July 7

Understanding Keyword Difficulty and Effective Keyword Selection Strategies

Online marketing


We cannot speak of search engine optimisation (SEO) without speaking of keywords. They play a crucial role in determining the visibility and success of a website. However, not all keywords are created equal. Some keywords are more challenging to rank for than others due to varying levels of competition. This concept is known as keyword difficulty.

Understanding keyword difficulty and employing effective strategies for selecting the best keywords can significantly impact your website’s organic traffic and overall SEO performance. For this reason, we decided to prepare a detailed guide on keyword difficulty, exploring various factors that contribute to it, and offering practical insights to help you find the best keywords for your website.

What Exactly Is Keyword Difficulty?

Keyword difficulty refers to the level of competition associated with a particular keyword in search engine rankings. It quantifies how challenging it is to rank on the first page of search engine results pages (SERPs) for a specific keyword.

Keyword difficulty is influenced by various factors, including:

  • the number and quality of websites already ranking for the keyword
  • their backlink profiles
  • their overall domain authority.

Search engines, such as Google, rely on complex algorithms to evaluate and rank websites based on their relevance, authority, and user experience. Thus, when selecting keywords, it is crucial to assess their difficulty to ensure realistic ranking goals and to avoid wasting resources on excessively competitive terms.

Why Not Choose the Easiest Keywords You Can Rank for?

So, why should you look at the very bottom of the list and pick the search terms with the lowest keyword difficulty? The issue is that they are easy to rank for because of a simple reason: very few people use them.

For example, you could easily write three blog posts optimised for the keyword “lazy green camel with three feet”. And, a few weeks later, when you search for this key phrase on Google, you will see your blog posts in the first, second and third position.

Why? Because nobody else is trying to rank for this ludicrous search term, as there is no one searching for it. Thus, it is absolutely pointless to rank for something users do not need.

Having explained this issue, let us now look into factors determining keyword difficulty and how to use them to your best advantage.

The Most Important Factors Affecting Keyword Difficulty


The number and quality of websites vying for a particular keyword greatly influence its difficulty. Highly competitive niches with established websites and strong backlink profiles generally pose more difficulty in ranking.

Domain Authority

Websites with higher domain authority tend to have an advantage in ranking for competitive keywords. Domain authority is a metric that predicts how well a website will perform in search engine rankings. It is influenced by factors such as the age of the domain, the quality and quantity of backlinks, and overall website trustworthiness.


Backlinks from authoritative and relevant websites act as a vote of confidence and signal search engines about a website’s credibility. The number and quality of backlinks significantly impact keyword difficulty.

On-Page Optimisation

Proper on-page optimisation, including keyword usage in title tags, headings, meta descriptions, and content, can influence keyword difficulty. Well-optimized pages are more likely to rank higher in search results.

User Intent

Understanding user intent behind a keyword is crucial. Keywords with commercial intent or highly specific informational queries might have higher difficulty due to established competition.

Search Volume

Keywords with high search volume tend to have higher competition, making it harder to rank for them. Balancing search volume and difficulty is essential for effective keyword selection.

The Most Effective Keyword Selection Strategies for Your Business

Now that we have explained what determines the level of difficulty for keywords, let us show you what to do to find the right keyword for your business – balancing search popularity with moderate difficulty.

Keyword Research

Begin by conducting comprehensive keyword research using tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, or Moz’s Keyword Explorer. Look for keywords that are relevant to your content or niche.

At the same time, remember to add localising terms to the main keywords, such as;

  • in (city name)
  • near (important landmark)
  • near you.

This will help your site rank higher in local searches – an essential aspect for small and local businesses.

Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are longer and more specific keyword phrases. While they may have lower search volume, they often exhibit lower difficulty. Targeting long-tail keywords can be an effective strategy for attracting more qualified traffic.

Competition Analysis

Analyse the websites currently ranking for your target keywords. Evaluate their domain authority, backlink profiles, and content quality. If the top-ranking websites are highly authoritative, it might be wise to select less competitive keywords.

Use Keyword Difficulty Tools

Leverage keyword difficulty tools like Ahrefs, Moz, or SEMrush to gauge the difficulty level of your chosen keywords. These tools provide a numeric score or percentage indicating the competitiveness of a keyword.

Focus on a Mix of Difficulty Levels

Build a keyword strategy that includes a mix of high, medium, and low difficulty keywords. Targeting only highly competitive keywords can hinder your progress, while targeting only low difficulty keywords may not yield significant traffic. Finding the right balance is crucial.

Analyse Search Intent

Understand the user intent behind keywords. Are users looking for information, products, or services? Tailor your content to align with user intent and optimize for keywords that match your content goals.

Track and Refine

Continuously monitor the performance of your chosen keywords and make adjustments as needed. Regularly review keyword difficulty scores, search volume, and SERP rankings to refine your keyword selection strategy over time.

Key Takeaways

Keyword difficulty is a critical aspect of SEO that influences the success of your website’s organic rankings. By understanding the factors affecting keyword difficulty and employing effective keyword selection strategies, you can optimise your website’s visibility, attract targeted traffic, and achieve your SEO objectives.

As you can see, you do not need a lot of experience or tech skills to search for and select the best keywords for your business. All you need is patience and the conviction that this effort is worthwhile, as it will help you find more qualified leads. Good luck!

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