SEO Checklist: The Keyword Research Process | Process StreetSEO Checklist: The Keyword Research Process – Process Street

Set up a spreadsheet template

Create a fresh copy of your keyword research template.

Remember to record the details of it using the form fields below.

Grab one I made for you in Google Sheets by clicking here, or download the Excel file below.

If you're making your own, make sure to freeze the first row!

Enter the page's topic in the spreadsheet

This one's an easy start because you know what you're writing about.

Just describe the topic you're writing about in a few words. Record it in both the spreadsheet and the form field below.

Examples of related topics that are keywords include:

  • Network security checklist
  • Learn cryptography
  • Information security process

Google your first keywords

By Googling your keywords, you can see what Google suggests at the bottom of the page. Remember to record your initial keywords using the form field below.

Some suggestions are just obvious variations, but some are related topics and totally different keywords.

Add all relevant suggestions to your sheet.

Substitute in synonyms

While some words just mean exactly what they mean — especially specific jargon terms — some are more universal.

In my list, I find I have 'network security issues', so check for synonyms of 'issues'.

Then, I add 'network security problems' and 'network security questions' to my list. 

Get keywords from the Wikipedia article

Wikipedia is perfect for well-written content that explains concepts in terms people understand and search for.

Go to Wikipedia and search the topic of your page.

Quality related keywords will be both in the text and as suggested categories. For example:

Add these categories and keywords as new entries to your sheet, and see if you can create new keywords by combining them with existing entries.

Use UberSuggest to generate variations

UberSuggest scrapes the suggested searches from Google for a seed keyword. 

Put in UberSuggest your shortest, broadest, most relevant keyword. For me, it's network security.

Here's what I got, and what I did with it:

Grab all the +'d keywords and paste them in your sheet. Don't check for duplicates, don't calculate anything else, just build the list.

Repeat this for other derivative keywords if you like.

Search in Quora

Using the same seed as you chose for UberSuggest, search in Quora to find questions real people have about your topic. Add new keywords and phrases to your sheet.

Repeat this for other derivative keywords if you like.

Search BoardReader

BoardReader scrapes a huge network of forums for conversations matching your keyword. Search your keyword in BoardReader and get ideas for quality keywords people will search for.

Add the keywords to your sheet.

Reverse lookup with Google Keyword Planner

Search for one or more of your target keywords in Google, and note down a high-ranking page's URL.

Set it as 'your landing page' in Google Keyword Planner to see the keywords it is ranking for as well as suggested terms.

Reverse lookup with Site Explorer

The Ahrefs Site Explorer offers a powerful way to get competitor information.

Using the same competitors as in the task above, search a competitor's URL in Site Explorer to get a list of keywords like this:

Add any relevant keywords to your sheet, repeat as many times as you feel is necessary, then go to the next step.

Use Keyword Shitter to create long tail keywords

Open the delightful Keyword Shitter.

Take your current list of keywords and paste them into the 'Positive filter' box of this gracefully named tool.

Type your root keyword into the main box then click the 'Shit Keywords!' button.

There will be a lot of duplicates, but these will be removed in bulk next.

Use the Ahrefs Keywords Explorer to get relevant keywords

The keywords explorer is an awesome solution for getting related — not just exact or phrase match — keywords for any term you can imagine.

Use it to generate more keywords from your less specific topic areas, and, checking out the Keyword Difficulty, you'll be able to quickly see some easy pickings, like how there's a KD 16 option here:

Either export and filter the full list, or just grab a few you like.

Remove duplicate keywords

Since we’re working inside Sheets, this is easily done with the Remove Duplicates addon. Install that, then go to the Add-ons menu in Sheets and select the 'Remove Duplicates' section.

Press 'Next' the whole way through, then 'Finish'.

Copy the remaining keywords into Google Keyword Planner

The fastest way to narrow down your keywords further is to get rid of the ones that don't have any search volume.

Get all your keywords out of Sheets, then paste them into Google Keyword Planner, like this:

Once the keywords are in Google Keyword Planner, hit Download as shown above.

Tidy up the downloaded sheet and merge it with your original

Open your downloaded Google Keyword Planner sheet.

Delete everything apart from the Keyword, Volume and Competition columns, then paste it back. If there’s no volume data, then don’t bother. Those keywords aren’t popular enough and that really helps us narrow down our list.

Remove the keywords that don't make sense

You are certain to get a lot of keywords from the automatic generators that aren't grammatically correct English. Remove these keywords, recording your progress with the sub-checklist below.

  • 1
    Keywords that don't make sense
  • 2
    Branded keywords
  • 3
    Non-evergreen keywords

Remove keywords that don't make sense in a sentence. For example, 'network security how to' and 'network security basics youtube'.

Remove keywords that are branded. For example, 'apple network security' or 'microsoft network security'.

Remove non-evergreen keywords. For example, 'network security best practices 2012'.

Filter by search volume

Your list undoubtedly contains several highly competitive search terms which we wouldn't have a shot at ranking for, so by filtering by search volume, we can gloss over these and get to the slightly less competitive, but most effective keywords.

In Google Sheets, click the small arrow that appears when you hover over Column B's header (the cell where it says 'Volume' and go 'Sort sheet Z-A'.

There you'll see the more reasonable options at a glance, which I highlighted in the picture below:

Remove irrelevant keywords

If you're writing a post about network security tools, then having 'network security best practices' isn't 100% relevant.

Get rid of anything which doesn't accurately describe the page you're optimizing.

Remove highly competitive keywords

A big part of deciding if a keyword is worth targeting is looking who is already ranking for that term.

If you find that hugely popular and authoritative sites are ranking for your target term, you're in for a tough time.

A quick way to judge how difficult it would be to rank for a keyword is by using the Ahrefs Keywords Explorer.

Take your top picks that you still have left after the filtering, and paste them into the tool, like this:

Pages with a low PR or DR (less than 30), or a low backlink count, are prime for overtaking! By writing better content, optimizing it properly and building quality links, you could knock an inferior page off of the top spots.

Remove low volume keywords (if there are better options)

At this point, it's likely you're down to just 1 or 2 options. The final decision, all else being equal, goes to the keyword with the highest volume. Record the final keyword, along with a copy of the final keyword research document, using the form fields below.

Highlight that in a triumphant shade of green on your sheet. We have a winner!