How To Determine Keyword Difficulty

In the ever-evolving world of search engine optimisation (SEO), keyword difficulty is a crucial factor that determines the competitiveness of a keyword in organic search results. It helps marketers and content creators assess whether they should target specific keywords and how much effort will be needed to rank for them.

We all know we should target the lower hanging fruits, but how do we know these are really easy or hard?

Understand the concept of keyword difficulty

Keyword difficulty (KD) is a metric that gauges the level of competition for a given keyword in organic search results. A higher KD score indicates that it’s more challenging to rank for a keyword due to established competitors dominating the search results. Understanding keyword difficulty is essential to develop an effective SEO strategy, allocate resources, and prioritise content creation efforts.

Factors affecting keyword difficulty

Several factors contribute to the competitiveness of a keyword:

  • On-page optimisation: Well-optimised content with proper keyword usage in title tags, meta descriptions, and headers increases competition.
  • Domain authority: Websites with high domain authority (DA) are more likely to rank higher in search results, making it difficult for new or less authoritative sites to compete.
  • Backlinks: A strong backlink profile can significantly impact a website’s ranking, making it harder for others to compete for the same keyword.
  • Content quality and relevancy: High-quality, relevant, and engaging content increases the chances of ranking higher, contributing to keyword difficulty.
  • User engagement: Metrics such as click-through rate (CTR), bounce rate, and dwell time can influence rankings, affecting keyword difficulty.

Tools and resources for keyword difficulty research

Several tools can help you research keyword difficulty, including:

Each tool offers a unique set of features, with some providing more in-depth analysis than others. Choose the tool that best suits your needs and budget.

Since this post is more about broad keyword difficulty research, I will cover more in-depth tutorial on these tools later.

Step-by-step process for researching keyword difficulty

  1. Identifying target keywords: Start by brainstorming a list of potential keywords relevant to your niche or industry. Use keyword research tools to expand your list and discover related terms.
  2. Analysing competition: Review the top-ranking pages for your target keywords. Analyse their on-page optimisation, content quality, and user engagement to understand what it takes to rank for these terms.
  3. Assessing keyword difficulty scores: Use your preferred keyword research tool to obtain KD scores for your target keywords. This will give you a better idea of which keywords are worth targeting.
  4. Evaluating domain strength: Check the domain authority of your website and compare it to your competitors. This will help you gauge your chances of outranking them.
  5. Analysing backlink profiles: Investigate the backlink profiles of the top-ranking websites for your target keywords. Look for patterns and trends in the types of sites linking to them, as this can inform your link-building strategy.
  6. Understanding user intent and content relevance: Consider the intent behind the keywords you’re targeting and ensure your content aligns with the needs of your audience.

Strategies for targeting keywords with varying difficulty levels

  • Long-tail keywords: Target long-tail keywords with lower search volumes and competition. These often convert better, as they’re more specific and cater to user intent.
  • Local SEO: Focus on local SEO if you’re a small business or have a location-specific target audience. This can help you rank for less competitive, location-based keywords.
  • Content creation and optimisation: Produce high-quality, engaging, and relevant content that addresses user intent. Optimise your content with proper keyword usage, meta tags, headings, and images to improve its chances of ranking higher.
  • Link building: Develop a robust link-building strategy to acquire backlinks from authoritative websites. This can improve your domain authority and overall competitiveness in search results.
  • Social media promotion: Leverage social media platforms to promote your content, increase brand visibility, and drive traffic to your website. This can indirectly influence your search rankings by improving user engagement metrics.
  • Regular monitoring and adjustments: Continuously monitor your keyword rankings, traffic, and other performance metrics. Make adjustments to your SEO strategy and content as needed to stay competitive and maintain or improve your rankings.

Tips and best practices for researching keyword difficulty

  • Staying up-to-date with SEO trends: Keep yourself informed about the latest SEO trends and algorithm updates. This will help you adapt your strategy accordingly and maintain a competitive edge.
  • Balancing high and low competition keywords: Maintain a mix of high and low competition keywords in your strategy. While high competition keywords may be harder to rank for, they can drive significant traffic if you’re successful. Low competition keywords, on the other hand, can help you achieve quicker wins and build momentum.
  • Focusing on user experience: Ensure your website offers a seamless user experience, with fast-loading pages, easy navigation, and mobile-friendliness. A positive user experience can lead to higher user engagement, which can indirectly impact your rankings.
  • Collaborating with industry influencers: Partner with influencers in your niche to create and promote content. This can help you reach a wider audience, increase brand visibility, and potentially earn valuable backlinks.
  • Setting realistic expectations and goals: Understand that ranking for competitive keywords takes time and effort. Set realistic goals for your SEO strategy and be prepared to invest the necessary resources to achieve them.


Researching keyword difficulty is a critical aspect of a successful SEO strategy. By understanding the level of competition for your target keywords, you can make informed decisions about which terms to prioritise, and develop a plan to create and optimise content accordingly. Utilise the strategies and tips outlined in this article to stay ahead of the competition and achieve your SEO goals.

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