It is not surprising that website owners are always in search of right keywords. If you have a list of proper keywords, you will have a chance to rank #1 in Google. However, the biggest challenge is the process of searching for these keywords.
Thanks to different SEO tools you can decide what keywords fit your SEO campaign the best.
Sounds pretty cheering, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, you can never be sure if these tools show the metrics you could rely on.
You might ask yourself “so how do I know what keywords I could rank for and what metrics I should keep an eye on?”
There is an expert opinion that “Keyword Difficulty” is one of the most important keyword metrics. And it is well grounded.
But why is this metric so important?
Let’s find out.
How Does Google Rank Pages?
Did you know that Google uses over 200 ranking factors? This is pretty impressive, isn’t it? Nevertheless, only three of them are the most important ones. These factors are Content, Links and RankBrain.
If you want to determine keyword difficulty with a hundred percent accuracy, you will have to use the same algorithms as Google does.
Hence, it is impossible to entirely copy them.
There is no tool that has access to Google’s ranking algorithms. It means that every tool you use for determining keyword difficulty offers you the results based on its own data.
Likely, these results give you some details you need to know about each keyword. It is better than nothing.
Now let’s get into details about keyword difficulty.
Keyword Difficulty And How To Determine It (Main Factors)
I believe you know that the only way to determine keyword difficulty for a particular keyword is analysis of pages this keyword ranks for. Typically, you won’t analyze all the pages following Google’s ranking factors (200+ of them). You know that it is impossible. Therefore, it would be wise to stick to the main ones like Links, Domain Authority and Content.
Let’s discuss each of them one by one.
The best way to explain this factor is pulling an example. Let’s take a look at the number of backlinks to a keyword “keyword research” (the one we target at Ahrefs.) Just put this keyword in Ahrefs Content Explorer tool and check “SERP overview” report:
I’ve marked a column “Domains” because this column shows how many websites link namely to this page. As you already guessed the more sites link to this page, the higher it will rank in search.
Please note that, the correlation between some referring domains a given page has, and its position in Google seems to be a very essential factor.
What else do we spot there?
The number of referring domains performs better in contrast to the number of backlinks a given page has. What does it mean? It means that a single link from 20 different websites is more valuable than 20 links from the one website.
Furthermore, you should remember that a few high-quality links can be far better than lots of low-quality links. In other words, quality is better than quantity.
You might be curious about why URL rating metric is more important than the other metrics. Let me clarify this for you.
URL rating estimates the quality of backlinks and shows the ability of the pages to rank well in Google.
- Domain Authority
“Domain Authority” or “Domain Rating” seems to have an enormous impact on a page rank. On the other hand, lots of experts assert that “Domain Authority” metric doesn’t exist at all.
Looks like a dilemma!
Have a look this:
You can see that Domain-level factors have a lower correlation with rankings, while Page-level ones don’t. But does it mean that you should trust Domain Rating on ranking only?
There is no well-defined answer to this question.
It is obvious that you should try to outrank those websites that have high Domain Rating. And it is possible with the help of getting more links to your pages.
The majority of SEOs prefer to limit themselves with an analysis of Domain and URL ratings + the number of linking domains. These metrics are the only ones that stir interest. Despite this fact, I recommend you never neglect getting into an in-depth analysis of backlinks your pages have. It will help you understand their essence.
If you think that backlinks are a crucial point of ranking, you are wrong. Backlinks cost nothing if they have no relevance to a search query.
This keyword “yellow lab” will prove my above statement.
Fascinating things happen, am I right? The position #1 belongs to a page with only a few Referring Domains. Pages with 100 or even 1000+ Referring Domains are outranked. Impressive, isn’t it?
Let’s find out why this happens.
You can see that “mighty” Wikipedia stands on position 6 with its 1, 246 Referring Domains. However, if you study this page more attentively, you will see that “yellow labrador” is just a subsection of the entire post.
The top position belongs to the post that covers this very breed of labradors. Relevance stands over a strong backlink profile.
Does it mean that if your content is relevant, you can pay less attention to backlinks?
Don’t hurry up to generalize. Let me explain something. There are two things you may face: “lack of relevant content” and “slightly imperfect content.” Let’s run over each situation.
Usually, top-results target a broader search query, while a specific one falls through the cracks. It happens due to lack of relevant content. Likely, you can use this situation to your benefit. Your relevant content can perform perfectly even without tons of backlinks.
SERP offers you “slightly imperfect content” in most cases. You know that top-results are completely relevant to a given search query, but these results won’t give you the same advantages as “lack of content.” You won’t have a chance to rank without backlinks in this case.
Now a rhetorical question over to you ”how to know if search results for a particular keyword lack content and you can rank without backlinks?”
Let’s find this out.
- On-Page SEO And Topical Relevance
Needless to say, Google is pretty smart these days. It understands what your page is about and whether a target keyword has been mentioned on the page.
If we got back in 2010, we would recollect that Google hadn’t any additional algorithms as RankBrain or Humminbird to understand what your pages were about. Thus, adding an exact-match keyword right in the Title/URL/Headline of a page could push your page to the top leaving behind those pages where this aspect has been missed.
Unfortunately, you can forget about this trick today. It doesn’t work anymore. By studying 2 million keyword searches, Ahrefs discovered that around 75% of pages in Google Top 10 results don’t have any mention of an exact-keyword in content.
- Don’t Forget To Make Your Page Relevant
It is a real challenge to understand how to make your page relevant to Google. It’s hard because you need to find out how Google reads search queries and combines them with extracts from pages.
To do this you will have to delve into exploring such modeling algorithms as Latent Dirichlet Allocation, Latent Semantic Indexing, and others. It is a complicated task, so a rare nerd will want to go too far.
Google is smart enough. It reads almost every page of a website. Hence, there is no need to care of meeting all those criteria Google’s algorithms demand. You should better focus on creating content for a human, not a machine.
Google knows what people want to see in the search results. You can review these Google’s preferences by checking a SERP history report.
The report reveals you the position history for pages that currently rank in top 5 for a given keyword. Here is how this report looks like:
What benefit can you get from it?
For example, you want to see what pages rank in top 10 for a keyword you are interested in. Let’s put a keyword “Facebook marketing” in Keyword Explorer tool and go to SERP history report:
From the report you can see the changes that happened during the last months. Four pages with the keyword “Facebook marketing” have no significant ups and downs in SERP history. However, a fifth page has some critical changes over this period.
Analysing this chart, you can estimate your chances to fight your way in Google’s Top 10. I advise you to correlate SERP history factor and keywords difficulty before choosing keywords for your content.
- User Intention
User intention plays a significant role in Google’s results too. I have already covered a few points about a topical relevance of the pages. But let’s see how user intention affects it.
Google knows well enough the indicators that show what people would like to get in the search results. It draws their attention to the following factors:
- Dwell time (or how long users stay on a page)
- Whether people click on different results or whether they stick to the very first result Google offers
- Whether people stay satisfied with the first result or keep on searching further
It is pretty impressive how the main search engine understands user behavior, isn’t it?
So, a topical relevance of the pages can be even outranked by user intention.
- Keyword Difficulty
Doing a keyword research with the help of Ahrefs you will get a full range of metrics that will show you the entire picture associated with a given keyword. And the first graph that grabs attention is Keyword Difficulty metric. Here is how it looks like:
This metric is measured by a scale from 0 to 100. The higher point of the scale, the harder it is to rank for a keyword.
Now let’s run through this metric for more details.
- What does it mean?
Keyword Difficulty shows how hard to rank for a particular keyword in Google Top 10 results (not how to rank #1.)
There is a bunch of factors that are decisive for page presence in the Top 10. One of the most significant factors is a number of backlinks a page has. However, don’t forget about the ones I’ve mentioned above in this post.
Furthermore, when pages get in Top 10 of Google, it starts to estimate them using some other not less important factors:
- Attracting more links
- Best behavioral factors
- If there is a need to get some more results for a particular query
Yes, it is rather hard (or even impossible) to calculate a keyword difficulty that would predict #1 position in Top 10. Nevertheless, Ahrefs does all the best to do this estimation for the results of the first Google page.
- How to calculate it?
It depends on how many Referring Domains the pages in Google Top 10 have for a keyword. No other metrics are considered here.
- Keyword difficulty accuracy
First of all let me say that Ahrefs’ keyword difficulty metric won the competition among other similar tools that provide the same metric. This test has been run by a third party, where the decision was made independently.
Despite this fact, I recommend you not to rely heavily on a keyword difficulty score. It is a good starting point for your keyword analysis. Afterwards, focus on SERP overview of keywords and all the metrics that are given in this report alongside.
- “Easy” or “harder” to rank for
Let me introduce you to a keyword difficulty scale based on feedbacks Ahrefs got from the customers.
Actually, the range of keyword difficulty is a subjective thing. A keyword with a KD “30” might be an easy target for you to rank for but it might be a difficult task for someone else.
To Sum Up
Now you have an in-depth knowledge of this powerful metric. Go ahead and find those keywords that will help you outrank your competitors and take a dominant position in Google Top 10.
I hope you liked this post and got lots of useful information. Don’t forget to comment and share:)