Keyword Difficulty: Choose Right Keyword For SEO Strategy

In the vast and ever-evolving digital marketing landscape, search engine optimization (SEO) stands as the bedrock of online success. At its core, SEO revolves around one crucial element: keywords

These seemingly innocuous strings of text hold immense power in determining the fate of a website’s visibility and traffic on search engines. However, not all keywords are created equal. 

In the complex realm of SEO, the term “Keyword Difficulty” emerges as a pivotal concept, one that can make or break your SEO strategy.

The process of optimizing a website for search engines requires careful planning and strategic decision-making. At the heart of this strategy lies the crucial task of selecting the right keywords that align with your goals and resonate with your target audience. 

The notion of keyword difficulty is central to this endeavor, as it offers a means to gauge the competitiveness and potential of specific keywords in the online battleground.

This comprehensive guide will delve into the intricacies of keyword difficulty, demystifying its significance and revealing the tools and techniques necessary for its assessment. 

Armed with this knowledge, you will be better equipped to choose the keywords that are most likely to propel your website to the coveted top positions in search engine results pages (SERPs)

Join us on this journey as we unravel the complexities of keyword difficulty and empower you to make informed decisions for your SEO strategy that can spell the difference between obscurity and online success.

What is Keyword Difficulty?

Keyword difficulty, also known as SEO difficulty, represents a metric for keywords that reveals the level of challenge associated with achieving a high ranking in Google’s unpaid search results for that specific term. 

This metric is commonly conveyed as a percentage, with a 100% value signifying the keyword’s exceptionally competitive nature, making it a formidable task to secure a spot on Google’s first page of results.

Through a comprehension of keyword difficulty, you can arrive at informed choices regarding the selection of keywords to incorporate into your SEO strategy. 

Prioritizing keywords with lower difficulty levels can enhance the probability of attaining higher rankings and generating organic traffic for your website, particularly if you are embarking on a new SEO endeavor or operating with limited resources.

The Crucial Role of Keyword Difficulty in SEO Success

Comprehending keyword difficulty enables you to make informed choices during the content planning and keyword research stages of your search engine optimization (SEO) endeavors, which involve the strategies and methodologies employed to enhance visibility in search results.

Focusing solely on keywords with excessively high ranking difficulty can lead to a squandering of time and resources, yielding minimal to no discernible outcomes.

details from ahrefs

However, if you exclusively concentrate on keywords that are overly simple to rank for, you could overlook the opportunity to capture more valuable traffic and conversions.

ahrefs list

However, keyword difficulty (KD%) can assist you in locating the ideal balance point between extremely competitive keywords (which may be unattainable) and low-competition keywords (which might not receive any searches).

ahrefs list

In simpler terms, KD% aids in the selection of the most suitable keywords for your website—those that can attract a substantial volume of organic traffic without demanding excessive effort.

Keyword Difficulty Metrics Demystified

To develop an effective SEO strategy, it is imperative to grasp the intricacies of Keyword Difficulty metrics. 

These metrics serve as a crucial tool in assessing the level of competition associated with specific keywords or search phrases, empowering you to make informed choices regarding your keyword targeting approach. 

Here are several essential facets to consider when scrutinizing Keyword Difficulty metrics:

a. Search Volume: This metric signifies the frequency with which a particular keyword is searched within a specified timeframe. A higher search volume indicates heightened user interest but often accompanies increased competition.

b. Keyword Difficulty Score: Typically furnished by SEO tools, this numeric score evaluates a keyword’s competitiveness based on diverse factors, including backlink profiles, domain authority, and content quality. 

A higher score denotes more formidable competition and a greater challenge in attaining top-ranking positions.

c. Organic Click-Through Rate (CTR): Organic CTR unveils the percentage of clicks received by organic search results for a specific keyword. 

A lower CTR may imply that users are more inclined to click on paid advertisements or featured snippets, potentially affecting your organic traffic potential.

d. Keyword Intent: Discerning the user’s intent underlying a keyword (whether it’s informational, navigational, commercial, or transactional) empowers you to craft pertinent content and optimize your website to align with user expectations.

e. Domain Authority (DA): Domain Authority, conceived by Moz, forecasts a website’s potential to rank on search engine result pages (SERPs) and is graded on a scale of 1 to 100. 

Within the context of Keyword Difficulty, a keyword featuring numerous high-DA websites among the top search results can be deemed more competitive and challenging to secure a high rank.

f. Content Quality: Examine the content featured on your competitors’ websites, with a focus on their top-performing pages. Identify gaps and opportunities to create superior, unique content that caters to user intent and delivers added value.

g. Competition: This metric quantifies the number of websites competing for prime positions associated with a specific keyword. 

Elevated competition suggests numerous websites vying for the same keyword, intensifying the difficulty of achieving a prominent ranking. 

Analyzing the competition involves an assessment of factors such as the volume of indexed pages, backlink profiles, and optimization strategies adopted by the top-ranking websites.

By acquiring an in-depth understanding of these Keyword Difficulty metrics, you can formulate data-driven strategies for selecting target keywords and construct a comprehensive SEO plan that enhances your website’s search engine visibility.

Navigating Keyword Difficulty: A Comprehensive How-To?

You can effortlessly determine the KD% (Keyword Difficulty Percentage) of any keyword by utilizing a keyword difficulty tool. Simply input your chosen keyword into the tool, and the corresponding score will be displayed on the dashboard.

However, it’s essential to recognize that keyword ranking difficulty is a relative metric. To effectively gauge the appropriateness of high or low-difficulty keywords for your SEO strategy, you must possess a clear understanding of your site’s Authority Score and how it compares to your competitors in terms of organic traffic, backlinks, and referring domains.

  • For instance, if your website boasts a robust Authority Score, you may find it more attainable to secure high-difficulty keywords. In such cases, it could be advantageous to target keywords with elevated difficulty scores. 
  • Conversely, if you’re managing a relatively new website, ranking for these highly competitive keywords might prove considerably more challenging.
  • In such instances, it may be judicious to initially avoid the most challenging keywords and instead concentrate on less demanding ones, allowing you to cultivate your site’s authority gradually. 

Still, challenging keywords essential to your goals may warrant the extra effort, even if ranking high takes time.

So, how should you approach the selection of keywords based on their difficulty?

Firstly, it’s crucial to acknowledge that SEO is a long-term endeavor. Even if a specific keyword appears daunting to conquer at present, it’s not advisable to disregard it entirely. Instead, acknowledge that it will require time and effort to secure a favorable ranking.

To navigate this landscape effectively, it is wise to strike a balance between keywords that are relatively easy to rank for and those that present greater challenges. 

A sound strategy involves integrating lower-difficulty keywords alongside those that demand a longer-term investment. A beneficial tactic for achieving this balance is the creation of topic clusters—collections of content centered around a core topic. 

Here, you aim for broader, high-difficulty terms on pillar pages and pair them with cluster content for lower-difficulty keywords. This strategy allows you to diversify your keyword targeting while gradually building authority and improving your rankings over time.

Navigating Keyword Difficulty: A Strategic Perspective

Though Google’s page ranking algorithms are undisclosed, we have a clear understanding of key factors influencing high rankings. By dissecting these pivotal elements, SEO experts can gain valuable insights into the requirements for securing a prominent position on Google’s search results pages for a specific keyword.

Here’s the methodology they employ:

a. Determine the Required Backlinks

Backlinks function as endorsements, signaling to Google the relative value of a particular page in comparison to others covering the same topic. Generally, aiming for a top 10 ranking requires acquiring backlinks that match or exceed those of current top-ranking pages.

In Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer tool, we provide a helpful textual indicator just below our Keyword Difficulty (KD) score. This indicator offers an approximation of the number of backlinks required:

ahrefs list

Two crucial points merit attention at this juncture:

Firstly, the guidance specifies the aim of ranking within the top 10 results. This signifies that accumulating an equal or greater number of backlinks compared to your competitors does not guarantee the top spot. However, it significantly enhances the likelihood of securing a position within the top 10 results.

Secondly, it’s vital to acknowledge that the sheer quantity of backlinks can be deceptive. This is because not all backlinks carry equal weight in terms of influence. Consequently, the provided number serves as a rough approximation, and its accuracy may vary.

To accurately assess the potency of the backlink profiles of the top-ranked pages, a thorough examination of their backlinks is imperative. In other words, conducting a manual backlink audit of these pages is necessary.

b. Examine the Search Intent

Your proficiency in aligning with the search intent holds paramount significance when aiming for high rankings on Google. Search intent is the expected result people have when they search online. Google’s primary objective is to meet these expectations effectively when users conduct searches.

Numerous marketers, like Joshua Hardwick, often categorize all searches into four distinct search intent categories:

  • Informational
  • Navigational
  • Transactional
  • Commercial

However, I don’t particularly endorse this approach. Allow me to illustrate with an example.

Rather than categorizing “backlink checker” queries, a more productive approach is to analyze the top-ranking pages for that keyword. By analyzing what searchers glean from these pages, you can gain valuable insights.

backlink checker

As evident from the screenshot displayed earlier, every page occupying the top-ranking positions for the keyword “backlink checker” constitutes a free online tool. Therefore, the search intent underlying this keyword unmistakably aligns with the need for “online tool to check rankings.”

Hence, attempting to target this keyword through a blog article or a landing page would prove ineffective.

c. Assess the Content Quality

The widely recognized Skyscraper Technique has sometimes led content marketers astray by suggesting that a longer and more detailed article equates to a superior one.

However, it’s important to note that simply extending the length of your article doesn’t automatically elevate its quality. A truly superior article delivers a greater amount of value in less time and without inducing boredom.

Here are some guidelines to help you evaluate the quality of the content occupying top positions for your target keyword:

  1. Does it offer accurate and current information?
  2. Is it authored by a subject matter expert?
  3. Does it present unique information?
  4. Is it well-crafted in terms of writing?
  5. Is it appropriately structured and formatted?
  6. Does it exhibit a pleasing and effective design?

Among these criteria, the first three hold the utmost significance. Google places a premium on providing users with accurate information from reliable sources, a fact underscored by the prominence of the concept known as E-A-T in its Search Quality Rater Guidelines. E-A-T represents expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

Instead of just lengthening your pages, focus on improving your E-A-T factors to make your content stand out.


Having a keyword difficulty metric that could precisely forecast your likelihood of ranking for a specific keyword would indeed be remarkable. However, as you can likely discern by now, such a metric is not currently available.

Hence, the sole method to ensure you make well-informed SEO decisions is by conducting a comprehensive analysis of the search results associated with the keywords you aspire to rank for.

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