How to Start an Online Store: Keyword Research & Costs

In the first part of our guide “How to Start an Online Store,” you learned everything you ever wanted to know about beakers. Incidentally, you also learned why doing research prior to starting your ecommerce enterprise is so important.

Today, we’ll be covering the how of keyword research, namely how to use the Google External Keyword Tool to plan your marketing efforts. Understanding exactly how powerful this utility is will give you a huge head start in the online marketplace.

Refining your core keywords

While it’s certainly fun to just jump into the keyword search field and enter likely queries, the results you’re going to get may not be too helpful. You’ll find a lot of barely-related queries, even if you click the “only show ideas closely related to my search terms ” box. To refine your research, you need to understand the three kinds of keyword match types.

Broad match: Whenever you type in a keyword/phrase into the External Keyword Tool without any modifiers, you’re asking for a broad match. This means your search term (which we can almost certainly guess is monkey food), will be analyzed very loosely by Google. The results will include anything even remotely related to the words you’ve supplied. Yes, you will get results for people searching monkey food, but you’ll also get results for people searching food monkey or feeding monkeys information and even why won’t my monkeys eat Chinese food?

That doesn’t mean broad match results are useless, of course. You can certainly discover phrases you wouldn’t have thought of, and you’ll still get a great overview of the traffic/interest tied to your soon-to-be simian snacking business.

Phrase match: If you enter a keyword phrase in “quotes” or click Phrase Match on the left-hand options, Google will spit out only searches that included that exact phrase, in that exact order. “Monkey food” for instance, will not match if customers are searching monkey or ape food, but it will match people looking for sea monkey food or monkey food online or is monkey food poisonous?

To that effect, phrase match is significantly more precise than broad match, though it is clearly still limited.

Exact match: If you don’t give a damn about anything other than internet users who want plain ol’ monkey food, exact match may be for you. Entering your query in [brackets] or clicking Exact Match to the left will generate only results for users who typed your keyword phrase and nothing but your keyword phrase. So [monkey food] won’t match searches for free monkey food or monkey food online store.

Exact match is, therefore, exact. On the surface, that may appear beneficial, but as demonstrated in the last example, it can also filter out people who may be perfect customers. You can’t always predict precisely how your target demographics will spell out their needs. That’s why looking at results from all three keyword match types is important.

Making sense of it all

Now that you understand how the three types of keyword match work, you can begin your preliminary keyword research. You may find that many of your initial assumptions are wrong, and that the way your customers look for your products isn’t as straightforward as you thought. You’ll have to tinker with different variations, of course, to figure out which keywords and related ideas are best suited to your primate-pandering pursuits.

But there’s a lot more to going through the data than just eliminating keyword ideas that are only tangentially related to your inventory. Your initial keyword research should include significant thought about what the search results mean for your long-term strategy.

Market size: While search volume for “monkey food” may not be high, many keyword phrases tied to ecommerce will result in tens or even hundreds of thousands of monthly searches. In the broadest sense, this represents the demand for what you’re thinking of selling, so high volume may be a good sign. But if you’re looking to make a splash in a category like strollers, remember that your site will be wading into the shallowest end of a rather deep commercial pool.

Keyword competition: Having an enormous pool of money all to yourself isn’t a bad thing, of course, but that will rarely be the case. In addition to the search volume, Google will tell you the “competition” you can expect if you choose to advertise targeting your selected keywords, from Low to High. It’s a quick measure of how crowded the advertising market for your keywords is. Low means ads you buy will be cheaper and can show up more often, while High competition indicates other companies are paying a pretty penny to ensure you don’t get a very large slice of the monkey food marketshare pie.

Approximate CPC cost: You can also turn on the Approximate CPC (Search) column for an estimate of what paid search advertising on your chosen phrases will cost you. It should come of no surprise that advertising on more competitive terms/more expensive items will cost more, though every product’s results will vary. In the long run, you should be willing to spend at least half the average CPC shown if you expect to yield any returns from your AdWords investment. Otherwise, your messaging will be outbid and quickly crowded out of the limited search results space.

Does it take money to make money?

Looking at cost-per-click (CPC) advertising costs can be daunting, especially if this is your first foray into online retail (If you’re trying to sell chimp fodder, it probably is). You might be wondering if you can’t just take one of those “search engine optimization” (SEO) courses on the “World Wide Web” and pull in millions of customers for free.

While it is certainly possible to build your Pagerank and general Google-friendliness via natural means (in fact, we’re working on a guide), this process requires a lot of work and time. By contrast, good search engine marketing (SEM) is guaranteed to drive traffic, provided you’ve done your homework. That’s not to say SEO doesn’t have value – it does. It’s just that SEM can get your site off the ground and into the hearts of your banana-loving patrons faster.

But how much will you need to spend? To figure this out, it’s often better to work backwards. If you assume the typical jar of monkey food (bag? box?) nets $40 in profit, and that 1%-2% of everyone who saw your product bought it, you could afford to spend 40 to 80 cents for each click and still break even. If that’s in line with the prices you’re seeing from your keyword research, it’s time to fire up the online banana stand. If the keywords you’re investigating cost a lot more than 80 cents per click, you’re going to have to reevaluate your prices, the keywords you plan to target, or possibly your choice of product altogether.

Once your site is actually live, your AdWords spending will depend greatly on how your business is doing. Check out our in-depth analytics guide for a better idea of how to measure your ROI and other site success markers.

Anyway, assuming your research has paid off and you’ve found keywords you can target at a profitable rate, congratulations! But don’t celebrate just yet, because you have several fortunate, new problems.

  • How much volume can your online business handle? Will you be restricted by search volume, AdWords budget, or even your own inventory?
  • Are you prepared to handle any seasonality of demand you may have discovered from Google Insights for Search?
  • Have you taken conversion rates into account? What percentage of visitors do you expect will actually purchase your products?

These are just a few of the many things to consider when you begin plotting out your high-potassium sales platform. Ultimately, budget considerations and overall business preparedness will go a long way towards bringing your success online. In the meantime, why don’t you take a few minutes to glance over our keyword research guide again? Or, if you’re confident in your ability to find the very best monkey food-related keywords on the internet, check out our advice for beginning your competitive and product research.

Read the third part of our guide here.

Ripen Services:

Monkey food won’t sell itself. But doing the proper ecommerce market research saves you time and money in the long run. Ripen can kick-start your ecommerce development for SEO and find potential buyers, giving you a head start in the competitive world of primate dietary sales.


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