What to Look for When Conducting a Keyword Research: Understanding Keyword Difficulty Metric

You are likely well aware of the significance of keyword research if you operate in the field of SEO services or digital marketing. You can write dozens of entertaining and informative articles that will fill your company website or blog, but if you don’t pay attention to what magic words you use to attract an audience, then consider that you have tried in vain. 

By starting by researching such words, you lay the foundation for what strategy you will use in the future. You also make a plan for how and what you will use so that any written material is not only useful and meaningful for the user, but also brings benefits to your company. 

However, it is not enough just to find and use them. You probably use many different keyword research tools for these purposes. You should have paid attention to the fact that each such tool gives out more information about how often these words were searched for a certain period, as well as their difficulty. Both of these metrics are of tremendous importance for every specialist. If everything is clear with the first metric, then the second metric is misunderstood by many specialists. 

It is a crucial indicator and few understand it. You may have observed that if you use a frequently searched word, then your page rank stays the same. The problem may be that you did not pay attention to the second indicator. Experienced specialists are experts at this and use the keyword difficulty checker, among other tools. 

We will try to explain what this metric means and how to competently do keyword research based on it. 

KD explained 

This metric indicates what level of competition a keyword or phrase has. As with everything else, if this number is high, it means that a lot of other authoritative websites are using it. If such web resources have a high level of page authority or, in general, a high domain ranking, then, alas, it will be difficult for you to compete with them. 

Many may think that in this case, you need to use those that have a low level of competition. However, this may also not be a winning strategy, since, in most cases, such words will have a low level of search volume. 

What to do in such a situation? Ideally, you’ll want to find those words or phrases that are frequently searched and have a low level of difficulty. However, finding such words and phrases can be very difficult. That is why you need to find a balance between these two indicators. 

Using various specialized tools, you will notice that this indicator may have different names. In some tools, you will see that next to the keyword there will be a column called “competition”, which will indicate high, medium, or low level. However, in most cases, you will see difficulty percentages ranging from one to one hundred. 

Above 70% 

Seeing such an indicator, you will understand that such a word has a very high level of competition. If you just use such words and phrases, then in the short term, you will not see any results. 

This does not mean that they are undesirable to use. Rather, to use them effectively, you will have to sweat a lot. This means that you need, for example, to write an article or post that is 10 times better than the result in the leading positions in the search results.  

This assumes the following: 

  • A better content, which will reveal the topic in great detail; 
  • A better design with an emphasis on custom-made visuals; 
  • A better UX with good structure, easy readability, and fast page loading. 

Thus, it is possible to use such words, but their effective usage requires devoting more effort, time, and money. 

Between 30% and 70% 

These figures suggest that you may have more realistic expectations. Such words have a fairly good balance between how often they are searched for and relatively little competition. Still, the content must be superior to the rest for the results to be good. 

This is the golden mean, which offers you a real chance in the fight for them. They are searched more often than those words that have a low level of competition. Thus, you should keep an eye on them. 

Below 30% 

It is much easier to take leadership positions in search results using such words. However, there is one peculiarity. In most cases, in the other column, where the search volume is indicated, you will not see a comforting result. This means that you don’t have to compete with anyone, but users aren’t searching for them either. Surely this is not what you expect to get. 

However, if you do some qualitative research, you may come across words that users search for frequently and that have low levels of competition. If you succeed, you will win the lottery. 

How is this indicator calculated?

There is no universal formula by which this indicator is calculated. It all depends on what tool you are using. However, there are basic factors that are taken into account by each tool. 

The basic factors that determine whether you will find it difficult to compete with other web resources and web pages that use a particular word that has a high level of difficulty are the same as those that affect how your web resource is ranked on Google. 

Based on this, we can determine the following 3 main factors: 

Relevant page content 

Search engine algorithms analyze web resources in search of those that most relevantly meet the requirements of user requests. Thus, if the content of the page maximally or completely answers the user’s request, then the algorithms increase the rating of this web resource. 

If you take into account the characteristics of your target audience and use keywords that fit perfectly into the content, then the ranking increases significantly. 

Backlinks’ and referring domains’ quality 

In the environment of backlinks, their quality plays an important role. If a certain resource is linked by a domain whose rating is high, then this significantly affects the increase in the percentage of difficulty of a keyword or phrase. 

The number of such links also plays a significant role. If there are a lot of high-quality backlinks, then the difficulty percentage of this indicator will also increase. 

High domain reputation 

Providing relevant content on web pages to users does not go unnoticed by the algorithms. As a result, the reputation, that is, the authority of the domain is significantly increased. Algorithms determine that a domain is an expert in a certain field of knowledge. 

Such websites also rank higher for keywords. Therefore, due to this, the percentage of their difficulty increases. 

How to use KD metric 

When starting to research relevant keywords for your business using various tools, you may find that the tools will give you huge lists of words. Manually selecting words is a waste of time. To make your work easier, you can use the filtering function. 

Specify the difficulty range you would like to see. You can set a specific range in some tools, and in others, you can set the display of words based on parameters such as “greater than” or less than”. This will save you a lot of time. 

However, your work does not end there. If you thoughtlessly start using filtered keywords for your strategy, then you can start using something irrelevant to your niche. That is why the last step will be the selection of words and phrases manually to check their relevance. At the moment, no tool can provide high-quality filtering of words by relevance. 


Finding the words and phrases that are key is only a small part of the work of a specialist. Many tools, in addition to giving out keywords, give information about how often they are searched for, as well as what level of competition they have. These two indicators are of paramount importance. You should pay attention to finding words and phrases that users often search for, but which have a medium or low level of competition. In this case, you will be able to compete for a leading position in the search results.

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Aniket Sinha is an internet entrepreneur. He is the founder of Ajanabha and Famenest Social Media Site.

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