Getting Started with Long-Tail Keywords for Ecommerce

Tristan Stocker
min read
1 Sep

If you're reading this article then you've likely been introduced to the numerous benefits of using long-tail keywords for your ecommerce website. If not, then I recommend reading this, which explains the benefits in terms of Conversion Rates and Click-through Rates. You're probably wondering how to get started with implementing long-tail keywords so that you can start to capitalize on the benefits. This article will set out 3 solutions to implement long-tail keywords, and the pros and cons of each.

Solution 1: Index Every Possible Keyword

The first solution is to create a search-engine-readable page for every possible keyword. This could best be seen as a “brute force” solution, with the potential to create tens of thousands of pages. This could be accomplished either by creating pages en-masse via automation, or simply by making all of your dynamic pages visible to search engines.

This is likely the easiest option, but we strongly recommend against it as it often does more harm than good. There are a number of clear downsides to this approach:

Firstly, because this is a “brute force” solution, you'll end up making pages for which you have too few products (maybe just one or two), and for keywords that people don't even search for (like “blue small check shirts”, just 10 searches per month).

Secondly, you’ll have very little control over individual pages, because of the sheer number of pages that would be created. This can lead to problems with your H1s, page titles and meta descriptions. Not only is this a bad customer experience for your visitors, but it confuses Google. If these aren't defined properly, search engine crawling bots won't understand the purpose of a page, and therefore won't suggest the page for the appropriate keyword.

Screenshot of ecommerce website with H1 saying "Multi-Color The North Face Jackets 2020"
A real example from a major US retailer

Lastly, this option would likely result in over-indexing, consuming your crawl budget. When Google visits your website, it starts with a limited “crawl budget” of pages. For example, let's say you generated 10,000 pages with this solution, and Google gave you a 1,000 page crawl budget. The Google bot arrives at your website, spends its entire budget on low-value pages like “Multi Color The North Face Jackets 2020”, and then leaves, without ever seeing your high-value “Hoodies” or “Sneakers” pages.

Without having viewed the hoodies page, Google has no way to know whether you sell hoodies or not, and so will not suggest your website when someone searches for “hoodies”. Ensuring your high-value pages are crawled and indexed is of utmost priority, and this solution cannot guarantee that.

Therefore, although this solution is likely the easiest to implement, we highly recommend against it, given the lack of control and resultant over-indexing.

Solution 2: Manually Create Pages for High-Value Keywords

This approach is a great way to use long-tail keywords for your ecommerce website, especially at the start of your long-tail SEO journey. This process involves identifying a number of long-tail keywords relevant to your ecommerce website and creating pages that target those keywords. This process is entirely manual and may take significant time to complete, but is a good way to start implementing long-tail keywords.

This solution has three steps:

  1. Identifying good long-tail keywords
  2. Creating pages that optimize for those keywords
  3. Tracking the results of those pages
Screenshot of keywords from Semrush

Identifying Good Long-Tail Keywords

Good long-tail keywords have a high monthly search volume, and a low keyword difficulty. One method of discovering good long-tail keywords is to manually determine the needs and wants of your target audience. This could be accomplished with feedback from the sales or buying teams, as they will likely understand your target customers and what they are searching for online.

An even better method of discovering these long-tail keywords is by using a platform such as Semrush. Using Semrush, there are a number of approaches to identifying relevant long-tail keywords for your online store. Semrush also has a “Keyword Magic Tool” that allows you to input head keywords, select your country, and get a list of long-tail keywords for you to target on your website. This can be a quick way of generating a list of relevant long-tail keywords in order to specifically target your potential customers.

Screenshot of Keyword Magic Tool from Semrush

Although it can be time-consuming, using Semrush and manually creating long-tail pages is an excellent way to start optimizing your online store for long-tail keywords.

Creating Pages that Optimize for Long-Tail Keywords

In order to capture the search volume of a long-tail keyword, you must create a search-engine-readable category page in your ecommerce platform for that keyword. Within this category, the long-tail keyword that you are optimizing for should be included in the page title, meta description, the H1 tag and on-page description.

Screenshot of Google with query "blue hoodies"
Meta descriptions being used effectively.

Once the correct categories have been created, the relevant products should be added to them. For the best customer experience, you should also ensure that the product images that display on the storefront match the keyword. For example, if you've got a page called “Blue Hoodies”, ensure that only the blue variants of your hoodies show up, not the other colors.

Screenshot of ecommerce website with H1 saying "Blue Hoodies"
A real example from a major US retailer

Tracking the Results of your Long-Tail-Keyword-Optimized Pages

Once implemented, we recommend tracking the results of your long-tail SEO implementation using Google Search Console. This enables you to understand what terms customers are searching for, and what pages they are visiting.

The two most important metrics here are impressions and click-through rate. Impressions are the number of people who have seen your website listed on the Search Engine Results Page, and the Click-Through Rate is the proportion of those impressions who made the decision to actually click on your link to view your website.

Using Google Search Console, you can identify under-performing pages by tracking impressions, and further optimize those pages. For example, adding related keywords to your page titles can help capture traffic from multiple keywords at once. Instead of having a single category page with the title “Blue Hoodies”, or having two category pages, one “Blue Hoodies” and one “Navy Hoodies”, you can combine the keywords into a single category page titled “Blue and Navy Hoodies” to capture the impressions from both keywords with a single page. This not only increases your potential impressions, but saves on your crawl budget.

The click-through rate is also an important indicator of the performance of a particular page. It is possible to make these under-performing pages more enticing by adjusting the meta description. For example, adding tempting phrases such as “hundreds of styles to choose from” or “free delivery available”. Meta descriptions with these attractive phrases are likely to increase click-through rates.

This solution is a great starting point to take advantage of the benefits of long-tail keywords. However, inevitably more and more pages will be created, and you'll likely reach a point where they'll become unmanageable. It becomes difficult to ensure the quality and relevance of old pages when stock, trends and consumer expectations are constantly changing. Serving long-tail keywords requires creating and maintaining hundreds or even thousands of pages, and between identifying new keywords, creating new categories, and maintaining old ones, there comes a time when this solution starts to break down.

Solution 3: Merchstack’s Long-Tail Categories Feature

If the manual solution has been tried and fully exploited, but your website now has too many pages and is overwhelming to manage, you might find Merchstack's Long-Tail Categories feature a great next step. Merchstack helps you to capture the search traffic from long-tail keywords, and is the most successful solution for larger stores, providing a balance of automation and manual controls.

Merchstack identifies high-value long-tail keywords, and then prepares thousands of attribute-based categories using your product data.

Once prepared, you can use templates to manage the SEO and content of thousands of categories at once.

You can set up a range of limits—for example, instruct Merchstack to only prepare a category if the keyword has more than 1000 monthly searches, and if you have at least 5 products that fit the keyword. Then, you can manually approve or disable categories. Once approved, Merchstack will automatically keep those categories up to date as products move in and out of your store.

Finally, you can view your Impressions and Click-Through Rates to identify categories that need more attention, and then customize the SEO and content of individual categories. This way you can both help out under-performing categories, and further optimize high performers.

This solution is the only way to take advantage of all of the search traffic available to you through long-tail keywords, while avoiding over-indexing, by only creating high-value pages. Using this feature can boost your organic search traffic by 3-5x.


Let’s summarise. If you’re wanting to get started using long-tail keywords to increase organic traffic to your ecommerce website, there are three main solutions:

  1. Index every possible keyword. This likely results in a poor customer experience, and over-indexing, and potentially does more harm than good.
  2. Manually create pages for high-value long-tail keywords. This is a great way to dip your toes in the water, and may even work long-term for small stores.
  3. Using Merchstack’s Long-Tail Categories feature. This balances automation with manual control to give the best of both worlds, and is the best way to take full advantage of long-tail keywords for larger stores.

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