On the surface, search engine optimization for e-commerce seems straightforward. And in some ways, it is. One frequent misunderstanding, though, is the persistent idea that transactional keywords alone will deliver visibility on Google and other search engines. Transactional keywords, such as “buy a fountain pen”, are only half the equation in terms of how you will rank.
The other half of the equation are informational keywords, and the queries that use these terms. It’s informational keywords, such as “how to choose the right fountain pen”, that help search engines understand that you are an authority on the subject matter (in this case, fountain pens). Without ranking for both types of queries, you are not fulfilling the complete promise of your SEO possibilities. Both queries factor into increasing your domain authority and your visibility.
Dual keyword strategies: Transactional and informational
To be absolutely clear, let’s define what we mean by transactional and informational keywords, and how those fit into a holistic medium to long-term SEO strategy.
- Transactional keywords: Keywords we identify as “transactional” have to do with making a transaction or researching a product a customer is likely to purchase. Therefore we aim to rank for keywords that refer to product category pages or specific product pages on a website. The aim is to increase the relevance of a specific page for the specific keywords by changing the meta titles, for example. On top of that we suggest or deploy a series of technical activities that will help the e-commerce part in general to rank higher. This process is where we work on gaining traction for the relevance of your content for a specific product or purchase-focused topic, often in relation to your competitors, even though the strategy is not targeting any competitor in particular. It is broader and more all-encompassing than that.
- Informational keywords: Ranking well for informational queries supports the visibility of your transactional queries. Search engine algorithms aren’t just looking at one attribute of your business or content when they assign a ranking. Authority and trust are attributed first of all to your domain as a whole, which includes both your shop (transactional) and your blog (informational). These go hand in hand in determining how you rank, so they need to be nurtured with high-quality, keyword-relevant content. If your site is product heavy but lacks informational content, for example, particularly if you have a place on your site for such content, we are going to recommend that you dedicate resources to developing content that can complement the transactional content because this is the surest way to earn a better ranking.
Despite these definitions and strategies, it’s easy to get confused as an e-commerce retailer just seeking to boost incoming leads and rank higher than a competitor. In fact we get a lot of inquiries from our clients about how to target their competitors and their keywords specifically, e.g. “We just need to know what keywords to use to go after the competitors who rank above us on the primary keywords”. We understand why this question gets asked, but it’s important to understand why that alone is an ineffective tactic and definitely not a strategic move.
Looking at competitors’ ranking and keywords is only a sliver of the SEO action because such targeting is a short-term tactic that does not ultimately lead to better ranking or subject/domain authority in the long run. While e-commerce companies are looking for immediate and short-term SEO wins to gain some visibility, it should not come at the expense of building authority, brand reputation and the aforementioned keyword best practices.
Interestingly, this is often where e-commerce companies going it alone go wrong, and where they find frustration in working with data-driven marketing agencies. Marketing consultants know the technical SEO world in and out, and will therefore be managing much of the transactional and competitor-related keyword strategy. What the marketing agency needs help with — from you because you are the subject-matter expert — is informational keywords. What expertise and know-how do you have that differentiates you, and what keywords would drive searches for that kind of information?
Effective topic clusters for SEO success
When we recommend boosting the use of informational keywords and supporting content, we supply keyword research that indicates the top-ranking queries for the topic you want to rank for. The highest-ranking keyword reflects the term with the highest search volume, and you should write content that includes this term in the title, and then use the rest of the keywords from the research results throughout the body of your informational content. It is only through building this whole host of content that Google or other search engines come to trust your website. Your ranking is not built on the use of a handful of keywords, or on the strength of a single article. No, it is inherited over time as you build a web of trusted content that lives on your site (on both the transactional and informational side of the equation).
It’s important to identify the relevance of topic clusters in your business — generally and in relation to the content your competitors create. Once you understand the balance of the keyword equation, you can get to work creating rich quality content within the identified topic clusters, which will pay dividends in the long run.
The bigger SEO picture
We understand that sometimes this isn’t what clients want to hear — that it’s not just a quick short-term transactional query keyword blitz campaign. The “money keywords” are, of course, a part of the bigger picture strategy, but they are only a small part of what you need to do to make your SEO and overall data-driven marketing strategy succeed now and in the future.
To start planning your long-term SEO success, get in touch to discuss with Mind The Gap. Test your SEO knowledge and get a starting point for your strategy with the quiz below.