Introduction to Keyword Difficulty   

Keyword competition analysis can help you discover keywords you should target for your site, whether you’re creating your first website of yours or looking to boost the search engine effectiveness of your existing website. It is essential to rank higher than your competition to reach the highly sought-after top positions on the search engine result pages (SERPs) and understanding the importance of keyword difficulty is an important component of creating a plan that will get you there.

In this article, I’ll show you the process of determining keyword difficulty. Learn how to assess the market and make the most efficient use of the SEO tools you have.

What is SEO Difficulty?

Keyword difficulty is also referred to in the form of SEO difficult or even keyword competitive, evaluates the difficulty it takes to be ranked in the results of a search engine for a specific keyword. Keyword difficulty is determined by several aspects, such as the domain’s authority (DA) and page authority, as well as the quality of the content.

  • Keywords that are difficult to rank for have difficult competition and are more difficult to be ranked for.
  • Keywords with low difficulty are less competitive and are generally less difficult to get ranked for.

In general broad keywords can be harder to get ranked for whereas more specific keywords with a long tail present less of a problem.

How to Utilize Keyword Complexity to Increase Organic Traffic

After you’ve conducted some initial keyword study to determine the Google terms that your clients are searching for, the next step in developing a strategy will be to prioritize your list of keywords according to the SEO search term’s competitors.

To accomplish this then, you’ll be evaluating:

  • Quality of top 10 websites currently being ranked in SERPs for the specific keyword.
  • What would it take to get your optimized website to outdo your competitors.

At the end of the day, you’ll be able to get an idea of how hard you will be to get ranked well for particular terms and whether or not you’ll be able to reap the benefits of the effort and time you put into getting to the top of SERPs.

Utilizing a Keyword Difficulty Tool

Many SEO analytics tools such as Moz, Ahrefs as well as SEMrush offer keyword scores of difficulty. Optimizing for SEO would be easy if you create a strategy based on one keyword’s difficulty score however you’ll find more than you think.

Keyword Difficulty

While a well-designed keyword research tool will make SEO content creation easier I would always suggest that marketers examine the hood of every platform to learn how it calculates difficulty for a particular keyword.

How well-known Keyword Research Tools Measure Ranking difficulty

In general, every search engine you refer to will come with its own formula that is unique to it for calculating metrics such as keyword difficulty.


I am awestruck by this question as it gets right to the core of the reason it is difficult to rank your main keyword.

Nobody, whether business or individual or SEO tool is able to tell what’s going on inside Google’s black box algorithm. We can, at best, look at the top-ranked content and draw conclusions from what we’ve learned.

This is a brief overview of how the most well-known tools evaluate the difficulty of a word.

Ahrefs Keyword Difficulty

Ahrefs computes their KD score by adding the number of linked domains that point to the first-page result for a particular keyword and then placing that number on the scale of a logarithmic between zero (easy) up to 100 (hard).

This score for the difficulty of keywords does not take other factors into consideration.

Additionally, you should remember that since Ahrefs charts its KD score using a logarithmic scale it’s not linear. What that means in actual terms is that a KD of 50 isn’t an “medium” keyword difficulty. It’s hard.

Since links’ profile will be the sole element in the score it can be correlated directly to the number of hyperlinks Ahrefs estimates a website must rank for competitive keywords.

Learn more about the significance for external link building as an important ranking factor in our article on broken link development.

SEMrush Keyword Difficulty

SEMrush employs a keyword-related difficulty index that’s based on a percentage ranging from zero (easy) up to percent (hard). SEMrush isn’t as open as Ahrefs regarding how they calculate their score for difficulty. They claim that their KD calculation is based on the “variety of variables” of the top 20 most popular domains. The factors they consider include the median number of domains referred to within every link profile. They also consider the proportion of links that dofollow and nofollow, and the rankings’ authority scores (based on their own formula).

Moz Keyword Difficulty

Moz’s difficulty score ranks the keywords using a rating scale ranging from one (easy) up to 100 (hard). According to Moz it calculates this score by looking at the most popular organic links on the page of results from a search engine.

Moz KD score is based on two other proprietary metrics: pages authority as well as the domain authority. It’s important to know that neither of Moz’s domain nor page authority metrics directly relate with how search engines assess authority.

Which one of the Keyword Difficulty Scores is the most effective?

There is no one KD score that is superior to all the other scores. There are several ways that lead to the same destination that is an educated assumption about the way Google places pages on its own with respect to specific search queries.

There are two things that you need to keep in mind:

  1. Compare apples with apples. It’s acceptable to cross-reference several tools, but you should implement them into your complete keyword list, not just choosing different results among the tools.
  2. Do not confuse a proprietary keyword tool measure with a forecast of how a search engine will rank your website.

Although there are a variety of keywords tool metrics, the other factors commonly considered to be influencing rankings include:

  • relevance : Does it correspond to the search intent?
  • Qualitative : Does the content show authority, expertise and credibility?
  • Link backlinks : Do other websites find it important? 

Certain top-ranked websites will check all the boxes, however, some don’t. If you are able to provide better quality content than your competitors, you could be able to be ranked higher than them.

The time you need to get your website will depend on the level of difficulty you have chosen for your keywords as well as the commitment you have to follow a link building strategy.

A Closer Look at Keyword Competition

As I stated earlier, difficulty scores for keywords from a tool for keyword analysis can be a good place to begin; however, a thorough analysis of competition will provide additional useful details.

Since Google can be the ultimate authority on which content will rank for certain keywords I suggest beginning your analysis of competition by looking through the results from a search. It’s amazing how much an easy search can tell you!

Input your keyword in Google search and then look at the very first result page for organic results.

Examine the page that ranks highest for:

1. Quality of Content

Keep in mind that Google is determined to offer content that fulfills the user’s desire and provides useful information.

  • How well written are the contents?
  • Are the details it provides current?
  • Does the article make use of experts or citations? Do you have plenty of sources?
  • Do you think it is a comprehensive analysis of the subject?
  • Does the website include graphs, images, as well as videos?

Consider ways to make something superior to the current offerings to customers.

2. Domain Authority

Google likes ranking content that is from an authoritative domain whenever it is possible. If the most prominent results for your query contain pages from an authority that is undisputed this could be harder to rank for.

However, it’s not common for every top-ranked snippet to originate from an authority, and the presence of powerful names isn’t a reason to not abandon your favorite search terms.

3. Referring Domains (Backlinks)

The difficulty metrics for keywords of the three most well-known tools for keyword analysis I mentioned in the first paragraph have something they have in the same. Each of them takes into account backlinks as a factor in assessing the competition for keywords. This is because Google has been transparent about the fact that backlinks are a crucial search engine ranking element.

Backlinks aren’t a thing to ignore as an indicator of ranking.

My preferred tool for finding websites that are referred to is Ahrefs Keyword Difficulty Checker. Because Ahrefs’ KD metric is solely based on backlinks which is clear how steep and steep the ascent up to page one is for any keyword.

In this instance for “Google trends”,” an average score of 57 means that it would take the number of backlinks to surpass the most popular content.

This is where you should consider the word “keyword” in relation to your larger strategy.

  1. What is the strategic value to your company?
  2. Are you able to allocate the required funds to connect the building process?
  3. How quickly do you want this page to be able to rank?

If you’re able to be ranked for a keyword that is difficult is dependent on the time and resources you’re willing to put into the process.

If you think that 95 backlinks with quality seem to be too expensive to pay for the expected return on investment, I’d suggest focusing on niche, longer-tail keywords.

Keyword Difficulty FAQs

If you are aware of the level of competition for your keywords and you’re able to decide which ones to prioritize and the best way to do it.

Here are some commonly asked questions to help plan your next move.

What is an “Good” Keyword difficulty?

It’s all relative. Generally the more competitive the more favorable. However, you must be aware of the current search volume as well as click-through rates and the potential for traffic. In general, you will be ranked higher for less competitive terms, however there could be a compromise with large search volume.

Some keywords are exceptions to the rule , and provide both high search volume as well as difficult to rank for.

Knowing the difficulty of a keyword can help to plan an SEO strategy that is long-term and estimate the time it will require to take on top-ranked pages.

Do I have the ability to target high-competition Keywords? 

Yes. It is not necessary to stay clear of keywords with high difficulty. If your business must be ranked for a certain keyword, do it. It’s going to get more difficult to rank for hard targeted keywords if you put off. The main point is to approach it with a solid knowledge of the path ahead.

If you are aware that a particular keyword has a high difficulty and you know that, you can design your strategy accordingly and account with the knowledge that it may take longer to earn a return from your investments.

Should I mix low as well as High Competitive Keywords?

Yes! You need to create the right mix of keywords that are based on different rank difficulties. One approach to accomplish this is to use subject clusters which target keywords with greater difficulty, broad keywords using pillar content as well as lower difficulty keywords through spin-off pages that outline the subject.

In what amount should I rely on Keyword Difficulty?

There are a variety of factors to take into consideration when conducting keyword research for your SEO campaign, such as:

  • Search intent
  • average organic search volume
  • Google search trends
  • average click-through rate, and
  • Potential for traffic.

Keyword difficulty is a tool to help you determine the most suitable mix of most effective keywords. The more you are aware of your competitors, the better informed you are in your decision-making.

The Bottom Line

It can be time-consuming to conduct manual keyword research to find the right keywords to meet your business’s goals. Think about collaborating with an SEO expert who can aid you in creating a customized strategy that will propel your business onto the first page of the search results.

We provide a variety of SEO solutions to all kinds of businesses, from small companies to enterprises to help you discover a solution that fits your requirements and budget.

James Jackson

James Jackson is passionate about exploring the latest advancements in technology and sharing his insights with the world. From AI and blockchain to cybersecurity and IoT, James Jackson strive to deliver informative and engaging content that empowers readers to navigate the ever-evolving tech landscape. Join me on this exciting journey of discovery!
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Murtaza Ali

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