Keywords in online retail: how to find the words your customers are searching

by | May 26, 2016 | Omnichannel, Retailers, Suppliers

By Gradiva Couzin, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) expert and partner, Gravity Search Marketing

Studies show that as many as 40 percent of shoppers start their online shopping experience with a search engine like Google. Shoppers are also likely to use the search tool on individual online retail sites as a convenient short cut, rather than navigating through categories:

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The words people use when they search are called keywords. Keywords in product names and descriptions are factors used by retailer websites and search engines to choose which products will be shown in search results. On retailer sites, this is usually a simple process:

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To improve the chance of your products being discovered by online retail shoppers, you need to include keywords in your product names and descriptions that match what people are searching for.

Where to start? Like many manufacturers and suppliers, you may be new to writing marketing text, and you may not have thought about the search behavior of your target consumer. But there are a few simple tools and tactics you can use that don’t require any marketing expertise. Here, we’ll teach you how to use them to find the words shoppers are most likely to use when searching for your products.

Think outside your own terminology

The most important keywords to include in your product content are the straightforward, simple words that answer the question: “What is this?”

Shoppers don’t always use your preferred terminology when they search. They’re not familiar with your industry buzzwords and they probably use generic terms instead of your brand’s naming conventions. You need to get into their mindset. Here are some common ways suppliers miss out on good keywords:

  • Using manufacturing terms instead of common names. If you sell a “frozen dairy confection,” it probably goes without saying that shoppers are more likely to search for “ice cream” or “popsicle” on an e-commerce site.
  • Relying too heavily on marketing speak. If you sell an autographed baseball, you may be tempted to refer to it as “memorabilia,” but don’t forget to also include the crucial, basic words, “autographed baseball.” Similarly, lots of makeup products are described with fancy descriptors like “shimmer,” and “translucent” but neglect to include the basic words “face powder.”
  • Using language that is too broad. If you sell razors, don’t just say “cartridges,” say “razor refill cartridges,” otherwise you’re leaving out important information. If you sell salad dressing, don’t just call it “dressing,” call it “salad dressing” because that is the typical way a shopper would describe it.

Sometimes the best research tool is a thought experiment! Try this one: in a brick-and-mortar store, what words would a shopper say if they were asking directions to your product aisle? Whether it’s “fruit cups” or “paving stones,” those are keywords you should care about for your product.

Look at search suggestion tools

Search suggestion tools on retailer websites are a goldmine of information about how people search for products.

Open up a large retailer website such as Amazon.com or Walmart.com and type a word or two about your product into the search box.

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The suggested words you see in the pull-down menu listed below the box are usually based on common searches shoppers have performed. These can be an excellent source of ideas for what to include in your own product content. In this example, we’ve typed “glass casserole” and we’ve learned:

  • People also use the words “dish” and “bakeware”
  • People care about it having a lid
  • Some people are searching for a specific shape (oval)

With this information in hand, as a casserole dish maker, you might decide to use terms like “dish,” “bakeware,” “lid,” and the item’s shape in the product name and description. Running the same experiment with other related words, or on another online retail site, may give you even more ideas.

Explore Google Trends

Google Trends shows the relative popularity of words people are searching for in Google over time, and also gives insight into related or similar words people are searching for.

We entered “glass casserole” into Google Trends and scrolled down to see related searches:

google-trends

This list reinforces what we’ve just learned from looking at the retail site search suggestions, and it gives us an additional keyword to consider: “cookware.”

You can also use Google Trends to compare the search popularity between two terms. Here is a comparison of “personal blender” vs. “portable blender” – two words that can be used for the same product – that shows the search popularity of “personal blender” overtaking “portable blender” in 2012 and continuing to grow over time.

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Looking at a Google Trends comparison can help break the tie between two possible keywords you’re considering including in your product details.

Look at words people use in product reviews

Consumer-generated product reviews can give insight into words and topics that are important to shoppers. To find reviews, open up any major retailer website and navigate to products that are similar to yours.

Looking at the top 10 reviews on Amazon.com for an 8×8 square glass casserole dish:

  • Three reviews mention “handles”
  • Three reviews mention “brownies”
  • Two reviews mention “easy/difficult to clean”

These topics are not only the words and phrases that customers may be searching for, but they are product features that are important to customers. That makes them excellent choices to include in your product names and descriptions.

Take the time to look at customers’ product reviews on a few different sites, so you’ll gain a wider perspective.

Now that you know how to find the keywords and topics that matter most to your customers, you can use them to improve your product names and descriptions. The SPS Assortment solution from SPS Commerce can help you take your product data further, giving you the tools and expertise you need to achieve omnichannel retail success.

Your dedicated SPS Commerce consultant will work with you to provide guidance around what needs to be improved and criteria for meeting quality standards, then the SPS service converts your product information into each retailer’s unique format.

Learn more here: https://www.spscommerce.com/products/assortment/assortment-suppliers/

Gradiva Couzin is a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) expert and partner at Gravity Search Marketing.

SPS Commerce Blog Team

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