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What is Keyword Difficulty? How Difficult to Rank in Google?

What is Keyword Difficulty? How Difficult to Rank in Google?

In the world of Search Engine Optimisation, keyword search volume gets all the limelight. The bigger and more impressive the numbers, the better it is. It is easier to find keywords that can drive significant traffic to your website. What’s difficult is to predict the chances of ranking in the SERPs (search engine result pages) for such keywords. That’s where the concept of keyword difficulty comes into the picture.

In this blog, we will understand what is keyword difficulty and why it is important in SEO.

What is Keyword Difficulty?

It is an important SEO metric that helps assess how difficult it would be for a website to rank in organic search results for a specific keyphrase. Typically, it is measured on a scale from 0-100. Higher the ranking, the more difficult it is to rank for the keyword.

There are several factors influencing the degree of keyword difficulty. These include domain authority, content quality, link equity and page authority. The quality of the competitors’ pages also plays an integral role here.  

Keyword Difficulty: Through the Perspective of SEO

Wondering what is keyword difficulty in SEO? Through the lens of Search Engine Optimisation, it is a metric that helps evaluate the number and quality of backlinks the top 10 pages in Google search results have for a particular keyword. In other words, it shows how competitive the top-ranked pages are based on the quality of their backlinks.

Good keyword research tools pull the top pages that rank in Google SERPs for a particular keyword and assess how many sites link to them. The more high-quality links the top-ranking pages have for the keyword, the higher the score.

Why Keyword Difficulty is Important for SEO?

Keyword difficulty is a crucial element of the keyword research process. In addition to other factors such as search volume, it helps select the right keywords for effective search engine optimization. It impacts both your SEO strategy and the results.

In the keyword research process, it helps understand how hard or easier it would be to rank for a particular keyword in the SERPs. A keyword that has a low difficulty score would be easier to rank for. On the other hand, a keyword with a higher difficulty score will be harder to rank for – and you should give it a second thought before using it unless you have an excellent SEO team.

Here are some more reasons why your keyword research strategy should include this important metric:

  • Identify the “hot” keywords in your niche as well as your biggest competitors
  • Save a significant amount of time by prioritizing keywords that can derive quality SEO results regardless of your website ranking or authority

Find alternative key phrases in your niche that can help increase your chances of getting ranked in Google

How to Measure Keyword Difficulty?

There are various popular keyword research tools available in the market today – Ahrefs, SEMRush, Moz, BuzzSumo, Google Analytics, Siteliner, etc. When it comes to understanding how to find keyword difficulty for a specific keyphrase, most of these tools consider the backlink profile.

Each website that ranks top 10 in the SERP is assigned a particular score based on the number and quality of the backlinks. Additional factors that are taken into consideration are the authority of the ranking of the page currently in Google, and other keyword-related data.

Based on the calculation, the tools give a keyword difficulty score between 0 to 100. The below screenshot shows a breakdown of the score for the SEMRush keyword research tool:

Factors Affecting Keyword Difficulty

Here are some of the key factors you should keep in mind to determine keyword difficulty:

  • The number of quality backlinks your website will need to rank in Google SERPs for that specific keyword
  • Authority of your competitor websites
  • High domain authority, which increases the chances of ranking for high-difficulty keywords
  • User intent
  • Quality content on the website

Considering these factors will help you understand how difficult or easier it will be for you to rank for high-difficulty keywords.

How to Rank For High Keyword Competition?

Obviously, low-difficulty keywords are easier to rank for. However, there would be times when you want to bid for competitive keywords. This is because they will help meet the goals of your SEO campaign. In such cases, you can use these strategies to improve your chances of ranking for high-difficulty keywords while hedging against overspending:

  • Keep the bigger picture in mind when using keyword difficulty in your SEO strategy. It is an important factor to consider in keyword research. However, you should not forget two other vital factors like the relevance of the keyword and its popularity.

Popularity is important because a keyword may have low competition but if it has no search volume, it will not help you drive traffic.

Again, without keyword relevance, your website will not rank for the keyword regardless of its difficulty level. This is because the keyword’s search intent does not match the type of content.

  • In addition to keyword difficulty, it is also crucial to analyse the SERP results and the top-ranking websites for the keyword. This will help you know more about the search intent, competitors, and type of content that typically rank for the keyword.
  • Quality content that can help outrank even high-authority websites, expressing your expertise and knowledge in the topic.
  • Getting a large number of high-quality backlinks to your page can help it rank even if the targeted keyword has a high difficulty score or it has a low domain authority.
  • If you are using multiple keyword research tools, each of these may have a different way of measuring the keyword difficulty. Therefore, it is important that you compare the values from each within a single tool.

So, now the question arises, what should be an ideal keyword difficulty to target?

The answer is, it depends. A good keyword difficulty to target depends on several factors like the authority of your website, ability to get quality backlinks, website credibility in your niche, and whether your content caters to search intent.

The Final Words

Having a keyword difficulty metric can help you evaluate the chances of ranking in Google’s SERPs for a particular keyword. However, understanding this metric and how it actually works for SEO can be complex. Hiring an experienced SEO agency can help understand how difficult to rank in Google and ways to use keyword difficulty for an effective keyword research strategy.

Overall, this plays a crucial role in analyzing your competitors, devising a strong keyword strategy, and improving your chances of getting ranked in Google SERPs.   

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