How Many Keywords and Phrases Is Enough?

Part 2 of our series on 'Confused where to start with Online Marketing' Read Part One.

It's a very common query and one that anyone seeking to gain an understanding of search engine optimisation (SEO) needs to ask. How many keywords do you need? How many search-related phrases do you need?

To break into this gently, we'd recommend thinking of both phrases and keywords as the same thing.

Google understands and responds to either based on lots of different criteria built into its ever-changing algorithm(s). On one hand, Google and other search engines are a popularity contest and by choosing your keywords, you are entering your website, Blog post, or in our case, our products into that popularity contest. We know the importance of making our product images and supporting content look no less than brilliant, but before customers eyes even see that, they need to choose you from a list thrown up by Google. (note. we know that Google isn't the only search engine, but for this purpose, Google is our working benchmark).

So you can imagine that there are keywords that are extremely popular. The tricky thing about e-commerce and SEO is that many shops sell the same thing. If you are selling t-shirts, the competition for recognition is a real struggle. If you are selling insurance, mortgages or any financial service, good luck using keywords related to that sector. It's a constant fight to stay on top, and that scrap costs money and time.

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Concerning how many keywords do you need to use?

We would suggest using between three and five per product, page, article, etc. You need to make them a mix of meaningful and abstract if possible.

Imagine it this way. To be in with a chance to win the popularity contest, you need to use the useful keywords that you know for a fact are used when a potential customer types something into a search engine. So, 'Kettle', 'Stainless Steel', 'Red'. These are descriptive words that are most likely to be used when searching for a new kettle. Moving on to the abstract, try to imagine the setting. Where does this kettle belong? Why does someone need a kettle?

Your description could read something like this:

Product Title - Classic Stainless Steel Kettle

Description - We recommend this beautiful, red, stainless steel kettle to compliment your country kitchen. A reliable, appliance to ensure hot tea all year round.
This product comes with a standard two-year warranty.

You will see a whole bunch of targeted and abstract keywords in the above, but no useless product numbers or serial codes. It's ok to use them underneath your description because some customers might know what they are after. If the serial code is 'XK-899-9876' for example, use it underneath your main body description, but not in the product title.

The other issue with e-commerce and SEO is the repetition of certain keywords. After a while, Google demotes you for repetition as it perceives the practice as 'keyword stuffing'. There is no way around it sadly because a t-shirt is a t-shirt and a kettle is a kettle. Try to be creative and see it as an opportunity, however. Most good online stores come armed with a blog; Shopify certainly does, so use it to your advantage. A high-quality blog post allows using more keywords, both meaningful and abstract. Sharing those blog posts on social networks helps to spread the chances of being picked up on a natural search.

The bottom line is to use keywords sparingly, but with intent. Don't stuff the same keyword or phrase into a product and always keep in mind the words a customer would use to find your product. As a shop owner, this should be standard practice anyhow and easy to implement when setting up a product or writing a blog post that links to a collection.

Richard Bairstow is the founder and CEO of We are Underground and is recognised as a leading authority in the Shopify Theme marketplace with 5 of the best selling published themes within the Shopify theme store and over 20,000 active Shopify customers.

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