Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2020. It has been updated for accuracy and to reflect modern practices.
If you want your eCommerce business to beat your competitors in the search engine results, you have to start with the right keyword research strategy.
Getting customers to your site is about more than just targeting your top product names. Your eCommerce keyword research needs to include low-volume, long-tail, and other keywords to really drive traffic and sales.
This comprehensive guide will show you how.
Today, we’re sharing our go-to eCommerce keyword research strategy, designed and optimized from years of helping online businesses just like yours achieve SEO success.
Using search intent marketing, this process will show you how to find the right keywords to add to your website’s:
- Product descriptions
- Category pages
- Landing pages
- Blogs and articles
- And more
And, when you do it right, your keyword targeting will lead to higher search engine rankings and more search traffic for your eCommerce site.
Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
- The Secret to Successful Keyword Research for eCommerce Sites
- eCommerce Keyword Strategy: Past vs. Present
- Inflow’s 5-Step eCommerce Research Strategy
- Try Out Our Keyword Research Strategy Now
The Secret to Successful Keyword Research for eComemrce Sites
Most of the guides about doing eCommerce keyword research cover the same ground. But search engine optimization (SEO) strategies are always changing — and what works today may not always work tomorrow.
Rather than simply explaining how to do keyword research for eCommerce using tools like Google’s Keyword Planner (which, by the way, is more effective for PPC than SEO keywords) or recommending you go after the highest search volume and CPC terms (Don’t you think everyone is doing the same?), we’ll take a different approach.
Instead, we’ll focus on the underlying principle of modern keyword research:
By identifying and meeting your searcher’s intent for a given keyword, your content is more likely to rank higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs) and be engaged with by potential customers.
With our four-step process, we’ll show you how to make it happen, by helping you:
- Avoid common keyword research mistakes rooted in past techniques that no longer work.
- Use intent marketing to drive better rankings and traffic.
- Choose the best keywords for your eCommerce website content.
eCommerce Keyword Strategy: Past vs. Present
Before we get into the modern way of doing keyword research, you need to understand how Google’s algorithm has changed over the past few years — and why certain misguided tactics continue to prevail among SEO experts.
Don’t want the history lesson? Skip to our four-step keyword research strategy now.
What works for keyword research today is very different from what used to work.
In the past, it was common for digital marketers to focus on optimizing specific content and pages for specific keywords. But the “one keyword, one page” overlooks how search engines really work.
Today, Google’s algorithm has evolved from a focus on keywords to a focus on the semantics of content, search intent, and topical relevance. The strategy for doing keyword research has changed right along with it.
Take this example: The keywords “red rubber boots” and “red rain boots” have the same search intent, because they are relevant to the same product.
So, it makes more sense to optimize a page to rank for both keywords than to create a separate page designed to target each separate keyword.
Why Did Google’s Algorithm Begin to Prioritize Search Intent?
Keyword placement and links used to be the primary focus of Google’s algorithm (and are still important components of SEO).
However, people began to recognize and abuse the way Google’s algorithm worked with spammy practices — like keyword-stuffed articles with little real value and paying for low-quality backlinks to their websites.
The result was a prevalence of useless, unhelpful content and websites of dubious quality in the SERPs. This was in direct contradiction to Google’s goal as a search engine: to show users results that they find useful and relevant.
So, Google released a series of updates to change the rules.
- Panda Update (2011): To compensate for manipulative SEO practices, Panda was released to start favoring unique, high-quality content over the large amount of low-quality, thin content being produced by “content farms.”
- Penguin Update (2012): The Penguin update analyzes website backlink profiles to identify whether websites that link to yours are authoritative (“good” links) or spammy (“bad” links).
- Hummingbird Update (2013): As part of Google’s attempt to match a user’s search query with the answers they are looking for, Hummingbird understands the connections between entities and natural language search. Namely, the update specializes in analyzing and ranking content in terms of topics (including subtopics and synonyms) instead of exact-match keywords.
Ultimately, here’s what these updates mean for you:
Instead of trying to optimize for exact-match keywords, you need to cover each content topic in detail and in depth.
And that’s why topical optimization and intent-based marketing is the best keyword strategy for eCommerce today.
Inflow’s 5-Step eCommerce Keyword Research Strategy
If you want your content to rank well in the SERPs, you need to create high-quality content that uses search intent marketing and topical optimization.
Here are our five steps to making it happen:
Step 1: Assign Search Intent to Page Types
In order to complete effective keyword research for your online store, you need to understand the page(s) you’re researching and the searcher’s intent for each page.
First, ask yourself: Are you doing keyword research for an existing page or a new page?
Existing Page: Perform Competitor Research
Reworking older content is often more efficient than generating new content. Updating your existing pages will usually improve page/site quality faster (once enough articles are optimized).
When you are optimizing an existing page, you want to make your content more in-depth than your competitors’ content — while including the same keywords.
Skip ahead to the Content Gap Analysis below to find out which keywords to target.
New Page: Match Page Type to Keyword Intent
On the other hand, if you’re creating brand-new content for your eCommerce website, you’ll need to focus on keyword search intent.
Different page types will often have different types of keywords and search intent associated with them:
- Homepage: Keywords describing what the business is or does (e.g. “Flowers and Flower Delivery”).
- Category pages: Mid-funnel keywords that indicate a user is shopping for a type of product (e.g. “fresh cut flower bouquets”). Brand keywords (e.g. “Used Canon DSLR”) and long-tail, broader product names (e.g. “used Canon Rebel T6”) are also useful here.
- Product pages: Often, users search for product-specific modifiers when they are close to a buying decision. Modifiers like color, size, or item model just attached to the same category keywords (e.g. “one dozen red roses” or “used canon eos rebel t6s”).
- Articles and blog pages: These types of pages often rank for questions and problems that users are searching to solve (e.g. “How to Make Flowers Last Longer”). Unlike home, product, and category pages, this strategic content usually won’t associate with commercial intent keywords.
Step 2: Brainstorm Keyword Opportunities
To get initial keyword ideas, start with what you already know about your eCommerce store and customers.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What are people searching for?
- Who is searching for these terms?
- When are people searching? (Are there seasonality trends throughout the year?)
- How are people searching?
- What words do they use?
- What questions do they ask?
- Are more searches performed on mobile devices?
- Why are people searching?
- Where are potential customers located — locally, nationally, or internationally?
List the answers in a spreadsheet to note relevant search intents and topics for your site to target. Start associating your existing or planned pages with each relevant topic and intent — and then start finding the keywords that line up with each of your web pages.
Step 3: Start Your Keyword Research
Once you have an idea of which keywords to associate with your website content, use a keyword research tool to start making a list.
You can also use Google’s own search bar to view suggested long-tail keywords that people are using.
You can pair Google’s keyword suggestions with the Keywords Everywhere browser add-on (paid) or the Surfer SEO plugin (free) to see the data in the screenshot above, including:
- Estimated monthly volume
- Keyword difficulty
Keep track of all this keyword research within your dedicated spreadsheet by assigning groups of keywords to their relevant topic or intent.
For more tips on choosing keywords for each topic, check out these helpful guides:
Perform a Content Gap Analysis
If you have existing content, you can review which keywords your site is already ranking for (and which additional opportunities are available) with a competitor content gap analysis.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Log in to Ahrefs or Semrush. (In this case, we’re using Ahrefs.)
2. Add your website’s domain or page URL and click “organic keywords” at the top or on the left sidebar.
3. Filter by position 1–10. Click “export” to pull all the keywords that are ranking for the domain or URL into your spreadsheet:
4. Navigate to the “content gap” report and enter at least three competitor URLs. (Find out who your online competitors are here.)
5. Identify keywords that competitors rank for and you don’t. Add these to your spreadsheet.
Google Search Console is also a good place to analyze existing content. We often find phrases that our client’s site might get a few clicks for, even if the page doesn’t rank well for those terms.
You can use Keywords Everywhere to see search volume data in Google Search Console.
Step 4: Prioritize Your Keyword Targets
Now, you should have a list of main keywords and their related long-tail keywords. If you did competitor keyword research, you may have those competitor keywords, too.
But, how do you organize this data for your next steps?
If you’re starting from scratch, here’s what we recommend:
- Make a list of what each page is about.
- Include all kinds of eCommerce search terms — from generic to highly specific — and put them into appropriate “buckets.”
- Input those search terms into SEO tools to find monthly search volume, competition, etc.
- If you’re finding too many related keywords with good search volume that you know won’t drive conversions, get more specific.
- If you’re not finding any keywords with good search volume, input some of the terms from your list of keywords into Google and do a simple search to find related keywords that do drive search traffic.
Note: Good search volume is relative, and you shouldn’t get hung up on it.
Here’s an example:
One of our clients in a small, niche market has very low-volume keywords (10–30 searches per month). However, because of the low competition for those phrases, our client ranks for many of them!
These low-volume keywords also have a great conversion rate, because the pages ranking for them align with search intent.
For this client, it’s better to optimize for highly relevant keywords that have only 10 searches per month and meet user search intent than it is to optimize for irrelevant phrases that have 500 searches per month.
Organize Your Spreadsheet
Follow the steps below to finish organizing your keyword research:
- Make sure you have a good mix of head terms (high-search volume) and long-tail keywords.
- Remove duplicates.
- Remove keywords that you have no chance of ranking for (highly competitive).
- Unless they are for buy-intent/product pages, remove keywords that won’t move the needle (low monthly search volume).
- Organize by monthly search volume (the best indicator of whether the keyword will drive traffic).
- For each page, select a keyword that has solid search volume, that is competitive enough for the website to rank well for, and that fits the page contextually.
Now, you’re ready to use that keyword data to optimize your website content.
Step 5: Confirm Search Intent & Start Optimizing
Every smart eCommerce digital marketer is going through the same keyword research process as you. So, how do you make sure that your content stands out from all the others competing for the same keywords?
Once again, it’s time to review search intent.
If you do a typical Google search for one of your target keywords, you’ll quickly realize that the search results have a lot in common:
The great thing about this? You can look up the intent of any keyword by typing it into Google and analyzing the first page of results. Without fail, the top-ranking results are there because they successfully meet the user’s intent.
To make sure that your content matches the same intent, you’ll need to a little more research. We recommend Clearscope to get started.
Clearscope is a neat SEO tool that analyzes top-ranking search results for any given keyword. Type in the query you’re targeting, and Clearscope will give you:
- Common keywords used in the on-page copy
- Common questions addressed in the on-page copy
- Average word count
- Average reading level
Clearscope will even assign a letter grade to your page copy based on your competitors’ content.
Whether you use a tool like Clearscope or do it on your own, reviewing competitor content is incredibly important. It sets up your keyword strategy and page optimization for success.
Remember, Google is looking for semantic connections. The more your content reflects existing top-ranking content (without being a direct copy!), the higher your content will rank.
In addition to your on-page content, you’ll need to develop well-written page titles, meta descriptions, and header tags that reflect your keyword research.
Read through our resources below for more guidance on creating quality, high-ranking content.
- eCommerce SEO Copywriting Guide
- How to Use Commercial Intent Keywords for Increased eCommerce Sales
- Guide to Content Writing for eCommerce Websites
- Developing the Right Content Strategy for eCommerce Websites
Bonus Strategy: Use Structured Data
Want to further improve your chances of ranking highly in the SERPs?
Some search results display eye-catching featured snippets, such as a knowledge graph box, instant answer, or “People Also Ask” dropdown. These features rank above organic search results.
To increase the odds of winning this real estate for yourself, don’t forget to complete keyword research for featured snippets and use structured data on the page for which you’re trying to rank.
Consistently using structured data in your content is an SEO best practice. To steal the current featured snippet for any given topic, make your page content similar in structure and scope (but better!) than the current ranking content.
Try Out Our Keyword Research Strategy Now
Search intent marketing and topical optimization are eCommerce keyword research strategies we have seen win time and time again.
In late 2019, we helped a client find and optimize the underperforming blog articles on their site. One of these articles had only 59 organic sessions total since it was published in October 2018:
We used our eCommerce keyword research process to find missing keywords and edited the article to include them.
After we implemented our optimizations to the article, it began ranking #1 in Google for several of our target keywords. At the same time, additional target keywords moved up in the search engine rankings, too.
As a result, organic traffic skyrocketed to 2,030 sessions over several days alone (Dec. 1–4, 2019) — proving that our SEO strategy does (and continues to) work.
eCommerce keyword research can be overwhelming at first. But, once you discover the keywords people are searching for when they want what you offer, it becomes a lot more straightforward.
That said, we know that many eCommerce marketing teams are too overextended to devote the time needed to optimize their website SEO and engage in content marketing. Whether you’re in that boat, or are simply looking for a fresh approach to your eCommerce keyword research, Inflow can help.
Request a free proposal from our eCommerce SEO experts anytime. We’ll audit your website, deliver an actionable strategy designed to drive revenue and growth, and, when you’re ready, handle all of the work for you.
Until then, best of luck with your new eCommerce keyword research strategy!