This is the most comprehensive guide to ecommerce SEO online.
In this expert-written guide you’ll learn everything you need to know about optimizing your ecommerce site, from keyword research to technical SEO to link building.
Why SEO Matters for Ecommerce Websites
NChannel reports that 44% of people begin their online shopping experience with a search engine.
According to Kissmetrics 30.5% of all traffic to ecommerce sites comes from search engines.
Data by Custora shows that 26% of ecommerce online orders originate from organic search engine traffic.
As you can see, it’s almost impossible for ecommerce businesses to thrive today without SEO. Unfortunately, ecommerce SEO is more challenging, complex and competitive than ever.
Not only are you competing against giants like Amazon and Walmart, but you need to pay attention to new ranking factors like site speed, user experience and organic click through rate.
Fortunately, this guide will show you exactly how to beat the odds and outrank your big brand competitors in Google.
So if you’re looking to get more targeted traffic from search (and turn that traffic into customers for your ecommerce business), then you’ll love this guide.
Let’s dive right in…
If you want to run an effective ecommerce SEO campaign, make sure to kick things off with keyword research.
Because keyword research informs everything other SEO-related task you do on your website (for example, without keywords, it’s impossible for you to optimize your product and category pages).
Believe it or not, but your list of keywords influence your technical SEO efforts as well. For example, your site architecture and URLs need to take keywords into account.
So you can see that keyword research is a VERY big deal for your ecommerce site. Here’s exactly how to find untapped keywords that your customers search for…and how to choose the best ones for your site.
How To Find Keywords For Ecommerce Product and Keyword Pages
Most keyword research tutorials focus on “information keywords”. These are keywords that people type into search engines to discover helpful “how-to” content.
While these keywords have their place for an ecommerce business, the majority of your site’s keywords will be tailored around product pages. That means that you need to tackle keyword research with product-focused keywords in mind.
Here’s exactly how to do it:
Yes, Amazon is probably your competitor. But it’s also the biggest ecommerce site online, which makes it an absolute goldmine of product-focused keywords.
Here’s how to tap into Amazon for keyword research:
First, head over to Amazon and enter a keyword that describes one of your products.
The keywords Amazon suggests tend to be very targeted (also known as long tail keywords). Not only do long tail keywords like these convert better than 2-3 word keywords, but they tend to be less competitive too.
Rinse and repeat for the most important products on your site.
PRO TIP: Amazon will sometimes suggest categories above the keyword suggestions. These make great keywords to use for category pages.
Keyword Tool Dominator
Keyword Tool Dominator is a nifty tool that scrapes Amazon’s search suggestions.
To use it, just enter a seed keyword into the tool:
And it will spit out dozens of keyword suggestions.
Not only does the tool make this process significantly faster than doing it manually, but in my experience, it gives you significantly more keyword ideas than doing this the old-fashioned way.
For example, when I used the keyword “organic dog food”, Amazon suggest gave me 8 keyword ideas. The tool spit out 49.
To keep things organized, you can save the keywords that make sense for you to a list.
Before we leave Amazon, it’s time to use one more feature on the site that’s a goldmine for category page keywords.
Amazon (and Competitor) Categories
As someone that’s consulted for dozens of ecommerce businesses, I find that many ecommerce site owners optimize their category pages around random keywords. Sure, they’ll put some thought into what their customers might use to find products that fall under that category. But the keywords they use tend to be, let’s just say…less than ideal.
This is a huge mistake. While category pages may not convert as well as product pages, they still generate sales. So it makes sense to invest some time into finding awesome category pages keywords.
And the best way to do that?
Look at the categories your competitors already use.
If you’re competing against Amazon, hover over the “Shop by Department” button at the top of the homepage. This will list out Amazon’s main categories.
These are all likely too broad for your site. So hover next to any that make sense so you can see that department’s subcategories:
Now we’re talking.
You can also hit up Amazon’s “Full Store Directory”.
This will show you all of Amazon’s departments (and subcategories) on a single page.
Now it’s time dig deep through the list and find category-focused keywords that would fit with what your site sells.
For example, let’s say your site sells healthy dog food.
You’d click on “Pet supplies”:
Then click on “dogs”.
Then choose “food” from the list:
And Amazon will show you the keywords they use to describe their dog food-related categories in the sidebar:
These are all keywords to consider using for your dog food ecommerce category pages.
PRO TIP: If your category is unique in some way, make sure to include that unique feature in your category page keyword. For example, you could turn the Amazon category keyword of “dry dog food” into “healthy dry dog food” or “organic dry dog food”. These keywords are less competitive and more targeted to what your target customer searches for in Google.
Amazon is a great resource for finding category page keywords. But it’s far from the only place you can find category page keywords that your customers search for every day.
That’s why I also recommend taking a look at the keywords that your industry competitors use to describe their categories.
So if your ecommerce site sells high-end headphones, you’d want to head to Headphone.com.
And just like you did with Amazon, look at the terms they use to describe their category pages:
And add them to your list.
Wikipedia is one of my all-time favorite sites for finding keyword for product and category pages.
Just like with category pages on your ecommerce competitor sites, Wikipedia organizes topics by keywords and categories. In other words: they’ve done a lot of the hard work of organizing things for you!
Let’s look at an example to see how you can tap into Wikipedia for ecommerce keyword research.
First, enter a keyword that describes a product or category your site sells:
Then scan the Wikipedia entry for words and phrases that make sense for the products you have on your site:
In addition to scanning the article, take a look at the contents box. These can sometimes contain excellent keywords for category pages.
Once you’ve exhausted Wikipedia’s keyword suggestions, it’s time to move onto one of my favorite keyword research tools: SEMRush.
If you implemented the strategies I outlined so far you should have a decent list of keyword ideas.
But if you have the budget, I highly recommend trying SEMRush as it can often uncover keywords that you’d be hard-pressed to find any other way. That’s because SEMRush doesn’t generate keyword ideas. Instead, it shows you keywords that your competition already ranks for.
Let’s take a look at how ecommerce site owners can use this tool to find ecommerce-focused keywords.
First, enter a competitor into SEMRush’s search field:
Then pick “organic research” from the sidebar:
This will show you all of the keywords that your competitor ranks for:
Can you say gold mine?
If you want to squeeze every keyword out of SEMRush, hit the “competitors” button in the sidebar:
SEMRush will show you sites that are similar to the one you just entered.
Repeat this process with the competitors you just found.
This should give you enough keywords to last you until 2025.
Google Keyword Planner
Last but not least we have the good ol’ Google Keyword Planner. Even though the GKP is essential for keyword research, it’s not very good at generating unique keyword ideas.
For example, if you enter a potential category page keyword like “organic dog food” into the GKP, it spits out super-close variations of that term:
That said, if you do some digging, you can find some gems that aren’t straight-up variations of the keyword you put into it.
PRO TIP: Before clicking on the “Keyword Ideas” tab, glance at the keywords listed under “Ad group ideas”. This tab can contain unique keywords that may not appear in the “keyword ideas” tab.
Because the Google Keyword Planner doesn’t generate a lot of unique keywords, I recommend using the GKP mainly to check search volume and commercial intent.
Which leads us to our next step…
How to Choose Keywords for Ecommerce Product and Category Pages
Now that you have a list of potential keywords in-hand, you’re probably wondering:
How do I know which keywords to choose?
The answer? Use this 4-step checklist to identify the best keywords for your ecommerce SEO campaign.
#1: Search Volume
This is (by far) the most important metric when evaluating a search term. If no one searches for that keyword, it doesn’t really matter how well it converts or how competitive Google’s first page happens to be.
That said, there’s no way for me to give you specific search volume recommendations. In some industries, 100 searches per month is A LOT. In others, 10,000 monthly searches is nothing.
As you spend time looking at the search volume for the keywords on your list you’ll start to get an understanding of what constitutes a “high volume” and “low volume” search term in your industry.
To find the search volume for a given keyword, just pop it into the GKP. You’ll find the number of searches in the “Avg. monthly searches” column.
PRO TIP: Some keywords have HUGE seasonal variations. Of course, you’re going to get more searches for “ugly Christmas sweaters” in December than in June. But there are other non-seasonal that have peaks and valleys throughout the year. For example, the keyword “organic dog food brands” gets 2.5x more searches in October than November.
Why? Who knows. But it’s an important thing to note as you select keywords for your ecommerce site as these fluctuations can directly impact your bottom line.
To quickly see how search volume changes throughout the year, hover over the little chart icon next to any keyword listed in the GKP. And it’ll show you a chart with month-to-month search volume info.
#2: Keyword-Product Fit
This is a big one. Let’s say you find a keyword that gets tons of searches. It must be a winner right?
That’s because the keyword may not fit well with what your site sells. If the keyword you pick is even a little bit of a stretch compared to what you have for sale on your ecommerce site, you’ll have a hard time converting anyone.
So before you move onto the next two stages in this process, double-check that the keyword you’re considering fits like a glove with what you sell.
For examplem let’s say your ecommerce site sells Japanese green tea bags. And you come across a keyword like “matcha green tea powder”.
Even though you don’t sell green tea powder (only tea bags), you might be able to create a category page around this and then convert those searchers to what your site actually sells.
This is totally possible. But it’s tricky to pull off. That’s why I recommend stretching into other product categories until you’ve exhausted the keywords that your target customers search for.
Even though the keyword may get fewer searches, I recommend choosing a keyword that’s much more targeted to your business, like “green tea online”.
Now that you’ve got a list keywords that get a decent amount of searches — and fit well with your ecommerce site’s products — it’s time to see if these searchers are likely to whip out their credit card and buy what you sell.
#3: Commercial Intent
Ranking #1 for a high-volume keyword? Awesome.
Ranking #1 for a high-volume keyword that only tire-kickers search for? Less awesome.
So before you decide on a keyword, take a second to see if people using that keyword are ballers that buy…or broke peeps that browse.
Fortunately, this is super-easy to do using the Google Keyword Planner.
First, check out the keyword’s “Competition” rating.
“Competition” reflects how many people bid on that keyword in Google Adwords. In general, if a lot of people are bidding on a keyword, there’s money to be made. That’s why, when it comes to ecommerce SEO, I recommend sticking with “medium” and “high” competition keywords.
As you can see, the competition metric is a helpful way to see if people that search for that keyword will convert. But the most important metric of all is: “Suggested bid”.
Suggested bid is an indicator of what people tend to spend on a single click in Google Adwords. When sizing up commercial intent, the higher the suggested bid, the better.
Obviously, keywords with expensive suggested bids are also more competitive to rank for in Google search. But we’ll cover that in the next section.
For now, check out the Suggested bid for the keywords on your list.
And note how certain words and phrases that suggest “I’m ready to buy!” impact the estimated bid. As you can see above, the keyword “Japanese green tea” has a suggested bid of $1.19.
That’s because many people searching for that keyword probably aren’t ready to make a purchase. They might be looking up the definition. Or they might be curious about green tea’s health benefits.
On the other hand, a similar keyword like “buy green tea online” has a suggested bid that’s 3x higher.
On the flip side, this keyword gets significantly fewer searches. That’s why it’s important to take all four factors into account when evaluating keywords for ecommerce SEO.
Finally, it’s time to see how hard it’ll be to crack Google’s first page.
SEMRush’s “Keyword Difficulty”
This metric gives you an idea of how competitive a given keyword is to rank for.
You can find a keyword’s difficulty in SEMRush by entering a keyword into the search field…
…clicking on “Keyword Difficulty” in the sidebar…
And then looking at the “Difficulty %” column.
The higher the number, the more competitive the keyword is to rank for in organic search.
Keyword Targeting and Page Optimization
Here’s where you evaluate Google’s first page to see if the pages in the top 10 are optimized around that keyword.
If the page’s are only semi-related to that keyword you can sometimes outrank them with a highly-targeted page (I’ll show you exactly how to optimize your page soon).
If you search for “bamboo cutting board with handle”, you’ll notice that the most of the first page isn’t optimized around this specific search:
Most people searching in Google are probably wondering: “Where da handle at?”.
So if you optimize one of your ecommerce category pages around the keyword “bamboo cutting board with handle”, you’ll have a good shot of leapfrogging the competition.
PRO TIP: Exact keyword targeting isn’t as important as it once was (thanks to Google Hummingbird). However, if you optimize your page around a specific keyword, it still gives you an edge over pages that aren’t as well optimized.
Now that you have a list of keywords that get searched for, have little competition, AND are likely to turn into buyers, it’s time to set up and optimize your ecommerce site’s architecture.