SEO Strategy for Small Businesses: Looking at Long-Tail Keywords

by Emma Searle , 11.02.13

Simple setup and adaption of ePages online storesWhen shopping online, as many as one in three customers will use a search engine to find the products they are looking for.  This is why SEO – or search engine optimisation – is a much needed part of any online marketing strategy.  In this blog we will explain how you can easily improve the SEO strategy of your online shop.

By optimising your ecommerce site for search engines*, you will see it place higher on search engine results pages (SERPs), which will increase your click-through rate.  By following these tips, specifically designed with small businesses in mind, not only will your online shop’s web traffic increase, but more of this traffic will convert to sales.

*Note: We will be focusing on Google as the most commonly used search engine, and therefore using tools such as Google AdWords for our research, but it is worth remembering other search engines when doing your own SEO.

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Traffic Source over the Holiday Season – Original Source: Adobe Digital Marketing Blog


How to Conduct Keyword Research

The first stage of any strategy should be research. To begin, make a list of approximately 5-10 keywords that come to mind when you think of your online shop. For example, you may sell spare parts for iPhones, so your first keyword could be ‘iPhone parts’.

Next, sign into your Google AdWords account, and click Tools and Analysis >> Keyword Tool.

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Screen Shot: How to search keywords with Google AdWords

Here you can enter each of your keywords or phrases on a separate line and then hit Search.  This will tell you how many local monthly searches are conducted for each word/phrase and the level of competition they have (calculated on a scale of 0 – 1.  To see this number, hover your mouse over the word ‘high/medium/low’ under the Competition heading).


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Google AdWords search results for ‘iPhone parts’

You will see that a search for ‘iPhone parts’ returns nearly 15,000 local monthly searches.  You may have found keywords with similar high search volumes for your own site, which is great.

But now look closely at the level of competition for each of these terms.  Here we see figures in the region of 0.9.  This is incredibly high and if you are a small business with limited resources, chances are you are going to struggle to compete for search rankings with this key term.


Focus on the Long-Tail

Instead we suggest taking a look at some of the long-tail keywords in your results.  ‘Long-tail keywords’ is the phrase used to describe the often lengthier, more specific keywords or phrases that are entered less frequently in search engines.  They are sometimes disregarded for SEO use (resulting in lower levels of competition) as it is presumed fewer searches will lead to fewer sales.  In fact this is not the case.

Think of it this way: how often as a consumer have you found yourself searching department stores looking for one specific item, only to be greeted with the same generic products each time?  And how often have you left theses shops without making a purchase because they didn’t have what you were looking for?

You may have noticed in the previous image (Google AdWords search results) that a list of ‘keyword ideas’ is presented below the search results.

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Long-tail keyword search

By browsing through this list you may be able to find some long-tail keywords with lower search volumes and lower competition levels.  In the example above we have found ‘build an iphone from parts’ with 36 local searches per month and a competition rating of just 0.3.

This is a low level of traffic; however, if you optimise your ecommerce site for 5-10 of these long-tail keywords and are able to rank within the top three SERP listings for each, you will see a significant volume of traffic building up.


Long-tail Keywords on Product Detail Pages

Traditionally retail relied on the 80/20 rule – that is that 80% of profits would be obtained from just 20% of products.  These products were known as ‘hits’ and were given priority on limited shelf space in order to maximise sales.  The ecommerce sector has changed the retail industry dramatically and turned the 80/20 rule on its head, and your SEO strategy should reflect this.

Search engines allow users to find exactly what they are looking for; meaning buyers of the ‘other 80%’ can be directed straight to your product detail pages.  If you are selling a specific product then your keywords should be just as specific.  Although this may mean lower search volume, the statistics suggest that it could mean a greater conversion rate.  This is because those that do land on your page are further down the decision making process and have more emotional involvement.

If we look once more at our ‘build an iphone from parts’ long-tail keyword, we can see that it is still a rather general enquiry.  This could be useful on your home page but for a product detail page you need to become as specific, and as helpful to the customer, as possible.  Here, product codes, for example ‘iPhone 1st Gen Headphone Jack 821-0449’, can be a great way to target a niche buyer.

By optimising product detail pages in this way, you are sure to see a lower bounce and healthier conversion rates.


Only a Piece of the Puzzle

Remember, keywords should be just one aspect of your SEO strategy and engaging content will give you an advantage over your competitors.  If you are doing something original or if you have a strong knowledge base about a topic of interest to your customers, make sure you tell them about it in your blog or newsletter.  For more on how to generate interesting content, click here.

ePages SEO Cockpit

ePages online shops come with an integrated SEO Cockpit, to help guide you through the step-by-step process of optimising your ecommerce site for search engines.  The SEO Cockpit can also do many things for you, such as automatically creating title tags (containing the product and shop names) & meta descriptions, and automatically transferring the product name into the first-level header (<h1>) and Alt attribute of product images.  All this helps you create a successful online shop even without technical knowledge.  To try it for yourself, along with all our other features, sign up for your free demo shop trial now.

If you already have an ePages online shop, you can find the SEO Cockpit in your back office by clicking Marketing >> Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

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