SEO Tactic #2: Pain Keywords vs Medicine Keywords

SEO Tactic #2: Pain keywords versus medicine keywords

Pain Keywords vs Medicine Keywords

This is Part 2 of a 15-part series on how to efficiently optimize your ecommerce site for search engines and boost your organic traffic. In Part 1, I discussed “Robin Hood” keyword research – stealing from the rich (Adwords) and giving to the poor (poorly-optimized product pages). Check it out if you haven’t already. This tactic also concerns keyword research, but it takes a different approach. Picture this:

A woman named Karen is getting ready for work. She starts to feel light-headed and dizzy. She lays down for several minutes and it gradually passes. Karen tries to search online for what the problem could be, but finds that it could be anything from low blood sugar to a brain tumor. A bit frightened, she makes an appointment with her doctor. Karen is eventually diagnosed with low blood pressure and placed on a medication called Florinef which resolves her symptoms.

What does this have to do with search engine optimization? Customers often search based on their “symptoms” or pain points, rather than for a specific solution. Karen didn’t know the name of the product that would solve her problem. She needed a doctor’s diagnosis. Your potential customers have a need or a problem, but they don’t always know what the solution will be. You can be the “doctor” and supply them with the answer, gaining traffic and revenue.

Doctor and patients

The goal of this tactic

With this tactic, our goal is to catch the attention of customers who don’t know exactly what they need or want. In this day and age, people are constantly using search engines to ask questions and solve problems. If you aren’t targeting these customers, you’re missing out on potential organic traffic.


First, we’ll research problems that people have that could be solved by your products. Then we’ll find keywords based on those pains. We’ll look for keywords that are easier to rank for, then optimize your site for them.

This tactic will help you attract traffic from customers who are searching for a solution, but don’t know exactly what that solution is.

How To Use This Tactic

Step 1 – Research

Look where customers express their problems: forums, product reviews, blogs, Twitter – anywhere your potential customers go to ask questions, express frustrations, etc. You want to find common problems that could be solved by your products. You’ll learn how customers phrase those problems so that you can target those phrases later on.

For example, let’s say you sell drain augers (also known as plumber’s snakes). Some of your potential customers might not know what a drain auger is. If you aren’t familiar with this term, it’s a long, flexible metal coil that you can feed down a drain to unclog it. Your potential customers may be searching for plumbing help or how to unclog a drain. In this example, the “medicine” is a plumber’s snake, but the pain is a clogged drain. For this tactic, you’ll be targeting the average homeowner rather than plumbers (because they definitely know what a drain auger is).

Step 2 – Discover new keywords

Use Google’s Keyword Planner to find new keywords. You can input a news article, a blog post, or even a forum and find keywords related to the content on that page. Although this shows you click data from ads, it’s still a good estimate of how valuable keywords are for SEO.

For our plumber’s snake example, we already have an idea of an appropriate pain keyword – “unclog drain,” so we can enter this directly into the Keyword Planner to get suggestions:

Keyword research tool results

You’ll notice that all of the suggestions are also pain keywords, not medicine keywords. Once you have a list of potential keywords, you’ll need to narrow it down to the ones that have less competition and good demand.

Step 3 – Assess the competition

You may recall that in Tip #1 we explained how to use SEMrush’s keyword difficulty tool to assess the competition for keywords. SEMrush doesn’t publically share their algorithms for how they determine difficulty, and you may want a more transparent method. So for this tip, we’ll show you how to use advanced searches in Google to assess a keyword’s difficulty.

Google’s advanced searches will tell you where a keyword is found all over the web. For example, you can see how many webpages have the keyword “unclog drain” in the title tags by entering the following in Google:

allintitle:“unclog drain”

Be sure to include the quotation marks. Here are all of the advanced search options:

  • allintitle: Shows results where the keyword is found in the title of the page
  • allintext: Shows results where the keyword is found in the text of the page, but nowhere else
  • allinurl: Shows results where the keyword is found in the URL of the page
  • allinanchor: Shows results where the keyword is found in the links that point to the page

For this tactic, it helps to use an Excel sheet to keep track of the information you’ll be collecting. First, search Google for the keyword, and note the number of results (consider this a “basic” search). Then use each of the advanced searches above for the same keyword, noting the number of results for each search.

Repeat this process for all of the pain keywords you’re considering. You should now have all this information in your spreadsheet:

Advanced search data for keyword research

It goes without saying that the more search results for a keyword, the more competitive it is. But the advanced searches give us some additional information. Pages containing the keyword in the title are probably optimized for that keyword. So even though “clear drains” has a huge number of results (39 million), only 829 contain that keyword in the title. This keyword may be a good candidate to target for SEO.

Narrow your list down to keywords that have less competition. Next, we’ll assess how profitable they might be.

Step 4 – Compare to Adwords clicks

Now that you’ve narrowed your list down to pain keywords that should be easy to rank for, you’ll want to prioritize the ones that have good conversion rates. Check in Adwords to see the bids and clicks for each keyword. Keywords that have higher bids generally have better conversion rates, so you can use these as guidance. You can also refer to the Keyword Planner data from Step 2 to see how much traffic each keyword gets monthly.

You’ll probably find yourself balancing the difficulty of keywords with the potential profitability, so you’ll need to use your best judgment.

Step 5 – Optimize pages

You’re ready to optimize pages on your site! You can refer to Tip #1 for more details about optimizing pages, but pain keywords require a slightly different approach. It’s important to retain the name of the product in the title and H1 header. You can use the pain keywords in the subject heading and product description, describing the problems that can be solved with the product. If you’d like a bolder approach, check out Ikea’s humorous campaign to rename products after the relationship problem that they solve:

Ikea product renamed

See more examples in Ikea’s promo video

Whatever approach you choose, remember to use the keyword in a natural way (no keyword stuffing!).

I’d like to note that some SEO experts shy away from “sales-y” language in organic search, but we’ve had success using more promotional language in organic search results (more on this in the next tip).

The pain keyword approach also works well in category pages. Most retailers offer a selection of solutions for a given problem (such as a variety of different drain augers), so there’s probably already an appropriate category page on your site. Of course, you’ll still retain the main title of the category page, but you can add the pain keyword at the end.

Pain keywords also make good candidates for blog content (or featured content, which we’ll discuss in a future tip), so if you have a blog, consider creating content around some of the pain keywords you’ve discovered in this process.

That’s all for this tip! This tactic should help you get the attention of customers who don’t know exactly what they’re searching for. I’m curious to see how you would apply this strategy – let me know in the comments!

SEO Tactic #1: Robin Hood Keyword Research

SEO Tactic #1: Robin Hood Keyword Research

15 Tips For Results-Focused Ecommerce SEO

Ecommerce sites can benefit tremendously from search engine optimization. Typical ecommerce sites generate around 30% of their visitors from organic search engine traffic. However, most ecommerce sites are woefully under-optimized. In our research of over 8,000 ecommerce sites, we found that 95% of sites have opportunity to improve their SEO. Virtually any ecommerce business can increase their revenue through well-designed, efficient SEO strategies.

However, I know SEO can be time-consuming, and it’s hard to know which strategies will have the most impact. In this series, I’ll help you increase organic search engine traffic to your ecommerce site. We’ll tackle issues such as:

  • Optimizing keywords
  • Performing SEO experiments (A/B tests)
  • Fixing technical SEO issues
  • And more!

Every tactic will be broken down into step-by-step instructions to make implementation easy. We at RankSense have applied these strategies to our ecommerce clients and seen increases of more than 15% in SEO revenue, year over year.

This first tip will help you lower your Adwords expenses while at the same time improving your organic traffic and revenue. But what’s SEO have to do with Robin Hood?

In this tactic, we’ll be stealing rich (high-converting) keywords from Adwords and giving them to our poorly optimized product pages. Increasing your organic traffic will help you spend less on paid traffic.

This tactic is all about finding opportunity that’s lying right under your nose. There’s no SEO magic here. We’re just researching a target, finding an opportunity, and seizing it (a bit like Robin Hood).

The goal of this tactic

Our goal is to be able to decrease your bids for paid ads on certain keywords because your pages will be ranking organically. You’ll be bringing in more traffic through SEO and less through pay-per-click advertising.

First, I’ll give you an overview of the tactic, then I’ll break it down, step-by-step.


We’ll start by finding keywords in Adwords that get a lot of clicks and convert well. We’ll look for keywords you’re paying for that don’t appear in the organic search results. Then, we’ll look for low-hanging fruit – the keywords that will be the easiest to target for SEO. Finally, we’ll find the pages most closely related to those keywords and optimize them to rank organically.

This tactic will help your business in two ways – saving money on paid ads and increasing revenue through SEO.

How To Use This Tactic

Step 1 – Create a list of keywords

First, create a Paid & Organic Report via the Google Search Console. Detailed instructions can be found here under “Setting up the paid & organic report.” Export the data into Excel or your preferred spreadsheet program.

This report contains analytics for every search that your site appeared in, whether it was paid or organic. Each line of the report corresponds to a different keyword (aka query). There are three columns we’re going to use: “Search Result Type,” “Query,” and “Ad Clicks.”

  • Search Result Type – this column has three possible entries:
    • “Ad shown only” – for this keyword (query), your ad appeared in the paid results but none of your pages appeared in the organic search results. These are the keywords we’ll focus on because they’re generating paid traffic but not organic traffic.
    • “Both shown” – your site appears both in the paid results and the organic results. We won’t worry about these keywords for this tactic, since your site is already ranking.
    • “Organic shown only” – your site appeared in the organic listings, but not in the paid results. We won’t worry about these keywords either.
  • Query – this column shows the keyword that the rest of the data is referring to
  • “Ad Clicks” is the amount of clicks the keyword received within Adwords.

Side note: We’re using the keywords with the most ad clicks as an indicator that the keyword converts well, because we’re assuming you aren’t going to pay for a keyword that gets a lot of clicks but doesn’t convert well. That would be a waste of money! We’ll explain how to check for this in a minute.

Now, sort all of the data by two columns:

  • Sort by the “Search Result Type” in ascending order (A to Z).  This will put “Ad shown only” keywords at the top of the report.
  • Then, within the same sort, add a second level. Sort by “Ad clicks” in descending order (largest to smallest). This will put higher-converting keywords at the top.
Sorting the keywords in Excel

Sorting the keywords in Excel

As an example, we’ll look at a fictional site that sells rugs. Here are the sorted results in Excel:

Sorted keywords for rugs

Sorted keywords

Notice that all these results are “ad shown only” results, and they’re listed in order of importance (highest clicks are at the top).

Side note: This is where we’re assuming that the keywords with the most clicks are converting well. If you’re not sure if your Adwords campaign is optimized for high converting keywords, here’s how to check:

  • In Google Analytics, go to Acquisition > Adwords > Keywords. Export this data.
  • Sort the data by the “Clicks” column in descending order (largest to smallest).
  • Check if the Adwords ads with the most clicks also have the best conversion rates.

Now you have all your keywords organized for the next step.

Step 2 – Find keywords that are low-hanging fruit for SEO

SEMrush has a keyword difficulty tool that will help us determine which keywords will be the easiest targets for SEO. You can check ten keywords at a time for free. If you have an SEMrush subscription, you can check up to 100 keywords at a time.

Enter the high-converting keywords you found in Step 1 into the keyword difficulty tool. You’ll get a report like this:

SEMrush's Keyword Difficulty Tool

SEMrush’s Keyword Difficulty Tool

You can hover over each column header to find out what it means. The one we’re the most concerned with is “Difficulty.” The higher the difficulty, the harder it will be to rank organically for that keyword.

Make a list of keywords that have a low difficulty rating but still had a high number of clicks in the Organic & Paid Report from Step 1.

Step 3 – Optimize your content to target these keywords

Now that you’ve chosen your keywords, you can begin to optimize pages on your site so they can rank organically. Remember, we know that these pages aren’t getting organic traffic for these keywords because these searches showed only your ads, not your organic listings.

To optimize your site:

  • For each keyword, look for pages on your site that “answer” that keyword – pages that would be useful to someone searching that keyword. Try to find pages that are directly related to that keyword, but that don’t already use the keyword in the page. If the keyword is somewhere on the page, but not in the H1 header or title of the page, it’s still a pretty good candidate.
  • Now, add the keyword to the title and H1 header on the page. Note that there should be only one H1 header per page. You can also include the keyword within the page if it sounds natural. However, if you overuse the keyword, it can be considered keyword spamming and you’ll be penalized.

Side note: Your pages should not focus on just one keyword. Pages should naturally rank for many keywords. Creating low-quality content centered on a single keyword is a thing of the past.

  • If you have multiple pages that are related to this keyword, go ahead and add the keyword to those pages as well. Then repeat this process for the rest of the keywords on your list from Step 2.

What now? Your pages are optimized for the new keywords. Now, you’ll wait for them to start ranking organically in the search listings. When they do, should you pause the keyword in Adwords? We recommend lowering your Adwords bid, not stopping altogether. This will help give the SEO listings higher prominence.

There you go! This method, when applied correctly, can help you reduce your Adwords spending by increasing your organic traffic. Your organic revenue should increase to boot. I hope you’re able to identify many pages that you can optimize with this strategy. Let me know how your efforts go in the comments!

In the next part of this series, you’ll learn about another type of keyword research that will help you reach customers that have a problem they’re trying to solve. Stay tuned!