When you think of keyword research, you likely associate it with search engine optimization and the importance of including keywords in various tags and body copy to appear higher in search results. But keyword research is essential to your entire online marketing strategy, and has applications beyond SEO, including: Information Architecture.
When you first set out to organize your site structure and decide on how to label your categories, you may have to make decisions between synonyms – especially for e-commerce sites. For example, you might have to choose between “athletic shoes,” “runners,” “running shoes,” “trainers” and “sneakers.” How do you make your best guess which is most popular? Head off to Google Trends and compare each term, and make sure you set which geographic market you operate in, as there can be regional differences in preferred terms:
One thing to watch out for is some terms have more than one meaning – like “runners” (table runners, stair runners, wedding runners, runners knee, etc) or “trainers” (personal trainers, game trainers, dog trainers). You may, from this graph, conclude your best label is “running shoes” as it far outperforms “athletic shoes.” If your site has been up for a while and you’re considering a restructure, you may also check on your pay-per-click data, comparing these keywords for impressions and clicks to your site, which would indicate that the search performed had intent to find information on products you sell. A searcher looking for “dog trainers” is not likely to click on an ad for “Nike Trainers.” If you get far more traffic for “runners” than “running shoes” then you may reconsider your current category label.
Using the customer-preferred term also aids in usability. People scan for “trigger words” that match exactly how they describe the product themselves. Customer thinks “where are the running shoes?” and scans the menus for that term, and may miss the lonely “athletic shoes” at the top.
Internal Site Search Optimization
Your site search may not be returning results (or the results you want) for user searches because your customers describe your products in ways you never thought of – including mis-spellings. There are several ways you can research terms to tweak your search tool.
An obvious one is your internal site search logs – mine them for frequent searches and test what results appear. Proactively, you can use the Buzzillions reviews site which employs customer tagging, Amazon tags, a thesaurus or the Google Keyword Research Tool to look for synonyms.
Sourcing New Products
Does your internal site search log reveal customers are looking for Nike First Touch II Astro Turf Trainers en masse? You might consider adding it to your product mix if it’s a hot item. You can also surf Amazon Bestsellers and use the Google Keyword Tool and segment your keyword results by last month’s search volume (to identify current winners).
Pay Per Click Advertising
Of course, keyword research is essential to PPC advertising. But many marketers stop at the Google Keyword Tool or an enterprise tool like Keyword Discovery. One of the tedious aspects of PPC keyword research, and most difficult to thoroughly perform with just the traditional tools is negative keyword research <– This link describes how to use Google Suggest (now integrated with the Google.com search box), Google Shopping and Buzzillions. You can also use eBay for negative keyword research and hack Google Analytics to expose the exact search phrases for your broad matched PPC keywords.
You can identify hot products using Google Trends, Amazon Bestsellers lists or your Analytics, search and sales reports and use them in your email campaigns.
About the author: Linda Bustos is an Ecommerce Consultant for Elastic Path, an ecommerce software vendor. She also blogs about online retailing, social media web usability for the Get Elastic ecommerce blog.