TrioSEO Logo

1 (720) 664-3598

The Ultimate Keyword Research Checklist to Rank Higher

Featured Image - The Ultimate Keyword Research Checklist to Rank Higher
TrioSEO - Connor Gillivan

Want help with your SEO? We have 10+ years of experience scaling organic traffic and using blogs to generate leads. Get started and our team will conduct a free SEO audit.

Table of Contents - Click to Skip

Why was the keyword research checklist sad at the party? Because it felt like it was always being left unchecked!

We’ve got plenty of other SEO jokes where this came from, but really, ticking all the boxes on your keyword research checklist is serious business.

If you haven’t done it by now or don’t even have a checklist, take 10 minutes to read this comprehensive post and discover what you’ve been missing. You can thank us later!

TL;DR – Complete Keyword Research Checklist

This guide provides an SEO keyword research checklist that will help you nail optimization. Here’s what you need to do to set your SEO up for success:

  1. Define your goals
  2. Understand your audience
  3. Use keyword research tools
  4. Identify primary keywords
  5. Find long-tail keywords
  6. Analyze search intent
  7. Check keyword difficulty
  8. Evaluate search volume
  9. Consider seasonal trends
  10. Look into local keywords
  11. Evaluate keyword relevance
  12. Prioritize keywords based on business goals
  13. Look for keyword opportunities
  14. Analyze competitor keywords
  15. Use keyword variations
  16. Build keyword clusters
  17. Refine and update regularly

All these steps will help you craft content that resonates with your target audience and ranks higher on SERPs.

If you’d like to make your website more visible in search results and drive targeted leads through organic traffic, connect with our SEO experts at TrioSEO for help.

Nathan, Steven and Connor standing in a park.

What is Keyword Research?

Keyword research involves identifying and analyzing the terms and phrases people use in search engines to find information related to a specific topic, product, or service.

This process is fundamental in SEO and content marketing strategies. When you do it right, you’ll spot:

While it might all feel like tedious work, these findings will be the foundation for your SEO strategy. By conducting thorough keyword research, you’ll know:

  • What your potential customers are searching for.
  • How to optimize your content to meet those needs and attract more relevant traffic to your website.

Close-up of a Google search results page on a MacBook on a wooden desk."

Why is Keyword Research Important?

Keyword research directly impacts your SEO and digital marketing strategies. It lays the foundation for everything you do to make your website attract and retain the right audience.

Here’s why:

  • Reflects your audience needs: It shows you what your target audience searches for online and with what words, helping you speak their language and meet those needs.
  • Guides your content optimization: You can optimize your website’s content to include the right keywords and rank higher in SERPs.
  • Increases your website’s visibility: As your content shows up higher in SERPs, it will become more visible, and your ideal customers will be able to find your website easily.
  • Brings you more quality traffic: You’ll attract more targeted traffic by targeting keywords relevant to your audience’s intent. Website visitors will more likely engage with your content, products, or services.
  • Gives you a competitive edge: Keyword research can reveal gaps in the market or areas your competitors may have overlooked, which you can focus on.

Now that you know the importance of thorough keyword research, you might feel ready to take it up. But wait.

Take a look at our checklist below to ensure you don’t miss any crucial points!

Close-up of hands typing on laptop next to iPhone with apps on screen and fresh tulips.

Complete Keyword Research Checklist

By following this checklist, you can approach your keyword research in a way that will set a solid foundation for your SEO strategy:

  1. Define your goals: Outline your specific objectives for keyword research (e.g., increasing traffic, improving sales, boosting brand awareness).
  2. Understand your audience: Identify your target audience’s interests and language.
  3. Use keyword research tools: Try SEOWind,, SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Ubersuggest to determine search volume, search intent, and other relevant details for each keyword.
  4. Identify primary keywords: Start with broad, foundational keywords relevant to your business.
  5. Find long-tail keywords: Search for specific, longer phrases with clear intent.
  6. Analyze search intent: Determine the purpose behind searches (informational, navigational, transactional, commercial).
  7. Check keyword difficulty: Assess how competitive each keyword is.
  8. Evaluate search volume: Ensure there’s sufficient monthly interest in your keywords.
  9. Consider seasonal trends: Identify and capitalize on seasonal fluctuations in search demand.
  10. Look into local keywords: For local businesses, include geographical search terms.
  11. Evaluate keyword relevance: Ensure keywords are highly relevant to your content and offerings.
  12. Prioritize keywords based on business goals: Focus on keywords that align with your business objectives and conversion potential.
  13. Look for keyword opportunities: Identify low-competition or high-volume keywords.
  14. Analyze competitor keywords: Check which keywords your competitors rank for.
  15. Use keyword variations: Incorporate synonyms and variations to cover more queries.
  16. Build keyword clusters: Create clusters of related keywords to target multiple variations and related search queries in your content.
  17. Refine and update regularly: Periodically review and adjust your keyword list for changing trends and to maintain competitiveness.

If the entire above feels like the missing piece in your digital strategy, use our SEO service to have specialists handle the keyword research and content creation. At TrioSEO, we help online businesses boost their organic traffic and generate targeted leads using SEO-optimized blogs.

Person typing on a MacBook at a wooden table, light blue shirt visible.

10 Critical Aspects of Keyword Research

Here’s a comprehensive, step-by-step plan to break down the keyword research process into more manageable actions.

Follow these steps carefully to align your keyword research strategy with your overall marketing and business objectives:

1. Define Your Objectives

Let your ‘why’ be your compass. What do you aim to achieve with keyword research? Do you want more visitors, subscribers, or sales?

Whether it’s increasing organic search traffic, improving conversion rates, or identifying new market opportunities, having clear goals will guide you to the most valuable keywords.

Think of short-term wins (like boosting posts on trending topics or optimizing for seasonal keywords) and long-term strategies (like building industry authority or expanding your reach).

2. Understand Your Audience

Get to know your target audience – their demographics, interests, and search habits. Use surveys, social media engagement, and analytics tools to learn what topics they care about and what language they use.

This step is crucial for identifying keywords that will resonate with your audience and match their search intent.

3. Collect Seed Keywords

Start with broad terms central to your business, products, or services. These ‘seed keywords’ are the base for your keyword research, helping you explore various aspects of your niche.

Brainstorm, analyze competitors, and tap into your existing customer queries to build a solid list of broad keywords.

4. Expand and Refine Keywords

Use keyword research tools to build up your list by finding long-tail keywords, synonyms, and question-based queries related to your seed keywords.

Ranking for long-tail keywords is typically easier because they’re more specific, often have lower competition, and have higher conversion rates.

Once you have a good number of these keywords, group similar terms into themes or clusters for a more targeted analysis later.

MacBook displaying analytics graphs and data charts on a screen.

5. Analyze Search Intent and Relevance

Figure out the search intent behind each keyword. Are people seeking information, a specific website, or are they ready to buy?

Choose keywords relevant to your offerings that align with your content or product pages. This approach ensures you attract targeted traffic, which is more likely to convert.

6. Assess Competition and Search Volume

Evaluate the difficulty of ranking each keyword and its search volume using SEO tools.

High-competition keywords might require more effort to rank, and high-search volume keywords indicate a significant interest.

You should focus on keywords you can realistically compete for. Aim for a balance between achievable rankings and sufficient search interest.

7. Identify Seasonal Trends and Local Opportunities

Note any keywords with seasonal search trends, as these can offer timely opportunities for targeted content. For example, to get search engines to index and rank your content around a seasonal topic like “best winter skincare products,” create and promote winter skincare content in early fall.

Additionally, include local keywords if your business serves specific geographic areas. Local keywords can help attract nearby customers and are often less competitive than generic keywords. For example, if you only want to deliver your skincare products in the Seattle area, optimize for “winter skincare products in Seattle.”

8. Research Competitor Keywords

Look at the keywords your competitors rank for to identify gaps in your strategy or opportunities to stand out from the crowd. 

Additionally, analyzing competitor keywords can reveal valuable insights into market trends and user preferences, helping you further refine your target keywords list.

9. Prioritize Your Keyword List

Based on the analysis of search volume, competition, relevance, and alignment with your business goals, prioritize the keywords that offer the best potential for your strategy.

Pro tip: Focus on those with the highest relevance and conversion potential, even if they have slightly lower search volumes.

10. Document and Organize Your Research

Keep detailed records of your keyword research process, including lists of keywords, their search intent, volume, competition, and any notes on seasonality or geographic relevance.

A well-organized database supports ongoing SEO efforts and content strategy. Document your keyword research, and you’ll find it easier to track progress and make informed adjustments.

Person typing on a MacBook in a bright office with blurred background elements.

Top [7] Keyword Research Tools (Free and Paid)

When selecting keyword research tools, consider both free and paid keyword research tools to optimize your SEO strategy effectively. 

While free tools are excellent for basic research, paid keyword research tools have more advanced features.

Here’s a quick rundown of our top favorites:

  1. Google Keyword Planner: Google’s free SEO keyword research tool offers keyword suggestions and average monthly search volume estimates.
  2. Google Trends: Among the free keyword research tools that help you track popular search queries, guiding content creation for enhanced audience reach.
  3. Rank Math: An SEO plugin for WordPress that offers keyword suggestions, schema markup, and error tracking; it integrates with Google Search Console.
  4. Keyword Surfer: A free browser extension that shows keyword data in Google search, helping you understand search volumes and competition easily.
  5. Ubersuggest: Among the affordable paid keyword research tools that offers keyword suggestions and competition data.
  6. AnswerThePublic: A paid visual keyword tool that shows questions people ask about a topic, helping content creators and SEO pros develop relevant content.
  7. SEOptimer: Boosts your website’s search ranking with keyword research, backlink analysis, and speed testing; try it free before subscribing.

While these tools are great for keyword research, it’s worth checking out other SEO software that cover more ground and can fit your budget.

Home workspace with a person using a laptop at a wooden table, accompanied by plants and stationery.

SEO Topic Research vs. Keyword Research

Both topic and keyword research are integral to SEO and complement each other to improve online visibility and engagement.

While topic research reflects broader subject areas, keyword research offers the granularity to tailor your content precisely. This information helps you align your content strategy to your users’ needs and search intent.

For example, if the topic is “sustainable living,” the keywords could be “biodegradable products,” “energy-efficient appliances,” etc.

The below table will show you at a glance how these two differ:

Feature Topic Research Keyword Research
Focus Broad subjects and themes relevant to the audience. Specific terms and phrases used in search engines.
Objective To identify general areas of interest or concern. To find exact words or phrases for content optimization.
Outcome Guide the strategic direction of content creation. Enhance visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Role Set the groundwork for creating relevant content. Optimize content to match user search queries.
Method Analyzing audience needs, interests, and questions. Using tools to find search volume and competition.
Strategy Aligns the content types with different user intents. Informs the specific wording and phrases to use.

Now let’s see how a Growth Strategist and Consultant (for example) who works with small businesses uses these two concepts to map out their SEO:

Topic Research

The consultant starts by identifying broad areas of interest that other small business owners might search for online to understand their primary concerns and needs.

They notice that “Digital marketing strategies” appear to be a major area of interest for these entrepreneurs looking to expand their online presence. So, they decide to focus on it as an SEO topic.

Keyword Research

Building on this topic, the consultant uses keyword research tools to find specific terms and phrases that small business owners use to search for this information.

They discover high-search-volume, more general keywords like “digital marketing” and “social media,” but also long-tail keywords like:

  • Best digital marketing tactics for small businesses
  • Affordable SEO services for small businesses
  • How to use social media for small business growth

These keywords help the consultant tailor their content and services to match what their target audience is looking for, optimize the website content, and perform off-page SEO.

Top view of a professional working on a laptop with financial charts and a cappuccino on the side.

10 Keyword Research Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make

When doing keyword research, some errors can hurt your site’s success.

Let’s look at slip-ups you can’t afford to make:

  1. Ignoring Search Purpose: Focusing exclusively on popular terms, such as ranking high for ‘oven cleaning tips’ may not lead to sales. Instead, understand user intent, use keyword placement for better SEO, prioritize what’s relevant, and drive sales.
  2. Low Customer Awareness: Avoid keywords that don’t match actual search behavior. You can attract better leads by using keywords that reflect your authority on real search habits. Also, track audience discussions on multiple platforms, not just Google.
  3. Failing to Track Competitors: Not knowing what your competition is doing risks losing touch with ground realities. Stay relevant by tracking their keywords, content style, and sales tactics. Avoid mindlessly copying keywords; misaligned content hurts visibility.
  4. Inconsistent Planning and Updates: Some marketers often add SEO keywords after creating content, but it’s better to integrate them naturally from the start. Also, regularly update site structures and content with evolving keywords.
  5. Overusing High-Volume Keywords: High-volume keywords face heavy competition and may yet not match user intent. Instead, mid-volume keywords yield significant searches, are less competitive, and align better with user intent, driving quality traffic.
  6. Pushing Single Keywords and Exact Matches: Single keywords no longer help SEO. As Google understands context better, use secondary keywords or related terms for better SEO.
  7. Emphasis on Exact Matches: Don’t overuse exact-match keywords; they harm rankings. Advances in language processing now help search engines understand synonyms, so use natural, relevant phrases for better ranking and readability.
  8. Undermining Long-tail keywords: Long-tail keywords benefit local businesses, offering less competition, detailed searches, and attracting niche-specific users. They excel in voice searches, which prefer focused questions compared to short-tail keywords.
  9. Neglecting Localization: Implement geographically specific keywords to reach new areas and communities. Avoid generic keywords suggested by Google and speak directly to local audiences to boost search relevance.
  10. Ignoring Data: Don’t rely solely on research tools. Check search engine results pages (SERPs) to see what content ranks for your top keywords. Use client inputs but prioritize data-driven choices for terms that drive conversions, even with less traffic.

If these keyword research items sound overwhelming or you lack SEO expertise, we’re here to help. Connect with us at TrioSEO to get a free SEO audit! We’ll analyze your website, suggest an SEO strategy, and provide keyword ideas!

Person using MacBook Air to search on Google homepage with a cup of coffee and a smartphone on the table.

Frequently Asked Questions

Before starting your detailed keyword research, check out these quick FAQs.

Can ChatGPT Do Keyword Research?

ChatGPT can only provide suggestions based on its knowledge till its last update. This tool cannot access real-time search volume data or conduct live SEO analyses. For comprehensive keyword research, use dedicated SEO tools.

Can You Outsource Keyword Research?

Yes, you can certainly outsource keyword research to SEO agencies or specialists. For the best results, pick someone who understands your business and audience and has a proven track record of successful SEO strategies with other businesses.

At TrioSEO, we have 10+ years of experience scaling organic traffic with the right keywords for businesses in various industries. Learn about our SEO process and get your free SEO audit from our team.

How Long Does Keyword Research Take?

The time investment can vary widely depending on the scope of your project. Initial research can take a few hours to a few days, but it’s an ongoing process requiring regular updates and refinement.


Your competitors are optimizing their websites.

If you haven’t done it already, follow the comprehensive checklist outlined in this guide to understand your audience’s search behavior and optimize your website to make your content rank higher on SERPs.

Remember, keyword research is not a one-time task but a continuous effort to adapt to changing market trends and search engine algorithms.

TrioSEO can be your long-term partner for everything from keyword research and strategy to content development and on-page SEO optimization. Apply to grow your SEO with us, and let’s take your business to new heights together!

TrioSEO - Connor Gillivan

Want more traffic and leads? Turn your website into a traffic generation hub. Get started and we’ll conduct a free SEO audit to see if working together is a good fit. 

Recent Posts

If you enjoyed this article, consider exploring one of the few below:

Steven is the Co-founder & CEO of TrioSEO. His background is in large-scale blogging where he co-owned 40 websites and helped grow the portfolio to 7-figures within 3 years. Follow him on LinkedIn for daily SEO tips, tricks, and strategies.

Want more SEO traffic?

We'll analyze your website, share a free SEO audit, and hop on a call to chat.

Leave a Comment

Exclusive SEO guide

Want better SEO?

We've got you! Subscribe & we'll send you our SEO SOPs. A pack of actionable processes to grow your SEO.

Team photo of Nathan, Steven, Connor in black TRIOS® shirts outdoors.
We’ve been using SEO to grow our own companies to 6, 7, and 8 figures for 10+ years. Save years of time and effort with our SOPs.