Keyword Research Checklist

I love lists and I can guarantee that lists will be a recurring theme here at

My brain is usually like soup and it’s very hard for me to keep things straight and recall them when I need them.

Hopefully this list will serve you well as an SEO reference going forward if you need a handy reference too.

I’ll also link back to my previous entries discussing keyword research on this site just in case you need to reference the information in more detail.

Consider bookmarking this list as we continue to add to this post as we go forward.

Quick Start Keyword Research Checklist:

1) Before you start; research:
a) Before you even start an online business, take some time and research what people are searching for. This research will help you decide if your online business idea is truly a good one. Review the numbers because the numbers don’t lie.

b) Perform extensive research before you build your website. Using keywords throughout your site navigation, HTML code and other elements will greatly help with SEO.

c) This is an obvious one but something, that sadly, has to be said; Perform extensive keyword research BEFORE you start optimizing your site for SEO. You might think you know what people are searching for but the honest truth is that you probably don’t. Word combinations are endless and you might be surprised what you find.

2) Decide what you do and state your core purpose. Begin by writing down a short description of your business and state your core purpose. This exercise will help you define specifically what you do and who’s your target audience.

3) Start a spreadsheet: I’d recommend using Microsoft Excel or–even better–the free Google docs to manage your research. This practice will allow you to keep things straight and sort your data in future steps.

4) Decide on the one core key phrase that sums up what you do: Based on the description and your core purpose that you crafted in a previous step, decide on one core phrase that specifically encompasses what you do. This is the seed that all future key phrases will sprout from.

5) List all your core keywords: Discover all your core keywords. I should remind you that “core” keywords are different than “key phrases”. Your core keywords are broad words like “artist canvas” and “artist paints”. Key phrases grow from these core words; phrases like “buy affordable artist canvases” and “Windsor Newton paint supplier” are examples of key phrases that may have grown from the previously mentioned core keywords.

6) Research your competition: Take some time to study your competition. Perform some searches for your core keywords and see who comes up first. Study their websites, see what words they use, view their source code, see who they link to and find out who’s linking to them. Your goal here is to discover the words that they’ve used and piggy back on their successes.

7) Ask Questions: Ask yourself and others a series of questions about how you’d find your website and encourage others to contribute. Don’t think that you know everything. Even if you’ve been doing what you do for the last 50 years, you really have no idea what words people use when they search for you. You can surely guess but wouldn’t it be better to focus your efforts and base your work on concrete data?

8) Utilize your free tools. You can easily start your research with the many free SEO research tools available on the web. There are many more that we’ll mention at the end of this list.

9) Review your server logs and stats: Most hosting companies provide you with stats as part of your basic hosting package. If you’re not aware of this you should probably ask. The stats packages will usually provide basic data about the words that people have used to find you.

You should also consider signing up for a Google Webmaster account and I would highly recommend installing Google Analytics on your site if you haven’t already. Ideally you’ll have already installed this on your site if you have an existing site. Google Analytics will provide you with a wealth of information that you can use; specifically an extensive list of keywords that real world people have used to find your site on Google.

10) Research all your specific key phrases: Using powerful tools and accessing extensive databases of information is the best way to discover all your specific key phrases that you may have missed in all the previous steps. The Wordtracker and Keyword Discovery services are an excellent place to start.
These tools are usually affordable and worth every penny. I recommend Keyword Discovery.

Reminder: Don’t forget to target singular and plural forms of your words and phrases too!

11) Sort your key phrases: Cut excessive fat and narrow down your list so you have the perfect, targeted list to start your SEO campaign. Enough said.

Additional resources for research: (This will be continually updated)

Google Keyword Tool: Useful but does not provide specifics on search numbers.

Wordtracker (Free version): Keyword results from MSN only. Detecting search keywords for which a site is ranked high.

Free keyword/key phrase generator: Enter keywords or modifiers in each box. Press generate to get results.

KWMap: Keyword relationship search 6.5 million top paying Adsense keywords. A Classic.

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