What Is Keyword Difficulty?
Keyword Difficulty or SEO Difficulty is a score which measures how competitive a specific keyword to rank for in search engine results pages.
Keywords, in general, are the most important pillar of search engine optimization, as they are used to capture the searcher’s intent and match their search queries with quality content that provides value for the searcher.
Any SEO campaign usually begins with finding your organic keywords you want to rank for. And while choosing keywords for your website, it’s important to calculate the difficulty for each keyword.
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So, let’s explore the importance of keyword difficulty as a metric in your SEO.
Why Keyword Difficulty Is Important?
Keyword difficulty is important because it helps you make informed decisions about your SEO and content strategy. Understanding keyword difficulty can save you time and effort by avoiding targeting overly difficult or easy keywords.
Keywords that are too difficult may waste time trying to rank without results. Ranking for very easy keywords can mean missing better opportunities for traffic and conversions.
Knowing keyword difficulty helps you identify keywords in the sweet spot – not too hard and not too easy. This allows you to optimize your content planning and focus your efforts on terms you can realistically rank for.
Tools To Check Keyword Difficulty
There are many tools there to check for keyword difficulty, but those are the hand-selected ones.
Here are the top tools that our specialists use daily:
- Ahrefs Keyword Difficulty Tool: Free with premium paid features.
- Moz Keyword Difficulty Tool: Free with premium paid features.
- SEMrush Keyword Difficulty Tool: Free with premium paid features.
- Ubersuggest Keyword Difficulty Tool: Free with premium paid features.
- Keywords Everywhere Chrome Extension: Paid.
- Google Keyword Planner: Free.
Further Reading : What Is Keyword Mapping?
Factors Affects Keyword Difficulty
Below are the factors which plays a big role in defining the keyword difficulty for a specific query or search phrase. Those factors are very important, because they can decide whether you chose the right set of keywords or not.
Keyword Popularity Metrics
Search volume indicates how frequently a keyword is searched. Higher numbers reveal stronger demand but also typically more competition. Benchmarking volume metrics helps estimate interest and keyword difficulty. Useful popularity metrics include:
- Monthly search volume: Monthly Searches, Average Search Volume all of these nomenclatures references the same meaning. Which indicates average monthly searches for a keyword. More searches mean more discovery potential but also more competing pages.
- Keyword difficulty: Aggregate scores from tools like Moz and Ahrefs that distil multiple difficulty factors into one 0-100 score. Higher = more difficult.
- Competition: Estimates the number of pages targeting a keyword. More competing pages make rankings harder to crack.
The number and authority of backlinks to competing pages indicate keyword difficulty. More links and links from authoritative domains to rivals indicate greater keyword difficulty score. Use Ahrefs to analyze competitors’ backlink profiles for target keywords.
Authority sites with strong domain and page authority scores rank well. Review the domain and page authority scores of current top results for target keywords to gauge difficulty. If scores are high, it’s a difficult keyword to rank for.
Current Ranking Pages
Look at the types of sites ranking for your target keywords and their trust signals, such as length of the content, social Signals, and other brand mentions. Expect stiffer and more fierce competition if top results are well-established authority publications in your niche.
Researching your competitors and conducting competitive analysis is a tremendous part of search engine optimization. The same is true for your keyword difficulty research. You will need to know who you are competing with for your targeted keyword, as it will help you to learn about their website’s authority and scores to plan your content to stay on top of the rankings. Conducting competitive analysis is crucial as it lets you learn everything you need to know quickly.
There are a lot of tools that let you learn about your competitors from a single keyword overview research. A popular tool is SEMrush Keyword Overview, which is both easy to use and provides a detailed analysis of your competitive analysis.
To use it, you can enter your targeted keyword and head down to the SERP analysis section, as you will learn who’s ranking and who’s competing for your focus keyword. This is also true for all the tools we mentioned before.
Other tools are dedicated solely to finding and analyzing competition in your field; these tools can let you discover what you need to know about your competitors.
Content Quality, Depth, and Expertise
Content is king. This is true regarding all aspects of digital marketing, especially search engine optimization. What matters most in your marketing and SEO campaigns is content. Suppose your content provides value for your readers and matches searchers’ intent. In that case, it will match the quality signals of Google’s EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness), resulting in higher rankings and increased organic traffic via your readers and search engines.
Your content’s quality is detrimental when using keywords that might be difficult and competitive. So even if you conducted thorough keyword difficulty research and found the right KD%, you will still need to create engaging and quality content.
You need to keep in mind that your SEO copywriting has a lot of factors that should be considered when creating your quality content, such as readability, tone of voice, originality, and search engine optimization. Use tools like Grammarly and SEMrush SEO writing tools to optimize your content for higher rankings.
Search Intent Behind The Keyword
Understanding search intent is necessary to develop an effective SEO strategy and create content that ranks well in search engine results pages. When someone performs a search query, they have a specific goal or “intent” behind their search. Identifying and optimizing your content and website pages for these intents can help websites better meet user needs and signal to search engines that your content satisfies people’s needs.
The searcher’s intent is divided into four categories, each serving a different purpose. The main categories are:
- Informational intent : indicates that the searcher wants to research a topic in depth or learn something new. Queries like “How does SEO work?” or “Benefits of exercise” have informational intent. Optimizing for informational intent involves creating comprehensive, educational content that provides value for the reader.
- Commercial intent : means the user has a purchasing need and is likely searching for a product or service. Queries such as “best running shoes” or “new laptop deals” have commercial intent.
- Transactional intent : is when the searcher is ready to complete a conversion or transaction on a website. Searches for a specific business name, product, or service indicate transactional intent. Clear calls-to-action, streamlined conversion funnels, and simple ways to contact or purchase from the business help satisfy this intent.
- Navigational intent : is present when the searcher wants to reach a certain website or webpage directly. For example, queries like “Wikipedia New York” have navigational intent. Optimizing website architecture through site linking, proper URL structure and internal site search helps users easily navigate to key pages.
Identifying the type of intent behind queries and tailoring content accordingly leads to better user experiences and higher rankings in search results. This is a key component of both technical seo and content-focused SEO strategies.
Backlinks from authoritative, relevant websites can immensely improve a page’s ability to rank for competitive keywords. Google’s algorithm factors backlink profiles into keyword difficulty scores. Websites with high-quality backlinks tend to perform better for hard keywords than those with fewer or weak ones.
This is because backlinks help indicate trust, authority, and popularity. As you build citations from industry resources, directories, niche sites and other reputable places, it signals to Google that your content provides value. An expanding backlink profile with contextual anchor text helps improve your site’s domain authority. A diverse, relevant backlink profile is a core ranking factor for difficult keywords.
What Is A Good Keyword Difficulty Score?
As a general rule of thumb, you should go after low-medium difficulty keywords. Why? As this will help you achieve better results in a short-span of time and without too much effort. Which is not the case in difficulty keywords.
Here’s a breakdown of what each percentage means after you measure your keyword difficulty:
0-14: Very easy
These are the easiest keywords to rank for, requiring virtually no effort. However, you need to make sure that you double-check the search volume before you decide to target them, as the volume can be quite low.
While relatively a little harder to rank for, they’re still an easier option if you want to rank for a targeted keyword without extreme effort. However, you’ll still need to produce high-quality content to ensure you rank higher.
You must create high-quality, helpful, useful, structured and well-optimized content to rank for these targeted focus keywords.
You must produce high-quality, useful, structured content and heavily optimize your on-page SEO. You will also need to have a strong backlink profile.
At this point, you will have to put in extreme effort. You’ll need more and better quality backlinks to support your content. Your website should also be smooth, driving high traffic and producing excellent content.
85-100: Very hard
While it’s technically not “impossible”, if your website is relatively small or new, it’s not worth wasting your resources on these keywords, as you will have to have a solid website with an already established SEO.
Keyword Difficulty In SEO Vs Pay Per Click
Keyword difficulty is a metric used in SEO and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) to measure how hard it is to rank for a particular keyword. In SEO, it indicates the competitiveness of ranking organically in search results. For PPC, it refers to the cost and amount of competition for securing a given keyword in ad auctions. Generally, higher keyword difficulty means more effort and cost are required to rank in organic or paid results. However, low keyword difficulty presents opportunities for efficient targeting in SEO and PPC. Evaluating difficulty helps set realistic goals for driving traffic and conversions.
Keyword Difficulty In SEO
The term keyword difficulty has double meanings when it comes to search engine optimization and pay-per-click, as they serve two completely different purposes in general, yet are so similar in concept.
In search engine optimization, keyword difficulty is impacted by multiple third-party metrics that estimate the competitiveness of ranking for a targeted keyword or a long-tail phrase.
Keyword difficulty in search engine optimization is segmented as follows:
- Domain Authority
- Page Authority
- Link Quality and Strength
Each of these segments factor in different cases for keyword difficulty, and we will explore each in detail.
What Is Domain Authority?
Domain Authority is a metric developed by Moz that predicts a website’s ranking capability based on analyzing its backlink profile and other public link data. It uses a 1 to 100 scale, with higher scores of hundred indicating a stronger ability to rank against competitive keywords. Domain Authority is a factor in calculating keyword difficulty—websites with higher domain authority tend to have an easier time ranking for high search volume and competitive keywords compared to sites with lower Domain Authority. Building your domain authority helps improve overall keyword difficulty for your site.
What Is Page Authority?
Page Authority is a metric Moz developed that measures a specific page’s relative ranking capability rather than the entire domain. This metric evaluates the page’s link profile, on-page optimization strengths, trust metrics and more to assign a 1 to 100 score. Higher Page Authority indicates a greater ability to rank well, even for difficult keywords. Building Page Authority for strategic pages helps lower keyword difficulty for target terms.
What Is Link Quality and Strength?
The quality and strength of an individual backlink pointing to a page can significantly influence its keyword difficulty score. Links from highly authoritative, relevant sources like .edu or .gov sites rank higher than general directory or low-value links. Even a single contextual backlink from an influential site in the industry can positively impact keyword difficulty. Having diverse backlinks from reputable sources with relevant anchor text is ideal for lowering difficulty. Not all links carry the same weight—a few powerful backlinks can outweigh a large volume of weak links in influencing keyword competitiveness. Link quality and strength are key considerations in evaluating keyword difficulty.
Keyword Difficulty In PPC
Keyword difficulty has a distinct meaning in pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns compared to SEO. PPC refers to the competitiveness and cost efficiency of bidding on and securing a keyword in the ad auction. Keywords with high difficulty in PPC require more effort and budget allocation to win ad placements and drive traffic.
Keywords with lower difficulty cost little per click and face minimal competition from other advertisers. These offer an efficient way to generate clicks and conversions with a minimal budget. On the other hand, keywords with higher keyword difficulty are constantly in high demand, with advertisers bidding aggressively to rank their ads. Their cost per click and competition for top ad spots is substantially higher.
Evaluating keyword difficulty in PPC is paramount for setting realistic expectations on potential traffic, ad position and budget needed. Lower-difficulty keywords give the flexibility to scale campaigns cost-effectively. But hard-to-rank keywords may only be viable for brands with sizable budgets and the ability to test different bidding tactics. Striking the right balance of easy and hard keywords helps maximize your PPC investment.
Monitoring metrics like impressions, click-through rate (CTR), and average position over time clarifies true keyword difficulty in the auction.
You should regularly optimize to focus on high-performing keywords with acceptable difficulty sustaining positive campaign results.
Frequently Asked Questions About Keyword Difficulty
Below are some of the common frequently asked questions from SEOs about keyword difficulty as keyword measurement metric.
What Does The Keyword Difficulty Score Tells You?
A Keyword Difficulty score you can tell you either you chose the right set of keywords to compete and rank for. Or the good deeds you go unnoticed, which means chasing ultra competitive keywords which will take time, resources and investment to rank for.
How To Calculate Keyword Difficulty?
You can check keyword difficulty using any of these keyword difficulty checking tools we mentioned above. Those tools will get your hands on identifying good or bad keyword difficulty score.
What Is SEO Difficulty and Paid Difficulty?
SEO Difficulty determines how it’s hard to compete for a specific keyword in the organic search.
While Paid Difficulty, means how it’s hard to appear in paid search results for a specific keywords set or phrases.
What Is Low Keyword Difficulty In SEO?
Low Keyword Difficulty in SEO means , a keyword of low difficulty score which usually falls in this group 0-20. As we explained above, low keyword difficulty can be fairly easy to rank for with high-quality , well researched and structured content.
What Is an Example of Keyword Difficulty?
A good example for keyword difficulty or SEO difficulty can be like in the image below:
In the image below , we have checked the Keyword Difficulty score for the keyword “Keyword Difficulty” using Ahrefs free keyword difficulty checker tool.