Keywords, the terms people use to search for information online, have changed a lot in recent years. With instant search and better online search skills, people are much less likely to search with just one or two main keywords as they did in the early days of the internet.
What’s more, search engines are better able to identify a searcher’s intentions, and they no longer rely so heavily on exact matches between the things people type into the search box and the words on your website.
But it’s still important to use the terms your customers search with. The image above asking, “How do robots understand English?” is from Christy Harrington’s poster on SEO. The answer is — way better than they used to, but still not as well as human beings. Make it easier for the search engines to align what you have to offer with what your customers are searching for, and they’ll be more likely to make good choices — like offering your website to your customers.
This means that choosing keywords for your ecommerce website, or the ecommerce section of your company website, has to be based on what your customers look for.
That’s not always the same as what you might look for, or as what you imagine your customers look for. You might expect people to search for your brand, or for the generic term for your product, but consumers often begin with a search that describes their problem or their felt need, rather than the solution for it.
One place to look for information on what people search for is Google Trends. For the example below, we typed in the terms we expected people might search if they were looking for remedies for joint pain.
We can see that searches for “glucosamine” — the green line — were high in years past, but that they’ve been overtaken by searches for “joint pain” — the blue line. Our other ideas, including brand names of PTC joint pain remedies as well as phrases like “joint pain medicine” and “joint pain treatment,” didn’t get enough search volume to show up on the chart.
We see similar results for other searches, too: people will search by name for a trendy item they’ve heard about, but most often will begin their search with their perceived need or problem, rather than with a product.
This is where your blog or other content comes in, bringing searchers to information about your goods, which you can link to your catalog items.
Once consumers have decided on a solution to their problem, they’ll search for the name of a specific item or product. Chances are good that they will see Google Shop ads, Adwords ads, and Amazon before they see the manufacturer’s website — let alone a smaller company offering. Those who have made a decision and are ready to buy may click through to a familiar shop and make their purchase, but the search engine results page gives sellers one more chance to lure shoppers.
In the example below, these listings are below Amazon and the manufacturer, but their promises of free shipping and bodybuilder reviews might entice a searcher to click through.
So your website should be prepared to welcome searchers with a variety of content:
- information for people searching for a solution or ideas related to a specific need
- reviews of products
- comparisons of products
- specific information for products
- products by brand name
- product ingredients, specs, or features
If we’re offering supplements to ease joint pain, we might include the following:
- articles on joint pain causes and treatments
- discussions of glucosamine’s potential for joint pain treatment
- comparisons of brands like 3-in-1 Joint Formula and MegaRed Joint Care
- testimonials or customer reviews of products carried
- detailed information (not the manufacturer’s description) on the products carried
This type of content will naturally include the keywords people search for, as well as providing useful information for visitors. Pay attention to the meta descriptions of your pages to get the best effect on search engine results pages.
And of course, put the visitor experience at the top of your list of priorities.