It’s easy to find keywords that can bring lots of traffic to your website. What’s harder is to predict your chances of ranking for them.
To help solve this problem, SEO tools like Ahrefs give keywords a “difficulty” score from 0 to 100.
But the truth is that these scores aren’t foolproof.
So in this post, I’m going to outline the benefits and shortcomings of the Keyword Difficulty metric, as well as break down what other things professional SEOs look at when estimating their chances to rank for a given keyword.
What is keyword difficulty?
Keyword Difficulty (KD) is an SEO metric that estimates how hard it would be to rank on the first page of Google for a given keyword. It is measured on a scale from 0 to 100, with the latter being the hardest to rank for.
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Keywords Explorer overview of "best backpack," which has a KD of 42
However, when many SEO professionals use the term “keyword difficulty,” they’re referring to the broader concept of ranking difficulty—not a particular metric in a particular SEO tool.
Keyword difficulty as a metric
Almost every keyword research tool has a keyword difficulty score. These tools all use the same 0-100 scale, but each one calculates it differently.
If you check the keyword difficulty of the same keywords in different SEO tools, the numbers will vary quite substantially:
Table showing KD scores for various keywords vary for each tool
That is why it is important to understand how exactly the ranking difficulty is calculated by your SEO tool of choice. Only then can you make informed decisions based on it.
Here at Ahrefs, we use a simple method for calculating KD. We pull the top 10 ranking pages for your keyword and look up how many websites link to each of them. The more links the top-ranking pages for your keyword have, the higher its KD score. Very simple and very actionable.