What is Keyword Difficulty?
Keyword difficulty is a metric that measures the effort it would take for your content to rank on the first page of Google for a given keyword. In other words, if a keyword is difficult, it would take a lot of time and attention on your part to see results.
But what does this mean for keyword research? Should you only focus on low difficulty search terms?
Not necessarily. When choosing targeting, an intelligent strategy takes both keyword difficulty and search volume into account. This allows you to create a strategy that evens the odds with a simple ranking.
Why is it important to understand keyword difficulty?
Whether you are aware of it or not, keyword difficulty affects both your strategy and resource planning. Understanding it will help you choose the most efficient keywords for your site and ensure your team gets the support they need to create compelling content.
For example, imagine you choose “project management” as your blog’s next target keyword based solely on its relevance and high search volume. You can assign it to one of your authors without even thinking about difficulties.
Will your new article rank on the first page? Maybe, but you’d probably have to put a lot of support behind it first. If you don’t understand how difficult it is to rank for this keyword and why, you might not know.
In other words, keyword difficulty can help you determine how realistic your goal is to rank a new page. You can use this knowledge to outline your content plan and allocate resources to support it.
But how do you know how difficult a keyword is? A few different factors come into play, including:
. Content quality
. Search intent
. Domain authority
Why should you care about keyword difficulty?
Many beginner bloggers choose a keyword, write great content, and optimize the page only to find that they don’t rank at all. The most common reason – the competition is too big.
Because of this, your keyword research process should always consider keyword difficulty.
By keeping an eye on keyword difficulty:
1. You get a good overview of the “hot” keywords and “big” players in your niche
2. You can identify alternative keywords in your niche that you have a real chance of ranking for
3. You can save a lot of time by focusing on keywords that can get you results, even if your site doesn’t have much authority yet
How to use keyword difficulty in your SEO strategy
- Look at the big picture
Keyword difficulty is just one of the aspects to consider when doing keyword research.
The other two important aspects are keyword popularity and relevance.
If the difficulty is low but the keyword has no search volume, you won’t get any traffic.
On the other hand, without relevancy, you won’t rank for the keyword even if the difficulty metric is low because the search intent doesn’t match your type of content.
2. Analyze the SERP results
Never rely on a single number given by a keyword tool. The keyword difficulty metric is intended to give you a quick overview not to replace competitor research. In other words – SERP analysis is non-negotiable.
Along with the difficulty metric, always look at the SERP results and the actual websites that rank for the keyword.
You’ll learn a lot more about search intent, the type of content that ranks for the keyword, and how deeply your competitors are covering the topic.
3. Don’t be afraid of high difficulty
It’s more about getting a general sense of what you’re dealing with and determining what you need to do to make your site a competitive competitor.
Here are a few things that can help your rank for a highly competitive keyword:
1. Outstanding Content – You can outperform high-ranking competitors with high-quality content that demonstrates better expertise and covers the topic much more deeply (see the 10x content strategy)
2. Topic Relevance – A tightly targeted site with quality internal links can help you outperform authoritative sites that cover the topic only sporadically and rank primarily based on overall brand authority
3. Quality Backlinks – A large number of quality backlinks to a particular page can help you rank for that page even if your domain authority is lower overall
Compare the values within one tool
There are many keyword research tools out there, and each may use a different backlink database or method of calculating keyword difficulty.
As such, keyword difficulty scores can vary from tool to tool, and it’s important to compare scores within a tool.