have a chance of competing with larger and more consolidated eCommerce sites than yours and hijack part of their sales.
Therefore, one of the basic things that should concern us when we launch our eCommerce site is to carry out a good _keyword research_. That is, find the keywords for which we will try to rank our products, categories and other content to obtain traffic that converts from search engines.
2. Where do we start the keyword research of an eCommerce site?
As in any business, the first thing we have to be clear about is the products we sell and to whom we sell them.
- Our products: It's essential to know our portfolio of products and what categories we divide them into (later we will see how we classify them into categories).
But we are also interested in having a clear idea of the margins and estimated demand of each one to know where the products we are interested in promoting are.
- Our buyer persona: Knowing your typical client is essential in any business, but it is even more important in an eCommerce.
If we haven't identified our target customers, their needs and the concerns that lead them to carry out a search, then it will be impossible for us to carry out a correct keyword study.
Our content and the searches carried out by the client must be perfectly aligned. Without defining our buyer persona well, this is not possible.
1. Initial compilation phase
After this initial phase of getting to know the business, in which we define the profiles of our products and our clients, we will make a preliminary organization of the structure of our website.
Based on this knowledge of the project, we will organize all the elements that it includes:
- Information pages
- Contact page
This scheme will be a starting point from which we will perfect our architecture after our keyword research.
If our website is new we will have to do it from scratch. But if the project we are trying to optimize is already underway, it will mean a review of the classification of our structure.
This will make the process easier for you and allow you to optimize its structure later. Of course, this is just a suggestion and completely not mandatory. In fact, I know great professionals who continue to make these mind maps with post-its placed on a blackboard, and it works very well for them.
2. Keyword research
What's involved when we do keyword research for an online store is not so much about looking for opportunities as about knowing the way in which our customers search for our products.
If we can get more detail about the way users search for our products, we can:
correctly define our web architecture
establish an adequate content strategy
That way, we will be able to optimize the content and organization of our site so that our business shows up for the searches that our target audience performs in search engines.
My advice is to do _keyword research_ for each page of your site (the same ones that we have identified in our initial mental map).
3. Types of Keywords
When defining different keywords it will be good to classify them by categories according to these criteria.
Classification according to intention
Transactional: are those used in searches with purchase intention. For example: "buy sunglasses" or "cheap sunglasses".
Informative: are those that seek information on a topic. For example "what is the lightest frame?" or “what sunglasses to wear for the snow”.
Navigational: These refer to the searches carried out to find a specific website. Instead of entering the URL in the search box, the brand is searched. "Facebook", "RayBan", "Amazon" are navigational searches.
The most attractive for eCommerce will be the transactional ones since they are obviously in a final phase of the sales funnel.
According to specificity:
Generic: Also called "head". They get a high volume of searches but they also have a greater number of pages competing for them.
Specific: They are searches with a certain degree of specificity and a lot of search volume. They are usually quite competitive keywords. They are known as "middle tail".
Longtail: These are keywords with greater specificity. They do not have a large search volume, but it will also be relatively easy to get visibility in the SERPs for these searches.
Getting one of your pages really high in the search results for a generic keyword will obviously bring a lot of visits to the website. However, this should not be the main objective of our online store for several reasons:
The traffic they provide is not so segmented and therefore it's very likely that it has a much lower conversion rate.
The cost of getting that visibility is much higher than that of getting it from several long-tail (or even middle-tail) words.
Because of that, the goal should almost always be to focus on more specific or long-tail words.
4. Initial keyword list
We already obtained some keywords from the initial structure that we have defined for the website (either in the form of a mind map, post it board, diagram, spreadsheet, etc).
But there is a source of information that I think we should always go to when it comes to knowing what and how our audience searches on Google: well, Google.
Keyword planner is a source we should always refer to for search volumes and alternative keywords.
Using the keyword planner, you can analyze each of the concepts that we introduced in the previous structure that we defined at the beginning.
In this way, we will obtain a list of alternatives terms and we will be able to identify those that are most demanded and assign them to each landing page (home, category or product sheet).
5. Expanding the list of keywords
We already have the first list of keywords thanks to the information provided by Google's Keyword Planner. Many of them will be generic and others will be specific. This will help us in most cases to optimize the home and categories of our eCommerce.
But now we will need to expand this list to obtain the long-tail keywords, which will almost always be adapted to the specific case of the product sheets.
A first way to do this is by combining the attributes of our products. If we have an online sunglasses store, we can identify attributes such as: frame, glass, brand.
For each attribute, we will define the variants that we can find in our product portfolio. With these word lists, we will make all the possible combinations to obtain a list of keywords.
A free tool that we can use to make these combinations is Mergewords. With it, we can obtain all possible combinations of the corresponding keywords of up to 3 attributes or aspects. That's why this tool is very much in line with the needs of an online store.
In the case of an online sunglasses store, for example, these attributes could be the brand, style, and material of the lens. In this way, combining the different values that our products can adopt, we will obtain all possible combinations.
A Google search will also provide us with valuable information when it comes to expanding our list of keywords. Both in the search box itself, where it suggests words that complement our keywords, and in the bottom of the search, where it suggests related searches.
6. Analysis of the collected keywords
Now we have a list of 'candidate' keywords for each of our landing pages and we have to decide which of them is the most appropriate to optimize our page.
We will make this decision based on two aspects:
- Demand: search volume
We have a product and we want to reach our target audience, that's clear to us. Therefore, the keywords we optimize for our website must be those that our buyer persona uses when searching.
The volume of searches can be obtained easily from Google Keyword Planner as we have done in the previous point.
Calculating competition is usually not as simple as calculating the search volume.
If we choose to take into account the value that the Keyword Planner gives us, we also have to take into account that this is not a valid value to calculate the competition in the SERPs. The value to which this tool refers is an indicator of the competition in Google Adwords.
Can we take it as a valid competition indicator for SEO keywords? Maybe, but this value is not reliable. Not always the most competitive keywords in SEM are the most competitive in SEO (and vice versa). From my point of view, assuming that this competition can be extrapolated to organic traffic is a mistake.
Typically, some more specific terms have greater competition in terms of ad bids, since they will be more focused on conversion.
For example, "roofs" will have medium competition, while "roofs Oklahoma" will have high competition. Local companies installing or repairing roofs will find it more attractive to pay for these searches that ensure geographic targeting of their target customer.
However, this does not mean that "Oklahoma roofs" is a keyword with more competition in the SERPs. In fact, it is not, since “roofs” is a much more generic search.
How do we calculate competition then?
Actually, the competition is given to us by Google itself when we search for the term we are analyzing.
- Calculation of the index
With these two aspects (demand and competition) defined we can calculate our KEI (Keyword Effectiveness Index). The formula used will be the following:
The higher our index, the more attractive our keyword will be.
Sometimes other types of indexes are used such as KFI (Keyword Feasibility Index) that takes into account as competition those pages that include the keyword in the title. That is, the number of pages that respond to the search: _intitle: ”keyword”_.
In any case, the aim of calculating these indexes is to identify among the most "profitable" keywords among all candidates that we pre-select for each landing page.
- Check seasonality
The last step in this analysis would be to check their seasonality. An easy way to do this check is using Google Trends.
It's clear that some products are in demand at specific times of the year, like sunglasses for the summer and space heaters for the winter. Being aware of this seasonality will help us when organizing our architecture and promoting our products at all times.
In the case of the sunglasses store example above, there is a clear seasonality for "sunglasses". These types of articles are mainly sought from March to July.
However, in September and October is the time for contact lenses (probably with the "back to school" campaign). Taking this into account will allow us to organize our architecture to give more importance, at all times, to the categories that are demanded.
7. Defining our information architecture
At this point, we can already identify which keywords are the best for us. Now we can assign them to each of the sections that we define in the mind map of the website that we developed at the beginning.
We may realize that for the category "Adidas sunglasses" the most profitable thing will be to focus on the transactional search "buy Adidas sunglasses"... But we are obviously not going to set up a subcategory with that name. The category will be "sunglasses" and in any case the subcategory "Adidas".
But…didn't we say that we should focus on "buying Adidas sunglasses"? Well yes, indeed. If we try to rank our category by "Adidas" I will tell you that you will not get it (no matter how much the brand insists on using the motto Nothing is Impossible). If you try for "sunglasses" you'll also be staring at an uphill battle.
What we will do to rank our category for that keyword will be to optimize the meta description tag, perhaps some h2 or h3 that includes that search string or in the text itself.
- Reorganizing the contents and internal linking
Now, it's time to redefine (with the chosen keywords) the mind map that we had developed.
To carry out this reorganization we need to identify those parts of our website that we are interested in enhancing over the others. That is, we identify those landing pages that we will give priority to.
These pages are determined by internal factors (products in which we have a higher margin, flagship products of the brand, ...) and by external factors (competition and popularity).
The way in which we will promote these landing pages over the others will be through ranking and internal linking. The internal linking of the menus, the breadcrumbs, the related products or other elements such as the sidebars can be used to get more authority in those parts (categories or products) that interest us.
By restructuring and reorganizing the contents in this way we will achieve:
Improvement of usability: a more logical architecture based on the way users search to facilitate navigation and improve the user experience in our eCommerce.
Improvement of crawling: with an optimized structure and internal linking we will make the time that Google spends crawling our website more efficient and that it crawls what's convenient for us.
8. Review the results
We have defined the keywords for each page and have also identified which pages are most relevant to our project.
The next necessary step will be the review of the objectives. This is: Are we getting traffic for the defined keywords? Do these keywords maintain the expected volume? Are we positioning ourselves better than our competition? Have we improved our organic visibility?
For this analysis, we can rely on Woorank's Keyword Tool.
With it, we can track the ranking of our website for those relevant searches for which we have prioritized our site.
We will also have the search volume for each of those keywords. In this way, we can quickly detect when a keyword turns out to be seasonal (and we had not detected it) or if there was simply a change of trends and users lost interest in it.
On the other hand, it also provides us with a competitive analysis of each keyword. We will be able to see the evolution of our main competitors for those searches in the SERPs.
Keyword research is still the starting point for developing an SEO strategy on any website. But when we talk about an eCommerce, keyword research is even more important, since it's the DNA of the store that will define, not only its contents but its entire structure.
Each page of the online store will be optimized for those searches for which it is best for us to appear in the SERPs.
Through keyword research we will be able to increase conversions, as we improve usability and provide the user with a more intuitive navigation to what they are looking for.
On the other hand, thanks to an optimal keyword research we will be able to optimize our crawl budget, because through internal linking we will be indicating which pages are most relevant on our website.