Targeting the right keywords is the single most powerful tactic online stores have in their SEO arsenals.

You can get everything right -- perfectly configured metadata, a formidable stockpile of blog content, colorful and seductive product descriptions -- but if you aren’t targeting the right keywords, all of it could be for nothing.

There’s a gulf between online stores that choose keywords to target haphazardly and those that choose to do extensive research beforehand. The gulf grows even wider when you look at stores who stop researching at the most-searched terms related to their store versus those who dig deeper and find keywords they have a chance of winning.

This is where online stores often go fundamentally wrong in their keyword research. Just because a keyword is viewed more than any other relevant keyword doesn’t mean it’s right for your SEO program.

Let's go over the common reasons why you might be optimizing your website for the wrong keywords.

The right keyword versus the realistic keyword

The fundamental argument at the core of your SEO plan is how well you’re splitting resources between the right keywords and the realistic keywords.

The right keywords tend to broad and generic, like “t-shirts” or even “band t-shirts.” What takes your keywords from “right” to “realistic” is fine-tuning them to be more specific. (These are usually called “long tail” keywords.)

What you want from your keyword strategy is twofold:

  1. The ability to achieve a high ranking, something that gets more difficult the more websites compete for the same term.

  2. High quality traffic, or page views that will actually convert to sales.

The internet’s been around long enough that generic descriptors and keywords with high traffic have already been dominated by long-term websites.

A realistic approach to the keywords you’re targeting is crucial to actually ranking in search results. Traffic quality is another crucial factor.

How the wrong keywords can hurt your business

SEO will do nothing for your store’s bottom line if you’re generating low quality traffic.

Traffic quality is entirely reliant on whether or not the right person is finding your store or not.

Imagine someone types a word like “kitchen appliances” into Google. Why they typed the search term isn’t immediately apparent, and depending on what the intention behind the search is, they’re probably going to get a jumble of results that won’t solve their problem. Your store may rank here, but whoever performed the search may be looking for the answers to a trivia game.

Now imagine you searched for “best inexpensive red kettles.” Here, we have a much clearer statement of intent.

The search engine has more context and can provide ecommerce matches so you can buy what you’re looking for. Because it’s clear the traffic you’ll get from this search term are people in the market to buy what you’re selling, this is a high quality keyword for which you might want to use your SEO to elevate your website in the rankings.

Striking the balance

Here are three questions to ask yourself that’ll help you strike the right balance and find the keywords that work for your store.

  1. Is this relevant to my audience? This is the most obvious question, the one you’ve always asked.

  2. Do people actually search for this term? Though you don’t want to pick the most popular relevant search terms, you still want to make sure you’re ranking for terms people will actually use.

  3. How tough is the competition? There are a number of free and paid tools that’ll give you a good idea of the difficulty level attached to certain keywords. (This is calculated based on how many other websites have their sights set on that keyword already.)


If you're convinced your store’s ready for clear, thought-out keyword research? Get keywords ideas (and everything else you need for your online store) with an ebook we have put together on The Building Blocks of Ecommerce SEO, a free guide filled with what you need to make your website more search engine friendly.


Download the free ebook The building blocks of ecommerce SEO