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Keyword Difficulty | What It Is and How to Measure It?

Last Updated : 11 Dec, 2023
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Keyword difficulty is a crucial metric in search engine optimization (SEO), representing the level of challenge associated with ranking for a specific keyword on search engine results pages (SERPs). As online competition increases, understanding and measuring keyword difficulty become important for digital marketers and website owners competing to enhance their online visibility.

What Is Keyword Difficulty?

Keyword Difficulty (KD) is an indicator used in search engine optimization (SEO) to check how challenging it is to rank for a specific keyword in search engine results pages (SERPs). It provides a numerical representation, often on a scale from 0 to 100, indicating the level of competition and difficulty associated with achieving a high ranking for a particular keyword. The concept of Keyword Difficulty helps SEO professionals, digital marketers, and website owners understand the competitive landscape for targeted keywords. A higher Keyword Difficulty score suggests increased competition and a greater challenge to secure a top position in search engine rankings.

Why Is It Important?

Keyword Difficulty is crucial in SEO as it guides choosing realistic keywords, allocating resources wisely, and setting achievable goals. It helps businesses understand their competition, create optimized content, and use SEO tools efficiently. By targeting manageable keywords, businesses increase their chances of higher rankings, improving organic traffic and ROI. Regular assessments enable adaptation to market changes, ensuring a sustainable and effective long-term SEO strategy.

What Factor Determines How Difficult a Keyword Is to Rank:

Several factors contribute to the overall Keyword Difficulty:

  • Competition analysis in SEO: The number and strength of competitors targeting the same keyword influence its difficulty. Highly competitive niches often have higher Keyword Difficulty.
  • Search Volume: Keywords with high search volumes are typically more competitive. Balancing search volume with relevance is key to finding strategic keywords.
  • Content Quality: Search engines prioritize high-quality, relevant content. The better your content, the more likely you are to rank for a given keyword.
  • Backlink in SEO: The number and quality of backlinks to a page affect its authority. A strong backlink profile can positively impact Keyword Difficulty.
  • Domain Authority: The overall authority and credibility of a website.

Factors Affecting Keyword Difficulty:

The difficulty associated with ranking for a specific keyword is influenced by various factors. These factors play a crucial role in determining how challenging it will be for a webpage to secure a favorable position in search engine results. Here are the key factors affecting keyword difficulty:

  • Competition: The level of competition for a keyword significantly impacts its difficulty. Keywords in highly competitive niches, where many websites vie for top positions, tend to have higher difficulty scores. Analyzing the strength and strategies of competitors targeting the same keyword is crucial. The more established and authoritative the competition, the greater the Keyword Difficulty.
  • Search Volume: Keywords with higher search volumes generally have higher competition. Popular and frequently searched terms are often more challenging to rank for due to the intense competition among websites.
  • Content Quality: Search engines prioritize high-quality, relevant content. Well-optimized, informative, and engaging content can positively impact a page’s ability to rank for a keyword. Factors like keyword placement, readability, and multimedia elements contribute to the overall quality of content.
  • Backlink Profile: The quantity and quality of backlinks to a page play a crucial role in determining its authority. A strong backlink profile can positively influence Keyword Difficulty. Backlinks from authoritative and relevant websites signal to search engines that the content is valuable and trustworthy.
  • Domain Authority: The overall authority of a website, known as domain authority, affects the Keyword Difficulty for all its pages. Websites with higher domain authority may find it easier to rank for competitive keywords. Building and maintaining a strong overall website authority is an ongoing process that involves quality content creation, effective SEO practices, and a solid backlink strategy.
  • Page Authority: Similar to domain authority, individual pages on a website can have their authority, referred to as page authority. Higher page authority can contribute to better rankings for targeted keywords. Optimizing individual pages with relevant content, internal linking, and a focus on user experience can enhance page authority.
  • Content Relevance: Search engines focus to provide the users with the most relevant results. Ensuring that the content on a page is closely aligned with the targeted keyword is crucial for ranking success. Relevance extends to user intent, and creating content that satisfies the user’s query comprehensively can improve rankings.

How to Check Keyword Difficulty:

Assessing Keyword Difficulty involves a methodical process to gauge the competitiveness of a particular keyword. Here’s a simplified guide on how to check Keyword Difficulty:

  • Research Competitors: Start by identifying competitors ranking for the target keyword. Analyze their content, backlink profiles, and overall website authority. Recognizing who you are up against provides valuable insights.
  • Use SEO Tools: Utilize reputable SEO tools like Ahrefs, Moz, or SEMrush. These tools offer specialized features to assess Keyword Difficulty. Enter the target keyword, and the tool will generate a numerical score based on various factors.
  • Analyze Search Engine Results Page (SERP): Examine the current SERP for the keyword. Look for patterns in the types of content that rank high. Evaluate the authority of the top-ranking pages and the relevance of their content.
  • Consider Content Quality: Assess the quality of existing content targeting the keyword. High-quality, relevant content is more likely to rank well. Identify gaps or areas where you can provide better and more comprehensive information.
  • Evaluate Backlink Profiles: Analyze the backlink profiles of top-ranking pages. Pages with strong, diverse backlinks often have higher authority, influencing their ability to rank. Assessing these profiles gives you an understanding of the competition.
  • Understand Your Website’s Authority: Consider your own website’s authority. If your site is relatively new or has lower domain authority, targeting extremely competitive keywords may be challenging. Focus on keywords that align with your website’s current standing.
  • Consider Long-Tail Variations: Explore long-tail variations of the target keyword. Long-tail keywords are often less competitive, providing opportunities for easier ranking. Assess the difficulty of both the main keyword and its long-tail variations.

By following these steps, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of the Keyword Difficulty for your target keywords.

What Is a Good Keyword Difficulty Score?

Keyword Difficulty scores are often on a scale of 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating greater difficulty. A good Keyword Difficulty score depends on your website’s authority and goals. Generally, scores below 50 are considered moderate, while scores above 70 are considered highly competitive.

How Do Long-Tail Keywords Impact Keyword Difficulty?

Long-tail keywords significantly influence Keyword Difficulty by offering a distinct advantage in the competitive landscape of search engine optimization (SEO). Unlike broad and generic terms, long-tail keywords are more specific and detailed, catering to niche audiences. Their impact on Keyword Difficulty is noteworthy due to several reasons.

Long-tail keywords typically have lower search volumes. This lower search volume implies reduced competition compared to broader keywords, making it easier for websites to rank for these specific terms. The specificity of long-tail keywords also attracts users with more intent, aligning the content more closely with what they are searching for.

The nature of long-tail keywords often translates to less competition from other websites. Since these phrases are more specific, fewer websites target them directly. This reduced competition contributes to a lower Keyword Difficulty for long-tail keywords, providing an opportunity for websites to secure better rankings with relatively less effort. Moreover, long-tail keywords enhance the overall quality of website traffic. Users searching with long-tail queries are usually in a more advanced stage of the buying or information-gathering process. By targeting these specific queries, websites can attract more qualified and engaged visitors, increasing the likelihood of conversions.


In conclusion, understanding Keyword Difficulty is vital for effective SEO. It guides smart keyword choices, resource allocation, and goal-setting. This knowledge empowers businesses to navigate competition, craft optimized content, and use SEO tools wisely. Targeting manageable keywords enhances the likelihood of higher rankings, boosting organic traffic and overall ROI. Regular assessments enable adaptability to market shifts, ensuring a sustainable and successful long-term SEO strategy.

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