“Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.”

Pearl Strachan Hurd

Phraseology in relation to SEO is the study of learning your business’s category and product pages, and then using the proper keywords and phrases to optimize them, so that customers and search engines get what they’re looking for.  When you work on a site that potentially can get traffic for hundreds of thousands of terms, sometimes you have to optimize in a one-by-one manner, and sometimes you have to optimize at scale.

In enterprise retail companies, studying keyword data doesn’t just help SEO. It helps you grasp supply and demand in your industry, so that you can add new products, and categories your customers are looking for that you or your competitors don’t already offer. It helps your site merchandisers better understand how to categorize and group products so that customers can find them. It helps your social and content marketing teams identify super-specific topics your customers look on the internet for.

Questions Worth Asking

Keyword Research, Tools, Reports & Process

What should you research keyword data for?

Tip: in the enterprise, you can perform keyword research to optimize both existing and new products, categories, and content. You can use it to gauge market share between your company and competitors. You can use it to help merchandising classify products by category and facet taxonomies.

How does seasonality affect your monthly search volume data for keyword sets?

What tools should the SEO team use regularly for keyword research?

You have 2 ways to understand how customers click your pages in organic search: keyword clicks and landing page clicks. Which one should you rely on more to understand performance? How can you achieve the best of both worlds?

Tip: the answer usually centers around “Keywords Not Provided.”

How do you determine keyword priority: should you target high-volume keywords, high-converting keywords, or the best of both worlds?

How should you scale your keyword research to find highly popular, relevant, and converting keywords for all the categories and products on your site?

Tip: ask if your faceted navigation pages has unlimited search potential. Take random categories (shoes) and combine them with common attribute (facet) groups, such as brand, size, gender, color, etc. See if the permutations create popular, and specific keywords with one attribute (Air Jordan shoes), two attributes (men’s Air Jordan shoes), or even three attributes (men’s Air Jordan shoes in size 10).

Big sites with the potential to yield traffic for over 100K keywords can scale SEO to rank for thousands of additional mid-tail terms by optimizing faceted navigation. This is one of the most overlooked or under-optimized gold mines on enterprise sites.

What should you do after keyword research reports are created? Who receives them on the SEO team, and outside the team, and what are they expected to do with it?

Tip: It’s easy to get swamped with work and meetings, so these reports often go unused, or get lost in clutter, and you have to re-do the work. Follow through immediately.

Keyword mobile rankings vary greatly by cities, states and countries. Even expensive enterprise keyword tracking tools are limited in accurate mobile rankings. How should you measure organic search visibility on mobile devices at a macro and micro level?

The customer journey includes searching by short, mid and long-tail keywords. What data can customer service, UX, Site Merchandising, PPC, and e-mail teams give to help you understand on-site customer behavior? What data can you offer to help them understand customer behavior in search?

SEO in Copywriting & Content

If external search data uncovers content marketing opportunities to capture upper funnel traffic, who should SEO work with to produce and promote new marketing content?

How should you match the various types of keywords with the various types of page templates? Example: Long-tail transactional keywords for Product pages, long-tail informational keywords for Blog post pages, etc.

Who defines the category / product page copywriting processes? From initial keyword research to the final quality checks, what internal and external people are involved? What are your performance goals, i.e, how many pages should you aim to complete daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly?

Who’s going to write category / product page copy to target keywords: internal or external copywriters? Who should SEO team with, internally, to determine guidelines, style, voice, customer personas, etc.?  What about quality control of the messaging?

As pages get updated with target keywords, how should you track them? When do you report progress on them?

“Searchandising” and SEO

How should keyword research align with the site structure (content, category and product hierarchies), aka information architecture? Who builds these facets and taxonomies?

When was the last time a taxonomy project was worked on, and was SEO data applied to it?

For future taxonomy projects, how should the SEO team provide keyword research so that site merchants can create, name, and organize categories in a data-driven way?

Keyword targeting requires every page to adequately use the keywords in your meta tags, copy, image/video meta tags, and internal links. On dynamically-generated pages and dynamic sections on static pages across the site, how should you ensure these on-page elements use the keywords? Possible areas of focus on:

  • Areas of focus on category Pages: meta tags, faceted navigation links, breadcrumbs, heading tags, category copy, product titles & image thumbnails, pagination tags, etc.
  • Areas of focus on product pages: meta tags, breadcrumbs, heading tags, product descriptions/details, featured image(s) tags, user-generated content ( customer reviews, Q/A, related product widgets, etc.)

On-site search and navigation are usually powered by a custom or 3rd party internal search engine, such as Endeca or HawkSearch. What role do these engines play, aka what rules are set up, in generating meta tags, links, content, sitemaps, etc.? How should you use these technologies to maximize your keyword targeting across the site in a scalable way?

Your customers search on-site by “bath tissue” but searchers most commonly type “toilet paper” in Google. How should you marry your on-site search data with external keyword research data to better target pages?


The bigger the site, the bigger your keyword universe. Short, medium and long-tail keywords. Words based on information, advice, products, services. Keyword research will only take you so far. To make macro level dents in your keyword strategy, try to reverse engineer the process. Start with your top 1,000, 2,000, or 5,000 landing pages in Webmaster Tools, in descending order of impressions. Keyword research in the Google Keyword Planner is theoretical. Landing page research in Webmaster Tools is actual. Tap into your on-site search data. Google may say searchers look for “soda” more, but your own customers may relate more to “pop”. Optimize for synonyms.

Keywords also give you key insights on how to gradually expand your business with new content, new ideas, new products, new acquisitions. Think beyond SEO implications.



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