Find out how hard it will be to rank on Google for any keyword in 2021

The SEMrush Keyword Difficulty Score can help you determine how hard it would be to rank on google for a particular keyword.
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Lori Ballen is a member of the Amazon Associates Program and earns money from qualifying purchases. Posts contain affiliate links that benefit Lori as well.

Don’t know how hard it will be to rank on Google for any keyword in 2021? Don’t worry, the SEMrush Keyword Difficulty Score tool is here to help! Most SEO Tools will give keywords some sort of score or rating to determine how hard they will be to rank for. In this blog, we will use the SEMrush difficulty tool as an example.

The SEMrush Keyword Difficulty Score tool helps you find out whether your chosen keywords are easy or difficult to rank for based on historic data. Rather than guess what each keyword’s future difficulty will be, the SEMrush Keyword Difficulty Score tool provides you with an accurate prediction based on data. You can use this information to make more informed decisions about which keywords are right for your website.

The SEMrush Keyword Difficulty Score takes into account three key metrics (Volume (Estimated searches per month), Opportunity (Competition ), and Difficulty (Rank difficulty)) to show you how difficult it will be to rank on Google.

Video Tutorial


The Difficulty Score 1-100

The difficulty score SEMrush uses is 0 – 100. 1 being the easiest, and 100 being the hardest to rank for.

The score uses a scale of 1 to 100. SEMrush explains the range as one being very easy to rank and 100 being virtually impossible to rank.
The SEMrush Keyword Difficulty score is labeled as KD% and is on a scale of 1 to 100

It breaks down as follows:

Very Easy (0-14): These are the greatest opportunities to get your new web pages into Google quickly without the need for backlinks.

Easy (15 – 29): Although these phrases have some competition, they’re still doable to rank in when you’re just getting started. To be able to rank for these, you’ll need quality content focused on the user’s intent. 

Possible (30 – 49): Competition for this term is somewhat greater. You’ll need well-written and distinctive content that is appropriately optimized for your keywords.

Difficult (50 – 69): To compete here, you’ll need some backlinks as well as well-structured, useful, and optimized content.

Hard (85 – 100): There’s more competition. These keywords will need a greater amount of effort to rank your well-optimized, helpful content among the top pages, especially if you’re looking to game Google’s algorithm in new ways.

So what does 50 mean then if SEMrush uses a scale going from 1 to 100?

Well, that’s a bit tricky.

You see, the keyword difficulty score is calculated using a variety of factors such as the number of referring domains pointing to a URL along with the ratio of dofollow/nofollow links.

If you have more referring domains and nofollow links it would be easier to rank for this particular keyword, however, if you have very few dofollow linking websites but lots of authoritative ones it’s going to be extremely difficult.

To give an example: imagine two people were trying to market their ebook about “how to start your own business”. Person A has only written one article they wrote themselves and has not published any kind of ebook, but they have 20 dofollow links that come directly from 20 different websites talking about business. They use the keyword “business” in their title and description tag.

Person B has also written an article all about how to start your own business, however, this person spends hours writing guides and ebooks on the topic so they know it inside out. They too have linked to their page using the keyword “business” both in the anchor text and within the H1 heading tag, however, all of these links are nofollow.

Which one would SEMrush rank higher?

Well, if you’re familiar with SEO (search engine optimization) then I’m sure you already know that Person A is going to outrank Person B.

So how can you use this knowledge?

Well, if you are trying to optimize your website for a particular keyword but know that it’s extremely difficult to rank for, instead of using the keyword itself in your title and description tag, try using variations on the keyword such as synonyms or related words.

If you have no competition then there is no reason why SEMrush should be telling you that it will be too hard to rank for that particular term. It could just mean that it doesn’t have much coverage online yet so getting traffic would be relatively simple. Another point worth considering is whether the keywords qualify as long-tail or seed keywords that are broader.

If they are seed keywords (the most popular keywords in the English language such as “business”) then it’s going to be tough.

A “Seed Keyword” is a more generic term for a keyword. For example, “business” is a seed keyword because there are multiple niches within the business such as home business, blogging about business, etc.

A long-tail keyword is something that’s longer and more specific which might include words like “Blogging tips on how to start your own business”. Long-tail keywords are generally easier to rank for because they’re more focused on one particular topic whereas if you were trying to rank for the broad term of “Business” you would have many competitors in your industry.

That’s why it’s good practice to use variations of the keyword so SEMrush picks up slightly different suggestions rather than just telling you that it will be difficult to rank for.

So, when you receive a difficulty score for one of your seed keywords and wonder then there are many more SERPs for that keyword. This just means that if you optimize your page correctly, the amount of traffic it gets will be greater than long-tail keywords.

You might see the Keyword difficulty option as well in the left column menu depending on your version. 

SEMrush’s Keyword Difficulty Score tool is a great way to find out which keywords you should be targeting for your website. Rather than guessing what each keyword’s future difficulty will be, the SEMrush Keyword Difficulty Score tool provides accurate predictions based on historic data from billions of searches. This information can help make more informed decisions about which keywords are right for your site and how much time it may take to rank them in Google search results pages. If you’re not sure if this free trial period would benefit your business, let us know! We’ll provide feedback with our own professional insights to guide you towards a decision that’s best for you and your company. You can always cancel at any time before the trial expires without penalty or obligation.

Ranking for Keywords

Many factors are in play when Google determines which page to return in the SERP for a particular query.

Many factors are in play when Google determines which page to return in the SERP for a particular query.

In short, it is a mix of on-page and off-page factors that give you an edge. On-Page factors that influence the ranking include the quality of the content, and how well the content matches the users intent.

Some standard on-page SEO practices include:

  • Keywords in the title, URL, meta description, and headings using H1, H2, and so on Ens
  • Optimizing images with alt tags
  • Optimizing the content for readability and flow within paragraphs.
  • Internal links from other valuable pages on your website
  • The use of rich media such as images, video, audio, graphs, etc.

Off-page SEO includes

  • High Page Authority
  • Keywords in the anchor text of the link from trusted sites
  • The quality and relevance of referring domains
  • High click-through rate from impressions on Google

Therefore, a few of the main. Considerations for ranking are:

  • EAT (Expertise of the Author, Authority of the Domain, Trust of the Website)
  • Topic: Is this website an authority on the subject? Is the author an expert on this topic?
  • Response: How well does this page respond to the user’s intent?
  • Quality: Is the content well written? Does it have images, video, or any other valuable items?
  • Does the page reference other authoritative websites?
  • Do other authoritative websites reference this page?

Google will test the positions on the search engine results page (SEO) using rank brain. This artificial intelligence measures what happens after a user performs a search and clicks on a response. 

If a significant number of users click back to Google and perform a new search (referred to as pogo-sticking), then Google assumes that the page is not a relative response to the query. 

The SEMrush Keyword Difficulty Score tool is a great way to get an accurate prediction of how difficult it will be to rank for a keyword. This information can help you make more informed decisions about which keywords are right for your website. If you have no idea where to start or if you’ve been struggling with ranking, the SEMrush Keyword Difficulty Score tool might just be what you need!

Finding Low Competition Keywords by Reserve Engineering Competition

One of my favorite strategies I found using the SEMrush tool, is entering a competitor’s domain in the search bar, and then looking at the keywords they rank for. I sort them by lowest difficulty to highest, after using the filter to choose only keywords with a count of 3 or more words, plus a cost per click value of $1.00 or more, and a search volume of at least 140.

You don’t need to use the filters, but large sites have a lot of keywords, and this pulls the cream of the crop to the top as far as opportunity goes. The goal is to return the most relevant page, answer, product, video, etc. for that user assuming the user’s intent. 

For Example, if I want to build a website about pets, and I’m building the topic cluster for rabbits, I might research the keyword “Best Rabbit Food”. I head over to SEMrush and type Best Rabbit Food into the search bar. Under the list of keywords with data, are a list of websites that rank high for that term.

I look at their total search traffic and choose the top traffic earners that are directly related to my website. In this example, let’s use https://rabbit.org. It’s the one at the bottom of the image below.


When I click that link, SEMrush opens a dashboard that tells me more about that website, and the pages and keywords it ranks for. By viewing this page, SEMRush shows that this website has 453 keywords that it ranks for. By clicking on ‘View all 453 organic keywords’, I can go to the next page and start filtering the keywords including keyword difficulty.

When I click that link, SEMrush opens a dashboard that tells me more about that website, and the pages and keywords it ranks for.  By viewing this page, SEMRush shows that this website has 453 keywords that it ranks for.

Next, I can sort by clicking KD, which will pull the easiest difficulty words to the top. You’ll notice the green color icon to identify the easy category. I start with the lowest difficulty and make a spreadsheet to list them in order of lowest difficulty to highest difficulty. Using SEMrush’s keyword manager, you can also simply add them to a list that lives within SEMrush by clicking the + icon.

I realize that based on my competitor’s data, the following topics might be worth writing about, beginning with the low difficulty scores.

I realize that based on my competitor's data, the following topics might be worth writing about, beginning with the low difficulty scores.

In addition, I can see the estimated search volume (although all keyword tools are “guessing” at some level, and nothing is absolute).

The SEMrush Keyword Difficulty Score tool can help you find out if the keywords that are right for your site. It takes historic data about how difficult it is to rank in search engines and provides an accurate prediction of future difficulty based on this data. This information will help you make more informed decisions about which keywords are best for your website, making sure they have a higher likelihood of ranking well in organic searches.

Take advantage of a free trial offer today!

About Lori Ballen

I teach bloggers how to grow their blog, and make money through multiple streams of income. From affiliate marketing, to building courses, I share 7 income stream strategies through blogging.

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