Most people think that finding new keyword ideas is the most difficult part of keyword research.

But to be honest: That’s not true.

Instead, the most difficult part is to figure out how difficult it will be to rank for those keywords.

And in other words: It is also commonly known as “keyword difficulty” in the SEO space.

In this post, we’re going to discuss what actually keyword difficulty is and how you can easily calculate the SEO ranking difficulty of any keyword like a boss.

So ready to dive in?

Let’s go.

What is Keyword Difficulty?

The keyword difficulty or SEO difficulty is basically a metric that helps to evaluate how difficult it will be to rank on Google search results for the particular keyword term.

Keyword Difficulty

Generally the higher the keyword difficulty, the harder it will be to rank for that keyword.

While on the other hand, the lower the keyword difficulty, the easier it will be for you to rank for that keyword.

The difficulty of any keyword is calculated based on many different factors such as the number of backlinks, the authority of the ranking websites, the content quality, and a lot of various different factors.

But if you look at the keyword difficulty metric provided by most SEO tools, it’s just based on the website authority and the number of backlinks pointing towards the page.

Which makes it hard to determine the actual competition of any keyword.

That’s why along with the difficulty metric provided by tools, manual research is also very important if you want to measure the actual difficulty of keywords.

With that, no one really knows how Google evaluates and ranks a web page.

So overall, keyword difficulty is nothing but just speculation.

However, still, it’s an extremely important metric that you have to look for before choosing any keyword because it will help you to prioritize your content and will make sure that you’re putting your efforts and time into the right keywords.

Why Keyword Difficulty is Important?

One of the most crucial parts of keyword research is to select the right keywords for your website.

Coming up with hundreds and thousands of new keyword ideas is pretty easy these days. You can use keyword research tools like Zutrix to quickly find out truckloads of keyword ideas within a minute.

Zutrix keyword  ideas

But the most difficult part is to select the right keyword.

Most people get confused about which keyword to choose and they end up choosing the wrong one.

The fact is, over 90% of web pages do not get any organic search traffic from Google.

And the biggest reason for that is most people are running after keywords that are super competitive and already dominated by big players.

If you do this mistake, then all you’ll get from Google search is “crickets” (Especially if you have a brand new website without any authority at all)…

That’s why to attract more organic traffic from Google search, you have to target keywords that are low-competitive.

And that’s where keyword difficulty plays a major role.

It helps you to determine which keyword would be easier to rank for and would be worth going after.

How is Keyword Difficulty Actually Calculated?

So now that you know what keyword difficulty is and why it’s important, let’s quickly have a look at how keyword difficulty is actually calculated.

The formula in which keyword difficulty is actually calculated varies a lot depending upon the tool.

All of the SEO tools run on different sets of algorithms and different ways of approach in terms of measuring the difficulty of any keyword.

So that’s why instead of talking about how other tools calculated keyword difficulty, we’re going to tell you how we at Zutrix calculate the competition of any keyword.

In terms of measuring keyword difficulty, we mainly look at the five most important aspects of SEO:

  • Number of backlinks

  • Website authority

  • Page Authority

  • Search intent

  • Quality of the backlinks

And then we blend it together and come up with the keyword difficulty score ranging between 0 to 100.

Still, it’s quite risky to just depend upon any tool (including ours) for finding the exact difficulty of any keyword.

Since it’s totally unrealistic and impossible for any tool to provide you with the exact keyword difficult data.

Here’s we recommend everyone to not blindly follow this metric without doing manual analysis of the search result.

How to Determine Keyword Difficulty of Any Keywords (5 Easy Steps)

While you can use the keyword difficulty metric of SEO tools to filter out keywords based on difficulty.

Still, it’s quite dangerous to only depend upon those tools.

Because most tools calculate the difficulty of any keywords based on few SEO factors like the number of backlinks, backlink quality, page authority, and so on.

But in reality, Google takes hundreds of factors into account before ranking any website.

That’s why manual SERP analysis is a must if you want to know how difficult it will be for your website to rank for that particular keyword term.

But the main question is: what are the things you have to look for while doing manual SERP analysis?

To make it easy for you, I’m going to show you how you can easily measure keyword difficulty in 5 simple steps doing manual SERP analysis.

#1 Check The Authority of The Already Ranking Websites

While website authority is not a direct Google ranking factor, it still has a huge influence on search results.

In fact, in a study conducted by backlinko, they analyzed 11.8 million Google search results and found out that high-authority websites tend to rank higher than low-authority websites.

In short: domain authority surely has a huge impact on Google search results.

That’s why whenever you’re analyzing the difficulty of any keyword, you have to look for the domain authority of each ranking website.

You can use the Moz bar chrome extension to know the domain and page authority of websites right on the search result.

MozBar extension

If the first page of Google is filled with some authoritative websites for your search term, then it might not be a good idea to target that keyword (especially if you have a low authority or new website).

For example, if you search for the term “SEO” on Google, you’ll see almost all of the websites that are ranking on the first page are giant authority websites including Moz, searchenginejournal, Wikipedia, and more.

Google search result

So in case, if you create a page around the keyword “SEO”, do think it would rank?

No chance (unless you create some magical content or if your website already has a lot of authority)…

For this reason, you should always have a look at the authority of the websites that are already ranking for the term you want to rank for.

And this is by far one of the major factors that determine the difficulty of any keyword.

#2 Check How Many Backlinks The Page Has

One of the core and probably the most important Google ranking factor is backlinks.

And there’s no doubt about it.

Backlinks have been a crucial part of the massive success of Google search.

And Google has been using backlinks as a part of their main ranking signal for years now.

In fact, lots of SEO studies and experiments have also found out that the more backlinks a page has, the higher it ranks.

So it’s quite clear that if you want to rank on Google, you would need backlinks.

But the real question is: how many backlinks you would need to rank your website on the first page of Google?

Well, no one can exactly tell you how many backlinks you would need to rank a webpage for a particular keyword.

However, by analyzing the backlinks profile of top-ranking pages, you make a rough assumption on how many backlinks you would need.

For example: if the top-ranking pages have an estimated 20 backlinks pointing towards the page, it’s going to be very tough for you to rank on the first page with only 3 backlinks.


That’s being said, Google doesn’t only focus on the number of backlinks. Instead, it also focuses on the quality of the link.

But measuring a backlink quality is quite a difficult and kind of unrealistic task.

That’s why, whenever you’re analyzing the SERP, you can take the number of backlinks as a general rule of thumb.

#3 Search Intent

Search intent is basically the main goal a user has when they search for any query in a search engine.

For example, if someone is searching for “best running shoes for beginners”, that means the user wants to see a list of shoes that would be a good fit for new runners.

Best running shoes for beginners

On the flip side, if someone is searching for “Nike running shoes”, the user might only want to see running shoes from the brand “Nike”.

Nike running shoes example

That’s just an example.

But the same thing applies to almost all Google searches.

At the end of the day, the main goal of Google is to satisfy the search intent of the user.

And if you want to rank on Google, you have to optimize your web pages for the correct search intent.

If you fail to optimize your pages for the right search intent, then no matter what you do, your page never going to rank on Google.

But how search intent can actually help you to analyze the SEO difficulty of any keyword?

While analyzing the top-ranking pages, see if the pages are fulfilling the search intent.

And if not, try to figure out ways in which you can make something better than what’s already out there and fulfill the search intent.

In short: if you think the top-ranking pages are not quite satisfying the search intent, that’s a plus point for you.

And if you make content that satisfies what the user wants, you can easily outrank other pages.

#4 Check is There Any Low-Quality or User-Generated Web Page Ranking

If any low-quality pages, user-generated web pages, or forums are ranking on the first page of Google for your targeted keyword, that’s a good sign for you.

This shows a clear signal that there’s a lack of good quality content for the keyword you’re searching.

And by creating value-packed content, you can easily outrank those thin contents in a very short period of time without even building so many backlinks.

In short:

If you ever found a keyword where thin or user-generated contents are rankings, most probably the keyword is super low-competitive.

#5 Analyze The Content Quality

If you think that you can rank your website on Google without creating top-notch quality content, you’re living in a fairy-tail world.

In reality, it’s almost impossible these days to rank a website without high-quality content.

The main goal of search engines like Google is to provide quality and accurate information to their users.

And if you don’t live up to that mark, it’s going to be very difficult for you to rank.

That’s why whenever you’re evaluating any keyword difficulty, analyzing the content quality of top-ranking pages is very crucial.


Because by analyzing the top-ranking content, you can understand how much effort you have to put into your content.

For example: if you search for the term “How to do keyword research”, you’ll see most of the contents are super long, in-depth, and explaining almost every aspect of keyword research.

How to do keyword research

So now if you want to rank for the same keyword, you also have to produce long-form and in-depth content for competing with the top-ranking websites.

Keyword Difficulty Tool: Use Zutrix to Easily Evaluate The Difficulty of Any Keyword

Seems like figuring out keyword difficulty is a lot of work?

Then we have a better solution for you.

Using Zutrix keyword planner or keyword lab, you can easily find out the difficulty or competition score of any keyword.

Just enter your targeted or main keyword into Zutrix keyword planner and hit “search”.

Then it will come up with lots of new related keyword ideas around your main keyword along with the competition score.

Zutrix keyword difficulty 2

But if you just want to know the keyword difficulty score for a particular search term, then go to Zutrix keyword lab and enter your keyword.

Then it will clearly show you the competition level of that specific keyword along with other important metrics like search volume, CTR, and more.

Zutrix keyword lab

However, keep in mind that even though we follow all the important ranking factors for calculating the keyword difficulty, you should never only depend upon these metrics.

No matter what tool you use, you can’t skip manual research if you want to know the actual difficulty of any keyword.


Keyword difficulty is an important metric that helps you to choose the right kind of keywords for your website.

But you can’t just always rely on this metric while choosing any keywords.

Because no one actually knows how Google ranks a website and there’s no full-proof formula that will tell you the actual SEO difficulty of any keyword.

Keyword difficulty also defers a lot depending upon your website authority and reputation.

So my advice to you would be – always do a SERP manual SERP analysis before your choose any keyword.

And also rather than choosing a keyword only based on its SEO competition, think about the business value of that keyword as well.