SEO For Ecommerce Businesses: A Comprehensive Reference Guide


Trustworthiness goes a long way

For search engines, trust is largely determined by the quality and quantity of the links your domain has earned, but that's not to say that there aren't other factors at play that can influence your site's authority. Think about all the different ways you come to trust a brand: Awareness (you know they exist), Helpfulness (they provide answers to your questions), Integrity (they do what they say they will), Quality (their product or service provides value, possibly more than others you've tried), Continued value (they continue to provide value even after you've gotten what you needed) Voice (they communicate in unique, memorable ways), Sentiment (others have good things to say about their experience with the brand).


  • Make pages primarily for users, not search engines
  • Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging
  • Provide clear, deep, engaging, and easy-to-find content on your site
  • Keep page titles clear and relevant
  • Share your links: links are regarded as a signal of popularity and search engines reward links that have grown organically
  • Get social: social influence and social shares are positive signals and can have an impact on how you rank organically in the long run
  • Optimize your site speed: page speed is important, along with a positive, useful user experience
  • Use alt attributes to describe images, so search engines can better understand the content


  • Automatically generated content
  • Create thin content, pages showing mostly ads or affiliate links, or that otherwise redirect visitors away to other sites
  • Buy links or participate in link schemes, which can lead to de-indexing
  • Create duplicate content
  • Keyword stuff




  • What is SEO?
  • Why is SEO important?
  • Why Should You Care About SEO?
  • How does SEO work?
  • Is Google the only search engine that matters?
  • How to set up your website SEO?
  • What is On-page SEO and off-page SEO?
  • How does content help your SEO?
  • How to rank higher on search engines
  • White hat and Black hat SEO:
  • What the Search Engines look for?
  • What is Keyword-rich content?
  • How To Use The FREE Google Keyword Planner:
  • SEO FAQs:
  • Learn more about SEO:
  • SEO Analyzer Tool:
  • Want More?

What is SEO?

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” basically, it’s the process of improving your website to increase visibility in search engine results. The better your visibility, the more likely you are to attract customers to your business.

Why is SEO important?

People conduct trillions of searches every year, often to find information about products and services. Search is often the #1 source of digital traffic for brands and complements other marketing channels (i.e. social media and ads). Greater visibility and ranking higher in search results than your competition can have a great impact on the bottom line of your business.

Keep in mind, features like rich results and Knowledge Panels in the search results can increase visibility and provide users more information about your business directly on the search results page.

Why Should You Care About SEO?

Tons of people search for things. And that traffic can be extremely powerful for a business simply because that traffic is specific with high-intent.

If you sell wine glasses, for example, would you rather buy a billboard so anyone with a car in your area sees your ad (whether they will ever have any interest in wine glasses or not), or would you rather show up every time anyone in the world types “buy wine glasses” into a search engine? Probably the latter, because those people have intent, meaning they are standing up and saying that they want something you offer.

People are searching for a variety of things directly related to your business, but they are also searching for things only loosely related to your business. Which equates to even more opportunities to connect with potential customers, answer their questions, solve their problems, and become a trusted resource for them.

Are you more likely to get your wine glasses from a trusted resource who offered great information each of the last four times you turned to Google for answers, or someone you've never heard of?

How does SEO work?

Search engines like Google and Bing use bots to crawl pages on the web, collecting information about each page and putting that information in an index.

Then, algorithms analyze pages in the index, looking at hundreds of ranking factors or signals, to determine the order pages should appear in the search results for any search query.

Search ranking factors represent aspects of the user experience. These factors may include things like content quality and keyword research, and crawlability and mobile-friendliness.

The search algorithms are designed to find and deliver relevant, authoritative pages and provide users with an efficient search experience. Optimizing your site and content with these factors in mind can help your pages rank higher in the search results.

Unlike paid search ads, you can't pay search engines to get higher organic search rankings.

Pages that typically do not get crawled, and therefore typically do not show up in general searches, include login specific pages like shopping carts and user-specific content like search results from site internal searches.

Is Google the only search engine that matters?

The truth is that even though more than 30 major web search engines exist, the SEO community really only pays attention to Google. The reason for this is because more than 90% of web searches happen on Google (to include Google Images, Google Maps, and YouTube - a Google property), 20 times Bing and Yahoo combined.

How to set up your website SEO?

Header tags

Header tags are an HTML element used to designate headings on your page. The main header tag, called an H1, is typically reserved for the title of the page.

There are also sub-headings that go from H2 to H6 tags, although using all of these on a page is not required. The hierarchy of header tags goes from H1 to H6 in descending order of importance.

Each page should have a unique H1 that describes the main topic of the page, this is often automatically created from the title of a page. As the main descriptive title of the page, the H1 should contain that page’s primary keyword or phrase. You should avoid using header tags to mark up non-heading elements, such as navigational buttons and phone numbers. Use header tags to introduce what the following content will discuss.

Although what you choose to put in your header tags can be used by search engines to evaluate and rank your page, it’s important to avoid inflating their importance. Header tags are one among many on-page SEO factors, and typically would not move the needle like quality backlinks and content would, so focus on your site visitors when crafting your headings.

Internal links

Part of a website’s crawlability lies in its internal linking structure. When you link to other pages on your website, you ensure that search engine crawlers can find all your site’s pages, you pass link equity (ranking power) to other pages on your site, and you help visitors navigate your site.

The importance of internal linking is well established, but there can be confusion over how this looks in practice.

Link accessibility

Links that require a click (like a navigation drop-down to view) are often hidden from search engine crawlers, so if the only links to internal pages on your website are through these types of links, you may have trouble getting those pages indexed. Opt instead for links that are directly accessible on the page.

Anchor text

Anchor text is the text with which you link to pages. Below, you can see an example of what a hyperlink without anchor text and a hyperlink with anchor text would look like in the HTML.

<a href=""></a><a href="" title="Keyword Text">Keyword Text</a>

Keyword Text

The anchor text sends signals to search engines about the content of the destination page. For example, if I link to a page on my site using the anchor text “learn SEO,” that’s a good indicator to search engines that the targeted page is one at which people can learn about SEO. Be careful not to overdo it, though. Too many internal links using the same, keyword-stuffed anchor text can appear to search engines that you’re trying to manipulate a page’s ranking. It’s best to make anchor text natural rather than formulaic.

Link volume

In Google’s General Webmaster Guidelines, it says “limit the number of links on a page to a reasonable number (a few thousand at most).” This is part of Google’s technical guidelines, rather than the quality guideline section, so having too many internal links isn’t something that on its own is going to get you penalized, but it does affect how Google finds and evaluates your pages.

The more links on a page, the less equity each link can pass to its destination page. A page only has so much equity to go around, so only link when you’re sure it provides value.

Aside from passing authority between pages, a link is also a way to help users navigate to other pages on your site. This is a case where doing what’s best for search engines is also doing what’s best for searchers. Too many links not only lessen the authority of each link, but they can also be unhelpful and overwhelming to users.


Removing and renaming pages is a common practice, but in the event that you do move a page, make sure to update the links to that old URL. At the very least, you should make sure to redirect the URL to its new location, but if possible, update all internal links to that URL at the source so that users and crawlers don’t have to pass through redirects to arrive at the destination page. If you choose to redirect only, be careful to avoid redirect chains that are too long (Google says, "Avoid chaining redirects... keep the number of redirects in the chain low, ideally no more than 3 and fewer than 5.")

Example of a redirect chain:

(original location of content) → → (current location of content)

Better: →

Image optimization

Images are the biggest reason for slow web pages. The best way to fix this is to compress your images. While there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to image compression, testing various options like "save for web," image sizing, and compression tools like TinyPNG or PicResize, as well as evaluating what works best is the way to go.

Another way to help optimize your images (and improve your page speed) is by choosing the right image format.

How to choose which image format to use:

  • If your image requires animation, use a GIF
  • If you don’t need to preserve high image resolution, use JPEG (and test out different compression settings)
  • If you do need to preserve high image resolution, use PNG
  • If your image has a lot of colors, use PNG-24
  • If your image doesn’t have a lot of colors, use PNG-8

And don’t forget about thumbnails.

Thumbnails (especially for e-commerce sites) can slow down pages A LOT. Optimize thumbnails properly to avoid slow pages and to help retain more qualified visitors.

Alt text

Alt text (alternative text) within images is a principle of web accessibility, and is used to describe images to the visually impaired via screen readers. It’s important to have alt text descriptions so that any visually impaired person can understand what the pictures on your website illustrate.

Search engine bots also crawl alt text to better understand your images, which gives you the added benefit of providing better image context to search engines. Just ensure that your alt descriptions read naturally for people, and avoid stuffing keywords for search engines.


<img src="grumpycat.gif" alt="grumpy cat, cat is grumpy, grumpy cat gif">


<img src="grumpycat.gif" alt="A black cat looking very grumpy at a big spotted dog">

Submit an image sitemap

To ensure that Google can crawl and index your images, submit an image sitemap in your Google Search Console account. This helps Google discover images they may have otherwise missed.

Formatting for readability & featured snippets

Your page could contain the best content ever written on a subject, but if it’s formatted improperly, your audience might never read it. While we can never guarantee that visitors will read our content, there are some principles that can promote readability, including:

Text size and color - Avoid fonts that are too tiny. Google recommends 16-point font and above to minimize the need for “pinching and zooming” on mobile. The text color in relation to the page’s background color should also promote readability.

Headings - Breaking up your content with helpful headings can help readers navigate the page. This is especially useful on long pages where a reader scans to find a particular section.

Bullet points - Great for lists, bullet points can help readers skim and more quickly find the information they need.

Paragraph breaks - Avoiding walls of text can help prevent page abandonment and encourage site visitors to read more of your page.

Supporting media - When appropriate, include images, videos, and widgets that would complement your content.

Bold and italics for emphasis - Putting words in bold or italics can add emphasis, so they should be the exception, not the rule. Appropriate use of these formatting options can call out important points you want to communicate.

Title tags

A page’s title tag is a descriptive, HTML element that specifies the title of a particular web page. They are nested within the head tag of each page and look like this:

<head> <title>Example Title</title></head>

Each page on your website should have a unique, descriptive title tag. What you input into your title tag field will show up here in search results, although in some cases Google may adjust how your title tag appears in search results.

What makes an effective title tag?

Keyword usage: Having your target keyword in the title can help both users and search engines understand what your page is about. Also, the closer to the front of the title tag your keywords are, the more likely a user will read them (and hopefully click), and the more helpful they can be for ranking.

Length: On average, search engines display the first 50–60 characters (~512 pixels) of a title tag in search results. If your title tag exceeds the characters allowed on that SERP (Search Engine Results Page), an ellipsis "..." will appear where the title was cut off. While sticking to 50–60 characters is safe, never sacrifice quality for strict character counts. If you can’t get your title tag down to 60 characters without harming its readability, go longer (within reason).

Branding: End your title tags with your brand name to promote brand awareness and create a higher click-through rate among people who are familiar with your brand. Sometimes it makes sense to place your brand at the beginning of the title tag, such as on your homepage, but be mindful of what you're trying to rank for and place those particular keywords closer toward the beginning of your title tag.

Meta descriptions

Like title tags, meta descriptions are HTML elements that describe the contents of the page that they’re on. They’re also nested in the head tag, like this:

<head> <meta name=”description” content=”Description of page here.”/></head>

What makes an effective meta description?

The qualities that make an effective title tag also apply to effective meta descriptions. Although Google says that meta descriptions are not a ranking factor, like title tags, they are incredibly important for click-through rate.

Relevance: Meta descriptions should be highly relevant to the content of your page, so it should summarize your key concept in some form. You should give the searcher enough information to know they've found a page relevant enough to answer their question, without giving away so much information that it eliminates the need to click through to your web page.

Length: Search engines tend to shorten meta descriptions to around 155 characters. It’s best to write meta descriptions between 150–300 characters in length. On some SERPs, you’ll notice that Google gives much more real estate to the descriptions of some pages. This usually happens for web pages ranking right below a featured snippet.

URL structure: Naming and organizing your pages

URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. URLs are the locations or addresses for individual pieces of content on the web. Like title tags and meta descriptions, search engines display URLs on the SERPs, so URL naming and format can impact click-through rates. Not only do searchers use them to make decisions about which web pages to click on, but URLs are also used by search engines in evaluating and ranking pages.

Clear page naming

Search engines require unique URLs for each page on your website so they can display your pages in search results, but clear URL structure and naming is also helpful for people who are trying to understand what a specific URL is about. For example, which URL is clearer?


Searchers are more likely to click on URLs that reinforce and clarify what information is contained on that page, and less likely to click on URLs that confuse them.

Page organization

If you discuss multiple topics on your website, you should also make sure to avoid nesting pages under irrelevant folders. For example:

It would have been better for this fictional bakery website that also sells branded merchandise to nest cupcake t-shirts under “/brand-merch/” than to host it under the irrelevant "/cupcake-recipe/" section of the website.

The folders in which you locate your content can also send signals about the type, not just the topic, of your content. For example, dated URLs can indicate time-sensitive content. While appropriate for news-based websites, dated URLs for evergreen content can actually turn searchers away because the information seems outdated. For example:


Since the topic “How To Write An About Page” isn’t confined to a specific date, it’s best to host on a non-dated URL structure or else risk your information appearing stale.

URL length

While it is not necessary to have a completely flat URL structure, many click-through rate studies indicate that, when given the choice between a URL and a shorter URL, searchers often prefer shorter URLs. Like title tags and meta descriptions that are too long, too-long URLs will also be cut off with an ellipsis. Just remember, having a descriptive URL is just as important, so don’t cut down on URL length if it means sacrificing the URL's descriptiveness.


Minimizing length, both by including fewer words in your page names and removing unnecessary subfolders, makes your URLs easier to copy and paste, as well as more clickable.

Keywords in URL

If your page is targeting a specific term or phrase, make sure to include it in the URL. However, don't go overboard by trying to stuff in multiple keywords for purely SEO purposes. It’s also important to watch out for repeat keywords in different subfolders. For example, you may have naturally incorporated a keyword into a page name, but if located within other folders that are also optimized with that keyword, the URL could begin to appear keyword-stuffed.


Keyword overuse in URLs can appear spammy and manipulative. If you aren’t sure whether your keyword usage is too aggressive, just read your URL through the eyes of a searcher and ask, “Does this look natural? Would I click on this?”

Static URLs

The best URLs are those that can easily be read by humans, so you should avoid the overuse of parameters, numbers, and symbols. Using technologies like mod_rewrite for Apache and ISAPI_rewrite for Microsoft, you can easily transform dynamic URLs like this:

into a more readable static version like this:

Hyphens for word separation

Not all web applications accurately interpret separators like underscores (_), plus signs (+), or spaces (%20). Search engines also do not understand how to separate words in URLs when they run together without a separator ( Instead, use the hyphen character (-) to separate words in a URL.

Case sensitivity

Sites should avoid case sensitive URLs. Instead of

it would be better to use

Geographic modifiers in URLs

Some local business owners omit geographic terms that describe their physical location or service area because they believe that search engines can figure this out on their own. On the contrary, it’s vital that local business websites’ content, URLs, and other on-site assets make specific mention of city names, neighborhood names, and other regional descriptors. Let both consumers and search engines know exactly where you are and where you serve, rather than relying on your physical location alone.

Protocols: HTTP vs HTTPS

A protocol is that “http” or “https” that comes before your domain name. Google recommends that all websites have a secure protocol (the “s” in “https” stands for “secure”). To ensure that your URLs are using the https:// protocol instead of http://, you must obtain an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate. SSL certificates are used to encrypt data. They ensure that any data passed between the web server and browser of the searcher remains private.

As of July 2018, Google Chrome displays “not secure” for all HTTP sites, which could cause these sites to appear untrustworthy to visitors and result in them leaving the site.

What is On-page SEO and off-page SEO?

SEO is divided into two categories: on-page SEO and off-page SEO.
On-page SEO is about the specific web page you’re trying to optimize, which includes your headlines, content, and page structure.

Off-page SEO refers to anything that depends on other sources, like social networks, other blogs in your industry, and the personal history of the searcher.

On-page SEO:

There are three big categories of on-page SEO that you'll need to take a look at.



Because a Google search engine customer is happy when he finds the result that serves his needs in the best way.

When you Google “authentic Korean ground beef BBQ sauce,” Google will put all its energy into delivering the best recipe for BBQ sauce (that’s genuinely Korean and traditionally served on ground beef) on the entire web.

Off-page SEO:

Trust is getting increasingly important, and most of the recent Google updates are working to eliminate spammy and obscure websites.

TrustRank is a way for Google to see whether your site is legit or not. If you look like a big brand, Google is likely to trust you.

Quality backlinks from authoritative sites (like .edu or .gov domains) help too. But overall, there are four parts to building trust.

Authority – Google determines the overall authority of your site by looking at two kinds of authority:

Domain authority, how widespread your domain name is. ( is very authoritative because everyone knows it).

Page authority, how authoritative the content of a single page (like a blog post) is.

You can check your authority on a scale of 1-100 at 

Bounce rate – Your bounce rate is the measure of how many people view only one page on your site before immediately leaving.

Quality content, fast page load times, easy usability, and attracting the right audience all decrease bounce rate. The right audience spends more time on a site that loads fast, looks good, and has great content.

Domain age – Domain age matters, even if only a little. If you haven’t gotten your site up and running yet, consider finding an affordable, expired domain and using it.

And finally...

Identity – Having a brand or personal identity online is a huge trust signal for search engines, but it takes time to build.

And you don’t have to have a brand name. Creating a personal brand works well too.

Building brand signals prevents you from future penalties through Google updates, which partly explains why Google gives big brands preferential treatment.

It’s not a conspiracy, it’s that people prefer brands they recognize over ones they don’t. It’s as simple as that

But if this is something you’re currently struggling with, Copy Identity can help. As a company, we’ve worked with 885 (at the time this article is published) Maker brands.

Together, we’ve created attractive brand messages and identities that pull in the right audience, deliver quality content, and increase exposure and sales month over month.

Want to book a brand identity call? Learn More Here!

How does content help your SEO?

Thin content

While it’s common for a website to have unique pages on different topics, an older content strategy was to create a page for every single iteration of your keywords in order to rank on page 1 for those highly specific queries.

For example, if you were selling bridal dresses, you might have created individual pages for bridal gowns, bridal dresses, wedding gowns, and wedding dresses, even if each page was essentially saying the same thing. A similar tactic for local businesses was to create multiple pages of content for each city or region from which they wanted clients. These “geo pages” often had the same or very similar content, with the location name being the only unique factor.

Tactics like these clearly weren’t helpful for users, but it worked because Google wasn’t always as good as it is today at understanding semantics between words and phrases. So, if you wanted to rank on page 1 for “bridal gowns” but you only had a page on “wedding dresses,” that may not have cut it.

This practice created tons of thin, low-quality content across the web, but with Google’s 2011 update, Panda, tactics like this are now penalized as low-quality pages, which allows higher quality pages to take the top spots. Google continues to demote low-quality content and promote high-quality content today through various updates.

Google is clear that you should have a comprehensive page on a topic instead of multiple, weaker pages for each variation of a keyword.

Duplicate content

Like it sounds, “duplicate content” refers to content that is shared between domains or between multiple pages of a single domain.

“Scraped” content goes a step further, and entails the blatant and unauthorized use of content from other sites. This can include taking content and republishing as-is, or modifying it slightly before republishing, without adding any original content or value.

There are plenty of legitimate reasons for internal or cross-domain duplicate content, so Google encourages the use of a rel=canonical tag to point to the original version of the web content. While you don’t need to know about this tag just yet, the main thing to note for now is that your content should be unique in word and in value.

Debunking the "duplicate content penalty" myth

There is no Google penalty for duplicate content. That is to say, for example, if you take an article from the Associated Press and post it on your blog, you won’t get penalized with something like a Manual Action from Google. Google does, however, filter duplicate versions of content from their search results. If two or more pieces of content are substantially similar, Google will choose a canonical (source) URL to display in its search results and hide the duplicate versions. That’s not a penalty. That’s Google filtering to show only one version of a piece of content to improve the searcher’s experience.

How to rank higher on search engines

A variety of methods can increase the prominence of a webpage within the search results.

Cross linking between pages of the same website to provide more links to important pages may improve its visibility.

Writing content that includes frequently searched keyword phrases, so as to be relevant to a wide variety of search queries will tend to increase traffic.

Updating content so as to keep search engines crawling back frequently can give additional weight to a site. Adding relevant keywords to a web page's metadata, including the title tag and meta description, will tend to improve the relevancy of a site's search listings, thus increasing traffic.

URL canonicalization of web pages accessible via multiple URLs, using the canonical link element or via 301 redirects can help make sure links to different versions of the URL all count towards the page's link popularity score.

White hat and Black hat SEO:

White Hat SEO:

An SEO technique is considered white hat if it conforms to the search engines' guidelines and involves no deception. As the search engine guidelines are not written as a series of rules or commandments, this is an important distinction to note. White hat SEO is not just about following guidelines but is about ensuring that the content a search engine indexes and subsequently ranks is the same content a user will see. White hat advice is generally summed up as creating content for users, not for search engines, and then making that content easily accessible to the online "spider" algorithms, rather than attempting to trick the algorithm from its intended purpose. White hat SEO is in many ways similar to web development that promotes accessibility, although the two are not identical.

Black Hat SEO:

Black hat SEO attempts to improve rankings in ways that are disapproved of by the search engines, or involve deception. One black hat technique uses hidden text, either as text colored similar to the background, in an invisible div , or positioned off screen. Another method gives a different page depending on whether the page is being requested by a human visitor or a search engine, a technique known as cloaking .

Grey Hat SEO:

Another category sometimes used is grey hat SEO . This is in between black hat and white hat approaches, where the methods employed avoid the site being penalized but do not act in producing the best content for users. Grey hat SEO is entirely focused on improving search engine rankings.

Search engines may penalize sites they discover using black or grey hat methods, either by reducing their rankings or eliminating their listings from their databases altogether. Such penalties can be applied either automatically by the search engines' algorithms, or by a manual site review. One example was when Google removed both BMW Germany and Ricoh Germany in February 2006 because of deceptive practices.

What the Search Engines look for?

Localized search

A search engine like Google has its own proprietary index of local business listings, from which it creates local search results.

If you are a business with a physical location customers can visit (ex: bakery) or for a business that travels to visit their customers (ex: home stager), make sure that you claim, verify, and optimize a free Google My Business Listing.

When it comes to localized search results, Google uses three main factors to determine ranking:

  • Relevance
  • Distance
  • Prominence


Relevance is how well a local business matches what the searcher is looking for. To ensure that the business is doing everything it can to be relevant to searchers, make sure your business’ information is thoroughly and accurately filled out.


Google uses your geo-location for better local results. Local search results are extremely sensitive to proximity, which refers to the location of the searcher and/or the location specified in the query (if the searcher included one).


With prominence as a factor, Google is looking to reward businesses that are well-known in the real world. In addition to a business’ offline prominence, Google also looks to some online factors to determine local ranking, such as:


The number of Google reviews a local business receives, and the sentiment of those reviews, have a notable impact on their ability to rank in local results.


A "business citation" or "business listing" is a web-based reference to a local business' "NAP" (name, address, phone number) on a localized platform (Yelp, Acxiom, YP, Infogroup, Localeze, etc.).

Local rankings are influenced by the number and consistency of local business citations. Google pulls data from a wide variety of sources in continuously making up its local business index. When Google finds multiple consistent references to a business's name, location, and phone number it strengthens Google's "trust" in the validity of that data. This then leads to Google being able to show the business with a higher degree of confidence. Google also uses information from other sources on the web, such as links and articles.

Organic ranking

SEO best practices also apply to local SEO, since Google also considers a website’s position in organic search results when determining local ranking.

[Bonus!] Local engagement

Although not listed by Google as a local ranking factor, the role of engagement is only going to increase as time goes on. Google continues to enrich local results by incorporating real-world data like popular times to visit and average length of visits.

What is Keyword-rich content?

One of the tools search engines like Google and Bing use to determine your rankings are "spiders". A spider is a piece of software that crawls the web in a methodical, automated manner. They browse your website (and everyone else's) to identify the actual copy written on the page along with things like key words and phrases. This data is then used to determine the relevance of your site when someone enters a keyword or phrase into Google, Bing or any other search engine.

With this in mind, you need to consider the search habits of your target audience, and ensure that the terms they might use to find your business are reflected on your pages.

For example, if you offer jewelry customization, your website content should include words or phrases that people may search for, such as "custom wedding ring", or specific problems such as "heirloom jewelry repair".

Text included in images, however, cannot be crawled by spiders, although alternative text associated with the images can be, so you may wish to revisit the design of some of your pages.

A useful free tool for identifying your keywords is the Google AdWords keyword tool. This is designed to help prospective advertisers identify the most relevant keywords for their chosen market, but it is also very helpful when writing copy for your website.

How To Use The FREE Google Keyword Planner:

Step #1: Access Google Keyword Planner

First, set up a Google Ads account. It’s fast and easy. Simply follow the prompts, enter your business information, and you’re good to go!

You DO NOT have to run an active campaign to use the Keyword Planner. But you DO need to set up a Google Adwords campaign.

Once you’ve created a campaign, click on the wrench icon in the toolbar at the top of the page.

Then, choose “Keyword Planner”:

You’ll see two different tools within Keyword Planner: “Discover New Keywords” and “Get search volume and forecasts”.

When it comes to SEO-focused keyword research, these two tools are enough to generate thousands of potential keywords.

Keep in mind, this tool was designed for PPC (pay-per-click) advertisers. So there are a lot of features in the tool (like keyword bidding features) that you won’t need if you’re using this tool to find keywords for SEO.

Let’s get to our keyword search!

Step #2: Choose Your Tool

There are two main tools inside of the GKP (Google Keyword Planner).

Discover New Keywords

This tool is for finding new keywords. The field above this tool says: “Enter products or services closely related to your business”.

Here are the two main options:

“Start With Keywords”: These are words and phrases that describe your business (for example, “stationery” or “cupcakes”). This allows you to access Google’s internal database of keywords for different industries.

Pro Tip: To enter multiple keywords, just put a comma after each one and press enter.

“Start With a Website”: This is designed for Adwords users. But you can sometimes find a few useful keywords here using your site’s homepage… or a blog post from your site.

Once you’ve entered your information into one or more of the fields, click “Get Results”.

Next, you’ll see the Keywords Results Page. We’ll come back to this later.

Get search volume and forecasts for your keywords

This feature is for checking the search volume of the keywords you’ve already found. It’s not for generating new keyword ideas.

To get started, copy and paste your list of keywords into the search field, and hit “Get Started”.

You’ll see the same Keywords Results Page from the “Find new keywords” tool.
The only difference is that

1. You only get data on the keywords you entered

2. Google will predict how many clicks and impressions you’ll get from the keywords you entered

Both of these tools take you to The Keywords Result page. Let’s take a closer look at it.

Step #3: Filter and Sort the Results

This is the “Keywords Results Page”:

At the top of the page, you’ll notice four targeting options: Locations, Language, Search networks, and Date range.


This is the country (or countries) that you’re marketing to.


This is the language of the keywords you want to see information on.

“Locations” and “Language” are automatically set to target English-speaking people in the United States. If that’s your target audience, you can leave these options as-is.

But if you’re based in Italy, for example, you’d want to change the Location to “Italy” and choose “Italian” as the language.

“Search networks”

This is whether or not you want to advertise only on Google, or if you want to advertise with Google AND their “search partners”. Search partner sites include other search engines and Google properties like YouTube.

I recommend leaving this set to just “Google” for our purposes.

“Date range”

Leaving this as the default “12 months” is usually fine.

The next important feature of the Keywords Results Page is called “Add Filter”:

Here are the filtering options:

Keyword Text

Have the tool ONLY show you keywords that contain a certain word or phrase.

Why would you want to include certain keywords?

Let’s say that you just launched a new line of blue t-shirts. In that case you’d want to make sure the keyword “blue t-shirt” appears in all of the keywords that the Keyword Planner suggests to you.

Exclude Keywords in My Account

This excludes keywords that you’re already bidding on in Adwords. Not necessary for our purposes.

Exclude Adult Ideas

This excludes more mature data.

Avg. Monthly Searches

This filters out keywords with high search volume (competitive terms are hard to rank in). You may also want to filter out keywords with very low search volume (most likely not searched enough to do you any good).

For example, let’s say that you get a big list of keyword ideas:

You can click on “Avg. Monthly Searches” to sort the results.

That way, you ONLY see keywords with lots of search volume.

You can also do the opposite. Click “Avg. Monthly Searches” again and you’ll get a list of low-volume terms:


You can have the Google Keyword Planner only show you keywords with “Low”, “Medium” or “High” competition.

This feature can be tricky.

Remember, the Google Keyword Planner is designed for Google Ads… not SEO, so the “Competition” score here ONLY refers to Adwords competition (not how competitive the keyword is to rank for in Google’s organic search results). So I recommend leaving this blank.

Ad Impression Share

Again, this setting only applies to Adwords so you can ignore this filter.

Top of Page Bid (formerly referred to as “Cost Per Click” or “CPC”)

This is how much you’d expect to pay for your ad to appear at the top of the page for that keyword.

Top of Page Bid is a proxy indicator of commercial intent. So if you only want to target keywords that potential buyers search for, you can set this to a certain dollar amount.

There are two options “high range” and “low range”.

If you set the “low range” to a few dollars, you’ll filter out keywords without any commercial intent.

Organic Impression Share

This is how often your site appears in the organic results for each keyword. (connect your Google Search Console Account to Google Adwords to use this feature).

Organic Average Position

Where you rank (on average) for each keyword in Google organic (connect your Google Search Console Account to Google Adwords to use this feature too).

The “Broaden Your Search” Feature (NEW).

This shows you keywords that are somewhat related to what you typed in.
For example, when you search for “Paleo Diet”, you get this list of suggestions:

Step #4: Analyze the Keyword Ideas Section

Now let’s look at the “Keyword Ideas” section of the Keyword Planner.

Here’s what each of the terms in this section mean:

Keyword (by relevance): This is the list of keywords that Google considers most relevant to the keyword or URL you typed into it.

Avg. monthly searches: This is range, not a super-accurate indicator of search volume.

Pro Tip: Watch out for seasonal keywords (like “Halloween costumes”) which get 50,000 searches in October and 100 searches in May. The GKP will say that the term gets “10,000 searches per month”, which is the range and not useful for you.

Competition: Again, “Competition” in the Google Keyword Planner has nothing to do with SEO. It's the number of advertisers that are bidding on that keyword. It is useful to see if a keyword has any commercial intent though, (the more people that bid on a keyword, the more potential there is for them to become a lead or customer).

Top of Page Bid: This is another great way to see if a keyword has monetization potential. The higher bid here, the more lucrative the traffic tends to be.

Step #5: Choose a Keyword

Now that you know how to use all of the tools, features and options within the Google Keyword Planner, it’s time to find keywords you can build your site’s content around.

Here’s a quick example on how to do that using the “Discover new keywords” tool.

First, choose a keyword that’s somewhat broad, but describes your product.
For example, let’s say you sell organic food.

You want to write a blog post about the health benefits of organic coffee. Don’t use the keyword “coffee” (too broad) or “health benefits of organic coffee” (too narrow).
But “organic coffee” hits right in the goldilocks zone.

So type that keyword into the field and click “Get Started”.

Here are the keywords that come up:

Choose keywords using 3 main criteria:

Search Volume: The higher the average search volume, the more traffic that keyword can send you.

Commercial Intent: The higher the competition and suggested bid, the easier it will be to convert that traffic into paying customers when they land on your website.

Organic SEO Competition: Like commercial intent, evaluating a keyword’s competition in Google’s organic search results takes some, well, searching. You need to look at the websites that are ranking on the first page, and figure out how hard it’ll be to outrank them.

Bonus Step #1: Get Exact Keyword Search Volume Data

The Google Keyword Planner will only show you exact search volume data if you’re running an active Adwords campaign. Otherwise, you see a range, like this:

Keyword volume tends to fluctuate, so seeing a range is really as accurate as you can get.

BUT, I’ve got a quick trick you can use to get exact search volume out of the GKP without running ads in a Google Adwords account.

Here’s how…

First, find a keyword in the list of suggestions that you want to target:

Then click “add to plan”:

In the right-hand sidebar of the page, click “Plan overview”:

Look at the number of “impressions” you’d get if you bid on that term:

That number is how many people search for that keyword every month.
(In this case, 2.1k searches per month)

And just like that, you now have accurate search volume data for your keyword.


Bonus Step #2: The GKP Hack

As useful as the Google Keyword Tool is, there are 2 flaws to keep in mind:

Flaw #1: It only gives you keyword ideas that are VERY closely related to what you type in.

For example, let’s say your business sells organic food for pets.

So you type “organic dog food” into the tool. Here’s what you get:

As you can see, these are VERY close variations of “organic dog food”, like:
“natural dog food”
“dog food brands”
“dog food”

The GKP is good at coming up with long tail versions of your keyword. But it’s not great at generating outside the box keyword ideas.

Flaw #2: You get the same set of keywords everyone else does. Which means the keywords that you find in the GKP tend to be pretty competitive.

Introducing the GKP Hack. Here’s how it works:

First, go to the Discover New Keywords area of the GKP, and hit “Start With a Website”.

But instead of entering a keyword, you enter a URL from another website in your niche.

For example, instead of entering “organic dog food” into the field, let’s use PetSmart’s dog food category page.


You get a long list of keywords that most of your competitors WON’T see.

And there’s more…

There are LOTS of other pages that you can use for the GKP Hack, including:

  • Blog posts
  • Press releases
  • Conference agendas
  • Bio pages of influencers in your industry
  • News stories
  • Podcast transcripts
  • Any page with text, basically

Once you have identified your keywords, ensure that they appear in the body of your pages, as well as in the metadata of your page (the unseen data that gives the spiders key information about your page).

Tools for determining the value of a keyword

How much value would a keyword add to your website? These tools can help you answer that question:

  • Moz Keyword Explorer
  • Google Keyword Planner
  • Google Trends
  • AnswerThePublic
  • SpyFu Keyword Research Tool


What is SEO linking?

PageRank is a number scored out of 10 that is given to your website based on inbound and outbound links, and helps search engines to verify how trustworthy your site is. Linking between sites allows " link juice " to be carried through, so if your site is linked to by a site with a good PageRank, link juice will be carried forward to your site, improving your ranking.

While you cannot generally control the inbound links to your site (and Google disapproves of link farms and other artificial ways of linking), there are some steps that can be taken to improve your PageRank score.

Ensure that your site is linked to from your social media content, and attempt to get listed on free open directories and professional bodies associated with your market
Both outbound and internal links are crucial. Wherever you mention a site or a source, make sure these include a reference and a hyperlink. As for internal links, meticulously linking will increase the time spent on your site by the spiders. You may wish to revisit your menu structure, or to insert a quick links footer, which will ensure that each page on your site has a link to all the other pages on it.

In order to determine the PageRank of your site, you can download a browser plugin such as PageRank Status for the Google Chrome browser.

What does "organic" mean?

Organic search results are the ones that are earned through effective SEO, not paid for (i.e. not advertising).

Today, search engine results pages — often referred to as “SERPs” — are filled with both advertising and organic results (called “SERP features”).

Some examples of SERP features are featured snippets (or answer boxes), People Also Ask boxes, image carousels, etc. New SERP features continue to emerge, driven largely by what people are seeking.

For example, if you search for "Seattle weather," you’ll see a weather forecast for the city of Seattle directly in the SERP instead of a link to a site that might have that forecast. And, if you search for “pizza San Antonio,” you’ll see a “local pack” result made up of San Antonio pizza places.

Remember, search engines make money from advertising. Their goal is to better solve searcher’s queries (within SERPs), to keep searchers coming back, and to keep them on the SERPs longer.

Some SERP features on Google are organic and can be influenced by SEO. These include featured snippets (a promoted organic result that displays an answer inside a box) and related questions (a.k.a. "People Also Ask" boxes).

How long does it take for SEO to work?

The rate at which search engine spiders crawl your site is partly determined by how frequently the content of your pages change, so you may want to create a monthly task to change text, images, or add or remove pages, in order to ensure that your content is regularly updated.

You can also set up a blog on your site and allocate time each day (or week) to write or curate some content that is relevant to your target market. For reference material, use Google Alerts to keep up to date with online content that matches your keywords.

If you are targeting competitive keywords, SEO can take upwards of 6 months to a year.

Learn more about SEO:

At Copy Identity, we believe in shared resources so everyone can learn what they need to improve their business as easily as possible. To that end, we've put together a list of resources that we use for our own SEO purposes and to help E-commerce business owners learn more about SEO:


SEO Analyzer Tool:

If you want more search traffic, all you have to do is follow the website analysis report. It will point out all of the SEO errors you need to fix in order to increase your rankings.



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