4 Step Keyword Research Checklist To Get First Page Rankings

This keyword research checklist and strategy contains all the tools and techniques to generate a huge list of keywords.

Then you’ll be able to analyze them and find a lot of “easy to rank” keywords.

You’ll know with almost 100% certainty if it’s possible to get a first-page ranking or not for any of these keywords.

The best part is that you can rank for these keywords without any backlinks.

This is a strategy I developed and use. It’s very simple and effective once you get used to it. Table of Contents

Keyword Research Checklist
In A Nutshell

Here’s a quick overview of the 4 step process.

  • Come up with one or more seed keywords.
  • Use free keyword research tools to build a list of hundreds/thousands of similar keywords.
  • Use paid tools to find out their monthly search volume and keyword difficulty (kd) score and pick the best ones.
  • For each of those keywords analyze the top 10 ranked pages to determine if you can get a first-page ranking.

Once you have a list of “easy to rank” keywords you can create different pages on your website. Each one optimized for one specific keyword.

In my SEO guide, you can discover the process to create keyword-optimized content.

Let’s start with the first step…

  • Step #1 Make A List
    of Seed Keywords

The first step of this keyword research checklist is to make a list of seed keyword ideas. This can be as big as you want, the bigger the better.

For step #2 you only need ONE seed keyword. But you might as well create an entire list of seed keywords so they’re ready when you need them.

A seed keyword is any word related to your website. 

If my niche is “copywriting” seed keyword ideas are e.g. “headlines”, “swipe file”, “sales letter”, “Facebook Ads” and so on.

They’re like topics about your niche, but general/vague keywords like “copywriting tips” or “copywriting tutorial” can also be used as seed keywords.

The best seed keywords are made up of 2 words. 

We’ll use the keyword in the keyword research tools and they’ll generate a list of similar keywords. This is why it’s known as a “seed” keyword.

From one keyword we create hundreds of related keywords.

For example, from “swipe file” we get over 200 similar keywords:

Similar Keywords

These tools generate a bigger list of keywords if the seed keyword is made up of a few words. The ideal number is two.

Therefore instead of using “copywriting tips for social media” it’s better to use “social media copywriting” as a seed keyword.

If the keyword research tools generate very little or no keywords it means you didn’t pick a good seed keyword. 

Try re-writing the keyword. Instead of “social media copywriting” you can try “social copywriting”.

Here are several methods to create a list of seed keyword ideas.

How To Come Up With
Seed Keyword Ideas

Method #1: List all the topic ideas you can think of related to your niche. Don’t worry about whether the topic is popular or not. At this point, all you want to do is generate ideas.

Since you probably carry your phone with you all the time, you can install a mobile app such as Google Keep and jot down seed keyword ideas whenever they come to you.

Method #2: You can look at web directories, book directories (e.g. Amazon), online store categories (e.g. eBay), forum categories, and any website or blog related to your niche. 

Just look at the titles of books, forums threads, categories/subcategories, blog post titles… for topic ideas.

For example, if my niche is “copywriting”, in this forum I discovered the “video sales letter” seed keyword ideas/topics:

Seed Keyword Idea from a Forum

And “hypnotic copywriting” on Amazon.

Seed Keyword Idea from Amazon

Method 3: Think of words and phrases your prospects would type in search engines. This isn’t the easiest method but it can work. 

For example, in the “copywriting” niche I know prospects would be searching for “swipe file”, “SEO copywriting”, “copywriting hacks”, etc.

Method 4: Input one of your seed keywords e.g. “copywriting” in any free or paid keyword research tool e.g. KeywordSheeter.

And then find new seed keyword ideas from the list e.g. “copywriting headlines” and “headlines”.

New Seed Keyword

Practically, you can take any keyword from the list and use it as a seed keyword.

Ideally use also Google Keyword Planner because it has a useful filter to return totally new seed keyword ideas.

Here’s how to use it:

First, input a keyword related to your niche, that’s ideally made up of one or two words e.g. “copywriting”. Make sure “Country” is set to “All Locations” so it returns more keywords.

Then create a filter to remove all keywords with the term “copywriting”.

This will return totally new seed keyword ideas related to “copywriting”.

Seed Keyword Ideas From Google Planner

So we find new seed keyword ideas/topics related to “copywriting”:

breakthrough advertising
the boron letters
joseph sugarman
sales copy
gary halbert letters
direct response copy

Now let’s go to step #2 of this keyword research checklist…

  • Step #2: Generate A List
    Of Similar Keywords

Now you’re going to use any one of your seed keywords to generate a huge list of new similar keywords.

You can use paid or free keyword research tools for this process.

But from my testing, if you use all the free tools listed below you’ll find a bigger list of different keywords than if you used just one paid tool.

For example, KWFinder generates a list of up to 700 keywords similar to your seed keyword.

Ahrefs is another excellent paid tool. It builds a big list of keywords, but even if you’re on the Standard Plan ($179 / month), it has certain limitations that can hold you back from viewing all the keywords it generates.

Most tools allow you to export the keywords in a spreadsheet file. 

Others only allow you to copy them to the clipboard. So I suggest you open a new spreadsheet file e.g. Google Sheets so you can paste those there.

I’ll explain how to use each tool because some of them work a bit differently than others.

Note that they may change their interface from time to time and appear slightly different from the screenshots I provided.

This whole process may take a while until you get the hang of it.

Keyword Sheeter

Most tools are simple like this one. You just input a seed keyword e.g. build website (without quotation marks) hit the “Sheet Keywords” button and it starts generating a list.

Similar Keywords

This tool takes more time compared to the other tools. But it also generates the biggest list most of the time.

I leave it running while using the other tools. There’s an “export data” button to export all keywords.


Make sure to select the Global search engine so it returns more keywords.

Choose Global


Choose “USA” search engine to get the most keywords. You have to create a free account to export keywords.


The export button is located on the top left side, near the logo.

Export Button (marked green)

Keyword Tool Dominator

They have many keyword research tools. But if you use just the Google Keyword Tool it will be enough. You can export keywords.

Answer The Public

Simple tool. Input keyword, click Search, and just Export the keyword list.

Keywords Everywhere 

This is a Chrome extension. After you install it search your seed keyword in Google and it provides two lists of similar keywords and export options.


It doesn’t show the complete list of keywords with a free account, but that’s okay. And you can’t export keywords. But you can manually highlight them then copy and paste in a spreadsheet file.

Here’s how:

Wordtracker Copy Keywords

Moz Keyword Explorer 

Step 1) Signup and Login to a free account.

Step 2) Input your seed keyword and click “Search”.

Step 3) Click “See all Suggestions” in the “Keyword Suggestions” box.

Step 4) Select all keywords and export them.

Moz Keyword Suggestions

Google Keyword Planner

Pretty simple, these are the steps:

Step 1) Sign in with your Google account

Step 2) Click “Discover new keywords”

Step 3) Click on your location, remove it, and save. It should now say “All locations”

Step 4) Enter the seed keyword and click “Get Results”.

Step 5) Select all keywords and click “Download Keyword Ideas”

Google Keyword Planner

Keyword Supremacy

This is also easy but requires a few steps.

Step 1) Signup for a free account and login.

Step 2) Click “Search Now” and enter your seed keyword followed by % e.g. build website % (They have complete explanations why you should use the percentage symbol).

Step 3) Once it finds all keywords click “export”, name your list and click “save keywords”.

Step 4) Now repeat the process but input the percentage symbol before the keyword e.g. % build website. 

Step 5) Click “export” once again and save. The new keywords will be added to the same list.

Step 6) From the left side click on “My List”, find your list and click the “download all to CSV” to download all keywords.

Here’s how to do that:

Keyword Supremacy Settings

Clever Gizmos Keyword Research

The last one is a downloadable software (the free version is good enough). Once you install it follow these steps.

Step 1) Click Start a new project

Step 2) Enter your seed keyword in the “Singular” and “Plural” boxes and delete the contents of the other boxes, so they are empty.

Step 3) Remove the contents from the right side box.

Step 4) Right-click on the features that are available (apart from Market Watch, Future Projection, Celebrity Gossip, and Fashion) and select “Add All To Search Box”.

Step 5) Click the Play button and once it’s done export your keywords.

Here’s how to do that:

Keyword Research Pro Settings

With all those tools you’re going to end up with a list of hundreds or thousands of keywords.

Sort And Remove Duplicates

You’ll now have a lot of spreadsheet files from all those tools. You just have to open all of them. And copy and paste all the keywords into a new spreadsheet file.

You can open the spreadsheet files using free tools like Google Sheets (which is a bit easier to use) or LibreOffice Calc. This process can take some time.

You should also have a spreadsheet file that you used to paste some keywords from the tools that did not have an “export” option.

You’ll finally have a single spreadsheet file with all your keywords under one column.

Delete any extra columns or rows from this file. Then select the column and from the top menu select “Data” and “Remove Duplicates” if you’re using Google Sheets.

Here’s how:

Google Sheets – Remove Duplicates

More than likely there will be hundreds of duplicates if your list contains thousands of keywords. This is not an issue. From my tests, I learned that each tool finds some unique keywords and that’s why I try to use all of them.

If you’re not using Google Sheets, you can use TextFixer to remove duplicates.

If your list still contains thousands of keywords even after removing duplicates you can use Keyword Grouper Pro. This free tool will sort and group your list based on keywords that are very similar to each other.

Specify 10 or 15 in the “group length” box. 

This video shows you how to use it:

  • Step #3 Get Accurate

Now we’ll import those keywords into a paid keyword research tool to get metrics.

We have to use a paid tool for this process. From my tests and research performed by Ahrefs and others, paid tools give the most accurate search volume data.

Paid tools will also provide the Keyword Difficulty (KD) score which is very important to find keywords that are “easy to rank”.

My preferred paid tools are KWFinder or Ahrefs. I use either one or the other. I pay for only one month because within that time I can use this strategy and find many “easy to rank” keywords.

You can cancel and restart your membership with those tools anytime. So you don’t have to keep paying if you’re not using them.

If you’re just getting started KWFinder is easier and less expensive.

You can find a list of other paid keyword research tools in my other guide.

With KWfinder you can import up to 700 keywords at once. 

If your keyword list is bigger you can import and analyze the first 700 keywords and then just import the next 700 keywords in your list. Pretty simple.

Here’s how to import keywords in KWFinder:

Ahrefs allows you to import up to 10K keywords at once. But it’s more expensive.

Paid tools give you two important pieces of data for each of the keywords you import.

Search Volume – This is the monthly search volume.

Keyword Difficulty (KD) score – This number (between 0 and 100) tells you how difficult it will be to get a first-page ranking for a particular keyword.

This is typically calculated by using metrics from Moz, Majestic, Domain Authority, Page Authority, Citation Flow, and Trust Flow…

KWFinder scores keywords like this:

KWFinder KD Scores

So in KWFinder keywords with a KD score of 29 or less are easy. The lower the number the easier it will be.

And Ahrefs scores keywords like this:

Ahrefs KD Scores

In Ahrefs anything less than approximately 15 is considered easy.

This video shows you KWfinder’s search volume, KD score, and some other metrics that are not very important for SEO.

Your job is to look at all the keywords you imported and pick the ones that have good search volume, low KD score and they make sense.

In either tool, you can select keywords and add them to a list of favorites. Later you can export them.

Here’s how:

#1 Good Search Volume

Pick keywords with at least 170 monthly search volume. The bigger the number the better, but look also at the KD score…

#2 Low Keyword Difficulty Score

In KWFinder the keywords must also have a KD of 29 or less.

In Ahrefs the keywords must also have a KD score of 15 or less.

These keywords will be colored in green like this:

Ahrefs Keyword Difficulty Score

I’m assuming you have a fairly new website that doesn’t have a high domain authority (DA) score.

This means it gets little if any traffic from search engines and it has almost no backlinks. It’s “weak” in the “eyes” of search engines.

You can check your domain authority (DA) score and if it’s less than 25 it’s still pretty “weak”.

As your DA score improves you’ll be able to optimize and rank your pages for keywords with a higher keyword difficulty score as well.

Therefore it will be easier to find keywords. Because you won’t have to dig deep to find the much rarer keywords with a low KD score.

#3 Keyword Makes Sense

This is not so important, but you can ignore keywords that totally make no sense e.g. “build-website-from-scratch-using-express js-and-bootstrap”. That’s an actual example.

Finally, export all the keywords you find that pass those three criteria. This list will probably be quite small.

  • Step #4: Analyze Top 10

Even though these keywords have a low KD score, we can’t rely on just that number.

We have to do this final step. 

We can only do this for one keyword at a time. 

We’ll basically analyze the top 10 ranked pages and we’ll be almost 100% certain whether we can or cannot get a first-page ranking.

You’ll need two free tools to do this analysis.


Word Counter Plus

If you’re not located in the US but want to rank in the Google US version install the “SetupVPN – Lifetime Free VPN” extension. 

This will show you who are the top 10 ranked pages in the Google US version, not in your country version (where the results could be different).

The first step is to enable all three toolbars. Login into Moz and if you’re going to use the “SetupVPN” extension select “USA”. 

Setup VPN

Then you can begin the analysis.

Look For Positive And
Negative Signs

First, log out of your Google account so that your browser’s search history won’t affect the results returned by Google.

And then search the keyword on Google.

We’ll now look at certain positive and negative signs that indicate if we can get on the first page. The more positive signs you find the better because it raises the chances of getting a first-page ranking.

This gets easier with some practice.

Here’s a summary of the 6 positive signs:

Positive Ranking Signals

Positive Sign #1

Take a look at the domain authority (DA) of each one of the top 10 ranked pages using the Moz Toolbar.

Let say, for example, your DA is 15.

If at least any 2 pages have a similar or a bit higher DA (up to approx. 30-35 in this case) it’s a good sign. The lower their DA the better.

The other pages can have any DA score, it won’t matter.

This is a positive sign because if a few pages with a similar DA (or slightly more) rank for this keyword, then your page can rank too.

Look at the DA, not the PA scores:

DA Scores on MozBar

This is the most important sign. If you notice this sign it could be all you need to confirm there’s a high probability of getting a first-page ranking.

Positive Sign #2

If there are forum threads or Quora posts it’s also a positive sign.

These types of pages don’t have good quality content. It’s just a bunch of questions and answers. They don’t really help the searcher.

You can easily outrank them by creating a more valuable page even though the site might have a high DA score.

Here’s an example:

Forum Threads in Search Results

If this is the only sign it will probably be enough assuming the other pages don’t all have a DA score of 50 or higher (assuming yours is less than 20).

Positive Sign #3

If there are two pages from the same domain ranked on the first page it’s also a positive sign.

There are millions of pages and Google can choose to rank any of them. So if it has to choose two pages from the same domain, it’s probably an indication that there aren’t that many good pages to choose from.

If this is the only sign it will also probably be enough assuming the other pages don’t all have a DA score of 50 or higher (assuming yours is less than 20).

Positive Sign #4

If there are pages hosted on Web2.0 properties like Blogspot, WordPress, Weebly, etc., it’s a good sign too.



These pages are usually “weak” (low authority) because they’re not part of a niche-specific website. They’re part of “Blogspot” or “WordPress”…

Google loves niche-specific sites e.g. a website entirely about “cats” vs a website about everything under the sun.

In other words, pages hosted on a website that’s all about cats will have more authority about the topic of “cats”, than pages hosting on a general site like Blogpost. So it ranks better.

You can outrank these “weak” pages if you have a niche-specific site.

Once again if this is the only positive sign it’s enough as long the other pages don’t have a DA score of 50 or more (assuming yours is less than 20).

Positive Sign #5

This is similar to the previous sign. Pages that are part of a general site like EzineArticles or Ehow are “weak”, just like those on free hosting platforms like Blogspot, WordPress, or others…

An article page on EzineArticles doesn’t have as much authority as an article on a website that’s all about cats.

Just like the previous 3 signs if this is the only one it’s enough as long the other pages don’t have a DA score of 50 or more (assuming yours is less than 20).

Positive Sign #6

If a brand new page, which is just a couple days old ranks on the first page it’s also a positive sign.

A brand new page will typically have no Page Authority (PA) because it has no backlinks. Older pages have more PA.

If Google ranks the brand new page instead of older pages, in most cases it’s because it can’t find any other really good pages to rank for such a keyword.

This is probably the weakest sign of all 7. I wouldn’t choose a particular keyword if this is the only positive sign.

Negative Sign #1

If all the pages on the first page have a very high DA score compared to yours it’s a negative sign.

For example if yours is 15 but they all have over 50 DA.

Negative Sign #2

This is not a negative sign per se but you should check for excessive SERP features.

These are additional features in the search results such as Google Ads, “People Also Ask” boxes, Knowledge Cards, etc.

For example, if you search for “insurance broker” currently you’ll see 4 ads, 1 huge map, and a “People Also Ask” box before the #1 ranked page.

SERP Feature – Google Ads
SERP Feature – Google Map
SERP Feature – People Also Ask Box

There will almost always be some SERP features. But if there’s just too many you’ll get less traffic even if you get on the first page.

If there are excessive SERP features the keyword’s search volume should help you decide whether to choose it or not.

For example, if the keyword has 2000 monthly search volume you’ll still get a lot of traffic.

But if it only has 200 monthly search volume you’ll barely get any traffic. It may not be worth the time and effort to create and optimize a page for such a keyword. About SERP Features… You can get your website listed in some of these SERP features such as the “People Also Ask” boxes, but that’s a different topic. This guide is not about that. It’s about getting a page ranked in the top 10 search results.

After checking the positive and negative signs and you find a good keyword do this simple but important last step.

Check Word Count

This final step ensures you can create a better page than what already ranks so Google awards you with first page rankings.

Open each of the top 10 ranked pages that contain an article. Then highlight each article and count the number of words using the Word Counter Chrome extension.

Don’t open pages like ecommerce stores (eBay, Amazon, etc.) or any other page that doesn’t have an article. In such cases go to page 2 of the search results and open article pages that you find there.

This technique also won’t work for keywords such as e.g. “random name generator”. Because there won’t be any content/article pages.

Your goal is to create a page that has more words than the average number of words of the top 10 pages. In this way, you’ll show Google that your content is better and deserves to be ranked on the first page.

If on average the top 10 ranked pages have 2,000 words try to create a page with 2,500, 3,000 words or more.

Of course, the article has to provide value, don’t add a bunch of words just to increase your word count.

Studies performed by many SEO experts like Brian Dean show that Google loves longer content

The exact reason is unknown. But it’s probably because longer content is typically more in-depth and better than shorter content.

It’s not a big deal if you find up to 1-2 pages with more than 3,000-words or with an awesome article.

But if almost all pages have 3,000+ word articles and the quality is really good it can be difficult to create an article with a higher word count.

If you don’t think you can do that then it will be wiser to pick another keyword.

The other option in such cases is to create a page with at least the same number of words but then get as many backlinks as you can. 

If you do that you’ll still be able to outrank them even if their content is as good or better than yours.

Backlinks are like “votes” from other sites that your content is good. They’re really powerful to increase the page’s ranking but they’re not so easy to get.

Now let’s see a recap of the whole keyword research process.

Keyword Research Checklist Recap

There are 4 major steps…

  • Step 1) Create a list of seed keywords related to our niche.
  • Step 2) Pick one of them and used free tools to generate a massive list of similar keywords. Then sorted the list and removed duplicates.
  • Step 3) Import the list in paid tools like KWFinder. Select the best keywords that have good search volume and a low KD score and export them.
  • Step 4) Analyze all the best keywords one by one. Check for positive and negative signs to determine if you can get a first-page ranking.

You can repeat that process starting from step 2, using a new seed keyword. And you’ll generate a brand new list of “easy to rank” keywords.


This keyword research checklist and strategy is very simple once you try it a few times.

You can tweak this strategy or use another one. Do what works best for you. 

Either way, the concept is almost always the same.

You just have to create a big list of keywords, find those with good search volume and a low KD score. 

And then analyze the top 10 ranked pages to determine if you can get on the first page.

And remember, using this strategy you can get first page rankings without any backlinks.

If you have any questions let me know in the comments…

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