A needle in a haystack.
A cliche metaphor, but so apt when it comes to finding keywords for your website.
How do you choose one that is relevant to your website content, your business, and will help you rank for SEO?
Here’s a 9-step SEO keyword research checklist that may help.
SEO Keyword Research Checklist: 9 Steps to Choose the Right Keyword
1. Know your audience
If you have been reading any of my blog posts, you know this is the number one priority.
To win with SEO, you really need to know who your audience is, and what they are looking for.
Just like your business model, this should be the cornerstone of your content marketing strategy, your SEO keyword research checklist, and all your website content.
If you know your audience, you will know which keywords are relevant for them, irrespective of any SEO tool.
2. Choose your main topic and location
If you are just starting off with your website content and keyword research, start your SEO keyword research checklist with your main product/ service as a keyword.
Then put that in Google/ an SEO tool and see what comes up.
In the country where you are trying to sell. Because search results vary vastly by country.
So if you are selling in a different country than the one you are based in, then choose your target country in your SEO tool, or if searching on Google, use a VPN.
Using Google will give you an overall idea of relevant keywords, and for more accurate data and quick keyword research, it is better to use an SEO tool.
For this post, I will use Semrush as that is my go-to SEO tool. I even have their lifetime deal to save $240 every year!
You can also get an exclusive 30-day free trial of Semrush and try it out if you are not using it yet.
Note: The regular trial is only for 7 days. You will have to use the link above to get the 30-day trial for the Pro plan. Read my post on Semrush coupon codes for full details about the free plan.
Or you can use any other similar SEO tool you’re currently using, following the same steps.
Let’s say your small business is an auto repair service.
You input that in the Semrush Keyword Overview. I have chosen the country as the United States.
The Keyword Research tool gives you a lot of metrics, and you see all the searches relevant to auto repair.
Now click on the keywords under Keyword Variations.
Here you get a whole list of keywords that could be your focus keywords for different pages.
3. Understand the search intent
One of the key aspects of this SEO keyword research checklist is to determine the need behind the keywords you find.
No matter what is your seed keyword (the first term you put in Google or your SEO tool), you will get different searches related to that.
They all depend on search intent, which is usually of 4 types: transactional/ commercial/ navigational/ information.
You can have transactional/ commercial keywords when people are looking to buy something. Some of these include:
The other main type of keywords is informational keywords.
These could be more question based and include terms like
‘how to’I love the new Intent feature of @Semrush. It makes sorting relevant keywords super easy and simple. Click To Tweet
Get an exclusive 30-day free trial to Semrush. (only available through this link).
In the above auto repair keyword, for example, you see that the Intent column shows mostly T, C, and N.
So transactional, commercial, and navigational.
4. Do your keyword mapping
The next step of the SEO research checklist is to assign different kinds of keywords to different sections of your websites.
The transactional/ commercial keywords are best for your product/ service/ landing pages. For example, the ones you saw in the auto repair list above.
If your audience is looking to buy, you give them a page that tells them about your offer.
The informational keywords are best for your content pages like blogs.
If you want to find informational keywords on Semrush, just choose them with the Intent filter.
Now you see a list of informational keywords which could be great for the content pages of your small business website.
5. Filter by volume
You have a high chance of ranking high when the keywords you’re competing for have some demand, so enough people are searching for it.
That’s why volume is such an important point in this SEO keyword research checklist.
SEO tools give you the volume of monthly searches. So the number of people looking for that keyword in a month.
If the volume is 1000+, that’s a relatively good number of searches, and it could be a keyword with good potential.
If however, the volume of a keyword is 50, then only 50 people are looking for it in a month, in a big country like the US.
In a tool like Semrush (because all tools are different), I would narrow it down to at least 200 searches a month.
P.S. This is why I like using a good SEO tool to do my keyword research. While doing research on Google suggests different keywords, I can only make an informed decision about whether to target them when I have data like the monthly volume.
6. Choose medium-tail keywords
A common piece of advice in keyword research is to choose long-tail keywords. i.e., keywords with many words in them.
I would also recommend that in most cases, and most SEO keyword research checklists would include this point.
But there is a caveat here. Depends on how long the keyword is, and it may not always be the best if the volume is too low.Sometimes a medium-tail keyword, like one with 3 words, maybe better as it may also help you rank for long-tail keywords with 4-6 words. Click To Tweet
7. Filter by keyword difficulty
The next point on this SEO keyword research checklist is to determine how difficult it could be to rank for a certain keyword.
This metric is called Keyword Difficulty and is usually measured on a scale of 1-100.
Different SEO tools calculate this differently, so there is not one specific guideline on how to filter with this data.
However, it is safe to say that with most tools, keywords with KD above 60 are hard to rank for unless you’re a big website.
The lower the keyword difficulty the better.
So in your keyword research results for a certain keyword, just filter your keyword difficulty to up to 30%.
Now you have a list of keywords that could be relevant to your website content.
8. Review the SERP
The next point in the SEO keyword research checklist is to actually see the sites that are ranking in the top 10 positions of Google.
So take a keyword from the list you chose and put it in the Keyword Overview tool.
Let’s say we chose the keyword ‘auto window tint repair’.
A medium-tail keyword with a volume of 320 and a Keyword Difficulty of 30%.
And these are the top 10 pages on Google for that keyword.
Try out this exercise on Semrush with a 30-day free trial and see the top 10 sites for your chosen keyword.
Do you recognize any of the sites in the top 10? It might be difficult to replace the big sites as they have huge websites with a ton of content.If the top 5-6 positions for a keyword are all big domains, and you have a relatively new website, skip this keyword for your website content. Click To Tweet
Choose one where the top 5 are smaller websites, and maybe only 1-2 top results are big domains.
9. Research related keywords
Great! So now you have chosen a keyword by following this SEO keyword research checklist.
Before you start writing content for it, though, be sure to review your related keywords for the same keyword.
In our first result list, let’s click on Related Keywords.
You can narrow down these keywords again by volume and difficulty.
You can choose from this list the keywords you can insert in your content to optimize your whole article for the chosen keyword.
So let’s recap the 9 steps in the SEO keyword research checklist:
- Know your audience
- Choose your main topic and location
- Understand the search intent
- Do your keyword mapping
- Filter by volume
- Choose medium-tail keywords
- Filter by keyword difficulty
- Review the SERP
- Research related keywords
And there is the 9-point SEO keyword research checklist for you!
Do you follow this same checklist when doing your own keyword research, or are there other steps you follow? Let me know in the comments!