Keyword Difficulty: This is How you Determine it to Favour your SEO strategy

Keyword difficulty is an important element that marketers consider when they need to find the best keywords to rank for. It’s a metric that tells them how much SEO effort it might take to be at the top of the SERPs.

Updated: May 11, 2023
Keyword Difficulty: This is How you Determine it to Favour your SEO strategy

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In the world of search engine optimization, having the right keywords is essential. 

These are the terms or phrases you want to target in your SEO efforts. However, ranking high for these terms isn’t always easy.

Getting to the top of Google’s organic search results (SERPs) is a priority for many organizations. 

Every day, marketers focus on adding keywords to their site, optimizing content, and taking further steps to reach the elusive top-ranking position.

While it’s important to gather a list of keywords to target in your SEO efforts, some terms are more difficult to rank for than others.

This is where the keyword difficulty process comes into play.

In this post, we’ll provide more information on the subject by covering the following topics:

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    What Is Keyword Difficulty?

    Keyword difficulty involves a process that evaluates the difficulty of ranking for a specific keyword in Google’s organic search results

    Several factors help to determine a keyword’s difficulty, including the quality of content, domain authority (DA), page authority, and more.

    Keyword difficulty is an integral part of the keyword research process. 

    While other factors should also be observed, it helps us narrow in on our list of target keywords — a vital step in any SEO strategy.

    Why Should Marketers Care About Keyword Difficulty?

    Keyword difficulty is an essential process in an SEO campaign.

    Here are a few reasons why this approach is critical for marketers and SEO specialists:

    Valuable Approach for Higher Rankings

    If your goal is to rank high for your keywords of interest, then keyword difficulty is an important process to follow. However, it should only be a single part of your overall SEO strategy.

    Examines Various Factors

    The keyword difficulty process takes various factors into consideration. 

    While many factors make up a keyword’s difficulty, the process primarily looks at the following:

    • Competitor strength.
    • Quality of website content.
    • Your site’s domain authority.
    • The searcher’s intent.

    Using all of these metrics with a close evaluation, the keyword difficulty process provides clarity on how difficult it is to rank for a specific keyword.

    Valuable for New Businesses

    The truth of the matter is that keyword difficulty isn’t a process that all organizations should follow. 

    If you’re a well-established business that already has high search rankings for several competitive keywords, you should focus more on search volume instead.

    With a website that’s already successful and has a high domain authority, there’s a good chance you already rank well for difficult keywords. 

    That said, you’ll want to turn your focus to reaching as many people as possible — thus, targeting keywords with the most searches.

    On the other hand, new and fresh businesses should pay closer attention to keyword difficulty. 

    If you’re a small business that’s just starting out, it can be very challenging to rank for high-difficulty keywords.

    In that case, targeting low-difficulty keywords is the smart move. Additionally, in this instance, experts advise not paying attention to search volume. 

    To get established on the web and boost your domain authority over time, ranking high for keywords is vital — even if the search volume is low.

    Which Factors Determine Keyword Difficulty?

    As mentioned previously, several factors help to determine a keyword’s difficulty. 

    By understanding these factors, you can learn more about what it takes to rank high in Google search results.

    Here is more information about these factors:

    Website Domain Authority

    The domain authority of your website has a huge impact on the success of your search rankings. 

    For instance, if you have a website with a high DA, you’ll have a better chance at ranking for keywords of more difficulty.

    The same works on the other side of the spectrum. The lower the DA, the harder it’ll be ranking for high-difficulty keywords. 

    If you’re a new business with a brand new website, targeting low-difficulty keywords is encouraged.

    As a new business starts to rank for these lower-difficulty terms, the DA should increase over time. When that happens, the organization can start targeting keywords at a greater difficulty.

    Once you have an established website with a high domain authority, keyword difficulty starts to lose its importance. 

    With a high level of credibility, ranking for any keyword is more feasible, no matter the difficulty. 

    That said, when established with a high DA, you’ll want to focus more on keywords with the highest search volume.

    Searcher’s Intent

    Searcher’s intent involves the reasoning behind why an internet user is searching for something in the first place. 

    While Google puts a strong emphasis on this factor, it’s a vital component of keyword difficulty.

    As you’re working on your SEO campaign, be sure to pay close attention to your searcher’s intent. 

    Think about why your target audience would search for a certain keyword, but also focus on the action you want the searcher to take.

    Content Quality

    The quality of content on your website means everything. 

    As Google is smarter than ever before, its algorithm is very successful at detecting websites with exceptional quality. 

    That said, it’s no wonder why content quality is a driving factor for keyword difficulty.

    It’s important to note that it isn’t only about high-quality writing. In fact, excellent content also involves effective imaging, data points, relevancy, and reputable links.

    Strength of Competitors

    Keyword difficulty also heavily relies on competitor strength. 

    For example, if your brand new website is targeting the same keywords as an established business with a high DA, you’ll have a harder time ranking for those keywords.

    As you’re doing keyword research, the high-difficulty keywords you’re seeing are probably difficult because other reputable businesses are already ranking for them.

    Best Keyword Difficulty Checker Tools

    Of course, part of the keyword research process involves analyzing keyword difficulty. 

    Luckily, there are several tools that can help. They allow you to see the difficulty of a specific keyword, including more details behind the metrics.

    Take a look at the following keyword difficulty tools we recommend:


    The SEMrush keyword difficulty tool is a top option among marketers. 

    One reason being is that the platform follows an extensive process for determining keyword difficulty. In fact, the tool uses at least 17 different parameters to assess the difficulty of a keyword.

    After a careful analysis, SEMrush will provide users with a keyword difficulty percentage.

    As a reputable platform in the SEO space, you can count on SEMrush as a superior keyword difficulty tool. 

    The organization employs data scientists and engineers who observe patterns of SERP movement over time, which is an important benefit to consider.


    Ahrefs is another top choice due to their sophisticated platform with long-standing success. 

    Additionally, their database is massive. With 11.6 billion keywords in 229 countries, Ahrefs can provide valuable insights into the keyword difficulty process.

    Another plus is that the platform also syncs up with other useful tools. 

    This includes Ahrefs’s Keyword Explorer, Site Explorer, Content Explorer, and Rank Tracker.


    Moz’s Keyword Difficulty Checker tool can be a marketer’s best friend. 

    The keyword difficulty score on the platform is calculated by analyzing the page authority score and domain authority score of first-page rankings for a specific search query.

    Many people love this tool because it allows them to evaluate difficulty scores, search volumes, and estimated click-through rates to find the best possible keywords. 

    Users can also sort these lists to focus on what matters most.

    KWFinder by Mangools

    The KWFinder tool by Mangools is another high-quality tool that simplifies the keyword difficulty process. 

    For one, it’s very easy to use. The user-friendly platform immediately populates lists and metrics, including estimated traffic levels for specific keywords.

    Another benefit is that KWFinder pulls its data from a number of reputable sources. 

    This list includes the Google Keyword Planner, Google-related searches, Google Trends, Majestic, Moz, Alexa rank, and Facebook.

    The support on the platform is also exceptional, and the admin team is very responsive. 

    While the tool includes several online resources for assistance, you can also contact their team by email for a quick response.

    Wrap Up: Taking Keyword Difficulty into Account in your SEO Strategy

    So now that you understand what keyword difficulty is, why it’s important, how it works, and what tools are out there, it’s now time to integrate this process into your SEO campaign.

    While you’re more eager than ever to perform keyword research, we encourage you to check out Rock Content’s SEO Maturity Assessment

    By answering a few quick questions, we can help determine the strength of your current SEO strategy, including where there’s room for improvement!


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