Keyword Research for Ecommerce

Ecommerce-focused search marketing is all about intent.

You can bring a stream of interested customers to your ecommerce site by targeting the right keywordsright being the operative word here meaning; the right person, at the right time, in right stage in the buying cycle.

And if you’re specifically leveraging SEO, it gets even better – these new visitors are free and if targeted correctly – they are the most qualified.

Let’s take a look at how to find those highly profitable ecommerce keywords that will drive sales and high average-order-value customers.

Building Your Keyword List

The very first step is to build our list, which we’ll later prioritize and map to specific page types.

For the purposes of real world demonstration, in this post I’m going to use the recurrent example of a store that sells Sous-Vide cookers.

A sous-vide cooker is a kitchen appliance that costs roughly $200.  It creates a hot water bath for precise cooking. They’re awesome – I have an Anova and it’s great. The meat comes out perfect every time, but moving on…

While it’s easy to start with maybe a few core keywords based on the thought process of:

I sell sous vide cookers so I’m going to focus solely on “sous-vide cooker” and perhaps the brand names

a better approach is to take an exhaustive inventory of keyword demand in your vertical and map those keywords to your:

  • Product Pages
  • Category Pages & Assortment (or solution specific pages)
  • Content Pages

Starting with the Google Keyword Planner

The Google Adwords Keyword Planner is a good place to start your keyword research for ecommerce. It’s no where near exhaustive, but it often provides a good basic jumping-off point (and hey, it’s free).

So moving on with our Sous Vide cookers example:

I’ll start by surfing over to the Google Adwords Keyword Planner and entering my seed product keywords:

starting with the google adwords keyword planner


Let’s click on the top result – that looks the most like a sous vide machine.

sous vide terms in GAKWP

In this case, keyword planner has helped me find a couple of good base keywords – and a lot of French keywords. Sous vide is a French word, so it makes sense – but in this case we’ll be targeting English-speakers, so a lot of these are pretty useless.

I’ll take those keywords and start an Excel file of all my possible keywords – we’ll need this later.

I also see another sous vide ad group around Sous Vide at home, so let’s grab that:

sous vide at home ad group

These are helpful keywords – they tell me there’s some separation between people looking for home equipment vs professional equipment.

This search behavior will change how I organize my site to effectively market to these different audiences and phases in my sales funnel – as well as change how some of my marketing automation/email marketing flows will work.

I’ll probably want to create one for a home chef and one for a commercial chef.

It looks like Google has also created some brand-specific ad groups for me – so I’ll grab those, and analyze  using those on product pages.

Look through these other ad groups as well – but generally you’ll notice that these keywords don’t have much volume or variety – while this is a good starting point, if these keywords are the only path I go down – I’m going to leave a lot of money on the table.

Using Amazon Product Pages for Voice of the Customer and Keyword Insights

The next thing I’ll do in my search is to try to understand what customers are looking for and what language they use – which is critical.

For this, I turn to Amazon reviews:

amazon reviews of a sous vide cooker

I see some interesting key phrases here like “immersion circulator” so I’ll add that to my spreadsheet.

These reviews also help me understand customer objections and concernes, like:

  • Will it “cost an arm and a leg” ?
  • Is it safe? Will it burn my house down?
  • Will I be able to use it? Or will it be too complicated for a non-professional chef?

I can address all of these issues in my product copy, and use these “key value and selling points” to focus my marketing messaging and my value proposition.

I’ll also take that Amazon page URL and plug it into the Google Keyword Planner, so I can generate even more search phrases:

gakwp fed with amazon

Here I see significant demand for brand searches, the keyword “immersion circulator” again – good sign, as well as terms like “sous vide steak”, which suggest a search for how-to content, rather than a product.

All of these are useful and will go into my sheet.

Typically Amazon keyword suggestions also contain a some terms around shipping, fulfillment, wish lists, etc, so you’ll have to clean some of those out of the suggestion list.

Use SEMRush to Grab Competitive Data

Next, let’s take a look at what our competitors are doing.

In verticals like this one, the competition isn’t necessarily going to consist of savvy, aggressive online marketers (unlike operating in a competitive space like travel or education) but I can probably learn a few things and more than anything – get some good ideas.

I’ll use SEMRush on the sites of merchants I’ll be reselling to see what they’re ranking for – and what’s working for them:

semrush competitive data for ecommerce

Compare this to one of Anova’s competitors, who are bidding on many of the same terms in PPC:

analyzing paid search competitors

When I see multiple companies targeting the same commercial terms, that’s a good indicator that those terms convert sales effectively, and should be included in your bottom of the funnel keyword lists.

Export these keywords and put them into your file for further expansion and prioritization.

Using Internal Search Data

Another valuable tactic for harvesting great ecommerce keywords is using data from your internal site search engine (if you have one – p.s. you should have one).

These searches are great trailing indicators for developing specific landing pages arounda  given product or offering.

Uncommon Goods employed this strategy effectively to create new assortment pages – not only driving traffic, but driving sales. (See the case study on SlideShare here.)

Expanding and Prioritizing Your List

Now that I have a giant list of terms people search for around Sous Vide cooking, let’s expand it further, and gather more metrics:

keyword research process

My go to tool here is Term Explorer’s Keyword Discovery Engine:

term explorers keyword research tool for ecommerce

Now Term Explorer will gather similar keywords, as well as finding all the data we need to make decisions; search volume, competitiveness, relevancy, link strength, etc.

Next, I like to sort by monthly searches, pick the best ones, check off the inclusion boxes on the left-side – and send them over to Term Explorer’s Keyword Analyzer:

keyword data appendation for ecommerce

Now I export this data conveniently to CSV.

But First – Create Your Keyword Buckets

  • Product Page Keywords – Keywords that should correspond to product pages
  • Category & Assortment Keywords – Keywords that should correspond to categories and curated assortment pages
  • Content Keywords – Keywords that will best correspond to pieces of content

raw TE data for ecommerce

Next, I’ll use conditional formatting – so I can visually see the tradeoffs in volume vs difficulty:

conditional formatting

I’ll do this for each of the different keyword sections, and then prioritize how I build out product pages, content, and category pages – ensuring I’m going for the keywords with the right blend of difficulty, search volume, and commercial intent.

Now Go Forth and Sell

With this process you can efficiently choose keywords to target for your ecommerce store/clients – and ensure you can tap into a constant stream of new and valuable customers.

All of this keyword data should be the base of intelligence you use to make directional strategy decisions like:

  1. What to name your category’s and sub-category’s
  2. Which topics should get more content
  3. How to shape and prioritize your editorial calendar
  4. Which keywords are worth spending money on (via PPC, sponsorship, or dedicated ad buys), and
  5. Where to focus your link building efforts

The process of developing your priority lists first, and THEN building your traffic acquisition strategy around them puts you head and shoulders above the competition.

For more information on how to organize your keyword lists by intent, check out my post on how to build a keyword matrix ›

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