As beautiful as your online store may be, and as much effort as you may have put into it, it may still be virtually invisible.
Without proper keyword research and search engine optimization (SEO), search engines (and your potential customers) will never notice your Shopify store.
Before throwing a handful of keywords onto your site in hopes of getting more traffic, read through this step-by-step guide on how to conduct keyword research for your Shopify store.
By the time you've finished reading this, you will know how to:
Use the best keyword tool for your keyword research
Identify your target niche market
Identify keyword phrases (aka long-tail keywords)
Organize keywords into cluster topics
Create content that ranks
Boost traffic to your Shopify store
With just a little bit of investigation and creativity, your ecommerce site can get noticed by search engines very quickly. Once that happens, the traffic and customers will follow.
The Best Keyword Research Tool for Shopify
Before we go any further, let's get a few technical things out of the way.
First, when you edit your website so that it ranks higher on search engines, that is called search engine optimization (SEO). There are various forms of SEO, all of which aim to make a site more visible to the search engines.
For this article, we will primarily focus on on-page SEO, which is where we strategically use keywords directly on your site.
Store owners that want to increase traffic to their online store without spending a dime on marketing or ads will love the SEO strategy outlined in this guide.
One of the best SEO tools for keyword research is Ahrefs. It is significantly more reliable than the Google Keyword Planner and more comprehensive too.
Ahrefs crawls search engines and organizes keyword data in a concise and accessible way. It is what I use everyday for content marketing and it is a leader in the industry.
Plus, they offer a 7-day trial for $7 and that is all you need for your keyword research process.
Once you create an account, familiarize yourself with the different sections.
The most important section for the keyword research process will be the "Keywords explorer", where you will get all of the information you need to fully optimize your Shopify site.
Let's use the example of “pencils” so that I can give you a quick tour.
The first two things that you want to pay attention to are the keyword difficulty, which is SEO speak for keyword competition, and search volume.
The search volume refers to the number of monthly searches for your designated keyword.
In general, you want to try to stick to words that have low keyword difficulty and relatively high search volume.
Unless you intend to spend a good portion of your cash flow on AdWords, the best way to get the most visibility for your keywords is to target those with low competition. These will be your most profitable keywords.
Now that we've had a quick tour of my favorite tool for keyword research, let's dig in.
Identify Your Niche Market
A niche market is a specific area of the market you are selling in. It can include any set of details, from the demographics of your buyers, the price range, to the design of your product.
In our example from before, the market is “pencils”. A niche market might be “colored pencils”, “affordable pencils”, or any variation that narrows in focus.
Finding your niche market is just as important as setting up a beautiful theme that actually works.
If you don't find your niche market, then you will be competing with pages and pages of listings from major players in the market, making your store virtually invisible online.
By targeting a specific set of needs within the market, you are more likely to appear on the search results pages. This is perhaps the most important end goal as it is what will bring new organic traffic to your Shopify shop.
So how do we identify a niche market? Through long-tail keywords (aka keyword phrases).
Using Long Tail Keywords
A single keyword, such as “pencils”, will immediately get lost in the sea of search engine results. This is why we must be as specific as possible when targeting a topic or keyword.
Think about it.
Millions of people are searching for simple keywords, such as “pencils” and even “colored pencils”. Just as many results are showing up for those search queries.
Rather than targeting a single keyword, it is ideal to target long-tail keywords.
Though most will say that long-tail keywords are simply phrases with three to five words, which may be true, the term “long-tail” actually refers to the search demand curve. The search demand curve plots all keywords according to their monthly searches.
The long-tail keywords are the words or phrases at the tail end of the curve.
The keywords at this end of the curve are more specific than general keywords and have significantly fewer searches.
So why would you want to use those instead of main keywords at the head of the curve?
Because long-tail keywords make up about 96 percent of total searches per month on any given search engine. To neglect long-tail keywords because of low search volume per month would be to neglect 96 percent of all searches, which is a lot of missed opportunities..
Ahrefs analyzed all keywords in the US and found that 96.54% of the keywords had fewer than 50 searches per month, which puts them at the far end of the search demand curve.
Though there are fewer individual searches for each of these terms, they make up the vast majority of monthly searches. They will also naturally have less competition. This allows you a greater opportunity to rank higher on the search engines results pages.
The trick is in identifying the best long-tail keyword phrases for your target audience.
Let's turn back to one of my favorite SEO tools from earlier, Ahrefs, to get some ideas.
When we click on "Phrase match", we get a list of top search terms for our target keyword, "pencils".
To easily identify the long-tail keywords, first look for low numbers under “KD”, which stands for keyword difficulty. This means that there is low competition for that keyword.
The “volume” refers to how many monthly searches there are for that keyword. The keywords on this list seem to have relatively high search volume, which means that they’re not long-tail keywords.
However, they’re still valuable and can be used as potential cluster topics, which we will cover in the next section. They will also help guide you to your long-tail keywords.
Ideally, you will collect a list of keywords and phrases with low keyword difficulty and wide range of search volume.
The most relevant term on this keyword list is “colored pencils”, which has low competition, high search volume, and is a prime product for an e-commerce store.
When I click on this term, a new page appears with all of the same key metrics that we need to understand whether or not the keyword is valuable.
In this example, I'm going to select "Search suggestions" to get a list of related keywords.
This list of keyword suggestions will show me searches that are related to the keyword.
The new keyword list that comes up gives you a list of long-tail keywords under your initial keyword topic.
Remember that long-tail keywords do not necessarily have a lot of searches per month, but that they still provide the most opportunity to rank for.
Let’s look at another suggested search term, “watercolor pencils”.
If we quickly scan the results for this search term, we notice that there is a high search volume, virtually no competition, and a wide variety of related long-tail keywords in the keyword suggestions.
This is the keyword jackpot. This is your niche market.
The entire process outlined above is the same process that content marketers all over the world use, over and over again, for each target keyword. Allow yourself to explore the keywords like this until you are able to identify at least several dozen, and up to several hundred, that have low keyword difficulty and high search volume.
Once you have your list, it's time to organize.
Using Cluster Topics
By now you've probably realized that this could be a never-ending list of relevant keywords. When this happens, it’s best to throw the keywords into a simple keyword tracking spreadsheet.
You don’t need anything fancy, just an organized tool to keep track of all of this valuable information.
However, rather than focusing on individual keywords or phrases, focus on entire topics that you want your business to rank for. The idea is that your business provides expert knowledge or service for an entire topic, not just a single keyword.
The way that I do this is by organizing the keywords and phrases into cluster topics.
To identify potential topics, look through your keywords for any patterns or trends. Pay attention to potential topics that each keyword could fall under.
Our current list of keywords can help shed some light on this process:
how to blend colored pencils
colored pencils walmart
colored pencils for adults
colored pencils prismacolor
how to use watercolor pencils
watercolor pencils art
best colored pencils
So far, for our "pencils" example, we notice that the results have naturally been clustered into these three areas:
Brand (Walmart, Prismacolor)
Type of pencil (colored pencils, watercolor pencils)
Techniques for using each pencil
This will help you organize your pages according to what users are currently searching for.
For example, in your Shopify store, your cluster topics will most easily be organized by your category pages. In our example, your two main topics would be
Keep in mind as you search through keywords that you are not only searching for keywords for the products that you sell but also for potential blog post topics on your site.
The blog is a place to provide helpful content‒as determined by your list of long-tail keywords‒related to these topics. Within these blog posts, link back to your category pages where you sell colored pencils or watercolor pencils.
While a blog is not absolutely necessary to successfully run a Shopify store, it will help you naturally include keywords on your site. It will also allow you to link back to your category pages in a way that tells search engines that your site offers a depth in content, which improves your chances of ranking higher on the results pages.
Now that you have a general understanding of how to organize your keywords, it's time to figure out the best way to use them.
How to Create Content That Ranks
When it comes to creating content that performs well on search engines, there really is no magic formula.
You must first understand how to organize your keywords, which you should know how to do by now. Then, you must understand what Google wants and place the content on your Shopify site.
1. Imitate the Search Engine Results Page
The easiest way to know what ranks well is to simply look at the current search engine results page (SERP).
When you are creating your own content, first take a look at the existing SERPs to better understand what the search engines favor.
If we search for one of our terms, watercolor pencils, we will get a pretty clear idea of what Google favors.
What you will find is that the results can generally be broken down into these types of content:
This SERP tells me two things.
People are primarily searching for information about how to use watercolor pencils
There is opportunity to make it to the first results page is by properly tagging an image
Based on what we gathered here, informational pages seem to rank best. The best approach for your Shopify site, then, is to offer in-depth information about one of your long-tail keywords from your list.
This, of course, links back to your category page, “watercolor pencils.”
2. Tell Google What Your Page is About
Just because you include a few long-tail keywords on your page, it doesn’t mean that the search engines will automatically pick it up.
Search engines want to know that your page is actually an authority on the topic, as well.
How does it do that?
By crawling your site for related words, phrases, and concepts.
So you need to know which words and phrases the search engines are most likely searching for.
The easiest way to do that is with LSIGraph.
This tool crawls the internet for your designated keyword and creates a list of the most common words or phrases used on the top ranking pages for that keyword.
All of the top ranking pages for your designated keyword are already using those words and phrases, so it makes sense to include them in your content as well.
While it’s not necessary to use all of the results from this list, it helps you understand what search engines might identify as relevant to your particular term.
3. Start Writing Content
Detailed information will come most naturally in your product descriptions. You already learned how to determine what details and keywords users are searching for, so include them when relevant in the product descriptions.
Don’t go overboard, though. There is no reason to stuff keywords into your product descriptions.
You can also provide valuable information at the bottom of your category pages, below your listed products.
An excellent example of an ecommerce site using the space at the bottom of a category page is found on Famous Footwear’s site.
You can see that they placed a small amount of content at the bottom of the page that is super relevant to their category page as well as the searches that their target audience is likely making.
You’ll also notice that they include links in the text, which perfectly demonstrates the cluster topics concept outlined earlier.
You can see another example at Faber-Castell’s category page for watercolor pencils.
And, of course, a shop blog will allow you the most opportunity for creating valuable content that isn’t limited to product descriptions and category pages.
Jerry’s Artarama has a blog that provides informative posts that are relevant to their art supplies, thus providing incredible keyword and linking opportunity.
The idea is that you are providing answers to the searches that your target audience is making. If you cannot naturally do so in the product descriptions or category pages, then a blog is the best place for it.
While a blog is not absolutely necessary for your shop, it is the easiest way to rank higher on the results pages and to bring in the most organic traffic to your website.
Continue through the keyword research process until you exhaust all of your related keywords. Throw the keywords into your keyword spreadsheet and start brainstorming ways to naturally use them on your site.
Product descriptions and blog posts provide great opportunity to utilize the bulk of the keywords on your list.
But do not simply place a few keywords on your site and wait for buyers to find you.
You must actively and unabashedly find them. They are just as eager as you are to complete the transaction because your goods will bring them some amount of joy, in whatever small way.
You believe in the products that you sell and so do lots of other people. All you need to do is lead them to your shop.
And you can.
You learned all of the tools that the professionals use everyday.
As you dig into your keyword research, you will discover lots of hidden opportunities for boosting traffic.
Spend days doing research, not minutes. Generate hundreds of potential keywords, not just a dozen.
All you need to do is help your customers find you. Once you do that, the traffic will come and the sales will follow.
Marquis Matson is an SEO analyst, content marketer, and writer. She specializes in search engine optimization for ecommerce sites in the yoga and wellness niche. She lives as a digital nomad, spending time in Ecuador, California, Thailand, India, Australia, and more. You can find her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or at marquismatson.com.