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Keyword Difficulty: Definition and Factors that Affect It

Last updated: Sep 16, 2022

What is Keyword Difficulty in SEO?

KD, or keyword difficulty, in SEO is a metric that measures the level of competition for a keyword in the SERP. The high score indicates that you need extra effort and time to win the competition on Google search results.

How Important is Keyword Difficulty in SEO?

In practicing SEO, KD is a metric that can help you see opportunities for a target keyword to use for your content. Keywords with a low level of difficulty will make your content more likely to get the highest rank on the search result pages.

However, KD isn't the only thing you need to consider when doing keyword research. There is also another metric to watch out for, namely search volume. You cannot separate these two metrics because they are equally important in SEO.

Factors that Affect Keyword Difficulty

KD is a metric that is influenced by several factors such as competitors, search intent, domain authority, content quality, and the number of backlinks. A complete explanation of the keyword difficulty factor is as follows:


Competitors are one of the factors that determine how difficult the level of competition for keywords is. If your target keyword is targeted by many websites, then the KD will be higher.

There are three types of competitors in the SERP; business competitors, SEO competitors, and competitors on the same keyword.

  • Business competitors: websites with the same business or product.
  • SEO competitors: websites that create content for a similar pool of audience.
  • Competitors on the same keyword: the website that is currently ranking high in the search results for the targeted keyword.


You need to know which types of competitors you should pay attention to. By studying the right competitors, you will find the best way to win the competition.

For example, if you are targeting transactional keywords, your competitors are websites with similar niche. However, if you want to increase brand awareness, your competitors are websites with similar audiences.

Search Intent

Search intent reflects the intent of the user when searching for a keyword. There are four types of search intent, namely informational, navigational, commercial, and transactional.

  • Informational: the user wants to know something regarding a certain topic.
  • Navigational: users want to find out about a brand.
  • Commercial: users conduct research on their own before making a buying decision.
  • Transactional: the user intends to purchase products.


Content that does not match the audience's search intent will be difficult to win the competition. Therefore, it is important to know the search intent of the keywords you target, so that your content can give the answer the audiences are looking for.

Domain Authority

Domain authority is a metric that shows the level of trustworthiness of a website. If most of your competitors have high domain authority, then your target keyword will have a high level of difficulty to rank high on the SERP.

It's quite difficult to get your content ranked on the first page of the SERP if your website is still new. The solution is to find keywords that are not targeted by websites with high domain authority.

Content Quality

You will not be able to compete for the first rank if the content on your website is not of high quality. Hence, it is important to make content that is relevant and trustworthy.

Relevant and trusted content can help you win the competition on the SERPs. If the quality of your content is not better than your competitors, then the competition for the targeted keywords will be difficult to deal with.

Number of Backlinks

Backlinks are still one of the search engines’ indicators in determining page’s ranking on the SERP. Even so, the criteria for quality backlinks are increasing along with the development of search engine algorithms.

Aside from paying attention to KD, you must also build quality backlinks from various trusted websites to increase the domain authority of your website. The higher the domain authority, the easier it is for you to win the competition.

Measuring Keyword Difficulty Score

The way to measure the level of KD is to look at its score on keyword research tools that are available for free or paid.

Keep in mind that the assessment of the score on each tool will be different. Therefore, you must select the tools you want to use that fits your needs. Generally, the smaller the KD score is, the easier the level of competition for that keyword.

By knowing the keyword difficulty score, you can develop a more realistic SEO strategy. In return, the resources you use to rank in the SERP can be managed more efficiently.

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