What is Keyword Difficulty in SEO

Wed Sep 27 2023

TL/DR: Unlock the potential of high Keyword Difficulty (KD) with these proven SEO strategies. Learn how to leverage long-tail keywords, create contextual content, and conduct user intent research to rank higher and attract the right kind of traffic. Transform your SEO approach for sustainable growth and higher conversions with these actionable insights.

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Table Of Contents

The Good Fellas Agency What is Keyword Difficulty in SEO

What is Keyword Difficulty

Keyword Difficulty (KD) is a crucial metric in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which provides insights into the competitiveness of a keyword in search engine result pages (SERPs). It's an estimate of how challenging it would be to rank higher for a particular keyword, considering various factors such as the number of sites trying to rank for that keyword, the quality of their content, and the strength of their backlinks.

Understanding KD assists marketers in prioritizing their SEO efforts, helping them decide whether to target specific keywords based on their potential return on investment. This article will delve deeper into the concept of KD, its importance, how it's calculated, and how to utilize it effectively for SEO strategies.

Understanding Keyword Difficulty

Understanding Keyword Difficulty is a vital aspect of formulating potent SEO strategies. It provides a realistic sense of the efforts and resources required to achieve high rankings for certain keywords, thereby enabling a more informed decision-making process. In this section, we shall delve into the finer nuances of KD, shedding light on its interpretation and application in SEO.

What is Keyword Difficulty?

Keyword Difficulty is a measure used in SEO to understand how hard it would be to rank on the first page of search engine results for a specific keyword. Think of it as a competition rating. If a keyword has a high difficulty score, it means many websites are competing to rank for it, and these sites likely have strong SEO practices in place. On the other hand, a low score indicates there's less competition, and it could be easier to rank for. Understanding this concept can guide you in choosing the right keywords for your website, helping you focus your efforts where they are most likely to yield results.

What Factors Influence Keyword Difficulty?

Several factors influence Keyword Difficulty and, in turn, impact SEO rankings:

  1. Search Volume: Higher search volumes often correlate with higher KD. If a keyword is frequently searched, more sites will try to rank for it, increasing competition.
  2. Domain Authority: Websites with high domain authority often rank higher in SERPs. If these sites are targeting your chosen keyword, it could increase the KD.
  3. Content Quality: Google prioritizes high-quality, relevant content. If top-ranking sites for a keyword offer exceptional content, it might be challenging to outrank them, increasing the KD.
  4. Backlink Profile: A strong backlink profile can boost a website's rankings. If sites ranking for a keyword have numerous high-quality backlinks, this could increase the KD.
  5. On-page SEO: Proper utilization of the keyword in title tags, meta descriptions, and content helps in ranking higher. If top-ranking sites for a keyword have strong on-page SEO, it may increase the KD.

Understanding these factors can help you strategize your SEO efforts more effectively, choose your keywords wisely, and improve your chances of ranking higher in SERPs.

What Is The Importance of Keyword Difficulty in SEO?

Keyword Difficulty plays a vital role in shaping a successful SEO strategy. For one, it can help in setting realistic expectations for your SEO efforts. Attempting to rank for high KD keywords without substantial resources may result in wasted efforts. On the other hand, targeting low KD keywords can yield quicker results and provide an initial boost to your website's visibility in search engine results.

Understanding KD allows for more strategic resource allocation. By focusing on keywords that are achievable given your website's current strength and resources, you can make the most effective use of your time and budget.

An accurate understanding of Keyword Difficulty can provide valuable insights into the competitive landscape of your niche. It can reveal who your competition is, what strategies they're employing, and how you can potentially outrank them. In essence, mastering the concept of KD can give you a strategic edge in the dynamic world of SEO.

Off-Page SEO Strategy For Begninners

Equip yourself with the essential knowledge to improve your site's presence on the web beyond its own pages with backlinks, social signals, and brand mentions.

How to Measure Keyword Difficulty

Measuring Keyword Difficulty accurately is pivotal to crafting a successful SEO strategy. This section will guide you through the processes and tools commonly used to assess KD. We will explore different methodologies, understand their advantages or disadvantages, and how to interpret their results.

Tools Available for Keyword Difficulty Analysis

There are several tools available that can analyze keyword difficulty effectively, and each one comes with its unique features and benefits. Here are some of the most commonly used tools:

  1. Ahrefs: One of the popular SEO tools available, Ahrefs provides an accurate KD score between 0 and 100. It considers factors like search volume, backlinks, and content quality. To use it, simply type your keyword into the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer. The tool will then provide a KD score along with other useful SEO metrics.
  2. SEMRush: SEMRush is another widely used SEO tool that offers a comprehensive KD analysis. It calculates KD based on the authority of the domains appearing in the search results and the strength of their backlink profiles. To use SEMRush, enter your keyword in the Keyword Magic Tool, and the KD score will be presented along with other keyword data.
  3. Moz: Moz offers a slightly different metric called "Keyword Difficulty Score," which ranges from 0 to 100. It considers both on-page and off-page factors, like the strength of the domains ranking in the SERPs and the page's PA (page authority). You can find the KD score under the "Keyword Explorer" section after entering your chosen keyword.
  4. Ubersuggest: Ubersuggest is an easy-to-use, free tool that provides a KD score along with other metrics like search volume, SEO difficulty, and paid difficulty. To use it, enter your keyword in the search box, and the tool will provide all the necessary data.
  5. KW Finder: KW Finder focuses on long-tail keywords and provides a KD score on a scale of 0-100. The tool also provides search volumes, trends, and the average cost per click. You can use the tool by typing your keyword into the search bar and exploring the metrics provided.

Using these tools, you can get an accurate understanding of keyword difficulty, helping you to plan and execute your SEO strategy more effectively.

Interpreting the Results of Keyword Difficulty Analysis

It requires taking into account both the KD score and your website's capacities. A high KD score indicates high competition for a keyword. Ranking for such keywords may demand significant resources, including a robust backlink profile, high-quality content, and proficient on-page SEO. However, if your website already possesses these components, targeting high KD keywords can yield valuable traffic.

Conversely, a low KD score suggests there's less competition for a keyword, making it potentially easier and quicker to rank for, especially for newer or smaller websites. Yet, it's essential to consider the search volume and the keyword's relevance to your content. Low KD keywords with high search volumes and high relevance can be 'low-hanging fruits', offering quick wins.

Ahref Keyword Explorer Tool

Strategies to Compete Against High Keyword Difficulty

Devising strategies to compete against high Keyword Difficulty (KD) is a crucial aspect of any successful SEO campaign. This section will discuss various methods to effectively compete with high KD keywords, even when resources are limited. Through a combination of smart keyword selection, quality content creation, and efficient link-building strategies, it is possible to rank higher in SERPs even for high KD keywords.

How To Use Long Tail Keywords Against Hight Keyword Difficulty

Long tail keywords are very specific search phrases with three or more words. They are called 'long tail' because if you plot the frequency of keywords (from most to least popular), these keywords appear at the 'long tail' end of the distribution graph. Despite each long tail keyword having a lower search volume individually, collectively they account for a significant proportion of internet searches.

These keywords are typically less competitive due to their specificity, meaning they often have a lower Keyword Difficulty score. This allows you to rank higher in SERPs without needing a robust backlink profile or a high domain authority. Additionally, as these keywords are so specific, they often have a higher conversion rate, as they align more closely with the search intent of users.

For instance, if you run a vegan bakery in New York, instead of targeting the highly competitive keyword 'bakery', you may choose to target 'vegan bakery in New York'. Although this long tail keyword will have fewer searches, it will likely have a much lower KD score, and the traffic you do attract will be far more targeted and likely to convert.

keyword searching bar

How To Use Contextual Content Against Hight Keyword Difficulty

Another viable strategy to combat high Keyword Difficulty is creating contextual content. Contextual content is content that is highly relevant to the keyword and provides significant value to the reader. Such content aligns closely with the intent behind the search query, making it more likely to rank higher in the SERPs, despite having a high KD.

To create contextual content, begin by understanding the user's intent behind the keyword. This involves researching the type of content that is currently ranking for the keyword, and deciphering what information the user is likely seeking when they enter the keyword into the search engine.

Once you have a clear understanding of the user's intent, create high-quality content that addresses this intent directly. This might involve answering specific questions, providing detailed guides, or offering unique insights. Remember, the more valuable your content is to the user, the more favorably it will be treated by search engines.

In addition, make sure your content is well-optimized for your target keyword. This includes using the keyword in critical places such as the title, headings, and meta description, and sprinkling it naturally throughout the content. Also consider using related keywords and synonyms to ensure your content is contextually relevant to a broad range of search queries.

By creating contextual content, you can provide substantial value to your audience, satisfy search intent, and improve your chances of ranking for high KD keywords.

How To Use User Intent Research Against Hight Keyword Difficulty

Understanding user intent is crucial in effectively competing against high KD keywords. This research involves anticipating what users are truly searching for when they use specific keywords. This could be informational (seeking knowledge), navigational (seeking a specific website), transactional (seeking to buy), or commercial (seeking product reviews).

By understanding and aligning your content with the user's intent, you can increase the relevance of your content, hence improving your chances of ranking higher. For instance, if user intent for a keyword is largely informational, an educational blog post can be more effective than a product page.

Furthermore, search engines favor content that best satisfies user intent. If your content addresses the needs of users better than others, it may rank higher despite a high KD score.

There are various ways to conduct user intent research, such as analyzing the top-ranking pages for a keyword, using keyword research tools that provide insights on user intent, or simply putting yourself in the shoes of the user to understand their needs.

By combining user intent research with other SEO strategies like long-tail keywords and creating contextual content, you can create an effective SEO strategy that can compete against high KD keywords.

How to navigate keyword difficulty


In conclusion, Keyword Difficulty (KD) is a critical metric to consider in your SEO strategies, but it should not deter you from targeting high KD keywords. With a combination of intelligent keyword selection, such as using long-tail keywords, creating high-quality contextual content, and conducting user intent research, it is possible to rank well, even for high KD keywords. Remember, SEO success depends not just on ranking but also on attracting the right traffic that leads to conversions. By tailoring your SEO strategies based on these insights, you can achieve sustainable growth in organic traffic and cater to your audience's specific needs more effectively.

Off-Page SEO Strategy For Begninners

Equip yourself with the essential knowledge to improve your site's presence on the web beyond its own pages with backlinks, social signals, and brand mentions.

Andew Buccellato - Owner of Good Fellas Agency

Andrew Buccellato

Hello! I'm the owner and lead developer here at The Good Fellas Agency. I've been working with code for the past 10 years and started this business over 5 years ago. I mostly write about how Web Design, Digital Marketing, and Search Engine Optimization help your business grow.