Talking Usability: Long Tail Keywords for E-Commerce SEO
Listen: Keywords are important. They’re vital to how search engines work. But an SEO campaign doesn’t begin with the keywords you want to rank for. I’m going to assume that what you want to rank for are “buy” keywords directly related to the product you’re selling. On the surface it seems like the simplest way to match up with hungry buyers, credit cards in hand.
Here’s the bad news: Chances are that what you’re selling is also available from a big brand, be it a box store or a specialty producer. Industry experts cite a correlation between existing traffic and SEO ranking, and they even theorize that brand influence may have an effect on Google’s preferences when it comes to search results. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to topple one of those giants with their existing traffic and recognition. Put simply, if you focus too much on the exact match “buy” keywords for a product, you’re not going to be able to compete.
That doesn’t mean you should abandon those keywords because they still have some use. But if you’re looking to top page one, it’s not likely to be for “basketball shoes.” Nike and Footlocker exist.
If you shift your focus and start thinking about how people use a search engine, you can compete. Those big brands tend to be very narrowly focused. You can take advantage of that.
Think about the genesis of a search. People often search for a product, but they’re searching for information too. It may not be phrased as a question, but everyone who makes a search has a question they want to be answered. You know what you want to sell, but what type of information related to that product is useful? What might people want to find out about it before they buy? This is where long tail keywords come in. Taking extra time to make sure you’re doing solid SEO keyword research is an absolute must.
Let’s run with the basketball shoes example, using Moz’s keyword explorer tool.
We can immediately tell this is a daunting keyword. Its difficulty doesn’t look too high at first glance, but the real issue is the “SERP Analysis,” which shows us some very high domain authority sites as top ranking for the keyword. Let’s try a different phrase that still incorporates the words we want.
This narrows things down a little bit for us. Even adding a single word to the phrase pops up some different, more promising results. Let’s look at the SERP analysis in a little more depth.
That 18 domain authority is a tempting target. You can start making connections here. If you start answering that question better than the lower-authority competition, then you can claw out some SEO traction. That’s still a daunting page of results, as it’s going to take a lot of time and expense to get there.
Did you see the keyword suggestions in the image before this one? “Best basketball shoes for ankle support” gets less than 50 searches a month. But that sounds to me like the kind of question a motivated buyer might ask. Let’s plug it in.
The main high-authority competition is YouTube. Otherwise, it looks like a lot of low-authority sites are ranking for this query. That purple 64 percent is the clickthrough rate for organic results. If you create quality, user-friendly content that will inform people who ask this question, your chances look good at ranking for it.
Ranking for a key phrase that only gets 50 hits a month can seem like small potatoes. But what if you find 10 phrases like this that you can rank for? What about 20? 100? You should know from Marketing 101 that when people ask these types of questions, they’re already invested in the sales process. So how much time and effort are 20 potential customers worth? Enough to write a decent blog post, surely.
Remember that when you’re answering a query, it’s important to create a landing page that relates to and specifically addresses the question in your user’s mind. Don’t just dump them onto a product page. Give them an informational and/or entertaining experience before linking them to the sales page.
Once you’ve made your content live, spend time learning Google Analytics to create data that content pages generate. It’s going to take trial and error, so try to be flexible and quick to react.
Remember what I said earlier about websites with existing traffic seeing better results on Google? Do this with enough long tail queries around the same keyword, and you’ll be able to start competing in those higher-competition searches.
There’s a ton more we can get into about how usability improves not just customer experience, but your SEO. This is just a start to get you thinking about how users interact with search engines to find niches that you can easily gain traction with. Offer consumers a good experience, do it consistently, and you can turn low-volume, low-competition key phrases into not just sales, but significant SEO gains.