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Insights

SEMrush keyword difficulty: A useful SEO function

SEO

20/07/2023

42

What is SEMrush keyword difficulty?

SEMrush keyword difficulty is a metric designed to help users assess the level of competition associated with specific keywords. It is an essential feature for anyone looking to optimize their website’s SEO strategy and improve its organic search rankings.

The keyword difficulty (KD) score provided by SEMrush is expressed as a percentage on a scale from 0% to 100%. The higher the percentage, the tougher it is to rank with said keywords.

semrush keyword difficulty

SEMrush keyword difficulty definition

For SEO professionals, content creators, and website owners, the KD score is a valuable tool for prioritizing their efforts.

Keywords with a lower difficulty score might present more realistic opportunities to improve search engine rankings and drive organic traffic. On the other hand, targeting keywords with high difficulty scores might require a more strategic approach to surpass established competitors.

SEMrush also offers another metric called competitive density. It resembles keyword difficulty in terms of displaying how hard it is to target a keyword. However, competitive density refers to paid-per-click (PPC) or paid search, while KD is about organic search.

Where can you find the SEMrush keyword difficulty function?

As one of the premier functions, SEMrush keyword difficulty is integrated into the widely used Keyword Overview tool. To access the function, you can follow these steps:

  • Visit the SEMrush website and log in to your account. If you do not have an account, you can sign up for a free trial or choose a subscription plan.
  • Once you are logged in, you will be directed to the SEMrush dashboard. On the left-hand side of the screen, you will see a navigation menu. Look for the “Keyword Overview” section and click on it.
  • In the search bar, enter the keyword you are researching and look for the Keyword Difficulty section. It will be a percentage next to a color-coded circle graph illustrating the difficulty. The darker the color, the higher the KD.
  • Keyword Overview is able to calculate the KD of up to 100 keywords. However, for keywords with low interest, SEMrush will only calculate the KD on request. You will have to add the keyword into Keyword Manager and use the refresh metrics button.

Aside from the Keyword Difficulty score, SEMrush will also provide you with additional related data and insights. You will be able to see both local and international search volume, trend, intent, and other relevant information.

semrush keyword difficulty

You can use many functions to measure keyword difficulty

Keyword Overview is not the only function where you can find keyword difficulty. This metric is displayed in multiple keyword-related reports across SEMrush. Here are the other tools where you can learn the difficulty of your keywords:

  • Keyword Manager
  • Keyword Magic
  • Keyword Gap
  • Organic Research
  • Organic Traffic Insights
  • Advertising Research

How does SEMrush measure keyword difficulty?

The detailed formula for SEMrush keyword difficulty is kept under wraps. However, SEMrush has shared the three steps taken to calculate this metric:

Step 1: Analyze SERPs

Looking into the top results on the SERPs is first on the agenda. Since keyword difficulty is about the ability to outrank other pages, it is essential to see how good they are.

SEMrush will calculate the median value of these aspects and incorporate them into their formula:

  • Number of referring domains
  • Domain authority score of said domains
  • Follow/nofollow link ratio

They use median values to provide a more comprehensive look at the bigger picture of a SERP. Some SERPs may have incredibly strong No. 1 results, but the rest are achievable for you. This will allow you to throw your hat in the ring and compete for one of the top spots.

semrush keyword difficulty

Analyzing SERPs is the first step to determine keyword difficulty

Step 2: Analyze keywords

Next up are the keywords themselves. SEMrush will look into metrics like search volume, word count, and some other aspects.

Each of the metric has its own significance to the overall formula with the top 5 being:

  1. Median number of referring domains
  2. Median authority score of the domains
  3. Search volume of the keyword
  4. Median follow/no follow ratio
  5. Featured snippets

Step 3: Take countries into consideration

Lastly, SEMrush will consider the country or region for the final result. This helps avoid inflating or deflating the KD score for less populated locations.

What to do with SEMrush keyword difficulty

Now that you have understood how to calculate KD, you can learn how to interpret and utilize it. SEMrush keyword difficulty is a 0 to 100 score, and it is divided into six ranges:

  • 0-14: This is the easiest tier. Beginners should start with these keywords as it is possible to compete without backlinks.
  • 15-29: There is competition but still highly possible even if you are just starting out. You will need to make quality content that focuses on search intent.
  • 30-49: At this tier, you will need to optimize your quality content for search engines to remain competitive. Make sure to keep your content unique as well.
  • 50-69: Aside from content, backlinks start to hold significant value from this tier. However, the quality of referring domains are not absolutely vital just yet.
  • 70-84: This is where you should start analyzing your referring domains and on-page SEO elements to keep yourself in contention.
  • 85-100: This is where the competition is the fiercest. You will need to be on top of your game on all aspects: content, backlinks, on-page SEO, etc.

semrush keyword difficulty

How to interpret keyword difficulty from SEMrush

The six tiers will help you interpret the numbers, and here is how you can put them into good use:

  • Find low competition keywords
  • Ignore keywords that you cannot compete for just yet
  • Find keyword gaps in your competitors’ strategies to exploit
  • Set keyword priorities for both organic and paid search
  • Allocate your resources for PPC and SEO based on KD
  • Identify and take advantage of keyword opportunities like long-tail keywords for effective SEO campaigns

SEMrush keyword difficulty vs other tools

When it comes to assessing keyword difficulty, there are several tools available in addition to SEMrush. Each tool may have its own approach and methodology for calculating keyword difficulty.

Moz: Moz offers a keyword difficulty metric that ranges from 0 to 100. It calculates keyword difficulty by considering factors such as page authority, domain authority, and the number of linking root domains. While both SEMrush and Moz provide a similar function, their formulas are different, which leads to varying results.

Ahrefs: Ahrefs also provides a keyword difficulty score ranging from 0 to 100. Their calculation takes into account the number of referring domains and the strength of those domains. Ahrefs places a strong emphasis on backlink analysis to determine keyword difficulty. This approach may differ from SEMrush, which considers a broader range of factors beyond backlinks.

Google Keyword Planner: Google’s Keyword Planner, a part of Google Ads, provides keyword data, including search volume and competition. However, it does not offer a specific keyword difficulty metric. Instead, it provides an insight into the competition level by indicating whether a keyword has low, medium, or high competition. Also, Google’s competition metric is focused on paid search competition rather than organic search competition.

semrush keyword difficulty

Compare the tools to choose your favorite one for keyword research

It is important to note that each tool uses its own algorithms and factors to calculate keyword difficulty. Therefore, the keyword difficulty scores will vary between tools. You can use multiple tools and cross-reference their results to get a comprehensive understanding.

Final thoughts

SEMrush Keyword Difficulty is a valuable metric that aids in prioritizing keyword targeting based on competitiveness. By backlinks, domain authority, and search volume, SEMrush presents a highly reliable metric for users to make informed decisions.

When combined with other insights, keyword difficulty enhances keyword research strategies and increases the likelihood of achieving organic visibility. Leveraging this metric contributes to the overall success of your online presence.

Hoping to learn more about these highly capable SEO tools? Visit our website to read more of these guides. On Digitals also offers high-quality SEO services that can assist you in improving your website’s rankings. Contact On Digitals to know more about how we can help you grow your business and brand.


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