What is Keyword Difficulty & How is it Calculated?


by Satish Singh

Keyword research is the backbone of any online marketing and SEO campaign. It sets the groundwork for your online business content strategy and tells you which keywords to focus on.

Any business owner or digital marketing company that wants their website to rank well in SERPs need to start by doing thorough keyword research. And only after they can identify which keywords to target in their SEO, PPC, and Content marketing initiatives.

But the two most important factors while doing keyword research is search volume and keyword difficulty. We all know that volume refers to the average number of users searched for a particular keyword in a given. However, not every marketer is fully aware of what keyword difficult is and why it matters.
In this post, we will tell you what is Keyword Difficulty and how to calculate it?

What is the Keyword Difficulty in SEO?

Keyword difficulty is also known as keyword competition and is one of the important metrics you should consider when doing keyword research for any website or e-commerce store. The higher the keyword difficulty is, the harder it is to rank on the 1st page of Google due to high competition of the ranking websites. You should also not select extremely low-competition keywords because those usually don’t have very high search volumes.

It’s an essential metric alongside with exact monthly search volumes and SERP analysis. Keyword difficulty determines a selection of keywords that will help you to improve SEO, bid on specific keywords for PPC campaigns and much more. Always maintain a balance between search volume and keyword difficulty.

Ideally, you would want to target moderate competitive or low competitive keyword terms with good search volumes.

How is Keyword Difficulty calculated?

The exact formula that keyword research tools like SEMRush, Google Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, Moz use to calculate the keyword difficulty scores varies from tool to tool. However, the basic factors that contribute to the keyword difficulty score are the same.

As discussed above, keyword difficulty shows how easy or hard it is to rank a site or eCommerce store for a particular keyword. So, the factors for calculating keyword difficulty are similar to the ranking factors. The factors that get a web-page to rank higher in SERPs will have keywords that are difficult to compete on.

1. Page Content

This is one of the major search engine ranking factors and hence, is also considered while calculating keyword difficulty for SEO campaigns. Pages with high-quality, relevant, useful content rank well because the ultimate goal of search engines are to provide the users with the most useful and relevant results.

So, the content of your page should be relevant to your target users and the keywords that you should target also reflect the same.

2. Quality of Backlinks

The number of referring domains and the quality of backlinks is another important factor that contributes to a keyword’s difficulty score. Pages with a high number of ‘do-follow’ backlinks rank well and hence the keywords that these pages target will be challenging to compete on.

3. Domain Authority

Domain authority is like a website’s online reputation in the industry in terms of how relevant and useful its content. The higher the DA, the more a site is considered an expert content provider in the industry.

And, since websites with high domain authority rank in the top results for the keywords that they target, these keywords will have a high difficulty score. So, while calculating the keyword difficulty score, domain authority of websites and blogs that use that keyword is also taken into consideration.

What is a good value of the keyword difficulty in SEO?

You might be unaware of what is keyword difficulty index? The keyword difficulty is stipulated on a scale from 0 to 100. The lower the value, the easier it is to rank for the keyword on the 1st page. In simple terms, it will show you how difficult it would be to rank your competitors in Google with the specified search terms and phrases. Keep in mind that the ‘real’ keyword difficulty index may vary; it totally depends on your on-page and off-page SEO efforts.

Of course, keyword difficulty is not only the thing internet marketers should think about when looking for the best focus keyword.

And, you can use the keyword difficult score to sort and filter long keyword lists for your business and then select the best keywords for your products/services.


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As the owner of Exaalgia for over 10 years, Satish Singh has helped businesses achieve success through SEO, PPC and other Internet marketing efforts. He is currently Google Analytics and Google Adwords Certified, as well as a certified Woorank Expert. Satish strives to remain up to date with the latest developments in technology and helps his clients improve and maintain their search engine rankings.

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