What is Keyword Difficulty?

Keyword difficulty (KD) is a metric used in search engine optimization (SEO) to assess how hard it would be to rank for a particular keyword in the search engine results pages (SERPs). This metric is usually expressed on a scale from 0 to 100, where a higher number indicates a higher level of competition and difficulty in achieving top rankings for that keyword. Keyword difficulty takes into account various factors, including the strength of the websites currently ranking for that keyword, their domain authority, page authority, and backlink profiles.

Importance of Keyword Difficulty in SEO

Strategic SEO Planning

Understanding keyword difficulty helps SEOs and marketers prioritize their efforts by focusing on keywords that are realistically achievable based on their resources and SEO capabilities. This strategic approach ensures efficient use of time and resources.

Competitive Analysis

Analyzing keyword difficulty provides insights into the competitive landscape of a niche or industry. It helps marketers understand the level of effort required to compete for visibility in their target market’s search results.

Implementing Keyword Difficulty Analysis

Using SEO Tools

Keyword difficulty is typically assessed using specialized SEO tools such as Ahrefs, SEMrush, Moz, or Google Keyword Planner. These tools provide an estimate of keyword difficulty based on their proprietary algorithms, which consider factors like search volume, SERPs features, and the link profiles of the pages currently ranking for that keyword.

Integrating with Keyword Research

Keyword difficulty should be a part of comprehensive keyword research. Alongside metrics like search volume and search intent, keyword difficulty helps in selecting keywords that not only have good traffic potential but are also achievable targets for ranking.

Challenges in Assessing Keyword Difficulty

Varying Metrics Across Tools

Different SEO tools may use different methodologies to calculate keyword difficulty, leading to variations in difficulty scores for the same keyword across different tools. This can make it challenging to assess the true difficulty level.

Dynamic Search Results

Search engines frequently update their algorithms, which can shift the ranking dynamics for keywords. This makes the SEO landscape highly dynamic, with keyword difficulty levels potentially changing over time as new content and competitors enter the space.

Best Practices for Keyword Difficulty Assessment

Cross-Reference Multiple Tools

To get a more accurate understanding of keyword difficulty, use multiple SEO tools to assess the same keywords. This can provide a more rounded view of the competitive landscape.

Consider Your Own SEO Strength

Assess your website’s current SEO strength, including domain authority and existing backlink profile, to determine if a keyword with a certain difficulty level is achievable for your site.

Balance Difficulty with Other Factors

Do not base your keyword strategy solely on difficulty. Consider other important factors such as search volume, user intent, and the strategic importance of a keyword to your business.

Continuous Monitoring and Adaptation

Regularly monitor the performance of your chosen keywords and be prepared to adapt your strategy based on what’s working. SEO is not set-and-forget; it requires ongoing adjustments and optimization.


Keyword difficulty is a crucial metric in SEO that helps marketers understand the competitive landscape and set realistic expectations for ranking success. By effectively integrating keyword difficulty analysis into broader SEO and content strategies, businesses can more effectively target keywords that offer the best balance of traffic potential and achievability, optimizing their resources and maximizing their online visibility.