Every marketing plan starts with keyword research.
Why is keyword research important? It is because eCommerce websites make most of their money from search engine queries. Search engine queries are generally just keywords.
You’ll understand this when you put yourself in the shoes of your potential customer.
Here’s what they will do if they need to buy something. Most likely, they will type in the product that they would like to buy in the search engines. When they do this, they just don’t just type in the name of the product and the brand. Sometimes, they will include specifics such as the product’s color, size and weight.
Let’s take a simple ‘hair dryer’ for example.
Instead of typing the word ‘hair dryer’, the customer may type something specific such as ‘Jacking 2300 Watt Salon Professional Ionic Hair dryer Blow dryer with Diffuser’. That may seem extremely long but it shows how serious the customer is in finding the particular product.
Another thing that you should note is the buyer intent. When they type these extremely long keywords, they usually have a stronger intent of buying. And that is good news for eCommerce website owners.
Now that you understand why optimizing for the search engines is important, you now know why your website simply cannot live without keywords. In fact, it is the building block that leads to sales. Without it, marketing your website is like throwing darts outside the window. It will not hit your target market. Why? You simply cannot promote your website without keywords for you will not know what you are optimizing for.
How do you know what to optimize for? Keyword research.
And for that you need some tools. Here are 4 tools that I found effective. They have their pros and cons. Used together, they can be crazy powerful.
If I can only recommend one tool among the bunch, I would recommend Ahrefs. Why? I love it because it is an all-in-one tool that lets you do more than just keyword research. You can also track your competitor’s backlinks and do an in-depth website analysis. Here are some of its functions: link tracking, traffic tracking, keyword research and analysis, social media analysis and website analysis.
I think most SEOs will agree with me when I say that Ahrefs is the best among the bunch. This is because you can use it for so many SEO activities and export all reports afterwards.
If you are on a limited budget and can only work with one tool, then use this one. It is worth every penny.
Here’s how you can research keywords through Ahrefs.
Want to know the basic stats for your main keyword? You can use Ahrefs’ keyword explorer. All you need to do is type in your desired keyword and watch it work its magic.
Once you hit the orange search button, you’ll be greeted with the following metrics: the KD or keyword difficulty score, search volume and the number of clicks. On the right is the global search volume.
If you scroll down, you’ll see some keyword ideas.
This is the part that you should focus on if you are just starting keyword research. It will give you tons of long tail keyword ideas that may be interesting to rank for along with its estimated search volume.
You can get more ideas by simply clicking ‘View Full Report’ and exporting all that you have found.
If you are feeling a bit lazy, you can look at your competitor keywords instead.
One of my favorite methods is to look at my competitor’s anchor text. This is extremely easy.
All you need to do is select the word ‘Anchors’ from the left and clicking 4-term words on top. It will instantly give you all the long tail keywords that your competitor is targeting.
Once you do this, you’ll find that not everything will be a good keyword for your website. This is the reason why you cannot just export all of these. Be sure to select keywords that are relevant to your online store.
And that’s not all. You can also take the easy way out and just look at your competitor’s website.
All you need to do is type in the website’s URL and click Organic Keywords on the left.
Then, sort the KD from smallest to highest.
This will yield a good list of easy to rank keywords.
It is impossible to use Ahrefs without understanding what KD means. KD stands for keyword difficulty and it can mean different things in different tools.
For Ahrefs, KD pertains to the metric in gauging the difficulty to rank a particular keyword.
KD ranges from 0 to 100 where 0 is the easiest and 100 is the hardest.
KD is based on the number of referring domains. The higher the KD, the higher the number of referring domains.
You can refer to the information below for a more accurate measure:
KD 0 = 0 Ref. Domains
KD 10 = 10 Ref. Domains
KD 20 = 22 Ref. Domains
KD 30 = 36 Ref. Domains
KD 40 = 56 Ref. Domains
KD 50 = 84 Ref. Domains
KD 60 = 129 Ref. Domains
KD 70 = 202 Ref. Domains
KD 80 = 353 Ref. Domains
KD 90 = 756 Ref. Domains
But KD is not created out of the blue. It is also based on Ahrefs’ observation on what makes websites rank. When I use the word ‘rank’ in here, I am referring to the front page of the search engines and not #1. This is how Ahrefs conducted its study.
When they did this, they found that one of the major factors that rank a particular website is the number of referring domains (unique backlinks). And this is how they came up with KD.
Ahrefs is the easiest tool to use because it just uses the referring domains as a factor. This means that there is a chance for you to rank over your competitor websites as long as you meet the domain count. Of course, this is not as direct as you think it is. You still need to build your website over a period of time and have a solid brand for this to be effective.
However, Ahrefs requires a monthly fee of around $99. You may want to look at other tools before you make your decision.
We cannot talk about keyword research without SpyFu. Take a trip into one of those webmaster forums and they will instantly recommend SpyFu as a good keyword tool. Why do they think this way? There is only one way to find out - Let’s dive in and see what this tool is all about.
On the surface, it looks like an ordinary research tool. But look at the menu above and you’ll know that it is special.
Since we are talking about keyword research, I went ahead and look at the Keyword Research tab.
The keyword research tab is pretty interesting. Just hover it and you’ll see that it already contains so many different tools inside it.
Searching for a keyword is as easy as just inputting a keyword in the search tab.
Upon doing that, I was surprised that the tool instantly generated suggestions - this is something that I have not seen in the other tools that I have used.
Then, it will generate a page that contains some basic metrics for the keyword that you have plugged in.
The metrics are quite simple to understand. It has the local monthly search, global monthly search, average click through rate, ranking difficulty, number of homepages in the results and number of advertisers as well as the cost per click and the monthly costs.
What I have observed is that this tool offers more than just basic metrics - search volume and competition level (as you have seen in Ahrefs and Google Keyword Planner). Instead, it goes another mile by only citing the homepages that ranks in the front page - an interesting metric if you’ll ask me. Also, it separated search volume into global and local - this is quite valuable for small businesses in the local area who have an eCommerce website.
Scrolling down, you’ll find other metrics. But what stood out for me is the Profitable Related Keyword section.
This section contains monthly searches, ranking difficulty, the number of advertisers, cost per click, click through rate and monthly cost.
You can click ‘View All Related Keywords to see the full list. The full list looks like the one below.
It may overwhelm you at first glance but this area is really useful. Why? Well, look over to the left side and you’ll see several ways to sort through the list. This will help you filter through your keyword list so that you only get only the most profitable keywords in your niche.
Once you are finished with keyword research, there is also a tool in SpyFu that allows you to sort through your keywords. You can click on the Keywords Grouping tab for this.
From here, all you need to do is type in the keywords that you have gathered.
And it will instantly take you to this where it has pre-sorted everything based on its category.
You can then tweak the group name by adding new groups.
Pretty easy, right?
If what you have gathered so far is not yet enough, you can also go for competitor keywords. How? You will use SpyFu’s SEO Research tab.
This is where you’ll see the power of SpyFu and what separates it from the other tools in the market.
Plug in a URL and you will know what I mean. You will instantly get to this page.
This is interesting because it shows you the keywords that your competitor is ranking for over a period of time. It even has tabs when there were changes in search engine algorithms.
I like this because it doesn’t include analytics that contains search volume and other unneeded stuff. Instead, it just focused on keywords.
What I find more interesting is the keywords that your competitor has just fallen off.
Click on it. It’s a link and you’ll see all the keywords that pushed your competitor off the first page.
You’ll instantly get a list of really profitable keywords. Looking at this, you don’t even need to test for ranking difficulty - it is already listed for you and you can just sort through it. I also love that the list contains mostly 3-word keywords - really valuable and profitable.
Scrolling down, I also found this graph that shows the weakness of your competitor.
And the keywords that your competitor has just lost rank in - these are great opportunities for you to take over as long as the ranking difficulty is not that hard.
Click View All to get a full list.
You can then sort all the keywords based on ranking difficulty. I like to put the smallest number on top so that I get easy-to-rank keywords.
But SpyFu is designed for more than just keyword research. Out of all the tools that I have reviewed, it seems to have some tools that are designed to help you with your ads as well.
If you will look at the Keyword Research tab, you’ll see that it has Advertiser History.
At first, I thought that it will be quite similar with SEMRush (You’ll find out later that SEMRush has an Ad History). But then, I was surprised that it even contains sample ads that worked well for competitors.
What can you get out of this?
Well, first it helps you in designing your ads. It helps you choose the right words.
Second, it also shows you all the other websites that are advertising in the niche for a keyword that you have plugged in - very useful for eCommerce website owners.
Ahrefs may be the best all-in-one tool in the market, but I think SpyFu trumps over any other tool when it comes to keyword research. It looks through every nook and cranny to find the most profitable keywords in your niche. If you follow the steps above, you can easily find keywords that are relevant to your niche.
If you want a more straightforward tool, you’ll find SEMRush interesting. In fact, I think that it is the closest to the Google Keyword Tool - only better. Why? Well, it has so many fascinating stuff in it too like competitor analysis, traffic tracking and advertising tracking. This makes it one of the sought-after SEO tools for PPC marketers.
Here’s how you can use the tool for keyword research.
Don’t know what to search for? SEMRush has all the tools that can help you.
You’ll know what I am talking about when you plug in your keyword in its main page. You will instantly see some of the basic SEO metrics of the keyword.
Here are the metrics that it gives you. First, there is the search volume and number of results in organic search (aka your competitors). What does these mean to you? Well, a keyword is usually worth ranking for if it has a considerable amount of search volume with less than a hundred thousand competing websites. Then, it also shows you the trend. This gives you an average search count per month. This gives you an idea that the search count is not just for one month - it also spreads across the whole year.
From here, you’ll be seeing some tabs that contains related keywords, phrase match keywords and ad-related keywords.
The related keywords section lists any keyword that is related to your search term - these keywords may or may not contain your main keyword. Aside from giving you ideas, this section also gives you access to different metrics such as search volume, number of search results, keyword difficulty, competition, trends and CPC.
The phrase match section lists keywords that has your main keyword in it. It doesn’t matter how many words your keyword contains. It can be three or four words. This area will still return common variations of the keyword.
So what can you see in this area? The basic metrics - search volume, keyword difficulty (based on the number of competing website), cost-per-click on ads, number of results and a trends graph.
Another area where you can harvest some keywords is through the Ad History section. This lists the websites that advertised for similar keywords. You can find out more about the keywords that they used by clicking on the numbers in the Keywords column.
You can also export all the keywords that you find in a spreadsheet.
Did you know that SEMRush also has a Keyword Magic Tool. This is a relatively new tool and it does practically what the other tools can do plus more. I love this because it is like a keyword analyzer and keyword suggester in one. It is that powerful.
Using it is easy. You just need to plug in a keyword and watch it do its magic - it will instantly generate a list based on related keywords.
Plus, you can also alter the word count so that you get all the long tail keywords on the list.
You can also set it to 3 to 4 keywords. So you don’t have to fix it in one number alone. I find it pretty neat if you ask me.
Again, an easy way to find keywords is just to analyze your competitors. You can do this by simply looking and analyzing the domain of your competitors. In SEMRush, there is the Domain Analytics tool that can do the job.
Using it is as easy as plugging a website’s URL in the Domain Overview bar.
Doing that will instantly generate a domain overview that contains the following metrics: organic search traffic, paid search traffic, backlinks and display advertising traffic. This gives you an idea on how profitable and how competitive the niche of that website is.
If you scroll down, you will see other details such as the website’s organic keywords, ad keywords and a graph that shows the fluctuations in traffic. And below that, you will see the top organic keywords - this is the part that you should be interested in.
From here, just click 'View Full Report'. Just look at all the keywords that it generated. It also shows the position that the website has for that particular keyword and the exact URL that is ranking for that keyword.
If you only want the longtails, you can sort it to only include 3 or 4-word keywords and you’ll instantly get a list of longtail keywords.
You can then export the keywords that are relevant to your business.
As you can see, SEMRush is more of a research tool. It gives you all the keywords that you must target based on certain metrics such as keyword difficulty and search volume. On top of that, it also allows you to look at the keywords that your competitor is ranking for - which is very useful if you want your website to eventually rank higher than them.
Moz is an unexplored keyword tool. While it is mostly known for its OpenSiteExplorer for measuring domain authority and linking domains, it also has a Keyword Explorer that is relatively new.
Using it is as easy as inputting your main keyword, then it will generate metrics like this.
As you can see, it shows the average search volume and has three metrics - difficulty, opportunity and potential.
Difficulty is based on how hard for an incoming website to hit the first page of the search engines. This is measured based on the strength of the links of the top 10 ranking websites. Moz computes keyword difficulty based on their metrics in OpenSiteExplorer. Specifically, they use the metrics of Page Authority (PA) and domain authority (DA). They combine this along with the click through rate of the page. From here, they determine the keyword difficulty.
Difficulty can vary from 1 to 100 where 1 is the easiest and 100 is the hardest. A good rule for this is to not target any keyword that has a difficulty of over 40. Our example above has a difficulty of 95 - that is already too hard.
Opportunity, on the other hand, is more focused on keywords that has the ability to get clicks when your website gets ranked. This is a factor that is unique to Moz and should be studied to be fully understood. Moz has taken into account click through rate (CTR) to determine this factor. This factor came from the fact that the search engines are no longer like it used to be. You will mostly see ads and SERP features like snippets and videos. If the opportunity is high, that means that you have plenty of opportunities of getting more clicks from your ranking links - this means that there is a low number of ads and SERP features. But if the opportunity is low, it means that ranking your website through SEO should not be your priority. You should just look at the ranking SERP features and aim to optimize your website for that instead.
Third is potential. Potential takes into account several metrics such as search volume, ranking difficulty, opportunity and importance. They then create a score based on this. Higher potential means that there is a really high volume and low level of ranking difficulty. In Moz, this is the metric that you should look at. This is because it has already summarized all the other factors into one.
But the power of Moz’s keyword explorer does not end there. It also has three other features below.
Keyword suggestions contains all the related keywords for the keyword that you have search for. SERP Analysis looks at the top 10 websites ranking for your target keyword. And mentions contains articles that has that keyword based on the most recent date that it is published.
Out of the bunch, I love to look deeper into keyword suggestions. I do this by clicking ‘See All 1,000 Suggestions’.
Then, I get a list of keywords that can be sorted in a different way than the other tools.
First, you can sort the keywords based on the idea and whether or not the keyword is a question. I find this fascinating for I have not seen this way of sorting in the other keyword tools I have mentioned above.
Aside from that, you can also sort through the keyword tool using search volume. This will give you the most profitable keywords on top.
I find that there are some points for improvement though. I think that the tool will be better if it has a way to sort through the keywords so that it displays 3-word or 4-word keywords as in Ahrefs and SEMRush. It will also help to have other metrics for sorting aside from qualitative metrics (whether or not it is a question, etc.) and search volume. There are other things to be considered for keyword research after all.
Overall, I love the new metrics that the tool has introduced. Difficulty, Potential and Opportunity is definitely some metrics that can gauge a keyword’s ranking ability. However, it seems that these metrics only come out for one keyword. I hope that they can implement batch processing in the future.
In my opinion, Moz is still better when it comes to competitor analysis. You can easily key in your competitor’s URL in the search bar.
And then get metrics like DA and PA - metrics that are relevant to the search engine’s algorithm today. We will use this later when we promote our eCommerce website. As of now, we’ll leave it for minor keyword research - getting keywords to plug into the other tools.
Finished your keyword research? It is time to put everything into one spreadsheet. You need to do this so that you can easily sort through everything you have found.
For this, I have this unified spreadsheet format.
It contains the keyword, search volume and keyword difficulties in all 4 tools. Why did I include these? These are the metrics that are important in ranking. Generally, you want keywords with low difficulties and high search volume. Those are your profitable keywords.
NOTE: You can also use the Potential in Moz. This takes into account several factors to determine if a keyword is worth ranking for. It may help to put another column in the spreadsheet for that.
Most of these tools have export options. Use these so that you can easily copy columns from the exports and paste them into your main spreadsheet. Then, copy the list again, put it in Notepad and plug it in the other tools. This will help you get the metrics that you are looking for.
Pro Tip: You’ll find that cross-checking keywords can be quite daunting. Hire a virtual assistant to do this so that you can focus on your eCommerce website instead.
By this time, you should already be familiar with all the tools mentioned above. It is time to take action.
For your assignment, you have to gather at least 1000 product keywords for your eCommerce website. Aim for keywords with a considerable amount of search volume (100-10,000) but with low difficulty across different tools. Branded keywords and longtails are okay.
You need to do this to help your eCommerce website to rank for keywords that are relevant to your target market. These should be keywords that they are already searching for (has a considerable amount of search volume) but are not competitively saturated.
You absolutely have to do this before you proceed to part 2. Your keyword research list is the building block of your eCommerce website.
Go ahead and get your hands dirty.