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SEO 101 for Online Merchants. Part 1: Keyword Research

11 min listen

We talk Search Engine Optimization (SEO) with the 2017 Search Engine Marketer of the year — John Lincoln on how to start ranking for search for beginning merchants.

  • Search engine
  • Keyword research
  • SEMRush, Google Keyword Planner
  • Actionable examples of keywords to target

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Jesse: Hey guys! This is Jesse Ness here with…

Richard: Richard Otey.

Jesse: Really excited to have you on. I’m excited about our guest today. This is John Lincoln, he is the SEO of Ignite Visibility. He was the search engine marker of the year, named by Search Engine Land. And their company Ignite Visibility was the number one ranked SEO company by So, in a way, we’re bringing in an expert today. We’re going to try to dump him down a little bit and talk about SEO 101. So, we want to help merchants get started with their store and do the basics of SEO. So, John, happy to have you here!

John: Yeah! It’s a pleasure to be here, I’m really excited to talk about SEO today, that’s what I do. And, I’m excited to give people some tips on how they can get started and get some traffic, conversions, and some revenue, potentially for their business.

Jesse: So this is not your first time talking about SEO, that I take it?

John: I’ve been talking about SEO all day, every day for 10+, maybe about 14 years now at this point. I’ve worked with huge sites, that get, you know, millions, tens of millions, near a hundred of millions of visitors a month, all the way down to little sites that are brand new; they have no idea what they’re doing, you know, just starting, haven’t even bought a domain name yet. So, you need a broad experience there, and there’s a lot to know about it. So I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.

Jesse: Perfect! So, the latter part that you mentioned — people that are just getting started. That’s what I want to focus on today. When you look at SEO, where does it start for you? What’s the first thing that people should start to think about with SEO?

Richard: And before you even get started on that. Let’s define SEO for them since they might just be getting started, John. What exactly is SEO?

John: Yeah. So, SEO stands for search engine optimization and it’s basically getting ranked inside of a search engine. The main search engine that most people are looking at is Google. But there’s also Bing, there’s also Yahoo, and there are others as well.

Some people look at Facebook as a search engine, they look at Amazon as a search engine, they look at Instagram as a search engine, YouTube as a search engine… So, every website online has a search engine.

Those search engines, they run ads on some of them, other ones just rank things organically. So, what we’re talking about here is not running an ad, but actually having your content show up in the search engine. The reason you would want to do that there’s a really high intent for somebody to make a purchase, or to fill out a lead form, or just to learn about your business when they’re doing a search. So, by showing up there in the right place, at the right time, you can get a lot of business. And it’s really the backbone of all internet marketing, it’s where internet marketing started. It really was SEO first. And then it became email marketing and then paid ads followed that. So you really want to show up in the search engines — some people get a lot of revenue and leads from there, that’s kind of what we’re talking about.

Jesse: Good, good to hear. So, you know, with Google or other search engines, we know that it all starts with the search. And searching starts with certain words you type in or even speak these days. So, what’re the basics of doing the research for keywords?

John: So, that’s the big thing. You want to think about who are you trying to target, right? Who is your persona, who is the person that you’re actually trying to sell to or, you know, get aware of your brand and that’s where you want to start. The next is going to be the keywords that they searching for. So, some keywords are really-really broad, other keywords are really-really niche. Some are short, some are long.

Somebody may search for the best SEO company in the United States, right. Now it would be multiple keywords together. Another person might just search for SEO. SEO is a really broad term. They could be just trying to figure out what it is. They could be looking for a company. They could be looking for a singer, whose name is Seo, which happens a lot and actually and inflates that data.

So keyword research is a huge beast. It’s based on what you want to show up for, and the conversions that you’re looking to get, and there’s a lot of different ways to go about it. It really starts by finding the person you want to reach out, and then the keywords, and then mapping that to a service or product that you’re looking for. And there is a couple of tools that I can talk about next if you like, that will help you do that as well.

Jesse: Yeah! So, let’s say, I’m a beginning e-commerce merchant. So, I just signed up for my store, I got this great product that I really want the world to hear about. What advice would you give to that beginning merchant?

John: First thing I do is just spend a lot of time just searching around. Googling around, trying to find some competitors, thinking about what they’re ranking for, looking at their titles, seeing if there are any keywords in it, what type of pages have they made on their website, and things like that. You’re going to get it kind of a good idea of what keywords might be right.

And then, as a next step, you want to use a tool, like the Google Keyword Planner, or a tool like SEMrush. Those are two of the main tools for keyword research. You go there, put in your competitor’s website, and you can find every single thing that their ranking for.

And then, what you want to do is to look at how much search traffic there is for those terms. And you want to think about how competitive it is. And then, how would you target that term on your website as a next step. But generally, you want there to be enough search traffic, so anywhere between a couple hundred visitors a month to thousands of visitors a month really anything other under a hundred visitors a month is it going to be very good because it’s really important to have enough volume, right.

If you spend three months and you finally get ranked number one for a term that’s got a thousand visitors a month, and there’s a 26% click-through rate on that term, that means you’re only going to get 260 visitors a month. From that, if you have a 1% conversion rate on your website, which is pretty standard, then you’re going to get 26 sign-ups a month from that. So, you really got to think about the math in your targeting and if it’s worth your effort. But I recommend just starting with SEMrush and the Keyword Planner, those are two great tools.

Jesse: Okay. And taking even the step back from that on, you know, just googling it. I’m now the number one consultant from my mom’s company.

John: Congratulations!

Jesse: Yeah, yeah, great job! It doesn’t come with any pay! But it comes high expectations. So, she’s selling a concrete table with some fiber optics built-in, that light up at night, so it’s very cool. I tried to explain the keyword research to my mom. And she came back with the list that included the word “table” the word “organic” the word “concrete”. I knew what to tell her, but what would you tell her from an expert standpoint, like, how do you take what people are googling and try to make it into something a little bit more actionable?

John: Yeah, you know, it’s something that you want to… What you think you might want to rank for might not be the right thing. So just because you named it something doesn’t mean that’s going to be the term that people are searching for. You have to find those broad terms, competitive analysis is really good, googling around, seeing what’s inside of the titles and things like that. Usually, it’s a good idea to start long tail.

So, if you try to go after something that’s just one keyword, like, just “table”. That’s going to be pretty much impossible, especially for a small business. If you’re going after “custom green tables made organically”, that you have a better chance to rank for, but then there might not be enough search traffic for it. So, it’s really important that you find that happy medium between the two. That’s what you’re going to have to work through. I will say, SEO takes time, right. Usually, to rank for these things, if it’s a brand new website, it’s going to be pretty tricky to go about it. So, that’s another conversation we can have, but you really want to be realistic: how many other people are in the space, is it a term that’s got enough traffic, and is it long tail enough that you can actually make a depth rank.

Jesse: Got it. For you, long tail means, instead of “table” or “concrete table”, that might be, you know, “fiber optic concrete table”. Is that what you would call a long tail?

John: That’s correct, yeah. You know, even those terms today can be kind of competitive, but I think if you’re in a niche small business, looking for niche keywords that have a little bit of surge is definitely the right way to go. Because if you put all your eggs kind of into that basket and you’re really going after that, the bigger players, they’re going to be more focused on the bigger terms, right. Now they’re going to be more focused on “best tables” or “tables on sale”, but, if you’re going after “tables with fiber optic cable integration”, then you’ve got a much better chance to rank.

Jesse: Got it, got it. So once you’ve googled online, you recorded some of these searches maybe on a spreadsheet… You mentioned SEMrush. I know there’s a free and a paid version. Is that something that a newbie could use for free?

John: Yeah, you can use it for free. You really don’t need to pay for it. SEMrush is a really sophisticated tool. So, you know, just putting in a competitor’s website, you’re going to see everything that they’re trying to rank for, you can see all the ads that they’re running, you can see how their keyword growth is looking. Generally, you just want to pick those top terms, put them in a sheet, and then the next step is to craft a plan to actually rank for them and then that’s when it gets interesting.

Jesse: Got it. So research, that’s the easy part.

John: It can be.

Jesse: So yeah, John. I’d like to have you back again to talk about it. Okay now that we’ve done this research, what can we do to really put it into action?

John: Sounds good, I’m looking forward to it.

Richard: We’ve got about 30 seconds, let someone learn a little bit more about John Lincoln and your company, and what it is you do?

John: Best place for me, you can find us on the Ignite Visibility blog: We make a ton of training videos on YouTube: And then, you can follow me on Twitter (@JohnnyLincoln) and you get some good feel there.

Jesse: Awesome, thank you! I’m Jesse Ness on the Ecwid E-Commerce Show, look to have you back next week.

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