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When you create your ecommerce site, it’s not enough to follow your gut instincts. Even if you don’t know much about SEO, you’ve probably heard about keywords.

There is a lot of information about how to find and use keywords online. Three are a lot of strong and different opinions on the subject. This is because as search engine algorithms change, the way people search changes too. That also impacts how you use keywords on your ecommerce site.

So before you can create a keyword strategy, you need to learn about keywords and how to use them on your site. 

What is a Focus Keyword? A Complete Guide to Keywords for Ecommerce

Learning about focus keywords is especially important for ecommerce because you have a lot that you’re trying to do with a small amount of space. Your product pages need to help you make sales, so adding a primary keyword can seem like a distraction. It can also help you out because it’s easy to create a lot of duplicate pages for similar products. 

That means that your pages might start to look alike, search engines pay attention to one, but not the others. It might mean that your pages look just like your competitors, which could mean that they get more online traffic than you do. 

If you’re starting to see how much focus keywords can help, let’s get started. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive overview of how SEO works, read this article, Ecommerce SEO.

Selz ecommerce SEO is a great way to build awareness and publicity for your small business

What is a focus keyword?

The term focus keyword is frequently connected to the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress. 

But really, it’s one keyword you want to rank for on one single page of your website.  

When people search for your focus keyword, you want them to find that page of your website. The Yoast plugin reviews WordPress pages to see if the primary keyword appears in the content in a way that makes it easier for search engines to find it. In some ways, this tool uses an older way of looking at SEO. So, in this article, we’re going to look at how to use a focus keyword on your ecommerce site and how to research your focus keywords.

Some call the focus keyword a writing tool because it is an easy way to remember what you are writing about and who you are writing for. Also, you don’t need a keyword for every page of your site. For example, your contact page could be distracting to read if you try to add a keyword. 

Learning about keywords is helpful because everyone asks questions in their own way. Researching and using a primary keyword helps you write content with the words that your customers are most likely to use instead of the words that you are most comfortable with. 

How organic keywords work

Google is the most popular search engine by far. They use a range of tools to narrow search results for each user so that each search pulls up the most useful results. 

A search engine is a sophisticated and complex system. This means that repeating the same keyword twenty times on your landing page isn’t going to help your page rank. 

Instead, search engines look for variations of your primary keyword and the other words on your site together. This helps their algorithm decide if your page is a right match for a search query. 

For example, if you can’t remember the name of the Clutchpoints site for sports scores, you might search for “clutch,” instead. That search will show you listings for the band named Clutch or the B2B ratings site. But if you try again and search for “clutch scores” you’ll still be able to find the Clutchpoints site. This is because the search engine looks for sites that combine both of the words you searched for. 

Clutchpoints shows up easily but if you forget the exact name of the site, google's search algorithm can help figure it out a focus keyword

So, as you research organic keywords, it’s important to remember that search engines aren’t just looking for the exact search term. They are also looking at how all of the words on your page come together. The goal of any search engine is to answer your question in the best possible way, so you keep coming back to them when you have a question. 

Over time, if your site does a good job of answering user questions, your page will show up for more searches that use variations of your keyword. 

For example, say your focus keyword is “car repair costs by model.” Over time, that page may also show up for keywords like car repair, cost to repair cars and auto repair estimator over time. This means more traffic for your site and more site visitors who are looking for the kind of products you offer.

car repair is a competitive keyword and there are many other keywords that you can also use to get to first place in the SERPs

To improve organic traffic to your site, almost every page should have a focus keyword. With a little research, you can find the right keywords for your ecommerce site.

Keyword competition

Now that you have a better understanding of how keywords work, you may want to start selecting keywords and writing website copy right away. But there’s more to think about. 

You don’t want to create content for a keyword you’ll never rank for or spend a lot of time trying to rank for a keyword that no one is searching for. If a keyword is very popular, you’re probably not the only one who wants to rank for that term.  

So, where do you start with keyword research? How do you know which words to pick, and which words your shoppers search for the most? And what will you do with your keywords once you find them? 

Let’s talk about where you’ll add your focus keyword.

Where to use your focus keyword

There are many different pages on your site, so you will need to research and create a list of many keywords. Keyword research is easier when you know how you’ll use your keyword. 

With that in mind, we’re going to review the parts of your site where you’ll add your keywords. We’ll also offer some tips to make them feel natural and easy for both your customers and the search engines they use to find your site.

Places you can use focus keywords include:

  • Page URLs
  • Page Titles
  • Product descriptions
  • Product meta descriptions
  • Category pages
  • Blog headers (H1, H2, H3)
  • Alt text for site, product and blog images

Page URLs

You’ll want to make sure your URLs are easy to understand. It’s best practice to keep your URL at 50-60 characters, so it may make sense to use your keyword here on its own. 

Page Titles

You should be using keywords in your page title and SEO title, ideally at the beginning. For example, if your keyword is “sleep software,” Sleep Software for Busy Executives is a better page title than Try Our Smart Sleep Software. At the same time, your titles should be interesting and easy to read, not a jumble of keywords.

Man sleeping on a couch to illustrate an example of what is a focus keyword

Product descriptions

Optimizing a product description with a focus keyword is tough, but very important. You want your description to explain the value and features of your product, while also enticing your shopper. It should be so long that it won’t get read, but it needs to be long enough to get in the most essential information.

At the same time, search engines use product descriptions to decide what keywords to rank your product page for. 

If you are dropshipping or reselling products it can be tempting to use the manufacturer’s product descriptions, but you will have much better results if you rewrite the descriptions. If you sell hundreds of different products it can be tempting to cut and paste. But, if you want your ecommerce site to be successful in organic search, you’ll want to highlight how each product is unique. 

Product pages are usually better for conversion than landing pages on an ecommerce site because of the immediate option to purchase. So, use a focus keyword on each product page to draw interested shoppers. Optimize the category pages for keywords where the user probably needs to narrow things down further.

Read more: How to Write Product Descriptions that Drive Sales

Product meta descriptions

Meta descriptions can improve your clickthrough rates because Google often scans this information from your product page. If a search engine chooses to include it, it will show up under the title to describe the content of your page. Try to keep your meta description around 160 characters.

Blog headers (H1, H2, H3)

A great way to add keywords to your site that don’t directly relate to your products is to create a blog. Selz makes it simple to add a blog directly to your ecommerce site. 

Selz makes it easy to add a blog to your ecommerce site for great SEO

Alt text for site, product and blog images

Alt text is what a viewer sees if your image doesn’t load. Your alt text should include a brief description of the image while adding keywords and brand information that connect the image to where they are on your page. Alt text should be no more than 125 characters long.  

In this example, the alt text for this image is “Covey’s time management matrix is a wonderful tool for job security.” 

Your ecommerce site might already rank for several organic keywords. If you want to look at your entire site, try this tool

Now that you have an idea of which pages on your site are ranking for organic keywords, you may want to get a better understanding of how your page started ranking for that keyword. 

To get an idea of why a page might be picking up specific keywords, try Keywords Everywhere. Once you upload the Chrome extension, navigate to that page on your site then click the Keywords Everywhere icon in your browser.

Scroll down to Analyze Page Content in the plugin. This will pull up a list of keywords and other information in a separate tab. Next, sort by density. This will show you how many times you’ve used a specific word or phrase on that page. 

Keywords everywhere tool in action for an article about SEO focus keywords

If that keyword is a good one for your site, you can look it up with a tool like Ahrefs or SEMRush to see if you can improve your ranking for that keyword. If the page isn’t getting as much traffic, now you have a better idea of why. 

It could be that the page is full of keywords that are too competitive for you to rank for them or the copy on that page might be repeating keywords that aren’t helpful. Either way, it’s time to optimize! Whether you want to do that work on your own or get some professional help is up to you.

Read more: The Guide to SEO Plans and Pricing

Now that you have a better idea of how keywords work with your ecommerce site, you’re ready to start your keyword research.

SEO focus keyword research

There are many helpful and inexpensive tools to help you conduct research to boost your SEO:

  • Answer The Public 
  • Keywords Everywhere 
  • Moz Keyword Explorer 
  • Ahrefs
  • Google Trends 
  • Google Autocomplete 

These tools are simple to use, but starting can be difficult if you don’t have much experience with this kind of research. This article is a favorite for digging into keyword research: Ecommerce SEO Tips to Drive Your Online Store Traffic 

I also want to share the process I use to find relevant keywords for my writing. Many articles recommend using buyer personas, but if you don’t have a clear target customer, you really just want to see from your buyer’s point of view. This way you can provide them with helpful information about a specific topic in your niche.

There are many ways you can do this:

  • Look at reviews of your products
  • Look at competitor review comments
  • Visit niche forums and group conversations online

Ask questions like your shoppers do

Next, write out all the questions you would ask if you were experiencing a similar problem or trying to find a similar product.

As I mentioned before, every person asks questions in a slightly different way, so you’ll want to type your keyword into Google and scan the results. What questions are people asking most often? How are the articles on that page answering the questions? Also, be sure to look at the search phrases at the bottom of the page.

After this research, you should have a long list of phrases that you may want to use as keywords for your products or blogs for your ecommerce site. But it’s important to keep looking.

Sometimes a phrase shows up on Google, but the phrase is so competitive that it will be difficult for you to get anywhere. Other times another way of asking the question makes more sense for your audience.

Start using keyword tools

This is when I start using the keyword tools above to check what the keyword volume and difficulty is. It’s important to remember that these numbers can change every day. This means it’s better to look for a range of difficulty, maybe 1-10 if you’re just starting out, and a range for volume. 

It is tempting to go for the keywords with the highest volume, but that could be a mistake. High keyword volume could bring your site a lot of traffic, but it might not bring you visitors who want to make a purchase. 

For example, say you’re writing a book about writing, and you want to sell PDF writing plans for aspiring novelists. One of your questions is “How do I make a writing plan?”

So, you’ll start with Google. As you type you notice that not many people are asking “how to make a writing plan”, so try to search for a shorter or similar term like “writing plan”:

Google search for writing plan for an article about what is a focus keyword from Selz ecommerce

This pulls up many different options. But how do you know which is more in demand? And which one makes more sense in relation to the product you are selling, writing plan template or writing planner?

Next, you’ll pull up Google Trends. Here you can compare the two keywords and see which one is more popular.

Google trends for focus keyword research

This tool doesn’t offer exact numbers though, which can be frustrating. So, head to the Moz Keyword Explorer and Ahrefs. 

Writing plan keyword research as you learn what is a focus keyword

It looks like writing planner has a higher search volume and isn’t too competitive. This is a great focus keyword!

For your last step, you’ll want to search for your chosen keyword and see what kind of results come up. If you want to promote a product and the search results are all educational articles you may have a hard time ranking for this keyword. You’ll also want to look at the types of content that pop up when you search. Images, videos and slide presentations are all popular online content.

Once you have a process that feels right to you, you’ll continue to research until you find the right keyword for every product and every page on your ecommerce site.

At this point, you may be reading through this process and thinking it looks pretty complicated and time-consuming. And it is!  

For some people, mostly SEO experts, this process is really fun and rewarding. And there is a lot of evidence that it gets great results. But if you’re positive that this isn’t for you, there are experts who can give you a free SEO audit or take care of SEO focus keyword research for your ecommerce site. 

With a few focus keyword tips your small business ecommerce SEO can get noticed

A few more keyword tips

Now that you have everything you need to understand and use keywords on your ecommerce site, we want to review a few final tips so you can make the most of your keywords.

1. Research your keywords before you start writing

If you write your post or product description and then start to stick keywords in, it can make your writing feel awkward and forced. Start with an outline of what you want to say, then do your research and make writing your final step.

2. Don’t use your focus keyword on more than one page

It’s natural to repeat some words on your site, but try to use each keyword only once, or you’ll risk something called keyword cannibalization. In this situation, you’ll be competing with yourself on the search engines.

3.  Don’t overuse your keyword

An old technique in SEO is maintaining a high keyword density on a page or post to improve ranking. But keyword stuffing is also a common spam technique. If you add one keyword too many times or add too many keywords to your site it can affect not only the ranking of that post but also the ranking for your entire ecommerce site. 

4. There is an art to choosing the perfect focus keyword

It’s a combination of hard work, persistence and luck. But with some time and effort, you can answer the most urgent questions of your audience, and gain their trust and purchasing power in the process.

About the author

Jana Rumberger

Jana is a writer and Content Manager at Selz. She has expertise in ecommerce strategy, selling products online, and small business solutions. Jana combines diverse experience in education, design, and manufacturing to craft engaging content.

In addition to her writing, she is a visual artist and foodie in Portland, Oregon.