SEO KEYWORD DIFFICULTY TOOL

Matthew Carter
Hello friends, my name is Matthew Carter. I’m a professional link builder for a large SEO agency in New York City.

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See how hard it will be to get into top 10 search results for any keyword.

Content Explorer — This potent tool finds the most popular content on any topic for you. It also shows you the list of keywords a content page ranks for, along with their Keyword Difficulty.

Combined with Search Volume, this metric will help you find keywords that can bring you very good organic traffic but don’t require much effort to rank for.

What is Keyword Difficulty?

The further choice of keywords must be based on a complete and detailed SERP analysis. No SEO tool can do this work for you, because every case is unique. But you will find all the necessary data for analysis in the SERP overview Ahrefs provides.

Keyword Difficulty evaluates the chances of getting into top 10 of search results (not top 3 or top 1). Apart from backlink profiles and content relevancy, many additional ranking factors come into play among the results of the first page of any search.

The Keyword Difficulty metric integrates across all keyword reports in Ahrefs tools. Look into keyword suggestions, analyze your competitors’ organic traffic, track your own keyword rankings – Keyword Difficulty will always be at hand.

However, despite its value, Keyword Difficulty should not be the only factor affecting your keyword choice. We recommend that you use it as the first filter to sort through the massive number of possible keywords.

Keywords Explorer — Keyword Difficulty Checker has a prominent place in this tool. It helps you make informed decisions about the keywords to go after, whether you’re analyzing individual keywords, sorting through your keyword list or looking at keyword suggestions.

Site Explorer — Discover keywords that bring organic traffic to any page of your competitors’ websites and use the Keyword Difficulty metric to see if you will be able to rank in the top 10 for those keywords.

Integration with other Ahrefs tools.

We measure Keyword Difficulty on a scale from 0 to 100, with the latter being the hardest.

Google says that links and content relevance are the top ranking metrics for your site’s placement in search results. The results of our own study of two million keywords confirm this statement. We see a strong correlation between the number of referring domains a web page has and its position in Google search results.

Rank Tracker — This tool tracks your website ranking positions changes for any given keyword. Keyword Search Volume and Keyword Difficulty are not static numbers, so we update them regularly for each of your projects.

In the world of SEO, Keyword Difficulty is a handy metric which helps you understand how hard it would be to rank for a particular search query.

Find easy-to-rank keywords from millions of ideas.

That is why, to calculate Keyword Difficulty, we analyze the search results for a keyword and look at the number of referring domains the top 10 ranking pages have. In simple terms, the more referring domains across the top ranking pages, the higher the Keyword Difficulty.

Here’s the relation between the Keyword Difficulty and the number of RDs needed:

The scale is not linear. Each value on it corresponds to the estimated number of referring domains (RDs) a page needs in order to get to the first page of search results.

If you’re aiming for a keyword with KD 40, you’re likely to need approximately 56 RDs to get into the top 10 search results.

Whether you are analyzing your own list of keywords or looking at the suggestions in Keywords Explorer, our Keyword Difficulty metric shows you the opportunities you can easily rank for.

Here’s how to install and set it up:

Because there are several link analysis tools out there, there’s no shortage of conflicting data about how many links a page has pointing to it.

The important thing is to keep an eye out for low-PA pages . Those pages are ripe for getting knocked off by your new, awesomely-optimized page. If you see a lot of these, consider giving that particular keyword the green light.

In other words, a page’s authority is most important…but you also want to take DA into consideration.

But most pages on authority sites get a HUGE bump from the simple fact that they’re on an authoritative domain.

Why Is Keyword Difficulty Important?

If you’ve been in the SEO game for a while you know that link metrics can be VERY misleading.

Which means, when it comes to keyword difficulty, you also want to take a brand’s size into consideration. For example, sites like Amazon, ESPN.com and YouTube are given an edge over small brand results… even if those smaller brands have similar page authority and domain authority.

Sites with spammy link profiles sometimes have a high DA and PA. But because they’re using spam links, they’re not going to stick on the first page over the long run.

So you have two options: you can use the MozBar. Or you can use Ahrefs.

In fact, our recent analysis of popular keyword tools found that their difficulty scores were all over the place… even for the same exact keyword.

(Think links don’t matter anymore? Our ranking factors research study found that the number of referring domains was correlated to higher rankings more than any other factor ).

There’s an old SEO adage that goes: “Google doesn’t rank sites…it ranks pages.”

And the tool will show you the number of referring domains linking to that page:

So if you want to get a REAL feel for how hard it will be to rank for a keyword, then you need to dig deeper than the numbers that the tools spit out.

(You can easily check Page Authority by looking at the “PA” number in the MozBar SERP Overlay:)

Step #2: Look at Page Authority.

In short: it’s a super important part of the keyword research process. Along with monthly search volume and other factors, keyword difficulty helps you choose the best keywords for SEO.

There’s a free browser toolbar that makes evaluating keyword difficulty faster and easier: The MozBar.

So there’s a lot of truth to that old adage.

It’s OK for a SERP to have a few high-PA results on the first page. That’s the case for most medium or high volume keywords.

This process takes longer than using Moz’s toolbar. But the upside is that the data from Ahrefs tends to be a lot more accurate.

Sure,some pages from these sites rank on page authority and the quality of their content.

At its very core, Google is a vote collection engine.

Step #3: Check Out Referring Domains.

So, if there’s a keyword that looks especially competitive, but you have a gut feeling there’s a lot of black hat SEO behind the results, spot check the top 10’s link profile.

Which means that the number of referring domains is one metric that’s 100% worth looking at.

Which means that – when you evaluate keyword competition — you also want to take a look at the sites you’re competing against (not just pages).

Although a site’s domain authority and brand presence play important roles, the #1 factor in a page’s ability to rank in Google is the authority of that page .

You can also use a tool like Ahrefs to see how many referring domains point to a particular page.

Just take a URL from Google’s first page…

The more “votes” a page gets (in the form of backlinks), the higher it tends to rank.

You can see the number of referring domains from the MozBar if you have a pro account:

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