The holy grail of any SEO optimization is finding keywords with a large number of monthly searches and little competition. While the volume of searches can be read relatively accurately from many SEO tools, assessing how difficult a keyword is to rank is not simple.

Why is it easier to research search volume compared to determining keyword difficulty?

The exact number of monthly searches for a query is recorded by Google, which can provide data on the search volume of any term.

There are many factors that affect keyword difficulty, including the pages that rank for it, the number of pages that are ranking, the number of backlinks the ranking pages have, and how well the ranking pages match the user’s intent.

Hetre are some methods how to evaluate keyword difficulty.

„allintitle:” operator

This search operator is designed to filter Google search results and only present those pages that contain a specific term in their title. For instance, if you enter the query “allintitle: seo agency hrvatska,” the search results will display all pages with any combination of seo, agency, or hrvatska in their title, including subpages.

What’s best is that Google will also write above the results the number of pages it found. And that’s your competition.

The assumption is that pages that want to rank for a particular keyword will put that word in the title. It’s an SEO standard that, although completely logical, is rarely followed.

Number of backlinks

Backlinks are considered to be one of the most crucial ranking factors for a website. There are different categories of backlinks, namely good, bad, and harmful. However, it is impossible to evaluate the importance of a site’s backlink profile without having knowledge of the search engine’s algorithm, which is kept secret.

What we can do is to assess the strength of a webpage’s profile by counting the backlinks leading to it. More advanced SEO tools can help us with this.

When you search for a particular keyword, you may notice information beside the search volume that pertains to “keyword difficulty”, “seo difficulty”, or something equivalent. This information indicates the number of backlinks that the page in the top position for that keyword has.

Many SEO specialists do not believe that evaluating the difficulty of a keyword solely based on the number of backlinks is effective. This is because these tools do not consider important factors such as the quality of backlinks or content. However, it is still a relevant factor when estimating a keyword difficulty. Ultimately, it depends on many factors, and the number of backlinks is just one of them.

The types of pages that rank

There are different websites, and the search engine may prefer a specific type. For instance, if you notice that online stores appear at the top of the search engine results page (SERP), and you are not an online store, ranking well in that particular search result won’t be easy.

Search engines tend to favour websites that specialize in a particular field and demonstrate expert knowledge. In contrast, forums and news portals are not considered specialized sites. However, if you notice that one or more forums or portals rank for a specific search query, it can be an opportunity to outrank them.

Tools such as Low Fruits can assess a particular domain’s strength. However, the relevance and accuracy of this number is often uncertain. Typically, this indicates the strength of the backlink profile. Although it may not be entirely precise, selecting a keyword ranked by sites with a lower domain rating is recommended.

Authority of ranking websites

This is very logical, but it doesn’t hurt to mention it. Don’t expect to surpass brands and sites that are authorities in that area, even if they appear in the first ten results.

Check basic SEO parameters

Browser add-ons, such as Meta SEO Inspector, can instantly evaluate whether a web page has undergone basic optimization. If the H tags are not properly arranged, the images lack alt text, and the structure is unclear or does not follow a hierarchy, the page is at risk of being outranked by competitors.

Do the pages correspond to the user’s intention

It is likely that someone who searches for “seo optimization price” needs a service or agency. If search results display pages that only define SEO or provide SEO strategies, there is an opportunity for another page to offer services.

Number of visitors

Pages with low traffic are not competitive; if your query includes them, that keyword has potential.

Price per click

SEO tools provide insight into the value of keywords based on their PPC cost. Higher PPC costs indicate greater difficulty in ranking for those keywords.

Competiton analysis

If you have a valuable client, it’s worth analysing their competitors thoroughly. You should identify where their rivals are getting backlinks from, assess the optimisation level on their sites, evaluate their content quality and whether it aligns with the user’s intent. If you discover a site that is not competitive, it may be a good opportunity to replace it with your client’s site.

Use tools

Compared to a thorough analysis of the competition, which is a time-consuming but accurate process, keyword research tools provide a quick outcome. These tools usually have an in-built feature to estimate the keyword difficulty using their calculation method. This is a convenient solution for those who are short on time or lack the motivation to do a detailed analysis.

From general to more specific

My advice for the process of assessing keyword difficulty would be:

  1. Enter a keyword in a tool to see volume and estimated difficulty. Choose keywords with the best ratio and lowest cost per click.
  2. Refine your keyword search further using Google Operators and select the variations with the least number of websites.
  3. Choose keywords for which low-authority pages in the top 10 rankings appear.
  4. Analyze the competition for your remaining keywords.

At the end of this process, you will have a keyword that you can expect to rank in the top ten.

Matija Čaić

mag. ing., SEO specialist