How Reliable are Keyword Difficulty Scores

Speaker 1: Keyword difficulty as a standalone metric can be misleading. I mean, how can a one to three digit number truly quantify how hard it’s going to be to rank and Google now, despite its shortcomings? It’s actually a super insightful metric if you understand how it works and how Google chooses which pages to rank.

So today I’m going to break down this mysterious metric, answer some frequently asked questions, and of course, I’ll show you how to tell the difference between a keyword trap and a keyword opportunity. Stay tuned. If you’re unfamiliar with keyword difficulty, it’s basically a numerical representation of how hard it will be to rank in Google for a search query. Now, I want you to think about this for a second. Google uses hundreds of ranking signals, some that have been confirmed, some that have been verified through third party studies. And then there are ones that CEOs have concluded based on experience, observation or gut feelings. So do expect a third party with zero association to Google to somehow decrypt two hundred some odd signals and compute a quote unquote, accurate metric. It’s unrealistic and perhaps impossible. After all, most of these so-called ranking factors are speculation, and there are others that can’t even be looked at independently. And for that reason, you’ll notice that keyword difficulty will differ depending on the keyword research tool you’re using. In fact, I pulled up these three keywords in four different keyword research tools and you’ll see how vastly different the difficulty scores are. So does that mean that keyword difficulty is useless or that one tool is better at predicting ranking difficulty than another? None at all. Now, I can’t speak on behalf of other tools because, a, I don’t know how they calculate and B, I don’t really care how they calculate because it’s is the only tool with keyword difficulty scores that I’ve used consistently for the past five and a half years. So I’ll be talking about how we calculate keyword difficulty that outline some of the shortcomings for all tools, including ours, and then we’ll piece it all together so you can find keyword opportunities for your site. So how does it calculate keyword difficulty? Simply put, we take a weighted average of the number of referring domains pointing at the top 10 pages. So this means that if a keyword has a high CD, then the ranking pages likely have lots of links pointing at them. In contrast, located scores tell us that the top ranking pages don’t have many links now, since ranking for keywords usually relies on backlands CD acts as a good proxy to ranking difficulty. But there are other factors we have to consider.

So let’s walk through these factors and unpack them with practical examples. And I promise that by understanding these fundamental concepts, it will help you to utilize keyword difficulty scores more effectively. The first thing to consider is search content. Search content means the reason behind a search is caught and generally speaking, these can be broken down into four groups. Informational, commercial investigation, navigational and transactional informational queries are ones where a searcher is looking for information about a topic. These are usually queries that contain words like how, what? And who says something like what is protein powder would be informational in nature. Commercial investigation queries are ones that show that the searcher is in the market for a specific product or service, but has yet to make a purchasing decision. So they’re often looking for comparisons to help solve their problem. And these queries often include keyword modifiers like Best versus End Review. So Best Protein Powder will be an example of this. Navigational queries are when the searcher is looking for a specific website. So a couple of examples would be keywords. Explorer or Google Analytics login finally are transactional queries which indicate that the searcher is looking to make a purchase so via protein powder would fit in this group. Now, keyword modifiers like the ones I’ve mentioned won’t always be in the query. So the way to identify search intent is to look at the search. For example, looking at the top ten pages for the query roasting coffee beans, you’ll see that the top 10 pages are clearly informational and we’ll touch on this again in a bit. The second thing to consider is website authority. At HFS, we have a metric called domain rating, which represents the overall strength of a website’s background profile. And while the majority of CIOs believe that Google uses some kind of domain level metric in their ranking algorithm, John Mueller has publicly said they don’t know. Since our keyword difficulty metric doesn’t take website authority into account, interpreting code will depend on what you believe. But for argument’s sake, let’s use some examples of queries with a low difficulty score with a ranking pages are from highly authoritative websites. So there are two things we need to talk about here. The first is brand equity. There are certain queries where big brands dominate the search and to be frank, there’s not much you can do about it unless you’re in the same playing field. For example, a transactional Corri, like Media Storage, has a CD of three. But if you scroll down to the SERP, you’ll see that they’re dominated by household names like Home Depot, Amazon, Wayfair and now Cori’s.

Like these aren’t necessarily about page level links. It likely comes down to where people actually shop and those places are usually big brands. So we’re left with this chicken or the egg scenario are. He cites a ranking because a friend or is it because of website authority as we measure using domain rating, or could it be expertize authoritativeness and trustworthiness, a.k.a. eat? What about city or local factors? Maybe it’s a combination of many or some of these things dependent on the other. And we haven’t even talked about on page and technical factors like facets, page speed and more. Again, this makes KDDI a tough metric to calculate accurately because Manuell assessment is a prerequisite. And even then, we’re still hypothesizing. Now, there are a lot of transactional queries that look similar to this, especially for head terms. So when you see a similar SERP, you need to take KD with a grain of salt and assess all factors manually, case by case. The second thing we need to discuss is that keyword difficulty and domain rating are relative metrics. Let’s take a look at an informational query where brand equity may not play as big of a role. This query has a low key, but looking at the SERP, you’ll see that all the ranking pages have high domain ratings, a.k.a. hi website authority. So is this Cady’s score truly representative of ranking difficulty? The answer is yes and no. Kiwa difficulty is going to be relative to the website you’re trying to rank. So while the ranking domains mostly have D-R values in the seventies and eighties, a personal finance site with a D.R ninety five might think a CD of five is actually an overestimation because they’d probably be able to rank for this query with ease, whereas a personal finance site with a D.R 15 would think it’s too low and that they’ve been duped by the difficulty value. Now, if you have a so-called weeker site compared to these big brands, don’t feel bad. Pages on a low authority site can still outperform high sites. And that usually comes down to the next consideration, which is the number of quality links pointing at a page. While KDDI takes into account the quantity of links, it doesn’t account for quality. To assess quality, you’d have to take into account topical relevance of the linking domain and page the link authority from the referring page the number of external links on the referring page, the number of internal links pointing at the referring page, and the authority of those pages. So we keep things simple and consistent by estimating the average number of referring domains pointing at the top 10 pages. And we also provide an estimate of the number of unique linking domains you’ll need in order to rank in the top 10. So for that reason, it’s always worth manually looking at the background profiles of top ranking pages because quantity isn’t everything. Now, these are some of the reasons why no tool can calculate KDDI accurately. And as I’ve mentioned before, ranking difficulty is relative based on the website you’re trying to rank and its competitors. In fact, other things that I haven’t even touched on include content, quality, technical factors like page speed and the use of https in user signals like dwell time, if that’s even a ranking consideration. So while keyword difficulty as a standalone metric is far from perfect, there’s actually a ton of utility you can get from it when you use it based on your understanding of the metric. The first way is to find low competition topics based on search intent. If you remember before I showed you the example of the transactional query media storage, where it came down to mostly brand on page and technical factors. And while many transactional queries don’t seem to place as much weight on links, informational and commercial investigation queries often do, which happens to be what keyword difficulty is built around. So to find a reliable set of low competition topics, go to keywords, explore and search for a broad query related to your niche. So I’ll search for makeup. Next, I’ll go to the questions report, which are all going to be informational queries.

Finally, I’ll set a CD filter with a maximum value of five, assuming that’s low in my books. And now you can see topics like how to sanitize makeup and how to use a makeup sponge. And if I click the button, you’ll see that a it is indeed an informational query. Be a couple of top ranking pages, don’t have any links. And see, there’s a low authority website ranking in the top ten. Now, the questions report limits you to queries that are phrased as questions, and as I’ve already shown, not all informational queries include words like how, what, why, where and when. There are additional keyword modifiers like tutorial list and ideas that imply a need for information. So let’s find more informational queries by going to the phrase match report. Now, to narrow in on informational keywords, I’ll click the include box and add a list of informational keyword modifiers and I’ll change the tab to any word. Next, I’ll set the CD filter again with a max value of five, and now we’ve just expanded our list of places where CDs should be quite reliable. As for commercial investigation queries, you can do the exact same thing, but instead of informational modifiers, you can use words like best top price review and more, and you’ll find that the keyword difficulty scores here are pretty good indicators of general rank and difficulty. But as always, you’d have to analyze the search to see who you’d be competing against. Here’s a list of informational and commercial investigation modifiers you can use, so feel free to take a screenshot and use them when you’re doing keyword research. Again, KDDI is a proxy to ranking difficulty, so its most effective when you’re doing keyword generation. Now, two quick notes. First, if you have a website in health or wealth, Neches, then you also need to weigh in factors like eat as many of these topics are in the your money or your life category. And second, you should always manually review the top ranking pages before creating your content. Ignoring it is just lazy and can lead to wasted time and money. One final note I want to make is not to shy away from key words with high difficulty scores. People often see a career with a high difficulty score and immediately ignore it, thinking they’ll never rank. But since you know our keyword difficulty metric is based purely around links, then you should look at this from a different angle and see these high categories as opportunities. Again, high keyed means that on average, the top ranking pages have lots of links. Translation, lots of prospects for you to find these topics. You just need to do the opposite of what you did before. Instead of setting a max CD value to something low, set a minimum CD value to something high. So right now I’m in the questions report since I’m looking for informational queries on credit cards. So I’ll set a minimum CD value to 40 and you can now see some great informational topics. And if I click on the search button, you’ll see that these pages have lots of links where you can reach out to the linking pages and try to get them to link back to you. Now, targeting these high CD keywords isn’t necessarily about ranking for a high traffic query. By getting links to your pages, you can increase your overall website authority and you can funnel drink through internal links to help boost your other pages rankings. And we have a full tutorial on using this as an exit strategy, which I’ll link up in the description. Now, Kieber difficulty isn’t meant to discourage you from ranking for a particular keyword. Its purpose is to help you estimate the resources required to rank for a query and to give scalable guidance with key generation. So if you still expect keyword research tools to provide an infallible keyword difficulty metric, then that needs to change. Instead, use what you know about your preferred tools metric and combine it with what you know about how Google ranks pages. Now, if you enjoy this lesson, make sure to like, share and subscribe for more actionable SEO and marketing tutorials. And if you want a more hands on keyword research tutorial, then I recommend watching the ones that I’ve linked up for you. I’ll see you in the next day.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *