SEO Expert: John Vargo June 28, 2023

What is Keyword Difficulty and Why is it Important for SEO?

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Introduction to Keyword Research Difficulty

If you’re familiar with search engine optimization (SEO), you’ve probably heard the term “keyword difficulty” before. Keyword difficulty is a metric that measures how hard it is to rank for a particular keyword or phrase in search engine results pages (SERPs). Understanding keyword difficulty is essential to developing an effective SEO strategy that drives traffic to your website and boosts your online visibility. In this article, we’ll explore what keyword difficulty is, how to measure it, and tips for overcoming it.

What is Keyword Difficulty?

Keyword difficulty is a measure of how hard it is to rank for a particular keyword or phrase in SERPs. It’s determined by several factors, including search volume, competition, and relevancy. The higher the keyword difficulty, the harder it is to rank for that keyword. For example, if you’re a small business selling handmade jewelry, ranking for the keyword “jewelry” would be extremely difficult due to the high competition from established brands. On the other hand, ranking for the long-tail keyword “handmade beaded jewelry” would be easier because it’s more specific and has less competition.

To determine keyword difficulty, SEO tools use algorithms that analyze various metrics, such as domain authority, page authority, backlinks, and on-page optimization. These metrics help to estimate the level of competition for a particular keyword and assess the likelihood of ranking for it.

How to Measure Keyword Difficulty

Several tools can help you evaluate keyword difficulty, including SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Moz. Let’s take SEMrush, for example, which is one of the most popular SEO tools on the market.

To analyze keyword difficulty using SEMrush, follow these steps:

1. Go to the SEMrush website and enter the keyword or phrase you want to analyze in the search bar.
2. Select the country and language you want to target.
3. Click on “Search.”
4. Scroll down to the “Keyword Difficulty” section, which shows the difficulty level of the keyword on a scale of 1 to 100.
5. Review the other metrics, such as search volume, CPC (cost per click), and SERP features, to assess the keyword’s potential.

Interpreting the results of keyword difficulty analysis can be complex, but generally, a score of 0-29 is considered low difficulty, 30-59 is medium difficulty, and 60-100 is high difficulty. However, keep in mind that these scores are relative and can vary depending on your industry, niche, and location.

Tips for Overcoming Keyword Difficulty

Overcoming keyword difficulty requires a combination of on-page optimization, link building, and keyword targeting. Here are some tips to help you improve your chances of ranking for difficult keywords:

1. Optimize your on-page content: Use the target keyword in your page title, meta description, and heading tags. Make sure your content is high-quality, relevant, and engaging.
2. Build high-quality backlinks: Get links from authoritative websites in your industry or niche. Focus on getting links from websites with high domain authority and page authority.
3. Target long-tail keywords: Long-tail keywords are more specific and have less competition. Use tools like Google Keyword Planner or SEMrush to find long-tail keywords that are relevant to your business.
4. Use social media: Share your content on social media platforms to increase visibility and attract backlinks.
5. Analyze your competitors: Analyze the content and backlinks of your competitors to identify opportunities for improvement.

Examples of Successful SEO Campaigns

One example of a successful SEO campaign that overcame keyword difficulty is the website “Backlinko.” The website’s founder, Brian Dean, used a combination of long-tail keywords, high-quality backlinks, and on-page optimization to rank for difficult keywords in the SEO industry, such as “link building techniques.” By creating comprehensive, high-quality content and building links from authoritative websites, Backlinko was able to rank on the first page of Google for competitive keywords.


Keyword difficulty is a crucial metric for SEO that helps you understand the level of competition for a particular keyword or phrase. By using tools like SEMrush and following best practices for on-page optimization and link building, you can improve your chances of ranking for difficult keywords. Remember to focus on long-tail keywords, create high-quality content, and build links from authoritative websites. With persistence and patience, you can overcome keyword difficulty and achieve high rankings in SERPs.

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