Because keyword research informs every other SEO-related task you do on your website.
(For example, without keywords, it’s impossible to optimize your product and category pages.)
Believe it or not, but your list of keywords influence your technical SEO too. That’s because your site architecture and URLs need to take keywords into account.
As you can see, keyword research is a VERY big deal for your ecommerce site.
And here’s exactly how to find untapped terms that your customers search for… and how to choose the best keywords for your site.
How To Find Keywords For Ecommerce Product and Category Pages
Most keyword research tutorials focus on “informational keywords”.
These are keywords that people type into search engines to discover helpful “how-to” content.
(Like “How to make pour over coffee”.)
While informational keywords have their place in ecommerce, the majority of your site’s keywords will be tailored around product searches.
(Like “Chemex coffee filters”.)
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 a product keyword goldmine.
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.
When you do, Amazon will list suggestions around that keyword.
The keywords Amazon suggests tend to be very targeted (also known as long tail keywords). Not only do long tail keywords tend to convert better than shorter terms, but they’re usually 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.
To use it, just enter a seed keyword into the tool:
And it will spit out dozens of keyword suggestions.
Yup, this tool makes finding long tail keywords from Amazon Suggest significantly faster. But in my experience, it gives you more keyword ideas too.
For example, when I used the keyword “organic dog food”, Amazon suggest gave me 8 keyword ideas. The tool spit out 79.
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 can tell you firsthand that lots of 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 in 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 spend time finding keywords for your category pages.
And the best way to do that?
Look at the categories your competitors already use.
If you’re competing against Amazon, click on the “All” button at the top of the homepage. This will list out Amazon’s main categories.
These are probably too broad for your site. So click on any that make sense so you can see that department’s subcategories:
Now we’re talking.
You can also hit up “Full Store Directory” under the “All” menu.
This will show you all of Amazon’s departments (and subcategories) on a single page.
Now it’s time to dig deep through the list and find category-focused keywords that match what your site sells.
For example, let’s say your site sells healthy dog food.
You’d go to the “Pet Supplies” category:
Then click on “Dogs” and choose “Food” from the list:
And Amazon will show you keywords they use to describe their dog food-related categories in the sidebar:
These are all GREAT 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 keyword. For example, you could turn the Amazon keyword “dry dog food” into “healthy dry dog food” or “raw dry dog food”. These keywords are going to be less competitive and more targeted than the broad versions of those terms.
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 optimize their category pages around.
And add those keywords to your list.
Wikipedia is one of the BEST places to find keyword for product and category pages.
Just like with category pages on your ecommerce competitor sites, Wikipedia organizes things by keywords and categories. In other words: they’ve done the hard work for you!
Let’s look at an example of how you can use 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:
Make sure to take a look at the contents box. These can sometimes reveal excellent category page keywords.
Once you’ve exhausted Wikipedia’s keyword suggestions, it’s time to move onto one of my favorite keyword research tools: SEMrush.
The strategies I outlined so far should have helped you get a hefty list of keyword ideas.
But SEMRush is a little bit different. SEMrush doesn’t generate new keyword ideas based on seed keywords. Instead, it shows you keywords that your competition already ranks for.
Let’s take a look at how you can use this tool to find keywords for your ecommerce site.
First, enter a competitor into SEMrush’s search field:
Then click “Organic Research” in the sidebar:
Under “Positions” you can see all of the keywords that your competitor ranks for:
If you want to squeeze every keyword out of SEMrush, check out the “competitors” report:
SEMrush will show you sites that are similar to the one you’re looking at.
Repeat this process with the competitors you just found.
This should give you enough keywords to last you until 2037.
Even though the GKP is a halfway decent keyword tool, it’s not very good at generating unique keyword ideas.
For example, if you enter a 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 just typed in.
Because the Google Keyword Planner doesn’t generate a lot of unique keywords, I recommend using it to check search volume and commercial intent.
This 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:
Which keywords should I choose?
The answer? Use this 4-step checklist to identify the best keywords for your ecommerce site.
#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, 10k monthly searches is nothing.
Over time you’ll get an idea of what a “high volume” and “low volume” keyword is for 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. You’re obviously going to get more searches for “ugly Christmas sweaters” in December than in June. But there are lots of non-seasonal keywords that have peaks and valleys throughout the year. For example, the keyword “organic dog food brands” gets 4x more searches in April than December.
Why? Who knows. But it’s an important thing to note as these fluctuations can directly impact your bottom line.
To quickly see how search volume changes throughout the year, type your keyword into KWFinder. And it’ll show you a nifty 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 be a perfect 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, people that search for that term aren’t going to convert.
So before you move onto the next two stages in this process, double-check that the keyword you’re considering fits your site like a glove.
For example, let’s say your 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 term… and convert those searchers to what your site actually sells.
But it’s tricky to pull off. That’s why I recommend stretching into other product categories AFTER you exhaust 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 of keywords that people search for (and fit well with your site’s products) it’s time to see if these searchers are ready to whip out their credit card and make a purchase.
#3: Commercial Intent
Ranking #1 for a high-volume keyword? Awesome.
Ranking #1 for a high-volume keyword that 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 …or broke browsers.
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 Ads. 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 SEO for ecommerce websites, I recommend sticking with “medium” and “high” competition keywords.
You also want to take a look at “Top of Page Bid”.
Top of Page Bid is how much people tend to spend on a single click in Google Ads. And when it comes to sizing up commercial intent, the higher the suggested bid, the better.
Obviously, keywords with high 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 Top of Page 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 in this example, the keyword “Japanese green tea” has a suggested bid of $2.20.
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 the health benefits of green tea.
On the other hand, a similar keyword like “buy green tea online” has a suggested bid that’s 2.4x higher.
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…
…and then looking at the “Overview” section.
The higher that number, the harder it is to rank for that keyword in Google.
Keyword Targeting and Page Optimization
Here’s where you see if the sites ranking in the top 10 are optimized around that keyword.
Why is this important?
If the pages in the top 10 are only semi-related to that keyword, you can sometimes outrank them with a highly-targeted page.
If you search for “bamboo cutting board with handle”, you’ll notice that some of the results aren’t optimized around this specific term:
In other words: most people searching for this keyword 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 cracking the top 10.
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 super-specific keyword, it gives you an edge over pages that aren’t perfectly 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 architecture.
Chapter 2:Ecommerce Website Architecture
Site architecture — or how the pages on your site are organized and arranged — is an important SEO consideration for ANY site.
But it’s doubly important for ecommerce sites. That’s because your average ecommerce site tends to have significantly more pages than your average blog or local pizza shop website.
With that many pages, it’s critical that your site architecture makes it easy for users and search engines to find all of your pages.
The Two “Golden Rules” of ecommerce Site Architecture
There are two important rules to keep in mind when it comes to setting up your ecommerce site’s structure:
Golden Rule #1: Keep things simple and scalable Golden Rule #2: Keep every page three (or fewer) clicks from your homepage
I’ll have more details on these two rules in a minute.
But first, let’s look at an example of how the wrong site architecture can hurt your SEO efforts…
Example of How NOT to Setup Your Ecommerce Site’s Architecture
Here’s an example of a site architecture that breaks the Two Golden rules:
What’s wrong with this picture?
First, it’s not simple. It’s hard to understand the logic of what goes where.
Second, it’s not scalable. Every time you want to add a new category, you need to create a new layer…. and reorganize your existing categories and subcategories.
But it’s also way too deep.
Most of the links that point to ecommerce sites point to their homepage.
And when you have a “deep” site architecture, that authority is diluted by the time it reaches your product and category pages.
In this example, it takes six clicks to reach the first product page.
(You want all product pages to be three clicks or fewer from your homepage.)
Pro Tip: If your site already has a less-than-ideal setup, don’t start moving pages and around until you’ve consulted with an SEO pro and a developer. They’ll make sure that old pages redirect to new pages…
Example of an SEO and User-Friendly Ecommerce Site Architecture
Now that you’ve seen an example of how not to do things, it’s time to take a look at an example of a well-optimized ecommerce site architecture.
As you can see, link authority is concentrated in the site’s product and category pages.
This concentrated authority helps these pages rank in Google. It also makes it easy for Google to find and index every page.
And here’s an example of how this would look for an ecommerce site that sells shoes:
Not only is this great for SEO, but users will love it too. That’s because a simple, flat architecture makes it easy for browsers to find the products they want.
Let’s take a look at a real-life example of an ecommerce site with AWESOME architecture: PetSmart.com.
Let’s say you want to get a new dog food bowl for Fluffy.
You’d head to the homepage and click “Dog”.
Then “bowls and feeders”
And you get a list of products in that subcategory:
Within three clicks, you’ve found what you want.
And because Petsmart uses a flat site structure, Google will fully index all of their pages.
Chapter 3:On-Page SEO for Ecommerce Sites
Now that you have your site architecture all set up, it’s time to optimize your category and product pages. For most ecommerce sites these two types of pages generate the lion’s share of traffic and sales.
This makes sense if you think about it: someone searching for “red Nike running shoes size 10” is much closer to making a purchase than someone searching for “buy shoes online”.
With that, here’s how to keyword-optimize your product and category pages.
A “Perfectly Optimized” Ecommerce Page
Let’s look at an example of a “perfectly optimized” page from an ecommerce site.
Let’s break each of these elements down:
Title Tag: Add Modifiers Like “Buy”, “Cheap” and “Deals” to Get More Long Tail Traffic
You (obviously) want to use your target keyword in your page’s title tag.
But don’t stop there. Adding “modifiers” to your title tag can help you show up for more long tail searches.
For example, let’s say your target keyword is: “noise canceling headphones”.
Instead of making your title tag: “Noise Canceling Headphones at Headphones R’ Us”, you want to add a word or two that people might use when searching for “noise canceling headphones”
Here are some common terms people use when searching for products in Google:
So your title tag could be something like this:
Title Tag: Use Click Magnet Words like “X% Off” and “Lowest Price” to Boost CTR
(And yes, those findings apply to ecommerce stores.)
The fact is this: Google wants to understand what your page is all about. And the more content you provide, the better Google can do its job. Plus, in-depth product page content helps customers understand what they’re about to buy. So there’s a user experience benefit too.
To be clear:
It might be impossible for you to write 1000 words for EVERY page on your site. If that’s the case, I recommend writing long, in-depth product descriptions for the top 10-50 most important product and category pages.
For example, this Amazon product page for a KitchenAid mixer boasts 2,109 words…
…and that’s not even counting the reviews at the bottom of the page (which add another 500+ words).
2. Sprinkle Your Keywords (3-5x)
Once you’ve written your in-depth product description, it’s time to make sure that you’ve used your target keyword 3-5 times in your content.
This has nothing to do with keyword density or keyword stuffing. You’re just including your keyword a handful of times to help Google understand what your page is all about.
For example, if your target keyword was “6 quart crockpot” you’d want to make sure you have that exact phrase in your product description at least 3 times:
Pro Tip: Google puts slightly more weight on keywords that appear at the top of a webpage. So make sure that one of your keyword placements is at the top of your page (for example, in the first 100 words of your product or category description).
Pro Tip: Some ecommerce sites don’t use categories and subcategories in their URLs. For example, instead of https://example.com/kitchenappliances/slowcookers/6-quart-crockpot, your URL would simply be: https://example.com/6-quart-crockpot. This makes your URLs shorter and more keyword dense. I don’t necessarily recommend this, but if that’s how you have things set up, it’s not going to hurt your rankings.
Internal Links: Liberally Link to High-Priority Pages
One of the nice things about ecommerce SEO is that internal linking is done almost automatically. That’s because your site’s navigation usually creates a lot of natural internal links:
That said, strategic internal linking is definitely an ecommerce SEO best practice. So you should spend some time on it.
Specifically, you want to internally link FROM authoritative pages TO high-priority product and category pages.
For example, let’s say you just published a blog post that’s generated a lot of backlinks.
And you also have a product page that ranks #5 in Google for “moleskin notebooks”.
You’d want to add a keyword-rich anchor text link from that post to your product page.
Implement Product Review Schema to Get Rich Snippets Displayed in Google
If you want an easy way to stand out on Google’s first page, look no further than rich snippets.
And ecommerce sites have the opportunity to get one of the most eye-catching rich snippets out there: reviews.
Here’s an example:
How do you get these awesome snippets? By implementing Schema markup on your ecommerce product pages. Schema is a special code that gives search engines (like Google and Bing) a deeper understanding of your page’s content.
Here’s exactly how to use this helpful tool so you can quickly implement review Schema markup.
First, head over to the tool and choose “products”:
Next, find a product page on your site that has reviews and ratings on it. This can be a single reviewer, or as is the case with most ecommerce sites, user reviews.
Paste the URL of that product page in the URL field and click “Start Tagging”.
Then highlight the section of the page you want to tag. In this case, we’re going to focus on product reviews and ratings.
If a single person reviewed your product, choose “Review”. Then highlight the name of the person that reviewed the product, the date of the review etc.
If customers reviewed the product, highlight the number or star rating and pick “Aggregate Rating”.
Make sure to provide as much info as you can. For example, don’t forget to highlight the number of reviews and choose the “count” tag.
When you’re done, choose “Create HTML”.
You can either copy and paste this new HTML into your page or add the new Schema markup to your existing code.
Pro Tip: Use Google Search Console to double-check that your Schema is implemented right.
If you have Schema setup, you’ll see “Rich Results” under enhancements in the sidebar:
(I don’t have any live Schema, so that report doesn’t appear for me).
Chapter 4:Technical SEO for Ecommerce
Technical SEO is one of those things that’s important for ALL sites… but doubly so for ecommerce. That’s because ecommerce sites tend to have LOTS of pages. And all of those pages increase the changes that technical SEO issues will crop up.
Not only that, but most ecommerce pages don’t have that many backlinks pointing to them. Which means that technical SEO is often the “tiebreaker” on Google’s first page. For example, if you and your competitor are neck-and-neck, a technical SEO issue can be the difference between the 4th spot and a coveted #1 ranking.
To use Raven for your ecommerce SEO site audit, choose “Site Auditor” from the left-hand sidebar:
And Raven will analyze your site for potential errors.
Then scan the report for issues that crop up.
Like problems with your title and/or description tags:
Duplicate and thin content:
And broken links:
Now that you’ve seen how to find SEO errors, it’s time for me to show you how to solve them.
How to Fix Common Technical SEO Issues On Ecommerce Sites
Problem: Too Many Pages
Having thousands of pages on your site can be a technical SEO nightmare. It makes writing unique content for each page a monumental task. Also, the more pages you have, the more likely you’ll struggle with duplicate content issues.
Why It Happens
Some ecommerce sites just have lots and lots of products for sale. Because each of these products require their own page, the site accumulates lots of pages. Also, sometimes each slight variation in the same product (for example 15 different shoe sizes) has its own unique URL, which can bloat your ecommerce site’s total page count.
How to Fix it
First, identify pages that you can delete or noindex… without affecting your bottom line.
In my experience, 80% of an ecommerce site’s sales come from 20% of its products (the ol’ 80/20 principle at work). And around 25% of an ecommerce product pages haven’t generated ANY sales over the last year.
Rather than working to improve these pages, you’re better off simply deleting them, noindexing them, or combining them into a “super page”.
Most ecommerce CMSs (like Shopify) make it easy to find products that haven’t generated any revenue lately. If they haven’t, you can put them into a “maybe delete” list.
But before you actually delete anything, check Google Analytics to make sure these pages aren’t bringing in any traffic.
If a page isn’t bringing visitors to your site or putting cash in your pocket, you should ask yourself: “what’s the point of this page?”.
In some cases, these “deadweight” pages will make up 5-10% of your site. For others, it can be as many as 50%.
Once you’ve removed excess pages that might be causing problems, it’s time to fix and improve the pages that are left.
Problem: Duplicate Content
Duplicate content is one of the most common ecommerce SEO issues on the planet. And it’s one that can sink your site in Google’s search results (thanks to Google Panda).
Fortunately, with a commitment to unique content on every page of your ecommerce site (and using advanced SEO techniques like canonical tags), you can make duplicate content issues a thing of the past.
Why It Happens
There are a lot of reasons that duplicate content crop up on ecommerce sites.
Here are the three most common reasons.
First, the site creates unique URLs for every version of a product or category page.
For example, if you have a category menu like this…