Do you want to know what keyword difficulty is all about and how to analyze it so that you can rank your target keywords in the SERP very well?
You know it’s every bloggers’ dream to rank its keywords into the top 10 results of SERP.
But nowadays, it’s not that easy to get into the first page of SERP for any keyword.
Gone are the days when just by placing your target keyword in some prominent places of your post and you got the #1 position.
To outrank existing sites, there are a few SEO metrics such as search volume, keyword trend, Cost Per Click, keyword difficulty, etc. that you need to consider before targeting a keyword.
And keyword difficulty is one of the most important metrics, especially for beginners. Keyword difficulty determines how difficult it is for a new website to outrank the existing ones.
So in this post, we will be sharing a complete guide to keyword difficulty analysis for beginners.
Moreover, we will be covering the top 5 SEO tools (Semrush, Ahrefs, Moz, KWFinder, Serpstat) to analyze the keyword difficulty scores along with some manual methods.
Make sure you read till the end as we will be sharing our final verdict on which SEO tool KD score is more accurate.
A quick overview of what you can learn from this post?
- What is keyword difficulty?
- What’s the keyword difficulty score meaning?
- How to check keyword difficulty using SEO tools?
- Determine keyword competition manually.
- How to rank for your desired keywords?
So before going deep into details of keyword difficulty analysis, let’s find out what is keyword difficulty.
Table of Contents ☰
- What is the Keyword Difficulty?
- What are the Factors that Affect SEO Difficulty
- What is the Keyword Difficulty Score?
- How to Check Keyword Difficulty Using Top 5 SEO Tools
- Small Verdict on SEO Tools Keyword Difficulty Score Accuracy
- How to Analyze SEO Keyword Competition Manually?
- How to Rank for Your Desired keyword?
- Some FAQs about Keyword Competition
- Final Thoughts
What is the Keyword Difficulty?
Keyword difficulty is one of the most important SEO metrics that shows how difficult it is to rank for a keyword at the top positions in the search engine result pages.
Keyword difficulty is also known as keyword competition.
Higher the SEO difficulty score is for any keyword, the higher is the competition and lesser are the chances to rank for the same keyword.
Lower the SEO difficulty score is for any keyword, the lesser is the competition and higher is the probability to outrank existing websites for the same keyword.
So it is always recommended to target those keywords which have low keyword difficulty score, especially for beginners.
But, now the question comes: what is the keyword difficulty score and how to check it.
So in the next section, We will be covering both.
But before that, you need to understand the difference between keyword difficulty and Paid difficulty as there is always some confusion between keyword difficulty and paid difficulty.
Keyword difficulty or SEO difficulty is related to the organic rankings while Paid difficulty refers to competition in paid search.
Now, we are sure you are clear enough what keyword difficulty is all about and how important it could be for you.
All and all keyword difficulty is an important ranking factor.
The keyword difficulty score is what matters the most to analyze keyword difficulty of any keyword.
As keyword difficulty is all about Keyword difficulty score, so to make things more clear, let’s find out what is the meaning of keyword difficulty score.
But before that let’s try to understand some important factors that contribute to the Keyword difficulty.
What are the Factors that Affect SEO Difficulty
1. Keyword Intent
Keyword intent is one of the most important factors that contribute to the keyword difficulty.
It is simply related to the purpose behind the query any user is looking for.
Ley says we search for “what’s my location” in the Google search bar.
Here I intend to find the current location of mine, right?
And when we search for the same, Google itself shows me the exact location of mine and the websites targeting this keyword are competing with Google itself.
Are you getting me?
Let’s take another example.
What if we search for “what’s my IP”?
Then again Google will give me it’s own result and I don’t need to open any website.
This is how keyword intent leads to keyword difficulty.
So do not target these generic terms else you will end up wasting your time.
2. Content Quality
Content quality is another perspective that matters the most while calculating keyword difficulty.
This can be analyzed by exploring the content of the websites which are ranking on the first page of Google for the keyword you want to rank for.
If you find sites with high quality and up to date content ranking then you can imagine yourself how much keyword competition would be there.
And to outrank them, you have to do a lot of hard work writing 10x content, nothing else.
Backlinks are considered as the backbone of off-page SEO and play a vital role to outrank already-ranking websites.
If you see websites ranking currently have the backlinks from high authority sites then it is an indirect sign of high keyword competition.
4. Competitors’ Site DA
It is almost impossible to outrank higher authority sites.
And if the first page of Google SERP is filled with the only high authority sites then it simply means high SEO difficulty.
5. Your Own Site Authority
This is another factor that can contribute to the keyword difficulty.
Let’s says you are a beginner then there would be high possibility that your site DA would be less than 10.
And if the website that is ranking for the keyword you want to target has the average DA of even 20 then also it would be considered as a high keyword difficulty for you.
On the other hand sites have 30 DA targeting the same keyword then it would be easy for that website to rank for the same keyword.
So next time, while targeting a new keyword do focus on your own domain authority and then choose a keyword for which existing ranking sites have the less averaged authority or some of the sites have less DA than yours.
So these are some of the important factors that may contribute to the SEO difficulty.
Now let’s dive into the details of the keyword difficulty score.
What is the Keyword Difficulty Score?
Keyword difficulty score or SEO difficulty score is the result of keyword difficulty analysis for any keyword in the SEO tools.
There are lots of SEO tools available in the market which you can use to check the keyword difficulty score.
All of these tools have their own keyword difficulty metric and consider different factors to measure the keyword difficulty.
Unfortunately, you will see a huge discrepancy in the keyword difficulty score of SEO tools and that is the reason it is very hard to say which SEO tool shows the most accurate data and which tool you should opt for checking keyword difficulty.
Here we will describe the keyword difficulty score of 5 top SEO tools and what are the factors they consider to measure the keyword difficulty.
1. Semrush Keyword Difficulty Index
The very first tool we have is Semrush which is used by around 5 million users.
Semrush measures keyword difficulty in the form of a percentage (from 1 – 100%) that shows how difficult it is to outrank the existing websites ranking on the top results of search engine result pages.
The higher the keyword difficulty percentage is, the more efforts you will have to put to secure a position in top results.
Semrush categorized the Keyword Difficulty (KD) score into the following 6 buckets.
Here’s the breakdown.
- 0 to 14 = Extremely easy. If you want to quickly rank with a new website, you should target these keywords.
- 15 to 29 = Easy. These keywords have some competition but you can still rank for these keywords with quality content.
- 30 to 49 = Possible. These keywords slightly have more competition but you can rank higher with quality content and optimize properly for your target keywords.
- 50 to 69 = Difficult. You’ll mostly need to build some links to be able to rank for such keywords.
- 70 to 84 = Hard. You need to create top-notch content, build more links, optimize well, and so on to be able to rank for these keywords. It’s better to skip such high KD% keywords if you’re running a new website.
- 85 to 100 = Extremely hard. Don’t go for these keywords unless you’re running an authority website with a ton of links.
How does Semrush calculate keyword difficulty?
The Median number of backlinks & Median Authority Score for ranking domains along with the relative weight of the links is what MOSTLY Semrush takes into consideration while calculating the KD (Keyword Difficulty) score.
Should you trust on Semrush for keyword difficulty?
For us, Semrush KD score works the best. You can use it to get an idea for the keyword you want to rank for and then do some manual research from your end.
Want to give a try to Semrush?
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2. Ahrefs Keyword Difficulty Score
Ahrefs measures keyword difficulty on a scale of 0 to100.
As you can see in the above picture, the scale that Ahrefs uses to measure the keyword difficulty is non-linear and divided into 4 parts.
1. Easy (0-10): If you get a keyword difficulty of 0-10 for the keyword you searched for then it is considered as Easy and you need backlinks from 0 to10 referring domains only.
2. Medium (11-30): keyword difficulty ranges from 11-30 is termed as Medium and you will need inbound links from 11-36 unique domains.
3. Hard (31-70): If you get keyword difficulty between 31 and 70 for the query you searched for then it is considered as Hard and you need backlinks from 37-200 referring domains.
4. Super Hard (71-100): keyword difficulty ranges from 71-100 is termed as Super Hard and you will need inbound links from 200+ unique domains.
This scale clearly shows that to rank for any keyword you will need to have backlinks from certain numbers of unique domains.
To be more precise, have a look at the correlation between keyword difficulty and the numbers of referring domains.
This shows that, if you want to rank for a keyword into the top 10 search results that have 50 KD, then you will need backlinks from approximately 84 referring domains.
How Ahrefs calculates keyword difficulty?
To calculate keyword difficulty for any keyword Ahrefs gives top priority to the number of referring domains that the top 10 ranking pages have.
That means higher the number of referring domains across the top-ranking pages for a given keyword, the more will be the keyword difficulty score for that keyword.
Should you trust on Ahrefs for keyword difficulty?
No, if you talk about KD score specifically, Ahrefs score is really bad.
Quick Note: Ahrefs keyword difficulty determines the chances of getting your keywords into the top 10 results (not on the first position or Top 3).
Still want to give a try to Ahrefs?
3. Moz Keyword Difficulty Score
When it comes to Moz keyword difficulty score, there is no specific scale.
All they have to say is that a higher keyword difficulty score means it would be more difficult to outrank already-ranking results and a lower difficulty score simply means it would likely be easier to compete with existing results.
Have a look at the image below to know more about Moz keyword difficulty score in detail.
That being said, the KD score is the weighted average of the PA of the top 10 existing results and the other inputs such as DA, homepages, query term use, etc.
How Moz calculates keyword difficulty?
Moz calculates keyword difficulty for any keyword primarily based on the Page Authority (PA) and Domain Authority (DA) of the existing Google’s top results.
Should you trust Moz for keyword difficulty?
It is better than Ahrefs. So can be used to get an idea related to the SEO difficulty for any keyword.
Quick Note: Like Ahrefs, Moz also considers Google’s top 10 results to come up with the KD score for a given keyword.
Want to give a try to Moz tool?
4. KWFinder Keyword Difficulty Score
KWFinder indicates the keyword difficulty on a scale from 0 to 100 and it is divided into 6 different categories as shown in the picture below.
The lower KD score is, the easier it is to rank for the keyword on the 1st SERP.
How KWFinder calculates keyword difficulty?
To determine keyword difficulty of any given term, KWFinder calculates overall Link Profile Strength (LPS) of the websites already ranking on the 1st page of Google SERP.
LPS is calculated by taking Moz metrics (DA and PA) and Majestic metrics (Citation flow and Trust flow) into consideration.
And based on the LPS values of all the websites ranking currently, a KD score is displayed that shows how difficult it is to outrank already-ranking websites.
Should you trust on KWFinder for keyword difficulty?
Yes, KWFinder does a tremendous job and can be considered as a good option to calculate keyword difficulty.
Want to give a try to KWFinder?
5. Serpstat Keyword Difficulty Score
The KD in Serpstat is measured on a scale from 0 to 100 and divided into 4 categories.
1. Low KD: When the KD score is between 0-20, then it is considered as low keyword difficulty and there are high chances to rank in the Google top 10 for the requested keyword.
2. Medium KD: If the KD score is between 21 and 40, then keyword difficulty is medium and there are relatively fewer chances to rank in the Google SERP first page.
3. Hard KD: When the KD score is between 41 and 60, then it is considered as hard keyword difficulty and there is less probability to rank in the Google top 10 positions.
4. Super Hard: If the KD score is between 61 and 100, then it is super hard to secure a position in the Google top 10 results.
How Serpstat calculates keyword difficulty?
Serpstat considers the number of backlinks the top 10 pages are having, where the average value is the KD.
In addition to the number of backlinks, there are lots of other parameters involved to improve the KD accuracy such as the number of referring domains, Serpstat Page Rank, Serpstat Trust Rank, domains with the keyword in the title, URLs with the keyword in the title, main pages in SERP.
These are all the parameters that Serpstat considers to calculate keyword difficulty.
Should you trust on Serpstat for keyword difficulty?
Yes, Serpstat results look prominent and one can use it to get an overview of keyword difficulty score for keywords.
Still want to give a try to Serpstat?
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So these are the details related to the keyword difficulty score of 5 best SEO tools.
What we analyzed from this study is that every tool has its own keyword difficulty formula to calculate the KD score. So one has to take care of several factors while aiming to rank for any term in the Google SERP.
Let’s find out how to check keyword difficulty using SEO tools.
How to Check Keyword Difficulty Using Top 5 SEO Tools
We tried to check the keyword difficulty for 10 keywords and found some shocking results.
The first keyword I checked keyword difficulty for “ahrefs coupon code” and got the following results.
1. Semrush Keyword Difficulty Index: 63% (Hard)
Semrush resulted in a 63% keyword difficulty index that means it is hard to rank for that keyword.
To check keyword difficulty for any keyword, go to Semrush Keyword Magic Tool, enter the keyword you want to check keyword difficulty for, and click on the search button.
Once you click on the search button, you will be displayed all the important SEO metrics (volume, Trend, KD%, CPC, etc.) data related to that keyword along with other broad match keywords.
From here, you can also select some other filters such as questions, phrase match, exact match, and related inlcuding advanced filters.
Once you select any particular keyword from the result displayed, you will be presented with all the relevant information related to that keyword in more detailed manners.
2. Ahrefs Keyword Difficulty Score: 3 (Easy)
When we checked the same keyword in the Ahrefs tool, I got a keyword difficulty of 3 only. That means there is almost no keyword difficulty and you need backlinks from 4 domains to rank in the top 10 results for this keyword.
3. Moz Keyword Difficulty Score: For the Moz tool, I got 27 SEO difficulty score.
4. KWFinder Keyword Difficulty Score: KWFinder resulted in 18 keyword difficulty that means it is easy to rank for this keyword.
5. Serpstat Keyword Difficulty Score: Serpstat came up with 12.65 Keyword Difficulty. That means it is easy to rank for this keyword.
Basically, the keyword difficulty score for this keyword varies from 3 to 63.
So based on these results you can clearly see that there is a huge discrepancy in the keyword difficulty score of these top SEO tools.
Furthermore, we tested some other keywords for the keyword difficulty and again found the same results as shown in the picture below.
These results clearly show that you can not rely on SEO tools entirely.
So, what’s the solution?
But before that let’s have a quick look at our personal verdict on SEO difficulty of these 5 SEO tools.
Small Verdict on SEO Tools Keyword Difficulty Score Accuracy
All of the 5 SEO tools I included here are top-notch and have a massive user base.
And we have been using these tools (Semrush, Ahrefs, Moz, KWFinder, and Serpstat) for a very long time.
If we talk about keyword difficulty metric only then based on our experience and above research, Semrush data looks the most prominent, and Ahrefs data looks the worst to me.
Want to use Semrush to check competition for your target keywords?
Furthermore, KWFinder by Mangools also does a good job.
Ahrefs only considers the number of referring domains while other tools take DA, PA, backlinks, referring domains, and other factors into consideration to calculate the keyword difficulty.
Being said that, no tool has 100% accuracy and it’s completely up to you how you use these tools and take advantage of them.
How to Analyze SEO Keyword Competition Manually?
As we have seen that every SEO tool gives a unique value for keyword competition so it’s better to get an idea from these tools and then do manual research from your end and come up with better keywords to target.
So presenting you some best ways to analyze keyword difficulty manually.
1. Keyword Golden Ratio
The Keyword Golden Ratio (KGR) is the most popular technique to find those keywords which have huge demand but less supply on the Internet.
And if you target these keywords then there are high chances that you can rank for the same within a few days or even hours.
The KGR can help you with:
- Getting your initial traffic and sales
- Prioritize what keywords you should target
The best advantage of using the KGR method is that it is a manual process and the data you will be getting from this, will not be available to those who use SEO tools.
Now you must be wondering how to use it, right?
As you can see, KGR is the ratio of allintitle results divided by search volume.
If this ratio for any keyword is < 0.25 then it is GREAT to target and you can rank in top 50 as soon as your page gets indexed.
Note: To achieve this you should be targeting those keywords which have less than 250 search volume. This way allintitle results would be around 63.
KGR is between 0.25 and 1.00 then your page can rank in the top 250 pretty fast.
And if KGR is greater than 1.00 then it is BAD and not worth targeting.
Allintitle: It is an advanced search facility from Google that lets you help to find the total number of results having all the words in the Meta title of the post.
Let’s say we searched for “ahrefs coupon code” and got 228 results. That means there are a total of 228 indexed posts that have the exact keyword in their Meta title.
Now have a look at the step by step process to find good keywords to target.
1. Find long-tail keywords having less than 250 Search volume.
2. Filter the list by choosing keywords having Keyword difficulty score less than 30 as they are easy to rank.
Here, we searched for the term “best chromebook for writers” by using the KWFinder tool which has 220 search volume and 17 is the keyword difficulty. That means both our conditions are fulfilled.
3. Check for the number of Google results having the same phrase in the Meta title.
Note: Lesser the number of allintitle results, the better are the chances to rank for the same keyword.
4. Calculate the KGR.
Here, KGR would be < 0.36 (220/81) and that might work.
This way you can perform the above steps to come up with easy to rank keywords.
Target those keywords which have Keyword Golden Ratio less than 0.25.
You can watch our video on Keyword Golden Ration formula from here:
The next method you can use to check the keyword competition manually is the domain authority of the already ranking websites.
Whenever we talk about domain authority, there are two things you need to consider
Page Authority (PA): It shows how strong a single page is of any website.
Domain Authority (DA): It is related to the whole domain and ensures the better ranking of a domain and all its pages.
To analyze keyword competition, first, you should know your domain authority then domain authority of the websites which are ranking in the Google SERP for the keyword you want to rank for.
For doing so, you can take advantage of some chrome extensions like SEOquake, MozBar, etc.
We have installed a MozBar chrome extension to make our job easy. It will show me DA, PA, and the number of links of all the sites ranking in the Google search engine result pages.
Again, if we search for “best chromebook for writers” and analyze the SERP for domain authority then also I can come up with how much competition is for this keyword.
Here you can see one of the websites ranking for the same keyword has 21 Domain authority.
Though some websites have more than 90 DA, two sites have domain authority less than 30.
As our site DA is 48, so there is much probability that our site can rank easily for this keyword.
So this way you can analyze the domain authority of the websites that are ranking on the first page of the SERP and can further use these sites DA to determine the keyword competition. Make sure to target the relevant keywords only.
3. SERP Volatility
Next, you can consider the movement of ranking pages across the first page of SERP.
If you see no to minimum changes in the SERP positions for the keyword you want to rank for and every page is able to secure its position for a long time then it indicates there is high keyword difficulty.
As we have concluded that there are many SEO tools available to determine the keyword difficulty but manual keyword difficulty analysis is essential to finalize the good keywords to target.
Now let’s explore what it takes to rank for your desired keywords.
How to Rank for Your Desired keyword?
Based on the above study, we found that each tool uses a different formula to calculate the SEO difficulty and there is a huge discrepancy in the SEO difficulty for the keywords we analyzed.
And all because of this it’s very hard for beginners to understand how to rank for the desired keyword.
Then we also explained two ways to check keyword competition manually that can certainly help you to choose some better keywords to work on.
Here we will be sharing some common factors that contribute to better rankings.
1. Quality Content
It is said that Content is king and it’s very much true. The very first thing which Google considers while ranking websites is content quality.
And for beginners, it is the content only that they can use to beat the competitors as in most cases you will not be having any quality backlinks and domain authority.
So if you can write 10x content than the sites that are ranking already for the desired keyword then there are chances that you can outrank them.
2. User Intent
The user’s intent is another important perspective that can help you to rank better for the desired keyword.
If your content is good enough to make searchers happy then also you can beat the existing websites.
And as soon as Google finds that your page is satisfying the user’s intent more than others, your website will certainly rank higher.
Backlinks also play a crucial role in ranking the content in Google SERP.
Google considers every backlink to a website as a vote and websites having a higher number of backlinks tend to rank better.
That being said, the number of referring domains, quality of linking page, anchor text, etc. also matter a lot.
4. Domain Authority
This is the most controversial factor when it comes to the rankings of a website.
Google says that they do not use domain authority as a ranking factor while most of the SEO experts believe that there is a correlation between the domain authority and better rankings.
Based on Ahrefs’s study, there are three things you can consider:
- Google sometimes gives preference to pages of high domain sites in the search results, directly or indirectly.
- Interlinking in strong websites gives an extra advantage to all other pages that lead to better rankings in Google.
- A weak website having comparatively more quality backlinks can outrank a strong website.
Finally, they concluded that websites with high authority are the brand name and that is the reason people click on these websites pages even if low authority sites are ranking along with them.
So do perform the manual analysis while taking advantage of SEO tools and consider the factors that contribute to the higher rankings.
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Some FAQs about Keyword Competition
Keyword difficulty (KD) is one of the most important metrics that help you understand how difficult it is to rank a website in the Google SERP for a given keyword.
Each SEO tool has its own keyword difficulty formula to calculate the keyword difficulty. For example, Semrush considers domain authority while Ahrefs looks after the number of referring domains of the already-ranking websites.
The paid difficulty is related to the competition in the paid search whereas keyword difficulty is related to the organic search.
The keyword difficulty score is simply an outcome (0-100) from SEO tools that indicates how difficult it is to rank for a keyword.
Well, there is no specific value that can be considered as a good keyword difficulty. Generally, keyword difficulty is measured on a scale of 0 – 100 and lower the keyword difficulty score is, the easier it is to rank for the keyword on the first page of Google.
You can use SEO tools to find low difficulty keywords at just a few clicks. Furthermore, you can use some manual methods like Keyword Golden Ratio that works very well.
You can use Semrush, Moz, KWFinder tools to access a keyword’s difficulty.
According to us, Semrush is the most effective keyword difficulty checker tool and you can get its 14 days trial for free.
Ahrefs considers the number of referring domains of the websites which are ranking on the first page of Google SERP for the keyword you want to check keyword difficulty.
Based on RD numbers, keyword difficulty score is displayed which is between 1 and 100 along with the number of referring domains you would need to rank for the same keyword.
Simply No!! Being said that, you cannot trust on the keyword difficulty metric of any SEO tool entirely. We always recommend doing some manual research after getting an idea from SEO tools.
You can use the Keyword Golden Ratio (KGR) and Domain Authority (DA) of already ranking websites to determine the keyword competition manually.
That’s all related to keyword difficulty.
We have shared everything related to the SEO difficulty including what is keyword difficulty, what SEO difficulty score is, how to check keyword difficulty, and how to rank for the desired keywords.
From the above study and research, it is clear that every tool shows different keyword difficulty thus it is not worth trusting these tools blindly.
Sadly, most of the beginners make the same mistake by relying on SEO tools completely.
So, it’s our personal advice to the beginners that you can use these SEO tools to get a quick idea but do not rely on these tools completely.
It’s better to do some manual research in Google SERP by analyzing the top 10 results already ranking for the keyword you want to rank for.
We hope you will find this post worth reading.
So, next time you plan to target any keyword, do consider these tips, and experience the improvements.