The Ultimate Step-By-Step Keyword Research Checklist

The Ultimate Step-By-Step Keyword Research Checklist

Heads up, Empowered Shoppers, we’re a participant in affiliate marketing programs. For more information, see our disclosure here.


Anyone who has worked in the SEO and digital marketing industry for a while has come to realize one great truth. Not all keywords are created equal. Ranking #1 for a keyword in google doesn’t necessarily mean you are running a successful SEO campaign. If you’re not ranking for the right keywords, it’s not going to help your business.

Choosing the right keywords (by doing keyword research) is the great foundation of any successful SEO strategy. Without solid keyword research, no amount of effort will produce the results you desire.

That statement begs a question—“So…. How exactly do I make sure I choose good keywords?” And that is exactly what will be discussed in this post. Below are listed elements that should be a part of everyone’s keyword research checklist.


Come up with any and all keywords that people might search for to find your website or a page on your website. Don’t hold back. Use the “searches related to” section at the bottom of the SERP page, use words on the page itself, similar and related topics.

Some tools like SEM rush even have “related keywords” and “phrase match keywords” and Google Adwords’ keyword planning tool pull a lot of related keywords.

However you do it, come up with a solid list of keywords you feel might be appropriate to optimize a page on your website for.


Once you have this list of potential keywords, you need to ask yourself—“What is the end goal of your business or website?”

The end goal of your company’s existence online determines the “intent” of the keywords you should be targeting. You really need to be fitting your keywords into your buyer’s funnel.

Traditionally, there are 3 basic types of search queries based off of user intent

  1. Informational—searches performed to answer questions or learn something. (Keywords like: home prices in Denver, food poisoning symptoms, etc.)
  2. Navigational—searches performed to locate a specific website. (Keywords like: log in to Facebook, Whitehouse Website, etc.)
  3. Transactional—searches performed to buy something (Keywords like: Men’s Nike basketball shoes, plumbers in Los Angeles, etc.)


Although filtering your list of keywords based on intent is a good start, you should be more specific when selecting your keywords. If the end goal of your business is to sell shoes online, targeting “Soccer Shoes in South LA” is a bad keyword to target.

Yes, people in south LA can buy shoes from your site doesn’t mean you want to target that: people from anywhere can buy shoes from your online store. And conversely, if you have a storefront that sells soccer shoes in South LA, the keyword “buy shoes” shouldn’t be what you’re targeting, despite how much potential traffic that keyword could bring to your site.

Don’t be so specific that you are cutting out potential customers, but also don’t be so general that you are inviting people who won’t become customers.

Remember, traffic does not always equal revenue.


This one should go without saying because it’s so obvious. But since it is so incredibly important, it has been included. Your targeted keywords need to be relevant to your site. There’s a super obvious aspect to this, but there is also a slightly less obvious aspect to this portion. On the one hand, you need to make sure that it fits your business. Like if you are a financial advisor and have a website, then don’t target the keyword “pet stores.” That honestly should go without saying, but some people need to be told.

The less obvious aspect of this ties into the first portion—the intent. A keyword might be related to the industry you’re in, but if it’s an informational keyword and you are looking for sales, then it’s not an ideal keyword for your business to build around.


Again, this should be fairly intuitive. Don’t target keywords that nobody is searching for. There are many tools that will tell you what the monthly search volume is with varying degrees of accuracy—Google Adwords, SEM rush, and more. Even though these oftentimes vary on the amount of monthly reported, you can still get a gauge for what people are looking for. A ballpark number is all you need, really.

Search volume can vary depending on the industry. Some niche industries have relatively low search volume within the industry, some broad industries have a great deal of interest. With minimal research, you should be able to figure out what should be a standard for traffic in your targeted keywords.


This is actually pretty important. There are a certain number of pages indexed for any given keyword. You should ask yourself “how many pages are trying to rank for this keyword?”

Again, there are several places you can find this. The simplest of all of these is actually to search for that keyword on Google. Part of the search engine results page (SERP) will tell you. This will give you a feel for how many businesses are trying to rank for this keyword.

A higher number of results oftentimes means a greater difficulty.  These numbers, along with search volume, are relative and vary based on the industry.

For example, web security has a lot of indexed pages for keywords in that industry, but the essential oils industry has a relatively low number of pages indexed. It’s a gauge on how many players are on the field, essentially.

If you have SEM rush (or another tool) it will often tell you how many pages are indexed for a keyword, along with the search traffic.


This goes more in depth to the competitive aspect of a keyword. What we looked at in the previous section was basically sizing up the number of players on the field. The Keyword Difficulty section of this keyword research process is less concerned with the number of players, but more concerned with who the star players on the field are. Basically, if you want to be #1, you need to find out who exactly do you have to beat out to get that rank.

This is actually probably one of the most overlooked aspects of keyword research. Probably because it requires a tiny bit more effort than most people are used to putting forth. But there are ways to make it more simple.

There are several tools that offer a “keyword difficulty score.” The core intent of the keyword difficulty score is to determine how difficult it would be to get a first-page ranking by looking at who is currently ranking on the first page.

The truth of the fact is that if you’re a mom and pop shoe store competing with Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Zappos, Foot Locker, and Famous Footwear for the keyword “Basketball shoes,” It’s going to be tough. It’s going to take a lot of time, effort, and money to get it to a position that would return some revenue. More so than it would if you were to target a less competitive or difficult keyword.

Now, keep in mind that just because you’ve got some heavy hitters as competition doesn’t mean that you can’t compete. Walmart might be ranking top 10 for the keyword “fanny packs.” That’d be enough to scare most people away from attempting to rank for it. But since they have a very limited selection of fanny pack products and are poorly optimized for that keyword, you might have a chance if you have a business that sells fanny packs and that’s it. With enough products and optimization, you could get your domain to beat out Walmart fairly easily.


In summary, it is going to take some thought process, some time, and some research to determine if a keyword is appropriate to pursue. But with this process, you’re setting yourself up for a successful SEO campaign. To make it easier, here is a condensed Keyword Research Checklist.

When electing a keyword to target:

  1. Brainstorm. Create a big list of keywords, anything that might fit.
  2. Make sure the intent of the keywords is in line with your company goals, filter out the ones that don’t fit.
  3. Make sure the keywords are appropriately specific. Remove the keywords that are too broad or too narrow for your target market.
  4. Make sure that the keywords you select are relevant to the site and page you are optimizing. Remove any irrelevant keywords.
  5. Make sure the keywords have appropriate search volume. Remove any that don’t have enough search volume.
  6. Make sure the keywords have an appropriate amount of competition. Eliminate any that are significantly above what you find to be industry standard. Be fairly liberal with this step. There is a lot of wiggle room in this area.
  7. Make sure you can compete with the people on the first page. If it’s not worth the effort to compete, eliminate any remaining keywords.
  8. Make your final decision on the best keyword or two to target for your page.

If you run each page or site that you are optimizing through each of these steps and checks, you will have a solid foundation to build your SEO campaign off of. Keep up the good work, and good luck on your campaigns!

Much success,

Looking for more great reads? Check out these related articles: