Looking for the the best way to grow your digital presence?

A big part of growing your brand is getting more people to your site via SEO. And you may think this is all about using the most popular keywords. In reality, a whopping 25% of the total user search volume involves terms outside of the top 100 million keywords.

That means there are plenty of useful keywords out there for you to use. Of course, some are more difficult than others. And if we are being honest, most entrepreneurs don’t know what keyword difficulty is, much less how to measure it and why this is important.

Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about keyword difficulty!

What Is Keyword Difficulty?

what is keyword difficulty
The term “keyword difficulty” refers to how difficult it is for a website to rank for a certain keyword. Because of this, many companies refer to this difficulty as “competition.”

Another way of looking at this difficulty factor is that it is a numbers game. When it comes to keywords, you want to maximize your ROI by spending as little as possible and getting the best possible result.

That won’t happen if you keep trying to use difficult keywords. But when you understand keyword difficulty (often abbreviated as KD), you can make the most of keywords and take your SEO game to the next level.

Why Do You Need To Understand Keyword Difficulty?

It’s important to understand keyword difficulty because this lets you know which keywords are worth your time and money. By focusing on the right SEO keywords, you can dominate the search results.

KD is important during every cycle of a web page’s lifespan. For example, mastering KD can help a new site hit the ground running by appearing very high in user search results. But it can also give a boost to pages that have been around for a while, especially when you need to launch a new product or service.

Mostly, though, KD is important because it is tied to how much you spend on digital marketing. Learning more about difficulty and keywords is a “win/win” for you and your company. In addition to helping you save both time and money, this knowledge can help drive more users to your site and help increase conversions and boost your bottom line.

Related: Long Tail vs. Short Tail Keywords

How Is Difficulty Measured?

how is keyword difficulty measured
Keyword difficulty is almost always measured on a scale running from 1 to 100. The higher the number, the more difficult a keyword will be to rank for.

Using this scale, a keyword might be considered “difficult” if it is a 71 or higher on the scale. While there are times you may want or even need to go after such keywords, they are often not worth your time.

Of course, the scale of keyword difficulty is not what makes this difficulty so hard to measure. Instead, what makes measurement difficult is that we have so many different ways to measure it!

Related: How To Do Keyword Research

Different Metrics for Difficulty and Keywords

There are several different metrics for measuring keyword difficulty. One of those methods involves using Moz. The other two primary methods involve different ways of using Google Ads.

In many ways, Moz was the first to write the book on KD. The company invented its famous Keyword Explorer to help users research the difficulty of certain keywords. And by representing that difficulty on a 100-point scale, Moz effectively created the pattern that other companies would later follow.

Of those later companies, the most prominent to measure KD is Google. With Google Ads, you can use the Keyword Planner Competition metric to check how difficult a keyword will be to rank for. Despite being originally designed for use with Google Ads, researching keywords through this PPC service can give you a better idea of how difficult they are to organically rank for.

Another Google Ads method you can use to assess KD is the CPC metric. CPC stands for “cost-per-click” and shows how expensive certain keywords will be for you to use in Google Ads. Even if you aren’t using PPC, the raw cost of certain keywords can give you an idea of how easy or how difficult they will be to rank for.

Interested in an easy, low-tech way of assessing KD? Some companies prefer to simply search for a keyword and check how many results appear. A large number of results means there may be a lot of competition for a certain term, and that may make it difficult to rank for.

If you choose to use this latter strategy, there are a couple of Google search tricks you can use. For example, you can put intitle: before your search phrase to only show results where the keyword is in the title. And you can put inurl: before your search phrase to only show results where the keyword is part of a site’s URL.

Related: Gen Z social media stats

What Does Keyword Difficulty Actually Measure?

For the most part, keyword difficulty refers to how many backlinks a keyword has on the first 10 pages of its SERP. Both the number and quality of those keywords matter. Speaking of quality, backlinks from high-quality websites in those SERP pages help us to measure the difficulty of a keyword.

How does that work? Depending on which tools you use to assess KD, you may see terms such as “domain authority” and “page authority.” Some pages on the internet have more authority than others, and outbound links from more authoritative sites have a larger impact on how difficult keywords are to rank for.

It can be difficult to understand all of the different moving parts, which is one reason you should consider working with third-party digital marketing professionals. However, keep in mind that even learning a little about this topic and putting it to good use can help you get the edge on your competition.

The Importance of Page Authority

It’s impossible to discuss keyword difficulty without discussing page authority. But what, exactly, does page authority refer to?

In short, the authority of a website refers to how trustworthy its content is. These are sites that are very trusted by Google and by online users alike.

When you’re considering a keyword, perform a Google search for it and then use a third-party tool (Moz’s Page Authority Tool works well) to see how authoritative the sites on the first page are. Some (maybe even most) of these sites will have high page authority. But if there are any low-authority sites, you may be able to knock one of them off the first page of results by optimizing your website.

Understanding Domain Authority

Domain authority is a close cousin to page authority. Whereas page authority gauges how authoritative a single page is, the domain authority assesses how authoritative an entire domain is.

Why does this matter to you? You may want to avoid keywords that primarily link back to high-domain authority sites. While it’s easier to optimize a single page, optimizing your entire domain is more difficult, and you may not be able to compete against such sites.

Long story short? When you’re checking out the potential competition, you should probably avoid keywords where most of the pages have both high domain authority and page authority. In these cases, you are better off exploring other keywords altogether.

The Final Ingredient

Another way to look at keyword difficulty is that it’s the final ingredient when it comes to SEO. And this particular ingredient proves that you cannot focus only on volume and intent.

Most of the time, companies focus on keywords that meet their volume and intent needs. Search volume assesses how many times that keyword is searched for online each month. And intent focuses on whether customers are searching to make a purchase, find a website, or just find information.

You may think you have a winning keyword if it has a certain volume and meets your criteria for intent. But if that word is too difficult to rank for, you may be better off scrapping your original plans and starting from scratch.

Keyword Difficulty vs Keyword Effectiveness

So far, our guide has focused entirely on keyword difficulty. To make the most out of your keywords, though, you also need to understand keyword effectiveness.

Different sites and apps help you see where certain terms rank on the Keyword Effectiveness Index. The formula for this index varies, but it most often involves dividing search volume and keyword difficulty.

This is important because you need to strike a balance between the two. After all, the keywords easiest to rank for are the ones very few people are searching for, meaning you have very little competition. By finding a balance between volume and effectiveness, you can make the most out of each keyword.

Find and Use the Best Keywords Today!

Now you know what keyword difficulty is and how hard it can be to measure and master. But do you know who can help you optimize keywords across your entire domain?

Looking for an SEO Specialist in Hamilton? Here at HeyTony, we specialize in helping small businesses like yours grow and expand.

To discover how we can help you reach your full potential, contact us today!

Originally published . Last updated .


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