Finding the right keywords for your e-commerce website is absolutely fundamental to the success of your business online.

There are lots of ways of going about Key Phrase Research (KPR). Here’s one I wrote about earlier.

You can do some of the research using free tools, but the quality and relevance of the results will be compromised. Like in most areas of life, the most important important types of information in KPR come at a cost.

I’ll show you what kind of information is available for free and some sources for that information. I’ll also explain where the pitfalls of using free data are.

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What makes a great key phrase?

A great key phrase has just three characteristics:

  • Relevant to your site – you want visitors who are likely to buy your products or services

  • High search numbers – you want as many of the right visitors as possible

  • Reasonable levels of competition – you’ll want an ‘above the fold’ position on searches if people are going to click through to your sites in good enough numbers

If you already have some analytics data from your site, then add key phrases that are related to ones that have already worked for you.

Let’s find some great key phrases.

1. Brainstorm some key phrases

BrainstormNot any old key phrases, though. Think about how you’d expect people to search to find your site. The idea is to find some key phrases for each part of your site, but don’t try to be exhaustive, the tools we’ll use will look after that.

These will be your seed key phrases. And here are some basic rules I suggest to my clients if they are unsure how to go approach this task:

  • Group your keywords according to product type – that’s have a list for blue widgets, a list for green widgets, another for striped widgets, and so on

  • Aim for between five and 10 seed key phrases in each list

  • Don’t be too general. Make sure your seeds are at least two words long

  • Don’t be too specific, either – ‘stage 2 green widget with 4.25mm reverse thread’ may be a big seller for you, but it’s way too far down the long tail to help you as a seed

  • If you already have data for how your site is performing, you should include key phrases that are already converting – leading to sales – in this list. Some more of the same would be excellent!

2. Find some alternative key phrases

You now have a list of key phrases that you think people will use to find your site. Now you can find out what people are actually searching on.

There are all sorts of free tools (you may have to open an account to use them) out there on the Internet to help you do this, such as:

  • Google Keyword Planner – you’ll need to have a Google AdWords account to use this, but it’s many people’s first port of call for expanding their list of key phrases
  • Wordstream Keyword Tool – data from its own database.
  • Wordtracker – has been around for years, and some people swear by it
  • SEO Book Keyword Tool – global data only (no good if you want, say, UK search results), but from a range of sources
  • Ubersuggest – one of my favourites for basic key phrase suggestions

All of these tools give you a measure of how many times these key phrases are being searched on – their popularity. If they’re a good fit for what you’re selling, they could bring you lots of potential buyers – if you can rank well for them.

3. Will you be able to rank for the key phrase?

Just because a key phrase has a lot of searches, it doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you, even if it is very relevant to what you want to sell.

You won’t get a lot of traffic from such a key phrase if you only appear on the fifth page, say. You need to pick out key phrases with lower levels of competition, as you should be able to rank higher for them in a shorter time.

Here’s how you can assess the competition for the key phrases you’ve found.

4. Follow the free but potentially inaccurate route

If you have access to the Google AdWords Tool, you can get data about the cost and competition for PPC clicks and key phrases, while others such as Wordstream give you a measure of competition.

Many people say you now have an indication of how much competition there may be for natural results, too. The argument goes that the more people are willing to pay for a click on a key phrase, the more valuable that traffic is, and the more likely site owners will be spending time and resources on securing a high organic ranking.

Put another way, the higher the PPC bids, the more likely there will be high levels of competition for natural listings.

5. Choose the more accurate route that costs you money

If you’re serious about your e-commerce website, the free route will almost certainly not be good enough for you. The relationship between PPI Love AccuracyC bids and organic competition will be too indirect for you to place much faith in.

Getting better and more accurate data will require you subscribe to one or more paid services and run more complex analyses.

Some time ago my business partner, Paul Silver, built an in-house custom tool to assess competition for key phrases, and I use that alongside some commercial services – I’m always trialling one or another so see if I can improve the quality of keyword insights and the efficiency of my workflow.

  • When it comes to worthwhile KPR, all roads lead to, whose Page Authority and Domain Authority measures are used by many people comparing the level of competition and some tools as well. A Moz subscription will cost you from $99 a month
  • Long Tail Pro. A tool that gives you fast insights into competition for key phrases. Although it was designed for a specific purpose – setting up niche sites – it can be used for KPR for most sites. You’ll need a Moz subscription as well
  • SEMrush. Last, but not least, a huge armoury of data and tools you’ll useful as you progress with key phrase research.

I’ll be writing more about how to do key phrase research in the coming weeks, but if you want some professional help, please take a look at my Key Phrase Research & Content Strategy service.

Get the free e-book!

I’ve gathered my posts about Selling More From Your Online Store into one convenient download.

Thanks to George RexAndy Mangold and brett jordan for making their images available.