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The Beginner's Guide to Keyword Research for E-commerce

Conversion Optimisation|29.07.2016

If you want your online business to be a commercial success, you’ve got some serious preparation to do – preparation that sits beneath a little three-letter acronym: SEO.

Innocuous as it may look, this stands for Search Engine Optimisation. At the heart of effective SEO stands keyword research. Here is our step-by-step guide to what you must know about keyword research if you want to stand out from the crowd.

THE IMPORTANCE OF KEYWORD RESEARCH IN SEO

In the age of Google, the digital search engine has taken the place of the phone book. To get your fledgling e-commerce business noticed by search engines, you’ve got to use the right search terms – or keywords, as they’re called in SEO-speak. Put very simply, a successful keyword is the one that your prospective customers will use to look for what you’re offering. Get your keywords just right and your online business will start to attract visitors (traffic). Each visitor presents a conversion opportunity.

Essentially, by selecting the optimal keywords for your online business, you’re telling a search engine like Google which handful of results it should show at the top of its first search results page. There will be hundreds of thousands of possible pages, and you want your business to be as close to the top as you can get it.

Here's a compelling visual that vividly illustrates why keyword selection is so important. It’s from the online advertising network Chitika, and it gives a breakdown of average percentages of traffic for different Google rankings from 1 to 15:

The results are striking. The first page of search results accounts for more than 90% of the traffic share combines. Moreover, the first three results account for more than 60 per cent of the traffic. Further down, you can see that position 11 receives well under half the traffic that goes to position 10.

These rankings can mean the difference between success and failure for your online business. You need to understand keywords to get yourself closer to the top.

THE ART OF KEYWORD SELECTION

Think of keywords as clever shortcuts that sum up the content of a website or a specific webpage. They’re an important part of a page’s “metadata”, which is precisely what search engines hunt for when they’re matching a page to a search query. Here are three key points to consider.

LONG-TAIL KEYWORDS

In addition to individual words, e-commerce merchants need to use long-tail keywords to attract traffic. As their name implies, long-tail keywords aren't single words but phrases; they have a longer tail because they typically use three or more words. According to major SEO consultancy Moz, they constitute more than 70% of online searches. A person who is searching for 'hybrid cars', for example, is probably at an early stage of the information gathering. However, someone who is searching for 'nearly new hybrid cars' is further down the path of their buying trajectory. Someone who is searching for 'second-hand Toyota Yaris hybrids with touchscreen displays and Bluetooth' is probably closing in on a purchase. 

AVERAGE MONTHLY SEARCHES COMPETITION

This is also known as “search volume”. It refers to the total number of searches each month that each keyword or key phrase has drawn. The higher the search volume, the better the keyword or phrase is. Keep in mind that you also need to consider your rivals.

COMPETITION 

This refers to the difficulty of ranking for a particular keyword. Basically, the rule is not to waste time trying to rank for keywords you haven’t got a chance of ranking for. Ideally, you need high search volumes and low competition to make a truly effective keyword, but these are few and far between.

GET BRAINSTORMING 

Get a pen and a sheet of paper and let the keywords you think your potential customers might use come into your mind and out through your fingers onto the page. Use a minimum of two words, and be sure to write down some long-tails as well. Try to come up with as many as you can, and ask friends and family to help you. Just put them in from of a laptop and ask them to search for your product or brand in whatever way feels natural to them.

USE ONLINE TOOLS

There are some excellent online tools – both free and paid – to help you refine your keyword selection. Übersuggest, for example, does what it says: it gives you multiple suggestions for your keyword with every letter from A to Z. Übersuggest does this by scraping Google for Google suggestion keywords.

It’s also certainly worth taking the time to learn how to use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner Tool.

GET EXPERTISE 

If, as we strongly recommend at We Make Websites, you use Shopify to set up your online business, keep in mind that you can draw on the talents of a raft of Shopify Expert E-commerce specialists, including marketers. This kind of expertise is often considered too expensive for start-ups, but it’s part of the deal at Shopify. Marketers will help you draw traffic to your site by optimising your SEO and building brand awareness, often by launching social media campaigns.

CONCLUSION

You should now have a comprehensive list of keywords that will help you focus on the right topics for your company, which will give you both short term and long term gains. However, this is an ongoing task for your business, you need to be ultimately re-evaluating your keyword list, every one to two months. Everyone has their groove of how they approach keyword research, be sure to try and test new ways and slowly you will start to figure out what works for your business.

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