What is keyword difficulty and how to use it

Keyword prioritization is a more complex undertaking to take on. It involves finding high traffic keywords with high conversion potential. Combine that with today’s clever competitors, and you’ve got yourself a challenging task at hand.

After a long and sometimes overwhelming keyword research process, you’re usually faced with a huge keywords list that needs to be prioritized. You must be ready to dig in and know how to do it.

If this sounds like a nightmare to you, I guess you need to read this piece of writing because I am going to alleviate your worry and tell you more about a hero indicator that will help you prioritize keywords correctly.

The standard process

Most of us would usually choose to upload a ready-made keywords list straight to the Keyword Planner in order to see the average monthly searches and competition level.

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And then we would aim to balance a high search volume with a low competition score, right?

Don’t worry, these are the proper steps to take because these indicators provide us with super important data that defines keywords potential.

However, the one thing about Google Keywords Planner to take into consideration is the fact that it’s an Adwords tool, implying it refers to paid campaigns. Because of this, its data and even dashboard is adjusted to commercial needs.

Moreover, average monthly searches in Google Keyword Planner are always a rough estimate, and recently, this number has gotten even more imprecise.

Its data is usually out of date and rounded to the nearest volume bucket – Yes, Google Keyword Planner uses buckets to arrange search volume. – It gives you a general overview of the search volume rather than a precise value.

The competition score is calculated by the number of people worldwide who are bidding on each keyword relative to all keywords across Google.

Fortunately, there are also other metrics that you should consider in addition to the search volume and competition score that will help correctly identify high potential keywords.

One of these metrics is Keyword Difficulty, and we are going to discuss it today.

Keyword Difficulty

Even your longest and most informative content that is perfectly optimized for the right keywords will not always be adequate enough to win the battle to the top in search ranking positioning.

So before you decide what keywords to target, take a look at your competitors who are already on the first search results page for a specific phrase.

Pay attention to how strong their domains are and to pages where the particular piece of content is published.

If their domains (and pages) are much stronger than yours, it is hardly possible that you are going to surpass them with your piece, especially if you are a newbie in the market.

That’s a fact about modern SEO. Multiple SEO factors combined determine search results every day, and a domain authority is a very strong ranking signal.

Fortunately, a keyword difficulty score relieves the pain of manually checking hundreds of keywords in the search. This metric is especially useful for when you work on a super long keywords list and need to evaluate the keywords at a glance.

Keyword difficulty, as the name suggests, reflects how difficult it is to achieve the top position for a particular keyword in search results. Having a greater understanding of this indicator will help you quickly determine what keywords to use in your strategy and give you an idea of where you will rank.

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What is Keyword Difficulty and how is it calculated?

Keyword difficulty calculation is purely based on your link profile, which is in turn estimated by the authority metrics: page authority and domain authority. Both of these two are continually evolving.

Previously, you could literally call keyword difficulty a PA median of the top 10 search results for a given phrase.


Today, the calculation is more advanced and relies on a CTR-weighted page authority median across the first results page that ranges from 0 to 100, with the latter being the toughest to rank for.

Defining keyword difficulty also calls for an explanation of what page authority and domain authority mean.

Domain Authority

In a nutshell, domain authority is one of the most important metrics in modern SEO. It is a 100-points scale where 100 is the maximum authority. The better your DA, the stronger your entire domain, and the easier it is to achieve top positions in the SERPs.

Domain authority is built of multiple factors. However, the strongest factor is the website’s link profile. Namely, how many backlinks (referring domains) the website has and how authoritative those links are.

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You can easily check your Domain Authority and Page Authority for free here.

Page Authority

Page authority predicts how a specific web page is likely to rank in the SERPs. Similarly to DA, this score is based on a 100-point, logarithmic scale, where 100 is the strongest value.

If you want to improve the authority of your domain and a particular web page, you need to work on the overall SEO: an authority metrics calculation is based on many different SEO factors altogether.

But most importantly, you should focus on your link profile: disavow poor quality backlinks and gain the authority backlinks at the same time.

Read more about it here Authority Domains vs. Authority Links

How to interpret a keyword difficulty score?

A keyword difficulty score doesn’t take individual backlinks into account, but referring domains. And the specific keyword difficulty score corresponds to the following number of referring domains. For instance,

KD 10 equals to approximately 10 Ref. Domains.

“KD 20 = 22 Ref. Domains

KD 30 = 36 Ref. Domains

KD 40 = 56 Ref. Domains

KD 50 = 84 Ref. Domains

KD 60 = 129 Ref. Domains

KD 70 = 202 Ref. Domains

KD 80 = 353 Ref. Domains

KD 90 = 756 Ref. Domains”

So theoretically, when you want to rank for a phrase with a keyword difficulty score of 60, you will need about 129 different referring domains to link to this particular resource.

In conclusion, if you want to compete for the most difficult keywords, better implement an effective link building strategy. 🙂

Do you use KW difficulty score to determine your ranking chances and help define your strategy? How is it useful for you?

Feel free to tell us in the comments of this article

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