Last week we launched ClickZ Intelligence, a new service providing actionable insights into the worlds of digital marketing and ecommerce.

One of the reports we launched with is the first in a series of in-depth and practical guides to achieving m-commerce success: The DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site, Part 1: Planning.

With the number of consumers who want to purchase products and services using a mobile device rapidly increasing, there is considerable pressure for companies to embrace mobile commerce, or m-commerce, as quickly as possible. However, in their rush to enter the m-commerce market, business owners shouldn’t neglect the planning stages of their project, which are vital for a successful venture.

In the report, author Andy Favell breaks down the process of planning, researching and evaluating your m-commerce project to get it off to a flying start. Search and search tools form an important part of this process, not just for SEO, but in performing research on competitors, understanding your audience, and getting to grips with how the mobile experience differs from desktop.

Here, I’ll be giving a sneak peek into the ways Favell and other expert contributors recommend using search tools to plan out your m-commerce strategy.

Keyword research and understanding your audience

Carrying out keyword research is useful for far more than just SEO. In fact, keyword research plays into the planning process in multiple ways, from understanding your site’s visitors and what they search, to using relevant keywords to identify competing websites.

Andy Favell points out that keywords can be a great way to determine the intent of users visiting your site, allowing you to plan the content, product mix and navigation of your m-commerce project according to what you’ve learned.

A road sign with the word Keywords written in white on a green background set against the sky.Image by NY Photographic, made available by CC BY-SA 3.0

People carry (Read more...) searches differently on a mobile device compared to on a PC. Mobile searches are highly contextual, often dependent on time of day and location. There is also a rising trend of using voice commands to search on mobile, through digital assistants like Siri and Google Now. Voice search tends to use natural language, taking the form of whole sentences rather than isolated keywords, which is a trend you also need to bear in mind and accommodate on your m-commerce site.

Favell recommends using Google’s search quality evaluator guidelines to get an insight into what people search for on mobile, and how. The section on Understanding Mobile User Needs is invaluable for understanding how mobile users search and what their intent is likely to be. Google’s guide breaks down different types of mobile search query into categories, such as “Do queries”, “Know queries” and “Visit-in-person queries”, according to what their aim is.

“Success in m-commerce,” writes Favell, “starts with understanding what your mobile users want from your site or app and delivering it.” Applying this system to your keyword research will help you get to grips with what users are looking for when they visit your m-commerce site, and adapt the site to accommodate them.

An image of a stick person holding a mobile phone with the words "I want to..." underneath. To the right is a list of 16 options for things the mobile user might do, such as "Send a text message", "Watch a video", "Check the weather", "Call Mom" and "Listen to a song." At the bottom is a credit to Google Search Quality Guidelines.

Of course, understanding your audience doesn’t end with search, and Favell goes into an immense amount of detail in the report about other means of conducting customer research, including web analytics, heat maps, surveys and user testing.

Identifying the competition

It’s unlikely that your idea for a great m-commerce project is completely original, and there will always be competitors. That’s why researching and analysing the competition for your m-commerce site or app is a vital stage of the planning process.

Identifying the competition can help you to get a sense of how crowded the market is, what the gaps are that you can exploit, and also what your competitors are doing right that you can learn from. And the first step in discovering who the competition are is to use search.

Favell writes that “There are tools that can help, but for m-commerce sites there really is no substitute for getting your mobile device(s) out and conducting web searches.”

A stock photograph of a hand holding a mobile phone, whose screen is displaying a grid of different apps.Image by, made available via CC0

  • Conduct searches on all major search engines using keywords relevant to your brand, proposed site or app, and customers. Study which competitors rank highest and which are labelled as ‘mobile-friendly’, then explore their sites, bearing in mind how the experience is different from desktop.
  • A niche search engine like Plonked, which indexes businesses, can also be useful for looking up and researching competitors – although at the time of writing the search engine only indexes tech companies based in the US.
  • Don’t forget to also carry out the same queries using voice search, thinking about how you would phrase a search when speaking it aloud, and looking at which sites rank the best for those kinds of queries.
  • Use SEO or keyword tools such as SEM Rush to research the top-performing mobile sites by keyword, and the top-performing mobile keywords for competitor sites.
  • If you’re looking for app competitors, conduct keyword searches of app stores like Google Play and the iTunes App Store, and check out the most popular apps in categories that are relevant to your own app.
  • Tools like App Annie and Sensor Tower provide some additional insights into the closed-off world of app stores and app downloads, including isolating relevant keywords for each app and giving insight into reviews and ratings.

A screenshot from app tool Sensor Tower, showing results for the app PayPal. The app has an "A" grade circled in one corner. Below the app logo are download and revenue figures, and then a long list of keywords in green, including eBay, Venmo, Money, Bank, International, Mobile, Online and more. At the bottom is a review breakdown in a display that looks like a column graph. It shows mostly green (positive) columns bars with a few red (negative) review columns below.Tools like Sensor Tower give insight into app keywords, ratings, revenue and more.


Search expert Bryson Meunier, SEO Director of VIVIDSEATS, observes in the report that m-commerce product pages will probably be similar across desktop and mobile, but emphasises the importance of understanding how mobile queries differ from desktop queries, as well as the need to optimise your pages with the right keywords and topics.

Meunier also believes that Google may well be working towards a separate mobile index in search, making it even more essential to conduct research into mobile SEO and make sure your m-commerce project is optimised properly.

Meunier recommends the following search tools for conducting keyword and competitive SEO research:

1) Google Keyword Planner: Google’s free AdWords Keyword Planner only gives a single, unified figure for traffic from different kinds of devices, but you can also view a breakdown by device type to find out which devices are responsible for which percentage of traffic. As Meunier puts it, this can be useful to get a sense of whether a particular keyword is mostly used by mobile audiences, such as “navigate to” or “gas stations near me”.

If your site has a large percentage of mobile traffic, this can also help immensely with proving a use case for a new, or improved mobile site.

2) Google Search Console only shows which keywords are already bringing users to your site, making Google Keyword Planner stronger for general research, but it has one key feature to recommend it: the ability to view exactly how much traffic is reaching your site from different devices (smartphone, tablet and desktop) for specific keywords.

Google Search Console also has a ‘mobile usability’ section which will identify any problem areas with your site’s functionality on mobile and recommend how to fix them. Alternatively, you can get ahead of the game with our handy mobile friendliness checklist!

A screenshot of the Mobile Usability section of Google's Search Console for the website methodsunsound. The message reads, "No mobile usability errors detected. Be sure to check all site variants."

3) SEMRush is useful not just for carrying out keyword research, but for the ability to see which percentage of your indexed pages are mobile-friendly and compare these with competitors. With this information, you can isolate which keywords might present an opportunity to overtake competitors who are less mobile-friendly.

For much more insight into the DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site and other detailed reports and best practice guides on achieving digital dominance, head over to ClickZ Intelligence or browse our Reports Library.

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