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Fuschia Hutton

How to choose the right SEO keywords for your ethical brand

Which words or phrases do you use to communicate that your product is eco-friendly, ethical, or sustainable? See, I couldn’t pick just one word to use in that sentence – I had to use all three. And therein lies a problem.

It may seem like a trivial matter. A matter of preference perhaps. But there’s one reason why the adjective you chose could make a big difference to your bottom line. I think you know what I’m going to say: SEO.

Of course, a well-crafted product description or sales page that shouts about the benefits of your product goes a long way. But that is not enough – your customers need to find you first, and often that is via a search engine: Google, search functions on online marketplaces like Etsy or Amazon, or another search engine.

SEO (or search engine optimisation) means working out what keywords your ideal customers are searching for, and then writing your texts in such a way that when your customers search for those terms, they find you. If you choose the right SEO keyword for your ethical brand, then you should rank higher in the search results than your competitors. There’s more to it than that, but that’s the gist.

If you sell metal straws, then the types of keywords your customers might be looking for could be ‘stainless-steel straw’ or ‘metal straw’. But if you stop there, you’re missing a trick. Not everyone who’s in the market for a stainless-steel straw is necessarily looking for that material – instead, they could be searching for ‘reusable straw’, ‘eco-friendly straw’, or ‘environmentally-friendly straw’.

Etsy recently reported that in the UK, searches containing the term ‘eco-friendly’ on their site increased by 218% in the first four months of 2018. If you sell products or services responding to this huge increase in desire, you have a ready-made audience. An audience that certainly didn’t exist in the same numbers several years ago and is joyfully spreading the word about their latest eco finds.

The problem is, there are so many possible terms you can use to describe your products, and many of these terms are used interchangeably (even if there are philosophical differences in meaning), which means some of your most ideal customers may be missing you when they search.

Just off the top of my head I can think of: green, ethical, sustainable, eco-friendly, environmentally- friendly, earth-friendly, biodegradable, conscious…

So, how can you find out the right SEO keyword for your ethical brand?

If you use words or phrases no one is looking for, then customers are less likely to find you. And that’s a shame, because if they did, they might REALLY want to buy your products.

But at the same time, you don’t necessarily want to be using the exact same SEO keyword for your ethical brand as your competitors. If you do, you will really have your work cut out for you: if you are all trying to rank well for the same phrase then it will be hard to beat the competition. There’s not enough room of the first page of Google for all of you.

Luckily, there are a lot of tools out there to help you decide on the right SEO keyword for your ethical brand to target. Great free tools include Ubersuggest and going straight to the source with Google’s Keyword Planner.

For a clear and concise explanation of how to use Ubersuggest for keyword research for non-techies (that’s most of us then), make sure you check out the Stitchwriter’s post on SEO basics.

The point of this blogpost is not to teach you how to use keyword research tools, but to make you aware that if you take a strategic approach to the way you describe your products and services, you can be a step ahead of the competition.

Test and see which works for you

If you are still unsure which is the best SEO keyword for your ethical brand, why not test and see? If you have a website then you could create a landing page for ‘reusable straw’ and one for ‘eco-friendly straw’. Monitor the pages over a few months to see which one brings in more organic search results. There’s nothing to say you can’t keep all versions at the end of your experiment, but this does mean you’ll have more pages to maintain.

If you sell via an online marketplace, you could create two listings for the same product, varying the term you use. Again, after a suitable period of time you can see which term has performed the best.

But by using this apporach, you do risk cannibalising your content. Beware of trying to kill two birds with one stone by trying to optimise both keywords within the same page or listing. This will weaken the performance of each keyword and you are unlikely to be successful with either.

If you sell on Etsy, you can access search terms which have led browsers to your items so far. These are located in the Stats section of your Shop Manager and makes it easier to access the success of any search terms as you go along. If your chosen SEO keyword isn’t working over a period of a few months, you can adjust.

If you plan to run a Google AdWords campaign (paid advertising within the search results), you can also test which SEO keyword works best for your ethical brand. You can run A and B campaigns at the same time which will show quite easily which is pulling in more customer clicks.

Does Google (or other search engines) use the terms interchangeably?

This is a difficult one to answer. Sometimes Google will add a suggestion or ‘auto-correct’ one term to another similar term. For example, when I search for the word ‘eco-friendly glitter’, many of the pages which come up describe it as ‘biodegradable glitter’, and the ‘eco-friendly’ element comes in another part of the text.

In this case, these pages have used ‘eco-friendly’ in their descriptions, even if most of them appear to have optimised for ‘biodegradable glitter’, rather than Google auto-correcting my search terms. This suggests there’s an opportunity for biodegradable glitter companies to optimise ‘eco-friendly glitter’ by getting the term in key places like the meta-title (the title in blue in search results), the short description, and photos.

Beware of greenwashing

Finally, all sustainable superheroes should be aware of greenwashing. Make sure any claims you make can be backed up. It can be easy to accidentally suggest something is more ethical or sustainable than it actually is. Being as specific as possible is your saviour here: explain exactly what makes your product sustainable.

Of course, there are no hard and fast rules of what constitutes a ‘sustainable’ brand versus an ‘ethical’ one. And this means the category is easy prey for greenwashers – whether inadvertently or in full knowledge of what they’re doing. Just carry on doing the good work you’re doing, make sure any claims can be substantiated, and you’ll be fine.

Hopefully, you can see that using a strategic approach will pay off. Finding the right SEO keyword for your ethical brand may take a bit of practice but getting it right could make a huge difference to your business. Why not set up a few tests now to see what does and doesn’t work for your particular product?

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