Finding the right e-commerce search keywords to monitor, put on product pages and advertise on is among the most critical tasks of an e-commerce manager. In this guide, we will address one of the struggles of e-commerce: how do you stay on top of what customers search? How do you identify new trends for each market? How can you know which search keywords your competitors are using?

The product discovery process for e-commerce shoppers tends to more and more begin on e-commerce retailer sites and marketplaces. While some shoppers have a specific reference in mind, many search for generic category terms like "electric toothbrush" or "aa batteries." E-Commerce managers need to stay on top of which search expressions customers are using to ensure that their products are showing up.

What are category search keywords?

For this article, we will use examples from the portable speaker category.

Category search keywords (or key phrases) are all the possible strings of texts that shoppers may use to find a product. It excludes, however, exact product names, references or brands, which generally lead to a product directly.

The sub-categories of search keywords are:

  • product category aliases (e.g., portable speaker, wireless sound system, Bluetooth loudspeaker...),
  • differentiating features (e.g., waterproof, shockproof, built-in mic, stereo, remote...),
  • compatibility (e.g., iPhone, Android, Samsung, Bluetooth low energy...),
  • use cases (e.g., sport, beach, party, shower...).

Search keyphrases are a mix of any number of these.

As an e-commerce manager, your two main challenges are:

  • Putting together an extensive list of keywords and keyphrases for your category,
  • Estimating the search volumes for each search expressions.

In this guide, we'll lay out your options to achieve both of these.

How to find e-commerce keywords relevant to your products?

Trust your instinct (but don't stop there)

The best place to start is usually with the obvious. What you already have is probably an excellent base. Describe your products to the best of your ability. Include features and compatibility that people may be searching for. Think of use cases for your products that may be relevant to your users. Look at what words your competitors are using. Get inspiration from product reviews.

Once you have a decent list, expand it with synonyms: "waterproof" becomes "splashproof" or "IPX6".

It's essential that you don't stop at just this as you may be missing important terms: read on!

Amazon Advertising

Running sponsored ads campaigns on Amazon Advertising may prove very informative. Automatic targeting campaigns let Amazon automatically display your ads on search queries that contain at least one word (if you type "speaker," your ads may show for "party speaker" and "speaker for the beach").

Amazon recommends a minimum budget of $10 per day. After two weeks, check your search term report in ‘Advertising Reports’ to see which search terms were used and resulted in clicks.

Google Search Console

The Google Search Console is a free webmaster tool that any website owner can install. If your brand owns an e-store or even a simple marketing website, chances are someone already installed this. If not, just send this link to the most tech-savvy person in your team!

What the Console does is provide a list of organic search terms typed on Google for which your site was displayed in the first 100 search results. This is an incredibly rich source of search expressions that allows you to understand how your customers are phrasing their searches.

This method does, however, come with a few biases:

  • Your site will usually only rank on words that it contains somewhere. If a new trend appears and it is not a word contained on your site, you will never learn about it in the console.
  • Google searches are not exactly the same as e-commerce searches. Searches on e-commerce sites tend to be more specific and "closer" to the purchase than generic Google queries.
  • Long tail search terms (usually very long queries) are not displayed.


e-commerce search keywords

Many search bars on e-commerce sites have an auto-complete feature. When you begin to type a category name, it will suggest a series of frequently type queries. See the examples below:

Auto-complete on
Auto-complete search keywords

While not all search results may be relevant to your products specifically, you should include them all in your list. You can decide later which ones should make it to your product pages, but all the other ones are interesting to monitor.

It is especially interesting for product development to know which search queries have too few relevant results. You may want to try and develop products that specifically answer untapped search queries.

How can you estimate search volumes?

There is no definitive way to know on-site search volumes because sites do not disclose them. Also, search trends evolve over time and vary from one site to another. There is, however, a handful of ways to estimate the search volumes, or at least to rank searches from most to least frequent.

Amazon Advertising

This is the easiest method to get search volumes if you have the account and the budget. By running exact-match campaigns on your list of keywords with high enough bids, you will get detailed impressions, clicks and sales metrics for your search keywords.

Google Search Console

Using the same method as before, you can get volume estimates from your site. Of course, this is not as good as e-commerce sites' search stats but still an excellent way to rank search phrases.

From the main dashboard, from a few days after your installation is complete, you will start to see search terms as well as search volumes, the number of clicks, CTR and your position in Google Results. You can dive into individual search phrases for more details. Here's what it looks like:

Google Search console dashboard appearance for one search keyword
Google Search console dashboard appearance for one search keyword.

Google Trends

Searches on Google are not e-commerce searches, but they are a good proxy. Especially now that Google Trends lets you filter on Google Shopping queries.

Google Trends can let you compare up to 5 search terms. It also provides absolute search popularity, on a scale of 0 to 100 (the histograms on the left). For best results, use the following settings:

  • Filter down to one country,
  • Past 12 months,
  • Use Google Shopping results.
Google Trends e-commerce

Conclusion: what should you do with your list of keywords?

Once you have a full list of keywords and key phrases, as well as some indication of volume, what should you do? The next steps include ranking your keywords by relevance to your products, optimizing your product pages for search performance and monitoring your share of the digital shelf for the most popular search queries on your biggest retailer sites.

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