Turning Fulfillment into Conversions
By Vanessa Loughty
Getting your website pages ranked starts with selecting the right keywords—this blog shows you how.
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SEO is vital for every online business, but finding the right ecommerce keywords to focus on can be challenging, to put it mildly. With limited insight into Google’s ranking algorithm, and keyword tools that are either costly or difficult to use, most sellers rely on a combination of guesswork and luck when identifying relevant search terms they want to rank for. When you are optimizing a large ecommerce website for SEO, identifying the “low hanging fruit” of SEO can help you shortcut this process, rank higher, and drive more traffic to your site. In this blog, we’ll highlight the factors to look at when building your SEO keyword strategy, uncovering keyword opportunities your competitors might be missing.
Before diving into keyword research, it's crucial to understand your business's unique selling points and the real world questions your customers might be searching for. It’s a good idea to start very broad—think about general product categories, brands, and basic use cases. For example, if you sell auto parts for a specific make and model, broad searches which might lead shoppers to your site could be “Ford F-150 auto parts,” or “Subaru Outback tires.” An even more general search might simply be “auto parts.”
This would be a relevant and accurate search term for this business, which a lot of shoppers search for, with just one problem: all of these terms are so broad and so well-searched that every major auto brand and parts supplier is likely already spending significant resources to rank for them. As an independent seller, you may not have the bandwidth to compete against the marketing departments of mega-brands. So, we need to look at some additional factors to help us narrow down search terms, and locate high value, low-competition keywords.
Where do I find more detailed data about keywords?
Popular SEO tools like Google Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, SEMRush, and Moz can help you start the process of identifying keywords, and see all of the criteria referenced in this blog. Each of these services offer some free features to get you started with keyword research, with premium plans for more complex data.
Search intent describes the general reason why a person is performing a search, and understanding it is critical when developing an SEO strategy. There are four types of search intent:
For ecommerce websites, the last two are especially important. Customers with transactional intent are ready to buy, while those with commercial intent are thought to be comparing products before making a purchase. Informational intent might indicate a user who wants to define terminology, get a how-to, or discover recent news about a topic. These intents can also lead to ecommerce purchases. If you know the intent of a search, you can start to separate people browsing for general information vs those who are more likely to make a purchase—if you had to choose one of these two intents, which would be more valuable for your business?
Most well-known keyword research tools identify intent that is connected to search for any given keyword, typically noted as the first capital initial of each intent. Look for the symbol (I) for informational, (C) for commercial, etc. Knowing the intent of search traffic for any given word can help you prioritize or de-prioritize that word in your overall keyword strategy.
Keyword volume refers to the number of searches a keyword receives in a given time. This is usually noted for intervals of 30 days. A keyword volume of 500 would indicate that an average of 500 searches are being performed for this keyword per month. Very popular search terms might have search volumes in the tens of thousands, but more specialized keywords tend to have much lower volumes, ranging from 20 searches per month up to a few hundred.
What’s the optimum search volume to look for? There is no one-size-fits-all answer—obviously a more well-searched term is desirable, so we want the highest search volume possible. However, as we will see now, higher search volumes also make keywords more competitive to rank for. Balancing keyword search volume with their “difficulty” can help you identify words which are well-traveled, but still possible to rank for.
Keyword difficulty estimates how hard it would be to rank for a keyword. This is expressed as a numerical value from 1 to 100, with 100 being most difficult. Under 30 is generally considered easy to rank for, 30 to 70 is challenging to rank for, and over 70 very difficult to rank for. In general, the higher the search volume, the greater the difficulty to rank, because businesses tend to compete for the greatest search traffic possible. However, this doesn’t mean that all high volume keywords are also high difficulty. Sometimes, search terms with good volume are still too specialized to be considered broadly desirable for many businesses, and have low difficulty ratings. These types of words are generally excellent to target, as they are high value but low competition. Perhaps a search term that is not valuable to another business will be valuable to yours
We would call these "low hanging fruit keywords." These can become quick SEO wins, and are an excellent way to start ranking pages from your website.
If your first keyword ideas are too competitive, “related keywords” might reveal options that are similar, but less popular. All SEO research tools offer lists of related keywords for any given search term. Related words might use different spellings, add more descriptive terms, or pose the search in the form of a question. For example, the general pool of people searching for auto parts might also frequently search for auto repair shops, and related keywords will reflect this.
Look for related keywords that complement your primary keywords, add much more specific detail that relates directly to your products or business, and which sound like common sense searches that a customer interested in your primary keyword might make. Google's "People also ask" and "Searches related to" features can also help you find good ideas for related keywords. Then, check the volume and difficulty of related words to assess how competitive and valuable they are for your business.
The next factor to consider is how your direct competitors are ranking for any given keyword. If you are in a crowded field, you might find that the most popular words are already dominated with very high rankings by your competitors. These words may not be worth your while to target, especially if difficulty is high. The “keyword gap” describes the relative difference of keyword rank between your site and any other site.
Look for specific keywords that competitors are not ranking highly for. Often you can find good ideas by getting more specific and adding additional adjectives or question words to a popular keyword. To continue our earlier example, if the keyword “auto parts” is too competitive (currently rated at 300,000 searches per month, with a difficulty ranking of 100), you might find that a more specific phrasing is more within reach. “Dodge Challenger auto parts” only receives 20 searches per month, but its difficulty is zero. With such low volume, your competitors are likely not spending a lot of resources to rank for such a search, and it might be worth targeting in order to capture the business of those 20 searches.
Analyzing the top Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for your primary keywords also can provide valuable insights and ideas for good ecommerce keywords. You can quickly check this quite easily, by simply searching your desired term in google and looking at what pages come up first in results (scroll down past the first few sponsored results to see organic ranking).
Look at the content and structure of ranking pages. What related keywords are they using? How are they organizing their content? This can help you understand what Google considers relevant for these keywords and how you can better optimize your content to appeal to similar audiences. Some SEO tools allow you to find out exactly which search terms any web page is ranking for. Looking at these lists can give you ideas for which words are most important for your web traffic.
Keyword research can be difficult to navigate, but by understanding these competitive factors, you can sift through options to identify the most promising keywords for your business. Finding that “low hanging fruit” of excellent ecommerce keywords your competitors are missing requires understanding your business, search intent, and the dynamics of keyword volume and difficulty. In most cases, you will need to find a balance between search words which are popular enough to generate searches, yet not so broad or well-searched that competition is very difficult. Finding the right balance, and then seizing the opportunities you find, is the art of great SEO.
In part II of this blog, we’ll dive into how to use the keywords you’ve selected in content that ranks.
Katy Ellquist, Miva’s Digital Marketing Strategist, is an accomplished writer, marketer, and social media analyst who has created sophisticated content campaigns for a broad range of professional clients. She brings to Miva a complex understanding of ecommerce trends and techniques, building upon extensive digital agency experience and a prior role as direct liaison to Miva’s top accounts. Katy is a regular contributor to the Miva blog, covering essential ecommerce topics like design & development strategy, site optimization, and omnichannel selling, with the goal of increasing the actionable knowledgebase of the entire Miva community.
Chris is a Content Marketing Specialist at Miva.