Keyword Difficulty: What Is It, and How Do I Measure it?

25th April, 2024
Keyword Difficulty: What Is It, and How Do I Measure it? featured image
5min Read
Author: Hannah

Keyword difficulty measures how difficult it is to snag a top spot in search results for a specific query without paying for advertising. For instance, ‘laptop’ has a high difficulty score because it’s almost impossible to outrank big players like HP, Dell or Currys. 

The trick to choosing the best keywords is to find ones with a manageable difficulty score that also attracts significant traffic. 

We’ll explore the factors influencing keyword difficulty scores and offer some top tips on how to choose the best keywords for maximum visibility. 

Why is keyword difficulty important?

Keyword difficulty plays a crucial role in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) because it helps you pinpoint the search terms for which you have a real shot at achieving high rankings on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). 

Once you’ve identified the best keywords to use, focus your energy and resources on creating content that draws traffic to your website, attracts new customers, and boosts sales. 

The smarter you are with your keyword choices, the higher your content will rank on Google, leading to more clicks to your site and, ultimately, more conversions.

What affects keyword difficulty in SEO

Keyword difficulty is based on several factors, but it essentially hinges on two key aspects: how often people search for that keyword and the quality of the pages ranking within Google’s top 10 organic results. 

The more frequently a keyword is searched for and the higher the quality of the ranking pages, the greater the keyword difficulty and the harder it is for your page to gain visibility. 

We’ll break down some of the key factors determining keyword difficulty below:

Search volume

Quite simply, keyword search volume is the average number of monthly searches for a keyword. Higher volume keywords drive more traffic, so they tend to have more competition and a higher difficulty score. 

Word count

Keywords with a longer word count, also known as long-tail keywords, typically have a lower search volume and difficulty score than shorter keywords. Long-tail keywords, such as ‘brown leather shoes for men,’ don’t reach as many people, but they reach the right people—those who know exactly what they want and are ready to make a purchase—the people primed for conversion.  


Backlinks or inbound links are links on external websites that direct users to a page on your website. For example, if a BBC News article mentions your company’s name and provides readers with a link to your website, this is a backlink. 

Google favours websites with lots of backlinks from reputable websites, viewing them almost as recommendations. So, if the top 10 results for your chosen keyword are websites with lots of strong backlinks, the difficulty score for that keyword will be higher. Alternatively, if the top results don’t have many strong backlinks, the difficulty score will be lower. 

SERP Features

SERP features are elements found on the search results page that give extra information about the search query. For example, the Knowledge Panel, Sitelinks, People Also Ask, and Top Stories. If a keyword brings up results with SERP features, they generally have a higher difficulty score. 

How do I choose the right keywords?

Choosing the right keywords is key to boosting your online presence and driving traffic to your site. 

Here is a quick rundown of how to find the perfect keywords for SEO: 

1. Understand your audience. Consider your target audience – what are their interests, needs, and pain points? What are they most likely to search for to find what you’re selling? 

      2. Make a list. Collect potential keywords relating to your product, service, or content. Include a variety of long and short-term keywords, synonyms, and variations. 

        3. Research competitors. Look at what keywords your competitors are targeting. Are there any words you haven’t thought of?

          4. Evaluate the keywords. Use tools like Google’s Keyword Planner or SEMrush’s Keyword Magic Tool to assess search volume and keyword difficulty. Choose the most promising ones for your campaign. 

            5. Monitor performance. Keep track of your chosen keywords’ performance through rankings, traffic, and conversions. 

              6. Review and adjust. Regularly review and adjust your keywords based on shifts in consumer behaviour, emerging trends, seasonal activity, and other relevant factors. 

                How do I create high-ranking content?

                There are a host of factors that affect search engine rankings, some of which we have touched upon in ‘How to Keep Up with SEO Trends and Changes.’ However, the main thing to remember is that search engines tend to prioritise clear, readable content that demonstrates experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-E-A-T). 

                When it comes to using keywords to your advantage, it’s all about where, when, and how often you use them. Avoid keyword stuffing, as this looks disingenuous and can result in lower rankings. Instead, use your keywords strategically and naturally within your copy. 

                Remember, keywords aren’t confined to webpages alone; they can also enhance social media posts, business listings, image alt-tags, meta titles and descriptions, URLs, headings, anchor text, and more.

                The power of a strong keyword strategy

                In the vast landscape of digital content, where millions of websites vie for attention, understanding keyword difficulty is crucial for developing a successful SEO strategy. Keyword research helps you discern the feasibility of targeting specific keywords so you avoid wasting time on overly competitive search terms. It also helps you identify niche opportunities where competition is low, and search volume is high. 

                Essentially, a strong keyword strategy helps unlock new audiences and drives conversions without breaking the bank on expensive advertising or PPC campaigns. 

                If you need assistance with your keyword strategy or have any questions about the topics covered in this article, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at +44 (0)113 8561930.