With over 8.5 billion searches made per day, if there’s one platform you should be marketing your e-commerce business on, it’s Google.
If you’ve already looked into e-commerce SEO, chances are you’re probably feeling completely overwhelmed by everything you “need to do” to improve your e-commerce website’s visibility on Google. So, forget all of that for now because the truth is that keyword research is the most important thing you can do for your website’s SEO strategy right now.
In this beginner’s guide to keyword research for e-commerce, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the importance of e-commerce keywords and how to research and implement them effectively.
What is Keyword Research?
At its core, keyword research is about understanding what your potential customers are typing into search engines. Think of it as a bridge between a potential customer’s needs and your website.
Ever wondered why certain brands pop up first on Google when you search for “best hair products” or “organic cotton blankets”? It’s not just luck; it’s SEO.
It’s a common misconception for e-commerce businesses to assume because they show up for brand-related searches on Google, like their brand name or specific product name, that they have “done SEO”. In reality, the real power of SEO for e-commerce businesses comes from non-brand-related searches. For a beauty brand, it could be anything from “vegan lipsticks” to “sulphate-free shampoos”.
Keyword research is like having a direct line to your customer’s thoughts. Once you know these keywords, you can optimise your product pages so they’re more likely to show up in search results when people type them into Google.
Why is Keyword Research for E-Commerce Important?
Google has an index full of websites, a bit like how a library has an index full of books. As you can imagine, Google’s index has hundreds of thousands of websites, and their algorithm for finding the most relevant pages for each search is complex. By carrying out keyword research, you can optimise your website’s pages so that search engines are able to match your content to the searches people are making. This significantly increases your chances of appearing in search results for your potential customers.
It’s not just important to appear in those search results. Your position, also known as ranking, matters too.
Google’s search results typically show ten results per page. So, to show up on page 1 of Google for your target keywords, you need to rank in the top 10 results. Notice I said “show up” here and not “get traffic”. This is because if you want to actually get a decent volume of website traffic from search engines, you need to be in positions 1-3.
Here’s a graph from Advanced Web Ranking, showing the average click-through rate (clicks to your website) based on your position on search results:
The data in this graph shows that based on page 1 of Google’s search results:
- 47.26% of search engine users click on the first result
- 12.76% of search engine users click on the second result
- 9.39% of search engine users click on the third result
- 6.47% of search engine users click on the fourth result
- 4.43%of search engine users click on the fifth result
- 1.49% of search engine users click on the tenth result
If you’re ranking for a keyword that gets 2,000 searches per day, that means that:
- First result = 945 clicks per day
- Second result = 255 clicks per day
- Third result = 187 clicks per day
- Fourth result = 129 clicks per day
- Fifth result = 88 clicks per day
- Tenth result = 30 clicks per day
So, the closer you are to the top of page 1 of Google’s search results for keywords relevant to your e-commerce business, the more website traffic you’ll receive from Google. If you’ve done your keyword research properly (which we’ll get to next!), the more sales you should get from this traffic.
Getting Started with Keyword Research for E-Commerce
Keyword research for e-commerce businesses isn’t just about showing up in the top spot on Google. It’s about understanding your audience, meeting their needs and making sales. After all, you want website visitors who are interested in purchasing your products, right?
Understanding User Intent
Every search query has an intent behind it. It’s the reason why the user is searching in the first place. For e-commerce businesses, there are four types of search intent that your potential customers will typically fall under:
- Transactional – Searcher is ready to buy (e.g. “mascara for sensitive eyes”)
- Commercial – Searcher is researching before buying (e.g. “best shampoo for greasy hair”)
- Informational – Searcher is trying to learn about something (e.g. “what is vegan leather”)
- Navigational – Searcher is looking for a specific page (e.g. “Asos organic cotton t-shirt”)
Recognising the search intent behind keywords can significantly boost your sales.
It’s important to remember that your keywords should match the user’s search intent and the products you offer. For example, if someone searches for “vegan leather boots size 6” and lands on your product page that matches this description, you have effectively met their needs and increased the likelihood that your website traffic will convert to sales.
For larger e-commerce websites with multiple categories and products, you can use keyword research to guide your online shop’s architecture, ensuring that products are categorised in a way that’s intuitive to users and search engines. For example, if your keyword research uncovers potential customers searching for “vegan lipsticks” and you sell a full range of vegan lipsticks, you can create a category page to target this keyword and list all your vegan lipsticks within this category. This frees you up to apply more targeted keywords to your product pages, like “red vegan lipstick” or “long-lasting red lipstick”.
Focusing on transactional intent keywords is a game-changer for most e-commerce sites. However, commercial intent keywords also work well for category pages or blog posts with product round-ups.
Brainstorming Initial Keyword Ideas
Brainstorming initial keyword ideas for your e-commerce website sounds more difficult than it actually is. All you need to do is start by listing down your products. Here’s an example using a brand selling baby blankets:
- Blue Baby Blanket
- Green Baby Blanket
- Pink Baby Blanket
Once you’ve listed your products, add product types, ingredients, features and descriptive terms for them too. For the baby blankets brand, that would look like this:
- Organic cotton baby blanket
- Soft baby blankets
- Newborn baby blankets
If you sell third-party products, you can also include brand names in this list.
Think about the problems your products solve. For instance, if you offer a smudge-proof eyeliner, potential keywords could be “waterproof eyeliner” or “long-lasting eyeliner”. For the baby blankets brand, we might also include:
- Breathable baby blankets
- Baby swaddle blankets
- Sustainable baby blankets
From this brainstorming, we’ve got 9 initial keywords we can use as the basis for our keyword research. These are sometimes referred to as “seed keywords”, as they’re what you’ll use to create a huge list of keywords using the tools in the next section of this post.
Tools for Effective Keyword Research
Plenty of keyword research tools are available to help you find the right keywords for your business. Below, you’ll find my top 5 recommended keyword research tools for e-commerce websites.
Ahrefs is one of my favourite keyword research tools. It’s pricey but worth it if you’re serious about boosting your website’s SEO. They offer a free keyword generator tool for non-subscribers, which you can use alongside some of the free tools I’ve listed below.
As it’s such a comprehensive tool, I’ve written a comprehensive guide to using Ahrefs for keyword research, which you can dig into after you’ve read the rest of these tips!
Keywords Everywhere is a browser extension that offers quick keyword insights as you surf the web. As you type searches into Google, Keywords Everywhere will show you related keywords, their search volume, and competition. I’ve been using this tool for years and I find myself using it every day. While the extension itself is free, you do have to pay a small fee for search credits. For most e-commerce websites, the annual fee of $15 for 100,000 credits should be enough for your needs.
Google Trends helps you spot emerging trending topics or seasonal keywords. This is something that other keyword research tools aren’t as good for, as they tend to average out their search volume data over a set period of time.
For seasonal products, you need to know which keywords are the best fit for that particular time of year. For example, if you have a Christmas range of products, Google trends will tell you when searches for those keywords typically pick up and which ones have the biggest increase.
You can use Google Search Console for a lot more than keyword research. If you’re working on your e-commerce SEO, I recommend connecting your website so you can monitor your click-through rate and impressions on Google. Once you’ve set your website up on Google Search Console, you can keep track of what search queries are already showing your website in their results. Here’s what you can do with Google Search Console data to boost your website’s SEO.
Answer The Public is a free keyword research tool that allows you 3 searches per day. They have paid plans if you want to use it more extensively than this, but if you are considering going for their Pro plan, I’d recommend opting for a subscription with Ahrefs instead to get more for your money. Dive into how to use Answer The Public for keyword research for a full guide on how to use this tool.
Analysing Keyword Metrics
Analysing keyword metrics is one of the most important parts of keyword research, especially for e-commerce brands. Once you find a keyword that seems like a good fit for your product, you have to ensure the metrics are well aligned with your brand, goals and actually attainable for your website.
Let’s break down what each metric means and how to use the data to decide if a keyword will work for your SEO strategy
Search volume tells you how many people are searching for a keyword. It’s important to note that a high search volume doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best keyword for your product. You have to assess if it’s relevant enough to your products and if the search intent behind the keyword makes sense for your goals (e.g. someone buying your product).
This metric shows how tough the competition is for that keyword. Essentially, it’s a scale to gauge how easy or hard it will be for you to rank for it. For beginners to e-commerce SEO, starting with keywords with lower difficulty is best. Think of it like choosing a battle you know you can win.
If you’re tempted to choose a keyword with a higher difficulty score, check out the competition on Google by searching it yourself. If page 1 is full of relevant products from Amazon, eBay, Argos, Tesco and John Lewis, you will find it impossible to rank above them without a lot of additional off-page SEO work. And even then, you can’t guarantee it!
Cost Per Click (CPC)
Although this metric is relevant to paid ads and not organic search results, a high CPC metric often indicates a keyword’s commercial value. It can guide you on which keywords might lead to sales. For e-commerce sites, especially in competitive industries, understanding CPC is crucial.
Implementing Keywords on Your E-Commerce Site
You should have built a solid list of keywords for your website by now. So, it’s time to put them into action and start optimising your website. If you’re new to e-commerce SEO, I recommend downloading my free SEO checklist to use alongside these tips.
You should have at least one new keyword for every page you are planning to optimise. You should not optimise multiple pages for the same keyword. If you do this, you’re diluting each page’s opportunity to rank for that particular keyword as search engines will struggle to determine which page on your website is most suitable for that search. As a result, you’ll often find you don’t rank well for any of the pages you’ve optimised for the same keyword.
For e-commerce websites with a small to medium-sized product range, you may find more than one unique keyword for each page. For online stores with a large product range, I recommend assigning one keyword to each page before considering adding other relevant keywords. You can then distribute any remaining keywords from your keyword research to the most appropriate pages.
Make sure your product titles and descriptions are optimised for your chosen keywords for that page. For instance, instead of using “mascara”, use “waterproof mascara for sensitive eyes”. Competitor analysis is a great way to gauge exactly what you should be doing to optimise your website for a keyword, so you should also search your chosen keywords on Google and review the page content of the websites already ranking for it.
As mentioned previously, category pages should target broader keywords like “organic beauty products” or “luxury hair care”. As they act as umbrella pages, guiding users to more specific products, category pages are a good fit for keywords with a commercial intent. Depending on their relevancy, you could also consider including some informational keywords on your category pages.
Meta Titles and Descriptions
Every page on your website has a meta title and a description. Your page’s meta title is typically what Google shows as the clickable link to your page in their search results.
You should optimise this for your page’s main keyword and also to entice clicks. For example, if your chosen keyword is “vegan leather boots size 6”, an optimised meta title could be:
”Buy Vegan Leather Boots (Size 6) | Cruelty-Free Boots”
Google generally uses meta descriptions for the text underneath this link, although if their algorithm feels your page has more relevant content to the search query, it will extract that to display here instead.
Your meta title and description are the first thing users see on search results, so you need to make them count to increase your clicks from search engine users.
E-Commerce Keyword Research FAQs
What is long-tail keyword research?
Long-tail keyword research is about targeting longer, more specific keyword phrases. They typically have a lower search volume and less competition, so they’re easier to target and “win”.
Combined with transactional search intent, although they may have a lower search volume, your conversion rates can be much higher when targeting long-tail keywords.
For example, instead of using a keyword like “hair serum”, which will have very high competition from other websites, you would use a long-tail keyword like “hair serum for greasy hair”. It has a clear transactional intent and, if it fits your product, is very specific to your offering and what the potential customer is looking for.
My guide on keyword research using Ahrefs dives deeper into this, but you can use this strategy with any keyword research tool.
How often should I revisit my e-commerce keyword strategy?
There is no hard and fast rule about how often you should revisit your keyword strategy, but I recommend checking your website traffic and what keywords you rank for every 3-4 months to see how it’s progressing.
When adding new products to your e-commerce store, you should revisit your strategy and conduct more keyword research to find at least one relevant search term for each product.
Can I use the same keywords as my competitors?
Yes, checking out competitor keywords is a great way to find some golden nuggets for your own site, but you should also aim to find unique angles or gaps your competitors haven’t filled. My keyword research tips for small businesses explain competitor analysis in more detail, as there are other metrics you need to consider when looking at your competitor’s keywords.
How do I know if my keyword research is effective?
Tracking your website’s traffic and sales is the best way to measure the success of your keyword research. Using a free tool like Google Analytics is the simplest way to measure both of these metrics. If they’re increasing, you’re on the right track!
Keyword research is the backbone of e-commerce SEO. It’s important to remember that it’s not just about traffic. It’s about getting the right kind of traffic to your site. You want to attract potential customers, not casual browsers.
If you’re ready to take your e-commerce site’s SEO to the next level but this all sounds like too much work, there is an alternative! Apply to work with Webhive Digital on a monthly SEO retainer and let’s work together to scale your business.