Why on-going keyphrase research is a “must do” for SEO

Those associated with Online Marketing will know that before embarking upon any kind of online campaign, keyphrase research must be undertaken. If this vital step is not done then how will you ever know if you are targeting the right keyphrases for organic optimisation of a website or for a Pay Per Click campaign?

What most retailers don’t realise though is that keyphrase research is not a one-time thing. To get the best results from any campaign this kind of research must be undertaken on an on-going basis.

Changing Market Trends

In all trading verticals there exist evolving and changing market trends. What sold well in one month may not sell in the next. This is especially true with any vertical influenced by movie releases, celebrity endorsements, ‘crazes’ or social media ‘virality’.

If you add to this any seasonal effect related to different trading verticals, you will see that ongoing research is not only preferable but pretty much a requirement if you are to avoid spending countless hours and pounds Sterling on both website optimisation work and pay per click campaigns that are never going to bring you the returns you need as a retailer.

The Tiny Percentage of ‘Goldmine’ Keyphrases

If you take a deep dive into the keyphrases that bring in converting traffic for your website, you will often see that there exists a very small percentage of keyphrases that account for a large portion of website revenue.

Traditional website optimisation uses the ‘blunderbuss’ approach, where all pages are optimised within a website and keyphrase research is used to point towards new content pages that should be created to bring in additional traffic and sales.

This approach is still valid but given the fact that most eCommerce websites do show a very small percentage of ‘Goldmine’ keyphrases, perhaps a better approach is initially to be choosier when approaching page optimisation and indeed category setup.

Focus in on those areas which are going to convert well initially via click-throughs from Google’s search results and finally in products added to basket. This way, optimisation effort gives a bigger return per hour spent. On-going keyphrase research is the key to making this happen.

You’re Selling What?

Keyphrase research for an eCommerce website isn’t just a valid way of quantifying likely returns from the things any particular retailer is offering, it can also show quite clearly that the product lines being offered by that retailer are either ‘in the ballpark’ of what is being searched for online or in some cases completely different to what most people search for.

I have seen cases where keyphrase research highlights a retailer trading in a vertical that is too competitive, poorly searched for and has little in the way of merit to ever offer that retailer a decent return from all their hard work in creating and maintaining an eCommerce website.

It’s difficult, but I have had to tell clients in the past that perhaps they should be focussing their efforts on a completely different trading vertical, or at the very least think about bringing in different supply brands!

User Intent and ‘Long Tail’ Keyphrases

There used to be a very strong correlation between the preciseness of a keyphrase and the likelihood of ranking for that keyphrase resulting with a purchase on an eCommerce website. Ranking for product focussed ‘Long Tail’ keyphrases was therefore a pre-requisite for gaining those all important ‘add to baskets’ and sales. Whilst this is still true to some degree, user intent is not now only limited to these more product focussed keyphrases since the introduction of Google Universal search and the mass uptake of smart speakers and virtual assistants.

User intent is now much less easy to pin down, especially as systems like Amazon Echo, Siri and Google’s Home are not restricted to exact searches. It’s now quite common for these systems to do a voice search like ‘the brand of beer that is in the rovers return’ and come back with exactly what the searcher is looking for in top results. Even though neither the brand or the product name is mentioned in the search, nevertheless the correct result is returned by these systems.

In this case, how would Google or Amazon know how to return the correct result? The answer is not only mentions of the brand and product on user forums, blogs and news sites but if you’re a smart retailer in what we call ‘long form content’.

Long Form Content for Retailers

Long form content is, as the name suggests content that has a bigger word count and perhaps has more supporting images, videos and other supporting content than regular content on your website. There is a strong correlation between top ranking for competitive keyphrases and the length (and therefore perceived ‘expert status’) of content, but long form content can have perhaps a bigger effect for less competitive keyphrase rankings.

Focus on the NOW

What I am suggesting is more frequent keyphrase research which really focusses on what is important for an eCommerce website in any particular timeframe. This highlights what to focus on here and now, instead of just focussing on the long-term strategy. Doing this means that a retailer can not only capture seasonal trends and focus on what is selling at that moment, but also cut down on wasted effort.

For the resulting much smaller set of short-term focus keyphrases, write some really well researched and interesting content to bring in not only visits from search engine users but also to stimulate other webmasters and social media users to link to that piece of content. Over time, overall rankings, site visits and conversion rate will grow.

If you’re smart, you’ll also continue to take the approach of optimisation of all category and product pages in the website. This will give the best of both worlds; rankings for the category page and product page titles and for the more focussed ‘Goldmine’ keyphrases that you have put effort into optimising for.



David Fairhurst

Head of eCommerce

Intelligent Retail

David has been involved with Search Engine Optimisation and web development since 1999 and has spoken at many different retail and SEO conferences including Spring Fair and SES London