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Keyword Difficulty: What Is It? And How To Measure?

It is not hard for website owners to find keywords that can bring traffic to their websites anymore.

Thanks to the availability of reliable keyword research tools in the market.

However, every website owner’s challenge is measuring how difficult it would be to rank for those keywords in search engine results pages.

When SEO experts mention a keyword’s difficulty, they refer to the SEO ranking difficulty that a website would face if it targets that particular keyword due to the competition.

This article will discuss all about keyword difficulty that you must know and the way you can measure the same.

Let’s proceed.

What Is Keyword Difficulty?

Keyword difficulty is an SEO metric that reflects the difficulty of ranking for a search term (keyword) on the first page of Google search results by measuring the keyword’s competitiveness.

It is measured on a scale of 0-100. The higher the score of the keyword is, the more is the competition and ranking difficulty for that keyword.

Why Is Keyword Difficulty Vital For SEO?

It is well-known that keywords are the lifeblood of the web page content that keeps their rankings alive.

Hence, the metric that measures keywords’ ranking difficulty is vital for SEO.

Keyword difficulty plays a vital role in SEO for the following reasons,

  1. Knowing the search volume, cost per click, and competition of keywords is the essential part of keyword research that helps you understand the keyword difficulty and decide which keywords to target to achieve a higher ranking.
  2. Keyword difficulty also helps you plan your content strategy for your web pages.

Which Factors Analyze Keyword Difficulty?

Various keyword difficulty checker tools available in the market consider different factors for analyzing keyword difficulty.

However, most keyword difficulty tools use the following essential factors to determine  keyword difficulty,

  1. Keywords’ SERP-related qualities.
  2. The median value of referring domains in the URLs of the web pages ranking in the top ten positions for a specific keyword.
  3. The median ratio of dofollow to nofollow links in the URLs of the web pages ranking in the top ten positions for a specific keyword.
  4. The median value of authority score of the web page URLs ranking in the top ten positions for a specific keyword.

The Factors That Determine Your Ranking Potential

Besides the keyword difficulty, several factors need to be evaluated to measure the degree of challenge your website would face to rank for a specific keyword.


An essential part of analyzing keyword difficulty is to know who others are trying to rank for the same keyword and how.

The only way to know that is to perform an SEO competitor analysis using a reliable tool like RankWatch.

Logging in to the Rankwatch tool using your credentials and clicking on the ‘Competitors’ tab will give you a complete overview of your competitors’ ranking trends.

The tool will provide you with a list of your competitors, the keywords they are ranking for, and their ranking URLs.

The tool makes the report more precise by providing the number of your competitors’ top-ranking keywords in the ‘Keywords in top 3’ and ‘Keywords in top 10’ columns.

If you are not ranking for or targeting those keywords already, you can optimize or create fresh content in line with your competitors’ content (which you can check from the ranking URLs).

Content Quality

No matter how precisely you target keywords with optimum keyword difficulty unless you create high-quality content, chances are remote that search engines will rank your web pages on the search results.

Hence, targeting and inserting relevant keywords in your content is insufficient to achieve a higher ranking of search results.

Google and other search engines prioritize the user experience the most. Your content must satisfy users’ search intent by providing valuable and trustworthy information.

Make sure that your content is of top quality, and check your content for further optimization.

Remember, there is always room for improvement.

You can choose a reliable tool to have an on-page SEO check of your web pages to get valuable tips for further optimization.

The RankWatch SEO IQ feature can suggest areas of improvement for your content.

If you click on the ‘Improvement Ideas’ tab of the SEO IQ, you will get an overall SEO IQ score of your web page for that specific keyword.

If you scroll down further, you will see the usage of the exact keyword in the content’s headings, sub-headings, and paragraphs. The tool also provides you with the suggestions for further improvement.

Clicking on the ‘Content Recommendations’ tab will show you the usage of keywords in your content body and recommend suggestions for improvement.

Once you complete optimizing your content by implementing the suggestions provided by the tool, you can check the optimization status of your web page by clicking on the ‘Content Editor’ tab.

Search Intent Of Keywords

Search results are generated only when users perform a search query with specific intents.

The prime goal of search engines is to provide the top-most web pages offering the most relevant content that will satisfy users’ search intent.

Hence, it is essential to curate your content, keeping the users’ search intent in mind.

If you click on the ‘Questions’ tab of the ‘Content Editor’ of the RankWatch SEO IQ, you will find the list of queries that users frequently search for.

Including those search terms in your web page content can significantly boost your rankings.

Backlink Profile

Google and other search engines consider the presence of high-quality backlinks from authoritative websites on a web page as a sign of trustworthiness and authority, which is why search engines prioritize such web pages while ranking.

How does that relate to keyword difficulty?

If your competitors targeting the exact keywords have high-quality backlinks on their web page content, it will be more difficult for your web page to rank for those keywords.

Hence, it is essential to analyze your and your competitors’ backlink profiles. Then, it would help if you tried to enhance your backlink profile as per the requirements.

You need to choose an accurate online backlink checker like the one RankWatch offers to make this task a breeze.

The tool provides you with your competitor’s all referring backlinks, active links, and deleted links.

The tool also allows you to check the quality of the backlinks acquired by your competitors.

That helps you to compare your link quality with them.

The tool also differentiates how many of those backlinks are of dofollow and nofollow types.

Once you complete spying on your competitor’s backlink profiles, you may reach out to those same sources to acquire high-quality backlinks.

However, you must target only authoritative sources from which your competitors gained backlinks.

Otherwise, acquiring low-quality backlinks can do more harm than good.

The tool provides you with the domain authority of the referring domains and the page authority of the referring web pages.

You need to analyze your backlink profile also before initiating the link-building strategy.

Following are the three most effective ways for link-building that you can follow,

  1. Email outreach
  2. Identify and build broken links.
  3. Identify and fix unlinked mentions of your brand.

How To Check Keyword Difficulty?

The best method for a keyword difficulty check is to choose the best free keyword research tool offered by Rankwatch.

The tool suggests thousands of organic and long-tail keywords relevant to your seed keyword in the blink of an eye.

The tool not only suggests keywords but also provides search volume, cost-per-click, and expected competition for each keyword. That makes it a complete SEO-friendly keyword difficulty checker.

This data helps you to decide which associated long-tail keywords you must choose.

The CPC helps you measure the expected cost of your PPC campaigns so that you can plan your budget accordingly.

What Keyword Difficulty Score Is Ideal For You?

There is no definite answer to this question that fits all.

Suppose your website has a high authority; in that case, it will be easier for you to rank for keywords with high keyword difficulty.

On the other hand, if your website is new and lacks much authority, competing for keywords with high competition will not generate many fruitful results.

However, the following tips will help you to choose the right keywords for your web page content,

  1. Ideally, you must try to target keywords having high search volumes and moderate difficulty.
  2. If you target keywords with very low search volumes, chances are high that searchers may not find your content in the search results.
  3. If you target keywords with extremely high search volumes, you will face tough competition against the top websites in the business.
  4. Unless your website drives millions of organic traffic every month, it will be of no use targeting keywords having search volumes in the range of 100000- 1 million.

Function Of Long-Tail Keywords In Keyword Difficulty

When users look for a specific product or service, their search query also becomes specific. Those specific search queries form long-tail keywords.

Long-tail keywords usually have lower competition and search volume than main keywords.

That, in turn, reduces the SEO keyword difficulty of long-tail keywords.

For example, many users search using the term ‘Azure cloud solution provider’; hence, the keyword has a competition score of 0.5. It will be harder to rank for this keyword if your business has not provided Azure cloud solutions for a long time.

On the other hand, only users who are looking for some specific product, like an Azure certification, will put a specific query. That is why the keyword ‘Azure cloud solution architect certification’ has a much lower competition score of 0.1. It will be relatively easier to rank for this term even if your business is not providing that certification for a long time.

The following are the prime benefits of targeting long-tail keywords,

  1. Long-tail keywords are comparatively easier to rank for.
  2. They help your website drive highly-targeted organic traffic.
  3. They provide a comparatively higher rate of conversion.

Final Thoughts

Finding relevant keywords for your web page content and making your web pages rank for them on the search results are two different ball games altogether.

Because your business does not operate in a void market and the competition in online business is skyrocketing.

Your competitors with higher authority and more robust backlink profiles also try to rank for the same search terms you are trying to rank for.

Hence, you need to wisely target the relevant keywords that are easier to rank for.

Keyword difficulty is the SEO metric that can give you an idea of how much competition is expected to rank for a specific keyword.

You need to select the correct SEO tool to check keyword difficulty that provides all essential information like search volume, competition, and CPC of the targeted keywords.

However, targeting keywords with high search volumes and moderate difficulty will be ideal for most businesses.

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