How to Manually Check Keyword Difficulty

Keywords play a crucial role in search engine optimization (SEO) strategies, as they help determine the visibility and ranking of a website in search engine results. However, not all keywords are created equal, and some may be more challenging to rank for than others. This is where keyword difficulty comes into play. In this article, we will explore the concept of keyword difficulty and provide a step-by-step guide on how to manually check it.


In the ever-growing digital landscape, businesses and website owners strive to attract organic traffic to their websites. Understanding the competition and difficulty associated with target keywords is essential for developing effective SEO strategies. Keyword difficulty refers to the level of competition and effort required to rank for a specific keyword.

What is Keyword Difficulty?

Keyword difficulty is a metric that indicates how challenging it is to achieve high rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs) for a particular keyword. It takes into account various factors such as search volume, competition, and the overall strength of websites already ranking for that keyword.

Why is Keyword Difficulty important?

Keyword difficulty provides valuable insights for SEO practitioners and website owners. By assessing keyword difficulty, they can identify opportunities and make informed decisions regarding their content strategy. High keyword difficulty suggests intense competition, which may require more resources and time to rank for a specific keyword. On the other hand, low difficulty keywords offer better chances of achieving higher rankings with less effort.

Factors that determine Keyword Difficulty

Several factors contribute to the determination of keyword difficulty. Understanding these factors can help SEO professionals assess the competitiveness of target keywords more accurately. Let’s explore some of the key factors:

Search Volume

The search volume of a keyword represents the number of searches performed by users on search engines. Keywords with higher search volumes typically indicate higher competition and, consequently, higher difficulty.

Competitor Analysis

Analyzing competitors is crucial to gauge the level of competition for a specific keyword. Factors to consider include the number and quality of competing websites, their backlink profiles, and their overall domain authority.

Content Quality and Relevance

Creating high-quality, relevant content is essential for ranking well in search engine results. Keywords that align with the website’s content and match user intent are more likely to have moderate difficulty.


Backlinks, or inbound links, are links from other websites that point to a specific webpage. The quantity and quality of backlinks play a significant role in determining keyword difficulty. Keywords with high difficulty often correlate with strong backlink profiles of competing websites.

Manual Methods to Check Keyword Difficulty

While several online tools can assess keyword difficulty, manual methods provide a deeper understanding of the competition and context. Here are some effective manual methods to check keyword difficulty:

Using Search Engines

One way to gauge keyword difficulty is to manually search for the target keyword on search engines. Analyze the top-ranking websites, their content quality, and the strength of their backlink profiles. This method gives a general sense of the competition surrounding the keyword.

Analyzing Competitor Websites

Examining competitor websites provides valuable insights into their SEO strategies. Identify competing websites ranking for target keywords and evaluate their content, backlink profiles, and overall domain authority. This analysis helps estimate the level of effort required to compete for those keywords.

Using SEO Tools

Various SEO tools offer keyword difficulty analysis as part of their feature set. These tools provide comprehensive data on search volume, competition, and other metrics to assess keyword difficulty accurately. Examples of popular SEO tools include Moz, Ahrefs, SEMrush, and KWFinder.

Considering SERP Features

Search engine results pages often include special features such as featured snippets, knowledge panels, and image carousels. These features can impact keyword difficulty by occupying valuable real estate on SERPs. Consider the presence of these features when evaluating keyword difficulty manually.

Step-by-Step Guide to Manually Check Keyword Difficulty

Now that we understand the importance of keyword difficulty and the manual methods available, let’s dive into a step-by-step guide to manually check keyword difficulty:

Step 1: Generate a list of relevant keywords

Start by brainstorming and researching keywords that are relevant to your website or content. Consider the topics, products, or services you offer and create a comprehensive list of potential keywords to target.

Step 2: Analyze search volume and competition

Using keyword research tools or search engine data, determine the search volume and competition level for each keyword. High search volume and high competition indicate higher difficulty.

Step 3: Conduct competitor analysis

Identify the top-ranking websites for your target keywords and analyze their content, backlink profiles, and domain authority. Look for weaknesses or gaps that you can exploit in your own SEO strategy.

Step 4: Evaluate content quality and relevance

Ensure that your website’s content aligns with the intent of the target keywords. Develop high-quality, informative, and engaging content that resonates with your target audience.

Step 5: Assess backlink profiles

Analyze the backlink profiles of competing websites. Identify their sources of backlinks, the quality of those backlinks, and the overall strength of their link profiles. Aim to build a diverse and authoritative backlink profile for your website.

Step 6: Consider SERP features

Take note of any special SERP features that appear for your target keywords. Determine whether these features pose additional challenges or opportunities for ranking.


Checking keyword difficulty is a crucial step in developing a successful SEO strategy. By understanding the competition and effort required to rank for specific keywords, website owners and SEO professionals can make informed decisions to improve their organic search visibility. Utilize manual methods, such as analyzing competitors and using SEO tools, to gain deeper insights into keyword difficulty and stay ahead in the digital landscape.


Can I rely solely on manual methods to check keyword difficulty?

While manual methods provide valuable insights, using a combination of manual analysis and SEO tools can give a more comprehensive understanding of keyword difficulty.

Are there any free tools available for checking keyword difficulty?

Yes, there are free tools available, such as Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends, that provide basic keyword difficulty metrics. However, dedicated SEO tools often offer more in-depth analysis and accuracy.

How often should I check keyword difficulty for my website?

Regularly monitoring keyword difficulty is essential, especially if your industry or target keywords are highly competitive. Aim to check keyword difficulty periodically, such as every few months, to stay updated.

Is keyword difficulty the only factor to consider in SEO?

Keyword difficulty is an important factor, but it should be considered alongside other SEO factors like search volume, relevance, user intent, and the overall content and technical aspects of your website.

What are some common misconceptions about keyword difficulty?

A common misconception is that high difficulty keywords are always the best choice. While ranking for highly competitive keywords can bring significant traffic, it’s essential to consider a mix of high and low difficulty keywords based on your website’s authority and resources.

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