A Guide To A Successful Ecommerce SEO Strategy

A Guide To A Successful Ecommerce SEO Strategy

By Guerrilla

Welcome! In our guide to ecommerce SEO, we’ll be diving into the marketing strategies that SEO experts use to drive traffic, and profit, to their own ecommerce sites.

Introduction

SEO is all about strategy. It’s about picking your target and tailoring your site in order to get the highest SERP rankings possible across as many internet searches as you can. 

This is a surefire way to maximize sales, which becomes all the more important when working with an ecommerce website.

When doing SEO for an ecommerce site, the stakes can be more intimate. This is especially the case if it’s your own site with your own sales on the line. 

When you’re not a merc working for another site or an affiliate hawking other people’s goods, it can make you afraid to change up your strategy since you’re likely working for your own profit, not for a pre-arranged commission. 

Paralysis by analysis is real, and it’s an easy trap to stumble into when creating an SEO strategy for your own store.

If that sounds like you, you’re going to want to read our guide. We’ve kept things simple to make for an easy read while giving you all the info you need to craft a capable ecommerce strategy. 

Below we’ve covered what ecommerce is and how ecommerce SEO is different from standard SEO practices, as well as what you should or shouldn’t do to find success.

How Is SEO For Ecommerce Different?

1. How Is SEO For Ecommerce Different

If you have your eyes on ecommerce SEO, the chances are that you’ve got a knowledge base of standard SEO practices, but there are some fundamental differences between the two that even the best of us can ignore. Let’s break down common SEO and ecommerce SEO to find where they differ.

What we’d call standard SEO could be considered a catch-all term for all Search Engine Optimization attempts, including those for ecommerce, with more specific SEO applications having their own rule sets and ways of climbing the relevant SERPs. 

If you’re here, you already know what SEO does, it helps your site appear towards the top of results pages where all the clicking is happening. Most SEO is practiced in aid of site monetization, whether that’s an affiliate operation or, you guessed it, ecommerce.

When we say that SEO aims to make your site hit the top of a results page, we mean it. The internet landscape has only gotten more and more competitive in the last decade and being able to hit that first page just isn’t enough for many webmasters out there, you need to be at the very top. 

The CTR drop-off is quite dramatic and that linked study comes from 2010-2011 when the online population was smaller than it is today, so even though everyone will get a bigger slice of the pie nowadays it’s still that top spot that gets all the gold. 

Since then, we’ve seen the explosion of mobile smartphones that can deliver your site into the hands of thousands… If you’ve optimized your site for mobile-friendly use, that is.

SEO can be a competent marketing strategy when used correctly, using Google’s (or your search engine of choice) algorithms to put your site in front of other people for relatively little overhead. 

Without SEO, you’d instead need to rely on PPC or paid advertisements that can be costly to set up and bear inconsistent revenue streams.

So, with the above info in mind, what does ecommerce SEO do differently from other types of SEO? Well, we’ve condensed what ecommerce SEO is and how it’s different into a few handy points.

  • First, ecommerce SEO is simply SEO for ecommerce sites. It’s also called shop SEO and is essentially where you try to rank a site that facilitates the sales of a product or service directly. This means you, as the webmaster, would likely make most if not all of the profit.
  • We have time to go into more detail later, but ecommerce SEO places more importance on certain pages like category pages, for example. You want to target people who are looking for a specific product and the vague category of products that you stock.
  • In the same vein, the site structure is even more important. You’re not an affiliate giving users directions to the nearest retailer, you are that retailer inviting them into your store to browse, and there’s no easier way to lose a sale than to have a confusing site layout.
  • The homepage is even more important. It’s the front lobby of your store, not a blog, so it must be an efficient but welcoming and informational landing page that gets clicks, closes sales, and creates loyal customers out of random strangers.
  • One aspect of ecommerce SEO that’s the same as other sales-generating SEO practices is product page optimization. This means your site should have clean, convincing, and informative product pages that catch a lot of traffic.
  • Unlike other forms of SEO, ecommerce sites will be closing sales themselves. This means your cart and checkout functions should be airtight. This maximizes your conversion rate and thus the profit you make from those sales, and who doesn’t like making more money?

Key Strategies For A Successful Ecommerce SEO Strategy

2. Key Strategies For A Successfull Ecommerce SEO Strategy

It’s good to know how ecommerce SEO differs from other types of SEO and how you should pay attention to different parts of your site, but how do you do that well

We’ll walk you through the entire process right here, so you can have a stable foundation on which to build a successful ecommerce strategy.

We’ve condensed the journey down into eight easy-to-read points, so give it a read or even follow along in real-time as you edit your site and make it the best competitor it can possibly be.

1. Keyword Research

We start out simple enough with some keyword research. 

Before taking a shot, you need to line up your sites, and that’s exactly what keyword research is to an SEO campaign. 

For ecommerce research, we’d advise you to pay special attention to three areas.

  • Find keywords to be used for your homepage and product pages. Homepage keywords ensure your site appears in more vague and directionless searches while product page keywords target those who are ready to buy.
  • You can use long-tail keywords on blogs, especially one owned by you, to help your ecommerce site rank. Hit local exact match search volume and low difficulty, there’s no need to go toe-to-toe with the big dogs if you can avoid them.
  • Don’t target the same pages with the same keywords, A.K.A keyword cannibalization. You have enough work to do without you self-sabotaging your SEO by getting too over-eager with keyword use. A spreadsheet is great for managing your keywords and where they’re targeting.

2. Site Architecture

We’ve alluded to it already, but the layout of your site is important in creating an effective ecommerce business. 

By layout, we don’t just mean the design of each page but how those pages interconnect via internal links to take customers to where they want to go. 

Ecommerce sites tend to be bigger and offer products directly, so you want people to get to the goods easily and make their sales. 

3. On-Page SEO

This is the bedrock of most SEO campaigns but there are some areas you’ll want to pay specific attention to if you want your ecommerce site to get off the ground. 

First, content is king

There is a demonstrable edge from having content rather than copy and pasting relevant text to your product pages, and it’s much better for the topical relevancy that the giants like Google are moving towards.

In your content, don’t overstuff keywords and kill your SEO campaign before it even begins. There is such a thing as too many keywords and it can be fatal for your site.

Add content to your category page, in particular, that’s where many e-commerce sites tend to sag. By adding informative content and ensuring all internal links are relevant, logical, and accurate, you can get your category page ranking to sweep up vague product searches too.

Adding words that exist in the sales lexicon, as in words like “deal,” “buy” or “shipping” or “review,” are great for generating long-tail traffic to your site, more specifically your product pages. 

You want your site’s category and individual product pages to rank so that you mop up all the customers out there, from those who know what they want to those who are just browsing without direction.

4. Technical SEO

Yes, backlinks. 

Technical SEO is important for all kinds of SEO and that means you’ll need a link profile for your ecommerce site. 

As we said, ecommerce sites tend to be bigger, so simple math and probability dictate you’ll have more technical SEO issues. 

This isn’t all inside baseball either, technical SEO profiles often decide which sites rank over one another when all else is equal.

You want that edge, so iron out all technical SEO issues so you’re not falling at the last hurdle. Run technical SEO audits like a madman and especially when you’ve been building out a new section of your site. 

Trim your site like a fine bonsai tree and tie the branches so that no ugly technical issues sabotage your site’s performance.

Two of the most reputable tools you can find in the SEO community are SEMrush and Ahrefs, so check them out for all your site auditing needs.

5. Local SEO

This one is important if your site has a physical store somewhere.

If you haven’t already, you’ll want to let Google get real familiar with your business.

That way you’ll enter the search engine’s business database which will help your placement for local SERPs. 

If I’m looking for the nearest shoe store, Google will want to recommend me the one four blocks away over one the next town over, even if that competitor’s site outperforms yours in typical SEO.

5. Local SEO

Go tell Google all about your business to reap the full benefits of having a local presence.

The local equivalent for backlinks when optimizing your local SEO presence is citations. Start with the Yellow Pages, or your local equivalent, and then see if newspapers and magazines can get you a shoutout in the local media environment. 

They’ll also have an online presence nowadays, so see if you can’t negotiate links to their local websites to build authority. It’s just like link building but you’re more likely to know or have had contact with the people you’re reaching out to, improving your chances of success.

6. Content Marketing

6. Content Marketing

You’re familiar with the online world, you are part of it, after all, so you should know that you have endless opportunities to become familiar with your ideal client base. 

Depending on what your ecommerce site sells, join online communities formed around these products. 

Specialized forum sites are great but there are massive sites like Reddit whose entire purpose is to unite people across a wide variety of interest bases that’ll surely encompass whatever it is you’re selling.

Once you’re in, what do you do next? Here’s a handy point-by-point guide:

  • After you’ve joined the various communities where your product is popular, scout out the words they use. Learn their language like a foreign infiltrator, picking up which words and phrases they use most often and the contexts they use them in. We’re sure you see where this is going.
  • That’s right, you just found some handy new keywords to play with. Create content – good content, as in your best content – aimed straight at these words and phrases. Raise the bar and watch your traffic count rise with it.
  • Rinse and repeat! You’ll run out of terms at some point but doing this when starting up a new operation is the great jumpstart that you’ll need to get the ball rolling. Also, if your ecommerce site is based in a field where the terminology changes or gets updated, like tech for example, then you can repeat this strategy whenever some newfangled technological term becomes the talk of the town.

7. Link Building

We’ve already established this is going to be necessary, so let’s get it out of the way and look at what ecommerce link building looks like.

Most SEO folks hate this part because it’s the imperfect combination of tedium and rejection, but there are definitive ways to improve your success rate.

The usual applies, stay away from low-quality sites and especially content farm links.

Google doesn’t take kindly to these sites and you don’t want to become an algorithmic leper by associating with them. 

7. Link Building

We’ve practiced the barter system since civilization has begun, so offer something nice to quality sites and see if they offer a nice inbound link back, it’s that simple in concept.

HARO is a great resource for finding people in need of a site to link to. It’s Help A Reporter Out and, by registering as a source, you can communicate with journalists and negotiate a deal that’ll be beneficial for you both. You get your link while journalists get a source for a piece they’re writing.

Outdated resources are also great for redirecting expired domains and link-heavy pages towards your own site. This is its own skill that requires training, but it’s possible to root out domains that have expired or been moved. 

Grabbing up parked pages and redirecting them to your site is a surefire way to expand your traffic net. They’re also covert, your competitors can’t see these redirections easily, making them the perfect way to gain a much-needed edge.

8. Measure SEO Success

8. Measure SEO Success

Just like how you need keyword research to plan where your shot is going, you need to see if it actually hit afterward. 

Running a site involves a lot of tinkering, so it can be difficult to see if that one change you made alongside twenty others is what’s responsible for that SEO spike you saw on the weekend. 

You’re going to need tools that measure this stuff, otherwise, you’re throwing phrases and keywords at the wall and you can’t even see what sticks.

The obvious candidate for this is Google Analytics, they’ll get you an accurate reading on your traffic and the engagement that the traffic is giving to you. 

This means you can see how many people have found their way to your site but, more importantly, see any sticking points where engagement is concerned. 

Filtering traffic by landing page and location is also great for optimizing on-page and local SEO performances. 

Click-Through Rate (CTR) is the important metric to get from your engagement stats, too, since it’ll show how many have liked what they saw and chose your site to click on. 

What’s more important, you can break these down by their queries, the country the searches came from, and what devices they used, which can all be used to tailor your content towards those demographics in the future.

The traffic you’re getting will depend on your search rankings and finding these out can be rough because of the personalization that Google adds to your searches. 

Don’t search yourself, instead look to SEMrush, Ahrefs, and other sites that provide a Google Search Console for a flat and unbiased view of where your site is ranking. 

Even more important than clicks are conversions and the revenue you’re getting from those conversions, assuming you’re running a for-profit business.

10 Common Ecommerce SEO Mistakes To Avoid

When it comes to SEO of all types, you want to avoid mistakes like the plague. It’s possible to stay afloat and adapt your strategy if you aren’t doing the right things, but doing the wrong things is a one-way ticket to search irrelevancy.

1. Inadequate product descriptions, titles, and images

Would you believe that there are people in the ecommerce game who have inadequate or downright inaccurate descriptions for their products?

That’s not you, right? Because that’s a great way to kill your SEO rankings. 

Everything in your content, from the titles, images, and especially the product descriptions, should all be accurate and above board.

Tell me, how can you rank for relevancy when your content is irrelevant to the products you’re selling?

9. Inadequate product descriptions, titles, and images

On the more technical side, there are a bunch of handy tips that can help you rank a page over other ecommerce sites. 

Look at title tags and meta descriptions, as in the 160 characters of text that’ll appear directly under your site on a SERP. Those are the first words potential customers will read, so make them good.

Try to have high-quality product images, obviously, but it goes deeper than that. You should keep file size low so that your site will load promptly and without any resizing issues. 

There are image formats that are great for web performance without having to sacrifice quality like WebP, so maybe look into using images in that format from now on.

2. Using duplicate content for product descriptions

10. Using duplicate content for product descriptions

Having bad product descriptions also includes wearing out the copy and paste shortcuts on your keyboard. 

Don’t be that guy who duplicates content descriptions for their products, it’s once again antithetical to relevancy ranking since you create a soup of shared descriptions, making no individual product page shine when its keywords are looked up. 

Keep it unique to get the most out of your product page SERPs. If you have a lot of similar products, ask yourself if you can combine them. 

On sites that sell products, they’ll often have all colors and variants of the product share a page where the customer selects which versions they want. This is much better for ranking and standing out when Google does its crawls.

Keep checking your website scripts. That seems like obvious general maintenance advice, but it’s the simplest and most foundational advice that tends to be forgotten. 

This is because you can get away with it, for a time. Your site won’t crash and burn if you don’t remove that bunk code that controls a plug-in you deleted last month, but it will harm your site’s load time. This tends to happen with ecommerce sites because of how much larger they are.

3. Mishandling out of stock pages

Handling in-stock pages is going to be great 80% of the time, but what do you do when an item is out of stock?

Slapping the words “out of stock” up there and calling it a day isn’t the best solution.

That’s called poor UX design.

So, what should you put there?

  • Provide an ETA on when the product will be available again, so your customers know when to come back.
11. Mishandling out of stock pages
  • Add an option to notify your users when that product is back in stock. Nudges like this are great for reminding your customers to take action and close a deal, and it’s a great customer service gesture that they’re sure to appreciate.
  • If the product isn’t available for the foreseeable future, find a similar product, and recommend that. An actually similar product would be nice since many sites think they can get away with improper product recommendations. This is a UX problem dealing with humans, not the almighty algorithm, so make sure that your suggested product is what your human customers will be looking for as a potential alternative.
  • During one of those site audits that we should be doing regularly, you’ll want to flush out any products that aren’t in your inventory and won’t come back. You don’t want them cluttering your site and baiting customers where there’s no product to be sold, and so no money to be made.

4. Poor website architecture

We’ve already talked about how poor website architecture is a problem, so let’s go into some more detail about what you shouldn’t do when building out your site. 

You’re juggling more pages than most webmasters if you own an ecommerce site, so you should put your UX hat on and figure out how to balance a pleasing and logical site format with SEO performance.

If you’re doing it right, one shouldn’t really come at the detriment of the other.

Splitting your products into categories and subcategories is handy. Even if you stock just one kind of product, you’ll want to split it between the classic sub-categories of gender or cost, or both, whichever is applicable to what you’re offering.

For example, you can separate jackets into men’s and women’s, and that’s before categorizing all the different types of jackets you stock. 

You can even add sub-categories for brand, material, color, you name it. This is easy with clothes, of course, but even with tech, you can separate by brand, cost, and whether they offer the newest tech features (think 4K for monitors and TVs) that’s trending.

Focus on what makes logical sense to you, a human, at least we hope. Don’t chase keywords, the purpose of the categorization is to reel people in once they’ve already gotten to your site. 

They’ll get to your site via keywords and how they rank on SERPs, but once they’re in your site they’ll look for neat categorizations that appeal to their logic and sense of orderliness.

5. Poor URL structure

Good URL structure needs to come hand-in-hand with a sensical website architecture for you to get the most out of your site.

All the new categories and subcategories can make new URLs that need managing.

Following our jacket example from earlier, say you’re the proud webmaster of www.exemplarjackets.com, a nonexistent site. 

You have jackets, obviously, but you can’t present a pile of unsorted jackets to your consumer base.

13. Poor URL structure

Watch how the URLs should progress as you add different product filters to narrow down your jacket-wearing options.

  • www.exemplarjacket.com/jackets – This is what we’d start with as a customer looks at the jackets on sale.
  • www.exemplarjacket.com/jackets?size=L – Then we add a size filter because they’ve chosen L.
  • www.exemplarjacket.com/jackets?size=L%material=denim – Now we’ve added that it’s a denim jacket they’re looking for.
  • www.exemplarjacket.com/jackets?size=L%material=denim%color=black – And now they’ve specified they want dark denim, so it’s been added to the URL chain.
  • www.exemplarjacket.com/jackets?size=L%material=denim%color+black%price=low-to-high – Finally, before making a purchase, they’ve sorted by price to get the most cost-effective option. 

The order of each addition to this link isn’t concrete, it’ll change depending on the order the filters are applied. You see what this means, right?

 Just one page can have tens of variants, if not a hundred, and this is why ecommerce sites end up being very big. You need to have canonical tags otherwise your SEO game is done. 

By adding canonicals to these URLs, the search engine crawlers won’t count all of the different variants. Instead, they’ll only count the root product page and leave the rest to be explored by potential buyers.

Make sure your H1 headings and title tags also have the model numbers of any products you’re supplying, as well as the brand name if that’s relevant. 

Be as specific as possible so both the crawlers and customers who know exactly what they want can find your site.

6. Keyword stuffing product pages

14. Keyword stuffing product pages

Keyword stuffing dilutes the quality of the keywords you are targeting and ranking for too many keywords across too few pages will limit the SERP potential that your site has.

It’s a common SEO mistake since we’re told that keywords are great, but as we said, there is such a thing as too many.

You’d be surprised how many sites make their pages literally unreadable in the pursuit of an extra five, or twenty-five, keywords on that page. 

Don’t try too hard, it’ll turn away both your customers and your search engine. 

It backfires in a spectacular way, increasing the bounce rates from your page and attacking your site’s SEO, harming your relationship with Google’s crawling algorithms, so you’re losing favor with the two parties that you want to keep on your page.

7. Not using product schema markup

Product schema markup is often neglected, especially by newcomers who might be intimidated by it. 

The images you use on your site should be easily findable via Google Image Search functions since you never know where your next customer will stumble upon your site from.

Expanding your options is only a good thing.

It’s pretty simple, just make sure that the image filename and its alt tags are all specific and descriptive, and of course relevant to the product itself, and it should make it easier.

If your jacket images are called image001.jpg or some other vague and useless title, then you have a problem. 

People will find their way to your site through images and ranking for image searches using schema markup is a great consolation prize for when you can’t quite crack the relevant keywords or phrases.

8. Using tabs or accordion content

16. Using tabs or accordion content

When you’re formatting the product pages of your site, check the product descriptions as well as the specs and accompanying reviews if there’s material there to be displayed.

Is it all laid bare, or is it collapsed?

This has been a debate between UX and SEO specialists for quite some time. From the UX perspective, collapsing these looks much neater and is better for the eyes of your customers. 

The SEO perspective, however, has dealt with Google in the past and know that material not immediately visible on-page may be forgotten.

Google’s track record on this, like with many things, has been mired and contradictory. Since 2016 they have said that everything is counted after saying that it wasn’t before then, but some SEO case studies have shown an increase in organic traffic when drop-downs aren’t used.

You’ll need to decide where you fall in this debate, we can’t do that for you. 

What we can say is that a hover drop-down menu seems to be a happy compromise between SEO value and UX minimalism since it’s ostensibly counted by Google yet isn’t visible until customers show interest by moving their cursor over the drop-down trigger.

9. Using dynamically generated content

Organic searches rank static pages more consistently, building up a cumulative traffic base that you just don’t get with dynamically-generated content. 

Besides, the more unique pages you have, the better, so it’s a good habit to acquire early on.

Don’t worry about having too many, just get into the groove and let the number of static pages grow as your site grows organically.

It also makes for a more solid site structure as you can organize the static pages around categories and other similarities they have. 

17. Using dynamically generated contentt

For example, dynamically-generated content in a subcategory won’t be properly linked to the parent category, meaning that the subcategory won’t rank with the power of that parent behind it.

If you already have an established ecommerce site with many dynamically-generated pages, you may want to reconsider a URL migration. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but your lack of static content could be what’s holding you back, and it’ll benefit you in the long-term.

10. Focusing only on classical SEO ranking factors

Finally, ecommerce SEO is different from standard SEO, that’s the premise of this entire guide, so why would you treat your ecommerce site like any other SEO project?

Being hyper-focused on titles, H1s, or query rankings is fine, but you should be looking even deeper than that. 

You should constantly be asking why users are clicking your site over another person’s, and vice versa. 

With ecommerce, you’re providing a product, so it’s not as simple as “mine was the first site they saw when the page loaded.”

Product range and pricing are usually where it’s at. Become obsessed with your closest competitors, above and below you, to see what they’re doing right and wrong in comparison to your site.

SEO tools and algorithm pandering will help you out but remember that SEO was always about keeping users on your page instead of someone else’s. 

Sometimes the edge you need isn’t found in tech jargon on your site’s back-end, but in good, old-fashioned sleuthing of your competition.

Discussing Ecommerce SEO Case Study Success Trends

Fortunately, we have a wealth of information to draw from when looking at how the big players conduct their own ecommerce SEO. 

Think about it, every large retailer has made the leap online over the past two decades and, while they may have name recognition on the streets, every SERP is a free-for-all where even smaller sites can edge out larger, bigger-budget retailers as long as the right SEO strategy is implemented.

That said, we’re not going to get into case study specifics here. We’re going to go over the general trends that we’re seeing in big-name ecommerce SEO, because who better to learn from than the retail industry giants?

  • It’s apparent that even the largest ecommerce sites out there have trouble with two things, technical SEO and on-page SEO.
  • On the technical SEO side, even the largest sites were reluctant to have long redirect chains and Hreflang integration into their sites, which they seem to be being punished for when compared to smaller sites that have a tighter technical SEO profile.
  • As for on-page SEO, the ecommerce giants still struggled with H-tag structure and sub-300 word landing pages, which is a big no-no. Perfect on-page SEO is crucial to ecommerce success. There were also some messy URLs that could do with trimming, so make sure that your URLs are neat and easy to understand by both people and the algorithm.
  • Surprisingly, page speed is a problem for larger retailers on the desktop. It would seem that attempts to optimize for mobile have led some retailers to neglect their desktop speed performance when both are key to maximizing site success.
  • The best performers seemed to stay on top by virtue of many inbound links tied to quality content, which is all the more reason to employ a rigorous but above-board link building strategy.

What to take from these points? Keep your technical and on-page SEO in order, no matter what. Nothing gives you more of an advantage over larger competitors than a neater SEO profile.

Get Hreflang if you need to and clean up those URLs, try to have at least 300 words of content on your landing pages that are informative without being dense. 

The rest of your content should be good, that’s a surefire way to get incoming links. Try to load your site as fast as possible on both mobile and desktop, letting one suffer over the other is unacceptable and it will cost you.

Summary

That’s all we have to say for now. We’re sure the landscape for ecommerce sites will change moving into the future but we’re confident you’ve got it down from here. There’s a lot of plates you need to spin, so refer back to us when you get stuck and you should find something that can help.

We can do you one better, actually, here’s a point by point breakdown of our entire guide:

  • Optimize all of your content for keywords, but not too much, while creating unique and original content that isn’t duplicated or dynamically-generated. Keyword stuffing suffocates SERP potential and can offend customers, so leave well alone after you’ve ranked for the terms you were targeting.
  • When an item goes out of stock, give its page some TLC. Add as much info as you can to draw customers back when it’s in stock, which you should give an approximation of. If you have the means, set up notifications for them. If the product isn’t coming back, then recommend them a similar product and clean out any unnecessary code corresponding to the unavailable product.
  • Decide product categories and subcategories based on UX, not suspected keyword volume, and use canonical tags to avoid a meltdown in the Google indexing algorithm that’ll only obfuscate your useful site pages and harm SEO performance.
  • Use product markup schema so that image-finding tools can find your products and display them properly, increasing traffic by this means. Remember this option when you can’t crack a keyword or phrase, it could be a consolation prize that your competitors haven’t thought of.
  • Use hovering menus to get the best of both tabbed and un-tabbed content. It looks good from the UX point of view while not sabotaging your page in Google’s search rankings, so it keeps the SEO side of things running smoothly. Descriptions, reviews, specs, slap a hover-triggered drop-down menu on all of them if you don’t want to have them on the page permanently.
  • Use good old competitive tactics like research on your competitors’ prices and product ranges. Offer more than what they are for less where it’s financially viable. Combining old school market aggression with an airtight SEO strategy can be the key to edging out your opponents and reaping the spoils.

Here’s What We Learned About Google Searches

Here’s What We Learned About Google Searches

We analyzed 306M keywords to understand the types of queries that people use in Google search.

Specifically, we looked at keyword distribution, query length, keyword difficulty, CPC, SERP features, and more.

Using data from DataForSEO and Ahrefs, we uncovered some very interesting findings.

Now it’s time to share what we found.

Here is a Summary of Our Key Findings:

1. 91.8% of all search queries are long tail keywords. However, long tails are responsible for a relatively small percentage of total search volume (3.3%).

2. Search demand is concentrated in a small percentage of high volume terms. In fact, the top 500 most popular search terms make up 8.4% of all search volume. And the top 2000 keywords are responsible for 12.2% of all searches conducted in Google.

3. The average keyword gets 989 searches per month. However, the median search volume for a keyword is only 10 searches per month. Which shows that low-volume long tail keywords are extremely prevalent in Google search.

4. 14.1% of searches are in the form of a question.

5. “How” keywords are the most common type of question keyword. Followed by “what”, “where” and “who”.

6. The mean CPC of a keyword is $0.61. Search terms related to finance and real estate have the highest average CPC.

7. The average keyword is 1.9 total words.

8. Not surprisingly, longer keywords get searched for less often than shorter keywords. In fact, keywords with 5+ words get an average of 10x fewer searches than search terms that are 1-3 words in length.

9. Industries with the highest search volume are “News and Media”, “Internet & Telecom”, “Arts & Entertainment” and “Consumer Electronics”.

10. Popular keywords have significantly higher keyword difficulty scores. In fact, each time search volume doubles, keyword difficulty goes up by 1.63.

11. SERP features are extremely common in Google search. In fact, only 2.4% of all Google search results don’t contain at least one SERP feature.

12. The most common SERP features present in Google are People Also Ask (19.5%), image packs (19.4%), video results (17.9%) and Top Stories (15.5%).

We have detailed data and information on our findings below.

According to our analysis of 306M US keywords, the vast majority of search terms (91.8%) are long tail keywords.

91 Percent Of Search Terms Are Long Tail Keywords

However, we also discovered that long tails don’t account for a large percentage of search volume.

Head Terms Account For The Vast Majority Of Search Volume

In fact, all long tails combined only account for 3.3% of total search volume.

In other words, we found that most keywords tend to be long tails. But even when added together, long tails only make up a small part of global search demand.

(For this study we considered any keyword with 1-100 searches per month as “long tail”).

This finding is largely in-line with a keyword analysis conducted by Ahrefs earlier this year.

Like the Ahrefs analysis, we defined long tail keywords as any keyword getting less than 100 searches per month. The exact numbers differed due to differences in sample size and analysis. But we both found that a) long tails account for most keywords and b) long tail keywords represent a relatively small slice of the search demand pie.

Key Takeaway: 91.8% of keywords are long tail keywords. However, even when added together, long tails only account for 3.3% of overall search demand.

Search Demand is Largely Concentrated Among a Relatively Small Number of Keywords

A relatively small number of search terms make up a large percentage of total search demand.

Specifically, the 500 most popular search terms make up 8.4% of all search volume.

Search Demand Is Largely Concentrated Among A Relatively Small Number Of Keywords

It’s not surprising to see that monthly search volume is not evenly distributed. But we were surprised to see how skewed search behavior is towards a small number of search terms.

For example, when including misspellings, 2-3% of all searches conducted in Google are for 4 keywords: YouTube, Facebook, Amazon and Google.

Most popular keywords in Google (ranked by % of all searches)
Keyword Volume
YouTube 0.546%
Facebook 0.530%
Amazon 0.407%
Gmail 0.296%
Google 0.271%
Weather 0.164%
Yahoo 0.161%
Ebay 0.161%
Walmart 0.145%
Yahoo Mail 0.143%
Netflix 0.139%
Google Docs 0.100%
Translate 0.098%
USPs tracking 0.093%
News 0.091%
Craigslist 0.091%
Fox News 0.091%
CNN 0.083%
Calculator 0.073%
Hotmail 0.064%
Roblox 0.063%
Target 0.063%
Instagram 0.057%
MSN 0.057%
Trump 0.054%
Twitter 0.054%
Bank of America 0.051%
New Year 0.051%
Maps 0.050%
NFL 0.044%
UPS Tracking 0.042%
Pinterest 0.041%
Linkedin 0.041%
ESPN 0.038%
Disney Plus 0.037%
Etsy 0.036%
USPs 0.035%
Finance 0.033%
AOL 0.029%
Women’s World Cup 2019 0.026%
NBA 0.024%
You 0.023%
Amazon Prime Video 0.022%
Internet Speed Test 0.021%
Bed Bath and Beyond 0.021%
Ikea 0.020%
Dow 0.018%
Food Near Me 0.018%
United Airlines 0.018%
Speedtest 0.017%

This finding is interesting for two reasons. First, it shows that a large amount of Google searches are navigational.

Second, it demonstrates the popularity of the four dominant internet brands compared to all other brands.

Key Takeaway: The 500 top keywords account for 8.4% of all search volume.

Average Search Volume for a Keyword Is 989 Searches Per Month

The typical keyword gets an average of 989 monthly searches.

The Typical Keyword Gets An Average Of 989 Monthly Searches In Google

However, this number is slightly skewed due to the concentration of extremely high-volume terms that we just talked about. Which is why we decided to also analyze median search volume.

And we discovered that median search volume is only 10 searches per month.

Median Search Volume Is Only 10 Searches Per Month

This shows that, again, the vast majority of keywords are “long tails” with relatively low monthly search volume.

Key Takeaway: The average keyword in Google gets searched for 989 times per month. However, it’s likely that this number is impacted by the top 500 search terms. And when we analyzed the median search volume, we found that the typical search volume for a keyword was only 10 searches per month.

14.1% of Search Queries are Question Keywords

As the name suggests, a question keyword is any keyword that contains “who”, “what”, “where”, “why” or “how”.

Considering that many people use Google to search for information, it should come as no surprise that question keywords are relatively common.

Indeed, we found that 14.1% of searches in Google were conducted via a question keyword.

14 Percent Of Search Queries Are Question Keywords

We also brokedown the most common types of questions that people used.

How What Where Are The Most Common Types Of Question Keywords

As you can see, the most common types of question keywords were: “how” (8.07%), “what” (3.4%), “where” (.88%), “why” (.82%), “who” (.6%), and “which” (.33%).

Questions, by their nature of being relatively long and specific, are typically long tail terms. And as we also previously outlined, long tails are common in terms of keyword frequency. But they typically have low search volume (even when added together).

Key Takeaway: Making up 14.1% of all search terms, question keywords are relatively common in Google search.

The Average Keyword Has a CPC of $0.61

One of the main insights we wanted to look at for this research was Google Ads cost per click (CPC). And how CPCs varied between different industries.

We found that the typical keyword has a Google Ad CPC of $0.61.

The Average Keyword Has A CPC Of 61 Cents

We also broke down CPC by industry.

Finance Real Estate And Health Industries Have The Highest CPC

Overall, keywords in the real estate, finance, health, legal and home have the highest average CPCs.

On the other side of the spectrum, keywords related to the news, arts & entertainment, food and fitness have the lowest CPCs.

Key Takeaway: CPCs vary greatly between different keywords. When averaged together, the typical keyword costs $.61 per click. The finance, real estate and health verticals have the highest Google Ads CPCs. While fitness, food, and arts have relatively low CPCs.

The US Has Higher Average Search Volumes and CPCs Compared to Other English-Speaking Countries

For this analysis, we used a dataset of English language keywords from 5 countries: the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

When adjusted for population size, Americans search in Google far more often than any other English-speaking country.

Americans Search In Google More Than Any Other English Speaking Country

In fact, Americans use Google 38% more than the UK. And 90% more than Australia.

The US also has significantly higher CPCs on average.

The US Has Higher CPCs Compared To Other English Speaking Countries

While the absolute numbers are different between the US and other countries, search patterns tend to be fairly similar.

For example, with some exceptions, searches that have high US volume tend to have high international volume, and vice versa.

Popular Searches In The US Tend To Be Popular Internationally

Key Takeaway: The US uses Google far more than other English speaking countries. In fact, Americans search in Google 38% more than the UK and 90% more than Australia.

Mean Keyword Length is 1.9 Words and 8.5 Characters

Our analysis found that, among the 306M keywords that we looked at, the average keyword is 1.9 words and 8.5 characters in length.

Mean Keyword Length Is 2 Words And 8 Characters

We also looked at the relationship between keyword length and search volume. When looking at character count, extremely long and short keywords get relatively few searches.

We found that keywords between 5-10 characters tend to get searched for most often.

Keywords between 5-10 characters get searched for most often

And that 1-2 word terms have the highest average search volume.

1-2 Word Terms Have The Highest Average Search Volume

Key Takeaway: Mean keyword length in Google search is 8.5 characters and 1.9 words in length. We also found that shorter keywords (in terms of word count) have higher search volumes. In fact, short keywords (between 1-3 words) get 10x more searches than longer keywords (5+ words).

Industries With The Highest Mean Search Volume Keywords Include Internet & Telecom, News and Media, and Consumer Electronics

We decided to categorize each keyword in our data set. And investigate which industries had relatively high and low volume search terms.

Here’s what we discovered:

Industries With The Highest Mean Search Volume

When it comes to mean search volume, the most popular keywords in Google tend to fall under the categories: Internet & Telecom, Retailers, News, Arts & Entertainment, and Consumer Electronics.

On the other hand, keywords related to Real Estate, Vehicles, Occasions & Gifts, Home & Garden, and Law get relatively few searches.

We also ran the same analysis with a focus on total searches. In other words, instead of analyzing each keyword’s mean search volume, we looked at the total number of searches conducted under each category.

Industries With The Greatest Total Search Volume

As the chart indicates, the results are similar. But not identical.

Specifically, at 19.5% of all searches, “News & Media” is the most popular search category in Google. With “Internet & Telecom” (17.5%) and “Arts & Entertainment” (17.4%) 2nd and 3rd.

These findings make logical sense. Millions of people use Google to find information on current events. Which is why news-related searches make up nearly 1 out of 5 Google searches. However, each term isn’t going to rack up significant search volume. Which is why mean search volume for news-related keywords tend to be low.

Key Takeaway: “Internet & Telecom” is the most popular search category in terms of average search volume per keyword. However, when looking at the total number of searches per category, “News & Media” comes out on top. In fact, 19.5% of all Google searches fall under the “News & Media” category.

To get keyword difficulty data on our data set 306M keywords, we analyzed a subset of terms (approximately 2.5M) using Ahrefs.

Perhaps not surprisingly, popular search terms have higher average keyword difficulty scores compared to keywords with low search volume.

Popular Keywords Have Higher Keyword Difficulty Scores

For this analysis, we ran a subset of keywords from our dataset in Ahrefs. Although each SEO tool has a different approach for analyzing keyword difficulty, the keyword difficulty measurement in Ahrefs is considered reliable. They’re also transparent about how the metric is calculated.

Overall, we found that popular search terms tend to have more competition in the SERPs.

Specifically, each time search volume doubles, keyword difficulty goes up by approximately 1.63.

For example, as search volume goes from 100 to 3200 (6 doublings), the difficulty increases by roughly 10 (1.63 * 6).

This is likely due to the fact that popular keywords are attractive to SEOs and content marketers. Which leads to heightened SEO competition for those terms.

We also looked into the relationship between keyword difficulty and CPC. We found a clear relationship between those two variables. Specifically, the more competitive the terms, the higher the CPC.

Keywords With High Keyword Difficulty Scores Have Higher CPCs

Again, this finding is something that most digital marketers would expect. Keywords with high CPCs tend to have strong buyer intent. While many businesses are willing to pay to get in front of those searchers via Google Ads, others prefer to rank organically. Which leads to a glut of competition for high CPC terms.

Key Takeaway: Popular keywords have higher average keyword difficulty scores compared to keywords with low search volume. We also found a relationship between keyword difficulty and CPC. Specifically, keywords with high CPCs tend to have higher SERP competition levels.

People Also Ask Boxes, Image Packs and Videos are The Most Common SERP Features In Google Search

Next, we looked at the prevalence of SERP features. And the relationship between SERP features and keyword difficulty.

Firstly, we looked at which SERP features appear most often in Google’s search results.

The Most Common Search Features In Google Search

We found that the most prevalent search features in Google’s organic results are People Also Ask (19.4%), image packs (19.4%), video results (17.9%), Top Stories (15.4%) and Sitelinks (11.0%).

And the least common SERP features include Tweet boxes, Google Shopping results and Knowledge cards.

We also looked at which SERP features appeared together in the search results. Here are the most common SERP feature pairings.

The Most Common SERP Feature Pairings

Interestingly, keywords that bring up SERP features tend to be more competitive than those without SERP features.

Search Results With SERP Features Are More Competitive VS Those Without SERP Features

And Google search results with more SERP features have higher mean keyword difficulty.

Google Search Results With More SERP Features Have Higher Mean Keyword Difficulty

All in all, SERP features appear in almost all Google search results. In fact, 97.6% of searches contain at least one SERP feature.

97 Percent Of Searches Contain At Least One SERP Feature

We also noticed that searches without SERP features tend to have low volume.

Search Results Without SERP Features Are Usually Results For Very Low Volume Queries

This is likely due to the fact that these low-volume queries are extremely specific long tails. Which means there’s less likely to be a “match” in terms of a relevant YouTube video or Google Shopping result to use as part of a SERP feature.

We also looked into the impact that various SERP features have on clicks. Interestingly, knowledge cards tend to significantly reduce clicks-per-search. While the other SERP features appear to have limited effect on drawing clicks away from the “10 blue link” organic results.

Knowledge Cards Significantly Reduce Clicks Per Search

Key Takeaway: 97.6% of all Google searches result in a SERP feature. “People also ask” is the most popular SERP feature in Google.

Conclusion

I hope you found this analysis interesting.

I’d like to thank DataForSEO for providing the data on 306M keywords that made up the bulk of this research.

For those that are interested, here is a PDF of our study methods. And a link to a GitHub repository with all of the raw data.

Now I’d like to hear what you have to say:

What’s your #1 learning from today’s research?

Or maybe you have a question about something from the study.

Either way, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

How To Leverage Content To Build Trust

How To Leverage Content To Build Trust

Your content plays an important role in building trust. It affects how people perceive your brand in obvious as well as subtle ways. In this post, we’ll look at different ways you can leverage content so that your audience trusts your brand sooner and is willing to buy from you.

Both trust-building and content creation are ongoing processes that will help you get results in the short and long run. Here are the different content types you need to create to build trust continuously and to create a solid brand image.

Publish blog posts regularly

Have you ever visited a website and then wondered why they haven’t posted any content recently? Visitors to a site will notice if a website does not update their content. This can create discomfort because it indicates a lack of activity and will make users wonder if the business will respond to them.

This makes it important to create blog posts regularly. Whether you post a blog post once a month or every week, the important thing is to do it consistently. And you can also update your create evergreen posts by adding edits and making the date field show when the post was last updated. Google notices when your posts are updated too and this impacts how well your content ranks on search engines.

Stay on top of your social media posts

Just like your blog or website, you need to create and post content regularly on social media. If you’re starting out or are a small company and don’t have a large following yet, it’s still important to keep posting content often.

Even if you get most of your leads from other places, your social media content still matters because your activity level implies that you are likely to respond to queries from your audience.

So, create posts on a daily basis if not multiple times a day. And make posts that use natural conversational language so that your audience feels like you’re talking to them directly and in a friendly way.

Respond to comments

Along with your blog and social media posts, visitors to your site or social media profiles will explore comments people leave. It is critical to reply to comments that users make on your posts. When your audience sees that you respond to comments, they’ll feel assured that you listen to people. They’ll expect you to similarly respond to customer complaints, which will make them comfortable.

It’s important to create responses that are personalized, informative, and that sound authentic. Canned responses like ‘We appreciate your feedback’ alone will make your audience feel like you’re not really listening. Try to speak to your readers in a natural tone of voice and have a conversation instead.

It’s small touches like these that create a good image of your business.

Keep your emails out of the spam folder

One powerful way to make sure that your content builds trust is to make it ‘spam-proof’. Today, email service providers take spam protection seriously. Steps like making sure that your email copy doesn’t have any spam trigger words will ensure that your content doesn’t land in the spam folder.

It is also vital that you send email content only to people who have explicitly agreed to receive content. Sending newsletters with helpful content to your email list helps you build a relationship with your audience. So, it’s important to ensure that your email arrives in their inbox.
Make sure that you configure your email settings correctly and authenticate your email so that it lands in your user’s inbox. This step can be difficult to do and it’s a good idea to use a plugin like WP Mail SMTP to help you. You can also get a white glove set up done for you in case you need additional help.

Leverage user-generated content

Your audience expects marketing messages to portray your company in the best light. However, if customers and other audience members engage with your business and leave positive feedback, then your leads are more likely to trust you.

User-generated content consists of posts, reviews, testimonials, and other types of content created by your audience or customers. Content on forums, pictures on social media, discussions, ratings and similar material can be leveraged on your website or social media.

Ask your customers for testimonials and add them to your website with the customer’s headshot, company name, and position.

Use a social media feed tool to integrate social feeds into your website so that you can share posts created by the public in a feed on your site pages.

Highlight the number of users your product has or feature positive reviews left by happy customers on your landing page.

Steps like these add social proof to your site, creating compelling arguments in favor of your business. Visitors to your site and people researching your brand will trust you sooner and buy from your business.

Create FAQ pages

An FAQ page makes it convenient for users to find critical information. It also shows foresight on your part. As you carry out your usual business activities, take note of challenges that your users face or common questions people ask about your solutions.

Address these issues with an FAQ page so that users can quickly get the answer they’re looking for and make the decision to buy from you.

This type of content subtly conveys a large amount of information about how prepared and aware your business is. The effort and research you do to create content that helps your users by providing just the information they need will speak volumes about your reliability.

Back to you

To build trust, you not only have to explicitly promise your users that you’re reliable, you also have to back your claims by carrying out ongoing content creation activities.

We’ve covered several ways that you can build trust through content. You are certain to come up with more ideas of your own that will lead to a stronger brand image. So, focus on your content creation and management to win over your audience.


Syed Balkhi is an award-winning entrepreneur and online marketing expert. He is the co-founder of OptinMonster, WPBeginner, MonsterInsights, and WPForms.