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Keyword Research

What is keyword research?

Keyword research is the process of identifying and understanding the types of search queries that are used by consumers on search engines. Knowing which terms and queries are searched for a lot helps a company to tailor its content and target particular keywords. This way, they can reach the optimal audience for their product or service. 

Businesses in general are most interested in keywords and search queries that are related to their own field of business. For example, a mobile phone accessory store would be interested in keywords that relate to their products (‘iPhone case’, ‘Samsung charging cable’). 

In the context of search engine optimization (or SEO for short), keyword research is the foundation of everything. The purpose of SEO is to produce content for a website that answers a particular search query, bringing in traffic from search engines. 

If someone is looking for the reasons why their houseplant is wilting, they want to find the best fitting answers at the very top of the search results. The best answers to this query could include blog posts or articles on the most common reasons why houseplants start wilting, alongside with where to buy the correct plant fertilizers, for example.  

The better the web page answers a search query, the higher it will rank in the search results. 

Keyword research focuses on understanding which keywords are most commonly used in relation to the market that your business operates in. 

Is keyword research important for SEO?

Keyword research is crucial for SEO because it enables you to target popular keywords. The better your content can answer frequent search queries, the more relevant your content will be and the higher your pages will rank in search engines.

This means that you can create content that is specific to what users need. If your eCommerce store sells beauty and bath products, knowing which bath products are trending at the moment helps to both market your store and create relevant content that users will be interested in. 

It would make no sense to stock bars of soap and write in-depth articles on the benefits of cold-pressed soap if the biggest thing in the market would be bath oils. 

Tracking which keywords are being used in the highest search volumes helps you understand which types of products would sell the best, and what products might be up and coming. 

Knowing what people are looking for will help you modify your marketing approaches to get those consumers to visit your eCommerce store and potentially become new, paying customers. 

Proper keyword research will also help you understand which keywords are overused by competitors and what kind of articles and pages are most visited by consumers overall. The better you understand which keywords are dominated by content by competitors, the easier it will be for you to create content that fills in the gaps.  

If you run an online ski store and know that your competitor is ranking high for many keywords related to snowboarding, you could position yourself as the go-to place for all skiers, instead. 

What is a keyword research tool?

Keyword research can be time-consuming and downright confusing without a proper research tool. As part of your search engine optimization, you want to have a clear overview of the best keywords for you, know all the other related search terms, and understand the search volume in general. 

Knowing this helps you to plan your SEO strategy and decide on which keywords to start building your content around. It’d be a waste of your time to randomly decide on a keyword and create a bunch of content around it only to realize that a big international company already dominates that search query.  

Using a keyword research tool or software will help you automate and manage your keyword research. These tools allow you to:

  • Generate keywords that the users are searching for
  • Classify them by difficulty
  • Analyze the competition
  • Understand the search volume for any given keyword
  • Track keywords over a longer period of time 

You will have a greater overview of which keywords are performing well, and what kinds of content are ranking at the top of the search result page. The research tools usually offer visual dashboards and even suggest recommendations for alternative keywords that are less competitive. 

A quick Google search will bring up multiple websites and platforms that can help your keyword research. Some popular and praised tools include: 

  • Google Keyword Planner. Make use of Google’s massive database in your keyword search and planning.  
  • Ahrefs. For all the in-depth information on almost any keyword you can think of.
  • Jaaxy. One of the more straightforward keyword planners that feature lots of unique ideas for the best keywords.  
  • Soovle. The strength of this tool is that it gathers keywords from multiple search engines. 

When deciding on your keyword planner tool, think about what’s important for you. Do you want to actively track your competition, or is it more important for you get fresh keyword ideas? 

Depending on your target audience, you might want to only focus on Google as your primary search engine. Or if your product is mostly sold in an overseas market like China, where Google is banned, tools that use multiple search engines might be more valuable for you.  

How to do keyword research

Getting started with keyword research can be an eye-opening experience: it will give you a clear snapshot of what’s happening in the market in real-time. 

When done properly, the research process will help you understand the search volumes for particular search terms, and what factors might influence the search trends. It also helps you understand which search terms get organic search traffic and which are heavily paid for.

1. Start with your overall marketing plan

Before you start examining the best-ranking pages, you should have a clear understanding of the overall goals of your marketing plan.

Ask yourself questions like: 

  • Is the focus on getting new first-time buyers?
  • Is my business trying to maximize profits?
  • Do we need to raise awareness for the brand? 

Once you know the main focus of your overall marketing efforts, it’s easier to set your SEO objectives. 

Maybe you’ve only recently established your eCommerce store, and want to get as many new customers as possible. In this case, you want to avoid creating only brand awareness -focused content, if your main marketing goal is to gain new users. 

In this example, you would focus on content that would generate more direct sales. It could mean focusing on drafting newsletter campaigns and creating content for paid adverts and social media posts. 

Since your SEO objectives will depend on your high-level initial goal, you should have an overall strategic plan in mind for your business. Maybe you want to generate X amount of revenue by your second year or grow your social media presence. 

Whatever it might be, make sure that your SEO strategy supports that. 

2. Choose the right types of keywords to focus on

Next, you should consider what types of keywords you should focus on, based on your overall marketing goals. 

Keywords can generally be divided into four main categories:

  • Navigational. When someone is looking for a company or an individual online and types in ‘Microsoft’ or John Smith’, they are using a navigational keyword. Usually, the search intent with navigational keywords is geared towards navigating to the company’s website, meaning that the user already knows about the brand to some level. 
  • Informational. If you’ve ever googled what the capital of Vietnam is, or how to make risotto, you’ve used search terms with informational search intent. These keywords have high search volume but won’t work well for clear promotional messages. The users are looking for information, so these keywords work well for content-driven marketing strategies. 
  • Transactional. These keywords are usually used when the user is clearly looking to buy a product or service. Keywords that are brand searches (Apple, Puma), specific products (iPhone X, English course), or clear product categories (summer dress, running shoes) all fall under transactional search queries. 
  • Commercial. While many transactional keywords have a somewhat strong commercial intent, some purely commercial keywords include words like ‘buy’, ‘discount’, ‘deal’, ‘free shipping’ and ‘coupon’.  

Which type works best for your SEO efforts depends on your goals. 

Navigational keywords often occur when your brand has already established itself within the market. When people search for ‘IKEA’ rather than ‘buy flat-pack furniture online’, they already know that IKEA sells flat-pack furniture. The user, in this case, is probably looking for something specific they know they can find in IKEA.  

Many informational keywords, on the other hand, are useful for content marketing purposes. Raising awareness of your niche and your products through blog posts and guest articles are great ways to generate traffic to your website and put your business on the map. Consider using long-tail informational keywords or even questions to get the most relevant users to visit your website. 

Remember to not be too aggressively promotional with the content you’re aiming for informational keywords. Users who are looking for information won’t stay long on a page that’s trying to do a hard sell. Instead, focus on providing in-depth information on the features and benefits of your product or service. Let the product speak for itself. 

Transactional and commercial keywords, on the other hand, should be your main focus if you’re wanting to gain new customers and increase your revenue. Since these users are actively looking to purchase something, your job is to find keywords that best fit your product and help the users find your store. 

Use transactional and commercial keywords on landing pages on your website, as well as for paid media campaigns. These keywords can be very competitive, especially in big markets, so try to use your niche and come up with keyword variations. 

3. Generate keyword ideas in your business’ areas of expertise

Brainstorming a shorter list of general areas where your business excels helps to start the keyword planning process. 

Think about where your business provides value to the users: do you offer marketing services or consultancy for eCommerce? Is your company a specialist in optimizing sales funnels and conversions? Or are the steel-toe work shoes you sell the sturdiest in the market? 

Start off by looking at the products and services your business provides, and make a simple list of the features of your product and what benefits they pose for the user.

If your main products are office chairs, a simple feature and benefit breakdown would look like this: 

Adjustable armrestsNo need to compromise on comfort
Full 360° spinning axelMoving the chair in tight spaces is easy
Ergonomic designSupports your back and prevents injuries
Black fabric cover Easy to keep clean 

Next, you can use a keyword research tool to generate keywords around so-called seed topics.

Let’s say your eCommerce store focuses on office desks, chairs, and filing cabinets. The main seed topic you want to find keywords for would in this case be ‘office furniture’. 

You could continue by dividing your seed topic into more specific categories, like: 

  • Office desks 
  • Office chairs 
  • Filing cabinets 
  • Notice boards 

Once you have come up with general categories that describe your products, you can differentiate even further: 

  • Wooden office desks 
  • Black office chairs 
  • Tall filing cabinets 
  • Magnetic notice boards 

You can keep refining your niche like this until you have a list of potential keywords that you could use on your product pages. Think back to the features of your product and ask yourself questions such as: 

  • What color and material is the product made of? 
  • Can you include an indication of the price (cheap, mid-range, expensive)? 
  • What uses are there for the product? Think of your product benefits.  
  • Can you add the brand name? 

4. Sift through the raw list of keywords

Now that you have an idea of general topics you can use as keywords, it’s time to choose the keywords that have the biggest potential. 

A good potential keyword is relevant to your business and your product and aligned with your marketing goals. It also should have a relatively high search volume, yet low competition. Many research tools will help you see how difficult it will be to get your page showing up on top of the search results (this is called keyword ranking). You should aim for low-to-medium keyword difficulty, as those will provide better results without taking up too much of your time and resources.

Choose a good mix of some basic ‘head’ keywords, such as ‘marketing for eCommerce’, but mostly, opt for long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords consist of more words and are sometimes real sentences, like ‘how to create a user profile for eCommerce in 2020’. Long-tail keywords perform well because they are very specific, and usually have lower volume, meaning you will have a lot less competition.

Your ‘head’ keyword in this example could be used for your landing page, where the different marketing solutions are listed that your business offers for eCommerce. The search intent for such keywords is usually more towards transactional or navigational. 

The long-tail keywords could be used for articles and blog posts and rely on more informational search intent. The user searching for this type of content would be more interested in being informed about how to build a user persona for eCommerce than buying marketing services. 

5. Create content that focuses on those keywords

After you have created the list of your chosen keywords, it’s time to create content around them. You should aim for your content to be: 

  • Useful for the reader. The better you can answer the question that the keyword is asking, the more useful your content will be for the reader. And the better it will rank against the rest of the search results. 
  • Optimized for search engines. Pay attention to using your keyword in the right places on the page: your keyword should be used in the meta title and description, as well as in your main headings and throughout the body copy of your content.
  • Focusing on one keyword per piece of content. Although it might be tempting, using more than one keyword rarely works in your favor. Having too many keywords for one piece of content makes it difficult to determine, which search queries you’re trying to answer. Search engines also take factors like the number of backlinks your content has into account when determining how well your content answers the search intent. The more content you have and the more you can link between your different articles and posts, the better your content will perform. 

It’s important to also avoid duplicate content. This means creating very similar content for very similar keywords: an article for ‘best healthy dog food’ is too similar to an article on ‘best healthy dog snacks’. 

In the world of SEO, this is referred to as keyword cannibalization. Creating content for the same or very similar keywords will confuse the search engine and end up pitting your content against itself. This results in none of your pages ranking high in Google. 

Keyword research for eCommerce businesses

Since you’re running an online store, your main focus should be on increasing your sales and generating more traffic to your store. Because most markets change with the seasons, you should treat keyword research as a continuous process. 

Compared to many other types of online ventures, there are some particular tricks of the trade when it comes to planning keywords and optimizing them for eCommerce businesses. 

Analyze your store’s internal search queries 

Start working from the macro environment. Check what search terms people are using to search for products within your store. Do they differ from the keywords you’re using in your search engine optimization strategy? If they do, how? 

The keywords users use to internally search your store could be more specific than the keywords you use on your website. If you’re ranking quite high in the search results with ‘trail-running shoes’, but your visitors look for ‘trail-running shoes for overpronators’, consider if it would make sense to include this keyword on the appropriate product pages. 

Analyze competitors’ shop searches

Time to head to your main competitors’ stores. See what suggestions the store search brings up when you start writing a keyword. 

These suggestions actually reflect the most popular searches people perform, so take note of those that you haven’t included in your own keyword research yet. 

Make sure to also understand the context of your competitor’s store. If they are the store with the biggest selection of different types of doorknobs, and that’s their market advantage, you should expect to find very niche yet popular search terms. 

Understand the search intent 

Google treats every search as a question and every search has the intention to either perform an action (go somewhere, do something, purchase something) or get an answer to a question. 

Understanding the reason people search for something online or visit your online store helps you to make the most of your keywords.  

If your eCommerce store specializes in electronics, and you mainly use commercial and transactional keywords, it could be worth taking the best performing keywords and looking at their informative counterparts. 

Maybe your store ranks high with the keywords ‘cheap refurbished iPhone X’ and ‘buy refurbished iPhone X’. It’s clear that your visitors’ search intent is in buying an older iPhone for the best price they can. 

You could look for more informational keywords like ‘best reasons to choose a refurbished smartphone’, and create content around it in the form of a blog post or an article.

Written by

Author avatar


Matleena is a seasoned eCommerce writer, with a particular interest in emerging digital marketing trends, dropshipping, and growth hacking. She’s addicted to coming up with new eCommerce business ideas and making them a reality; she deserves her nickname of ‘print on demand business mogul.' In her free time, she enjoys cups of good coffee, tends to her balcony garden, and studies Japanese.

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