Using the right keywords for SEO is essential if you want your website to rank high in search engine results pages (SERPs). Unfortunately, this isn’t as easy as you may think. There are many factors to consider, one of which is keyword difficulty.
To find the perfect balance of low competition and high search volume, you’ll need to understand the keyword difficulty and how to check it. In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about keyword difficulty so you can get the most out of your SEO efforts.
When you begin searching for keywords to use for your website, you’ll quickly realize that some terms are much more difficult to rank for than others.
The keyword difficulty measures how hard it is to rank in the top 10 search results for a given keyword. A keyword’s difficulty is determined by several factors, including:
Search volume dictates how many people are searching for a given keyword. The higher the search volume, the more difficult it will be to rank for that keyword.
Why? Because you’ll not only be competing with other websites but also with the top results for that keyword. Read on How to Discover Your Competitor’s Keywords & Use Them to Your Advantage.
The level of competition for a keyword is determined by the number of websites optimized for that keyword. If many websites are vying for the same keyword, it will be more difficult to rank than if there are fewer websites.
For example, it’s much easier to rank for “keyword research tips” than “SEO.” The former has low competition, while the latter is highly competitive. The reason is that many more websites are trying to rank for “SEO” than “keyword research tips.”
Your website must be relevant to the keyword you’re targeting. If your website is about dogs and you’re trying to rank for the keyword “cats,” it will not be very effective. Search engines will see your website as irrelevant, and you’ll be penalized.
Yet another factor that determines keyword difficulty is domain authority. Domain authority is a measure of how strong and popular your website is.
The higher your domain authority, the easier it will be to rank for a given keyword. Domain authority is developed by:
Check out 9 Must-Dos For an Effective Keyword Research to learn more about keyword research.
Now that you know what keyword difficulty is, you may wonder why it’s so important. After all, can’t you just pick any keyword and start optimizing your website for it?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. If you want your website to rank, you need to choose the right keywords. That means finding keywords with a good search volume and low competition.
If you optimize your website for a keyword that’s too difficult, you’ll likely never rank in the top 10 results.
On the other hand, if you choose a keyword with very little search volume, you might rank high, but no one will ever find your website. To know more, read on How To Choose the Right Keywords for SEO.
By figuring out the keyword difficulty, you can:
To check keyword difficulty, you’ll need a keyword research tool. There are many different options available, but some of the most popular include:
This is a free keyword research tool from Google. You’ll need to create an account with Google Ads to use it. Google Keyword planner features a keyword difficulty score that ranges from 0 to 1. So, the higher the score, the more difficult it will be to rank.
This keyword research tool from Moz includes a difficulty score that ranges from 1 to 100. So, the higher the number, the more difficult it is to rank. It’s generally more accurate than Google Keyword Planner because it’s based on data from Moz’s index.
SEMRUSH is an all-in-one marketing toolkit for digital marketers. It includes a keyword difficulty tool that uses data from Google’s SERPs to score keywords on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being the most difficult.
You can also find difficulty scores for specific SERP features, like featured snippets and local packs.
This keyword research tool also includes a difficulty score that ranges from 1 to 100. Ahrefs is generally considered to be the most accurate keyword research tool, so their difficulty score is the one you should pay the most attention to.
Once you’ve chosen a keyword research tool, it’s time to enter a keyword into the tool. For this example, we’ll use the keyword “SEO.” Once you click enter, the tool will generate a report with information on the keyword, including the difficulty score.
The difficulty score will tell you how difficult it is to rank for a given keyword. The higher the number, the more difficult it is to rank. For example, a difficulty score of 100 means that it’s almost impossible to rank for the keyword.
Look at the top ten results of the keyword you’re interested in. If all of the results are from major websites like Wikipedia or Forbes, that specific keyword is likely too difficult to rank for.
On the other hand, if the top ten results are all from small websites with very little authority, the keyword is probably easy to rank for. A general rule would be to choose a keyword with a difficulty score between 40-60.
If you want to check on other platforms, try using MozBar. The MozBar is a free toolbar that you can use to check the keyword difficulty of any given keyword.
To use MozBar, simply install the toolbar and then go to the SERP of the keyword you want to check. Once you’re on the SERP, MozBar will highlight the difficulty score for each result. The higher the score, the more difficult it is to rank.
Sometimes, you’ll find a keyword with a low difficulty score but high page authority. This means that the competition for that keyword is low, but the individual pages that are ranking are very strong.
For example, a keyword like “SEO tips” might have a difficulty score of 40, but all of the results have a page authority over 80.
This means that while ranking for the keyword is easy, it will be difficult to outrank the existing results. In this case, you might want to consider a different keyword.
To check the page authority of a given keyword, simply enter the keyword into MozBar and then look at the PA column. The higher the number, the easier it will be to outrank the existing results.
When you’re choosing a keyword, consider the search volume as well as the difficulty score. Put simply, the search volume is the number of people searching for a given keyword.
To find the search volume of a keyword, simply enter the keyword into a keyword research tool. The tool will then generate a report with information on the keyword, including the monthly search volume.
You should also consider the search volume because a keyword with high search volume and low difficulty is much more valuable than a keyword with low search volume and high difficulty.
For example, a keyword like “SEO” has a difficulty score of 100, but it also has a monthly search volume of over 2 million. On the other hand, a keyword like “SEO tips” has a difficulty score of 40, but it only has a monthly search volume of 10,000.
Even though “SEO tips” is easier to rank for, the lower search volume means it’s not as valuable of a keyword because not enough people are searching for it.
When looking at the SERP of a given keyword, pay attention to the SERP features. SERP features are the extra results that show up on the SERP, including things like:
Because SERP features take up valuable real estate on the page, they can make it more difficult to rank for a given keyword.
For example, if you’re trying to rank for a keyword like “recipe,” but there are already map results and image results taking up the top spots, it will be very difficult to rank for that keyword.
When choosing keywords for your SEO campaign, keyword difficulty is an important metric. By understanding what keyword difficulty is and how to check it, you can ensure that you’re choosing keywords that you have a chance of ranking for.