Keyword research is the first step in ecommerce SEO because without the right keywords you won’t be able to optimize your website or your product pages for search engines. With the right keywords, however, you have the ability to push your site to the first page of Google and bring in hundreds – or even thousands – of high converting traffic week after week.
This guide will walk you through ecommerce keyword research step-by-step. Let’s jump in and find some keywords!
Ecommerce Keyword Research Methods
First, we’ll kick things off with the best research methods. There are plenty of keyword research tools out there, however, the ones we’re going to discuss in this post are either free or very low cost. Most importantly though, they’re highly effective and offer lots of useful information to help you get the most out of your research.
Google Keyword Planner
Google Keyword Planner (GKP) is a free keyword research tool developed by Google. It was originally created to help Google Adwords users find high-volume, low competition keywords to plan their pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaigns, however, it also happens to be a good tool for judging keywords’ monthly search volume and for finding closely related keywords.
To use GKP, you first need some seed keyword ideas. A seed keyword is a starting point for keyword research. It’s a word that relates to your product or service that can help you find other keywords.
For example, let’s say we’re selling dog beds. “Dog beds” would be our seed keyword.
As you can see, the term “dog beds” gets 100 thousand to 1 million searches per month, however, we still need to determine organic ranking difficulty, but we’ll cover that in the following section on SEMrush. For now, let’s discuss what else GKP can do.
Important Note: Some people look at the “competition” metric in GKP and think that’s how difficult it is to rank for a keyword. That’s not the case. Competition only refers to the paid ads competition, not organic ranking difficulty. We’ll show you how to see organic ranking difficulty using SEMrush later on.
The other use of GKP is to find closely related keywords you can also include on your page. This is part of an SEO strategy called Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI).
Basically, LSI is just a fancy way to say that there are other keywords related to your keyword that Google recognizes as being synonymous. When you include these related keyword on your webpage in addition to your primary keyword, you help Google determine what that webpage is about so it can better index it.
For example, “dog bed” and “bed for a dog” are semantically related. Here are some more examples:
As you can see, Google gave us a few semantically related keywords we can use.
- “pet beds”
- “large dog beds”
- “luxury dog beds”
- “best dog beds”
By including these keywords in your product description, you’ll increase your chances of ranking for all of them.
Here’s an example product description based on these keywords alone:
We’re dog people too, that’s why we’ve created the best dog beds in existence. These luxury dog beds will ensure your pup gets the love and rest they deserve, and because these are large dog beds, they’re just right for even the biggest breeds. (Don’t worry – if your baby is just a little one, we have small dog beds too!) Give your dog the very best in luxury and comfort, give your dog the Dog Bed 5000.
Of course, having a seed keyword and some semantic keywords isn’t enough to revamp your entire store. You have to have the right primary keyword first.
So what should you do with these keywords you’ve found?
Put them in a Google spreadsheet, noting their volume. Make a column for difficulty as well. We’ll choose which keywords to target after we’ve got a nicely sized list to whittle down.
Notice we don’t know keyword difficulty yet. We’ll get there with the next tool:
The KWFinder tool is a useful and inexpensive way to find great ecommerce keywords. Just like GKP, start by searching the seed keyword but, as you can see below, the results include a more accurate monthly search volume estimate, as well as a rough estimate of the keyword difficulty.
According to the KWFinder tool, they rank keyword difficulty as follows:
- 0-9: Effortless
- 10-19: Go For It
- 20-29: Easy
- 30-39: Still Easy
- 40-54: Possible
- 55-74: Hard
- 75-89: Very Hard
- 90-100: Don’t Do It
So “dog beds” is “possible” and “luxury dog beds” is “still easy”. In other words, these aren’t difficult keywords to rank for, so if they were our target keywords for our own products we would go ahead and optimize our product pages with these as our primary keywords.
Toss your keywords into your Google Sheet and update each keyword’s difficulty once you’ve searched them on KWFinder.
This is a good start, but we’re still not ready to target anything yet. We need more potential keywords.
Amazon for Ecommerce Keyword Research
Amazon beat Google last year as a starting point for product search. Apparently, 38% of people searched for a product on Amazon first, compared to 35% who started on Google. Because Amazon’s search bar has such a high purchase intent (meaning people tend to buy something after searching), it’s a great place to find high-converting keywords.
Start, like always, you’ll need to start with a seed keyword. Amazon will then be able to give you some helpful auto-suggestions.
Two that stand out to me here are “dog beds for large dogs”, because it’s semantically related to “large dog beds” and “dog beds for crates” because it’s ultra specific. Typically, ultra-specific keywords are high-converting and low competition.
Add any relevant keywords you find to your sheet. Don’t forget to check the volume and difficulty of the keywords with the KWFinder tool or GKP so you can get the necessary data.
See those last two keywords on the list: “dog beds for large dogs” and “dog beds for crates”? We’ve come to our first “long tail keywords”.
Long tail keywords are keywords that, really, are more like key-phrases as they are comprised of four or more words. Typically they have a lower search volume because they’re more specific than shorter keywords, but they’re usually easier to rank for and have a higher conversion rate because they’re more specific.
Should you use them? We’ll talk about that more in the second half of this guide. For now, let’s keep adding keywords to your Google Sheet.
Keyword Tool Dominator
If you thought, “Man, using Amazon to search for individual keywords takes forever. Isn’t there an easier way?” you’re in luck. There is.
The Keyword Tool Dominator scrapes Amazon’s search suggestions to automate the process for you. Just type in your seed keyword:
Then hit search and you’ll get tons of suggestions.
Important Note: Many of the results may not be relevant to you. Filter them by rank to ensure they’re as relevant as possible.
Looks like we have a few potential winners!
Important Note: While it wouldn’t make sense to write “dog beds yellow” in a product description, you could write “yellow dog beds” instead. Google will acknowledge that they’re semantically similar.
Add anything promising to your list. Again, check volume and difficulty on KWFinder and GKP.
Competitor Research Using SEMrush
This is one of the best methods for finding keywords because it’s just so easy. SEMrush is a keyword research tool that shows you the keywords that your competitors are ranking for, including the low-hanging fruit keywords that you can scoop up, which can help you think of new seed keywords you may not have otherwise thought of.
Just look what SEMrush did for our site traffic in less than one year:
So, how do you use SEMrush to find the best, golden nugget keywords?
Here’s a video overview of everything you need to know about SEMrush. Keep in mind the video is an overview of all of SEMrush’s major features, including competitor research. Keep reading this article for the condensed version.
Here’s how to use SEMrush to spy on your competition:
Start by entering a competitor’s URL into the search bar. (I found the example below by Googling “dog beds”.)
Important Note: If you leave the “http://www.” in front of the website, you will only be viewing the data for their home page. Delete that (just put theirwebsite.com) and you’ll see info for their entire site and all pages.
You’re going to be overloaded with a bunch of other information as well. Ignore it all for now and just look on the side bar for “organic research”.
Scroll down and you’ll see “Organic Search Positions”. These are all the keywords your competitor ranks for organically.
Unfortunately, with a free SEMrush account you can only see the top 10 keywords, however, you can get a 7-day free trial which will let you do some initial keyword research for free.
Once you sign up for your free account, dig through the results for good keywords. Rinse and repeat with a few other competitors.
Your list of potential keywords should be pretty long by now but there’s one last ecommerce keyword research method we can use before analyzing the words we’ve found.
I can hear you now: “Huh?” Wikipedia isn’t just for learning about information that your teachers always reminded you wasn’t fit for academic research, it’s also a great way to find keywords!
While it doesn’t work for every category (they don’t have one for “dog bed”), you might luck out and find yours covered. For this example, we’ll use “dog food” instead.
If you find your seed keyword on Wikipedia, check out the contents of the page. You might find some other keyword gems.
The first three could be potential blog post topics and the second two would be great for product descriptions. Just reading through the beginning of the page has already offered great potential keyword ideas.
Again, find the search volume and difficulty of any words you find here by using KWFinder and GKP. That data is what’s going to help you choose your best keywords.
Choosing the Best Keywords for Ecommerce Product & Category Pages
Now that you have a huge list of potential keywords, you’re probably wondering how to choose which keywords to target. The best way to narrow them down is based on these four key criteria:
- Search Volume
- Keyword/Product Fit
- Commercial Intent
Let’s start with the most important metric.
1. Search Volume
Search volume is by far the most important metric to consider when choosing your keywords. It doesn’t matter how easy a keyword is to rank for if no one types it into Google.
That said, knowing how much search volume is “a lot” is difficult to say. It really depends on what your niche is. For some, 100 searches is a lot – for others, 10,000 isn’t much. You should have a feeling for what a “high” search volume is based on the average of all the keywords you’ve found.
Keep in mind that some keywords have major seasonal variation in search volume. For example, “dog beds” seems to get search spikes near the end of November, indicating many people purchase them to give as Christmas gifts. You can find this info using Google Trends.
It’s important to know search trends and the seasonality of your product because they will affect your bottom line. You might not make money for certain parts of the year if you focus on keywords that only get searched for around the holidays.
2. Keyword/Product Fit
So you have a few keywords with tons of search volume. They’re all winners, right? Not necessarily.
The keywords you choose need to make sense with your product. If it’s too much of a stretch, people will get confused when they click on your site and leave. Not only will these people not convert, it will hurt your search rankings.
For example, let’s say you sell dog trackers with GPS capabilities. You see the term “Garmin” getting millions of monthly searches.
But, just because it gets tons of monthly searches, doesn’t mean you can make that keyword relevant to your products. People are more than likely looking for car GPSs when they search “Garmin”.
Instead, it’s better to go with a more relevant keyword, like “GPS tracker”, even though it doesn’t get as much search volume.
Now that you’ve got highly relevant, fairly high search volume keywords, it’s time to see if people are willing to open their wallets for you.
3. Commercial Intent
Ranking #1 for high search volume keywords is awesome, unless all 10,000 searchers have no intent to buy anything. That’s why it’s important to go after keywords with a high commercial intent. In other words, go after keywords that people are searching to buy products.
Luckily, this is actually pretty easy to find out. Just go back to our trusted GKP. Look at the “competition” metric for your keywords.
Remember how we said this shows you how many people are bidding for ads on a particular keyword? Well, chances are, the ones with high competition are high competition because there’s money to be made. People don’t typically waste money on ads that aren’t giving returns.
But even more important than competition is the “suggested bid”. Suggested bid is the average of what people spend for a single click on their Google Adwords ad. The higher the suggested bid, the higher the commercial intent.
Keep in mind that higher suggested bids are also usually more difficult to rank for, but we’ll cover that in the next section. For now, take note of the suggested bid on your keywords. (Consider adding it as an additional column into your spreadsheet.)
One last thing to keep in mind: Look for keywords that scream “I’m looking to buy!”
For example, GPS isn’t a very high “buying” keyword. People searching for this could be looking for anything from the definition to the best GPS to something else entirely. This low buying intent is reflected in the low bid of $0.23.
On the other hand, high buying intent keywords like “buy GPS online” gets far fewer searches, but it’s more likely that the person searching is ready to purchase.
Now let’s look at the final consideration…
You could find a keyword that’s super relevant, with high search volume and an amazing commercial intent, but all of that doesn’t matter if you have no hope of hitting the first page on Google. Why? Because less than 10% of people go past page one of Google.
We already covered how to determine keyword difficulty using the KWFinder tool, however, if you ran out of free searches, you can also see keyword difficulty using your free trial of SEMrush.
Head over to SEMrush and type in your first keyword.
Next, go to the “Keyword Difficulty” tab on the left.
On this page, you’ll see the keyword difficulty. Unlike the KWFinder tool, they display a percentage from 1 to 100, 1% being the easiest. It works in much the same way.
It looks like “dog beds” has a difficulty of 80%. This is much harder than the keyword finder tool claimed, but they are based on different things. Either way, this keyword is going to take some serious work to rank for.
One Last Check for Difficulty: Google It
Don’t take any keyword difficulty metric, regardless of the tool, at face value. Take one last step and check it out on Google.
What you’re looking for here is to see if the other pages are specifically optimized for that keyword. If it’s not, you can potentially outrank it with better on-page optimization (such as your product and meta descriptions).
For now, look place your exact keyword phrase in these places:
- The title tag (the big blue heading text)
- The URL handle
- The meta description
Let’s take a look for dog beds:
As you can see, these results are fairly well optimized, however, a couple of them could have better URLs as they aren’t very customer-facing. While having better optimization isn’t super important (thanks to Google’s Hummingbird update), it can still give you a slight edge over the competition.
This guide has hopefully helped you conduct valuable keyword research, which is a fundamental step for ecommerce SEO. Without keywords you can’t help direct search engines such as Google to show your webpages as search results when they’re most appropriate. Keywords help everyone: they help your webpages get found, they help people searching on Google find exactly what they’re looking for and they help Google pair searchers and the relevant results together.
Take your time finding keywords, searching for their data and building out your Google Sheet. This will help you prepare to make the best possible choices when implementing keywords on your store.