Complete Guide to Keyword Difficulty for SEO Optimization

Complete Guide to Keyword Difficulty for SEO Optimization

In the SEO (search engine optimization) process, keyword research is a very important part. Apart from search volume, another metric that should not be missed is keyword difficulty. Both work in complementary ways to support website optimization strategies.

You not only have to be smart in analyzing the words that many people use when looking for something (queries), but you also have to carefully assess the level of competition so that the business's online visibility develops or stays in the top rankings.

The explanation below will discuss various things related to keyword difficulty and how to measure it.


What is keyword difficulty?

Keyword Difficulty is a metric that measures how much competition there is for a given keyword and how difficult it is to rank for it in the SERPs. This metric is scored from 0 to 100, and the lower the score, the easier it is to rank for a keyword.

You can use this metric to measure how much effort it takes to get content to appear in the top rankings. If the keywords are classified as difficult, then you need to develop additional strategies or take more time to really get optimal results.

Some people who are not very familiar with SEO might think that this keyword difficulty is the same as "competition" in Google Keyword Planner. Though both are different. Competition itself refers to paid search results, while keyword difficulty applies to organic search results.


Keyword Difficulty Indicator Score

Keyword Difficulty is usually expressed in the form of a percentage score from 1 to 100 (1-100%). 1 for the low competition category; 100% means very high competition. The following is broad keyword segmentation based on keyword difficulty scores and their meanings:


Keyword Difficulty greater than 70%: Very Competitive

Keywords with a KD score greater than 70% are considered to have a high level of difficulty. This is a difficult keyword with a lot of competition. If you want to target these keywords, you will have to invest extensively in SEO and implement link-building activities.

These keywords are not the kind that can land on the first page overnight. To compete successfully for keywords that fall into this category, you will need to invest time and money.

Keyword Difficulty: 30% to 70%; Moderate Competition Level

Trying to start your content by targeting keywords with moderate KD competition is a very realistic and profitable SEO practitioner trick. These category keywords will usually have high search volume but not so much competition that they are easier to get on the first page.

Keyword Difficulty less than 30%: Low Competition Level

This KD score shows the keywords with a low level of difficulty that are the easiest to enter on the first page of search results in the SERP. Often, however, these keywords don't have a high search volume and are a bit lacking in consistency. However, if you can identify low-difficulty keywords with high search volume, you have earned yourself a "gold keyword".

Usually, companies or businesses that target a niche market use keywords with very low competition. And usually, a KD with a low score is owned by long-tail keywords.

Keyword Difficulty and Its Relationship to SEO

In SEO, Keyword Difficulty is largely determined by the number and quality of backlinks to the first ten pages on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for that keyword, or how competitive those pages are based on the strength of their backlinks.

The domain authority (DA) and page authority (PA) of indexed pages are used by SEO keyword tools to determine "competitiveness" in the SERPs.

Successful keyword research usually combines search volume analysis and keyword difficulty (KD) to reach its full potential in getting rankings. This is why knowing KD will help the overall SEO optimization strategy. This also relates to measuring the extent to which your resources can support the big goal.


The keyword difficulty factor

After knowing the role of KD, the next question is what factors influence KD. As quoted from Semrush, here are some of them:



In order to get the results you want, of course, you have to do a competitor analysis. Know what competitors have done and haven't done to win content. There are three types of competitors to consider:

  1. Competitors in the same industry as your business
  2. SEO competitors or those who write content for an audience similar to yours
  3. Competitors keywords or sites that are ranking against your target keywords

Content Quality

It is common knowledge that quality content is the way to get the best rankings. What is meant is content that is not only in accordance with the interests of the audience but also classified as information that can be trusted. The key is relevance, reliability, and engagement.


Search Intents

Apart from interesting content, you also need to consider search intent. Search intent refers to the type of content the user is looking for when entering a query. Understanding this will increase the potential for clicks as the content is properly presented to the user. There are four types of search intent types:

  • Informational: Users want to educate themselves about a topic.
  • Commercial: Users do research before making a purchase decision.
  • Transactional: The user wants to buy something.
  • Navigation: The user wants to find a specific page.



Google reveals that, apart from relevance, links are also top ranking metrics, so that sites appear on the first page of the SERP. Links or Backlinks here, of course, still prioritize quality. By getting links from good websites, you are telling Google how trustworthy your content is. At the same time, you can increase domain authority, which is also important in SEO optimization.

Domain Authority

Getting organic search engine rankings is not easy, especially for new sites. Competing with sites that already have an established domain authority is certainly a challenge in itself. Building a domain authority can take quite a bit of time. Therefore, try using tools to evaluate and find out how strong your domain authority is, including when compared to competitors. Then make repairs as needed.

Tools for measuring keyword difficulty

The way to measure the level of keyword difficulty is to look at the keyword difficulty score on keyword research tools that are available for free or for a fee.

1. Ahrefs

Ahrefs is a site that can support various things about SEO and keywords, including keyword difficulty.

The keyword difficulty that appears on Ahrefs will present the domain of the top 10 ranking pages with the desired keyword.

If the page at the top has a lot of referral domains, it will be increasingly difficult for the keywords used to compete.

2. SEMRush

Besides Ahrefs, SEMRush can be another choice for various needs around keywords. Thus, this tool can be used to analyze keyword difficulty because it has a Keyword Analytics feature.

When a keyword is entered, the feature will display the percentage of keyword difficulty along with the search volume.

3. Moz

Moz is a site made specifically for checking keyword difficulty. Will display a difficulty score that shows how easily the keyword competes in search engines. In addition, search volume and click-through rate (CTR) are also visible.

4. Similarweb

SimilarWeb is a site that is used to analyze a web along with supporting things such as keyword difficulty.

When checking with Similarweb, the user will get a view of traffic, the level of difficulty of competing keywords, search volume, and cost per click (CPC).


5. KWFinder

Just like the previous list, KWFinder can also be used to analyze keyword difficulty. When keywords are typed in, the tool will display trends, searches, cost per click (CPC), and the difficulty level of the keywords to compete with.

How to Target Keywords with High Keyword Difficulty

So, what happens if you want to target high-difficulty keywords and improve the SERPs? The first step is to test it with keyword research. You can spend a lot of time and money trying to rank for high-difficulty keywords only to realize that there are more relevant, lower-difficulty keywords that you could be targeting instead.


Keyword Research

Keyword research will ensure you choose the right keywords for your target. This process will help identify the best keywords to target and allow you to create a framework for your content strategy.

Keyword research will also make it possible to filter out very difficult keywords and find suitable words with a lower difficulty level and high search volume.


Identify initial terms and topics.

Often called "starting keywords," these initial keywords are keywords that are already floating around in your head about the topic the website is discussing. These keywords are what you think your customers or audience will be looking for when looking for the products you offer.

Take that keyword list and enter it into a keyword research tool to learn about related keywords and search volume.

You can look at related keywords to get a better understanding of what people are searching for and what types of questions they are asking about your topic.


Use the keyword search tool to expand the list.

As you work to expand your keyword list, there are many tools you can use. One of the simplest is to use the search terms that are recommended in the Google search bar. Go to Google, type in the keywords you want, and watch other suggested search terms appear.

Other search engines, such as Yahoo and Bing, will also suggest search terms for you to include in your research.

Another free tool from Google is the Google Keyword Planner. This tool not only provides a downloadable list of potential keywords but also includes several metrics on each keyword, including the average number of monthly searches and level of competition.


Do some research to perfect your keyword list.

Once you've created your list, it's time to analyze it and distill it into the best keywords for you. Start by manually scanning the list and eliminating any entries that are irrelevant or make no sense.

For example, if one of the keywords on a list for "jordan basketball shoes" turns out to be "blade roller skates," you might want to omit them because they don't make much sense in terms of a hiking backpack.

Next, sort the remaining list by search volume. Add a difficulty score for each keyword if you haven't already. The goal here is to analyze the listing and find keywords that correspond to higher search volumes and lower difficulty scores.

If you've done all that and still find a set of keywords with a high level of difficulty, be prepared because the next step is optimizing your website to get top rankings on the first page of Google search results. Even if you use words with a lower difficulty level, you still have to make the website as good as possible so that your SERP ranking increases.


Onpage SEO

The best thing you can do to improve your SERP ranking is to maximize your on-page SEO performance. Use the checklist to check your website and make sure your on-page SEO is in top shape. The more difficult the keyword you are targeting, the more precise the method should be. Be strategic in placing keywords in places such as meta tags and page URLs.

When editing the meta title and description for pages, don't just stuff keywords into those places. Take the time to create a compelling description that is carefully aligned with the keyword's search intent. Titles and meta descriptions are what consumers will see when looking at search engine results, so it's important to have content that will make them want to visit your website.

Increase the benefits of your website's images by ensuring that they are relevant to your audience. Do not put full-size, high-resolution images on your website, as this can extend loading times. Instead, reduce the image file size and include descriptive alt text for each image.

Format your text for easy reading by using small paragraphs and lots of headings and subheadings. Don't use an odd typeface or color scheme that makes the text hard to read.

Last but not least, make sure to include lots of links within the page. It should be a healthy mix of internal links (links that point to other pages within the website) and external links (links that point to outside websites).



Basically, all websites want to be at the forefront of the main position on the first page for every keyword search query that is relevant to their business's target audience. The role of keyword difficulty here is to be the main differentiator for each keyword that will be targeted.

Keyword difficulty can help you build your SEO plan by finding high-volume keywords with high search intent that are easier to rank for. Keywords that fall into this category must, of course, be your first priority when compared to high keywords with high search intent but higher KD.

By defining your goals and priorities, you can save a lot of time and prevent yourself from feeling frustrated when it comes to creating content that has the potential to generate quality traffic for your site.