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How to Measure Keyword Difficulty and Rank on Google


Oh Snap! I almost tripled my organic traffic in a few
months without building links. And in this video, I’m going to show you
exactly how to measure keyword difficulty so that you can pick the right keywords and
get more free search traffic to your website. Stay tuned. [music] Hey guys, Sam Oh here with Ahrefs, the SEO
tool that helps you grow your search traffic, research your competitors and dominate your niche. This is the final video in our keyword research series. And in the first two videos we covered key
fundamentals that will help you do effective keyword research and I showed you a few cool
ways to generate thousands of great keyword ideas. This tutorial is all about measuring keyword
difficulty and then targeting the ones you actually have a high chance of ranking for
in Google’s top 10 search results. So, let’s jump right in. So for our first example, I’ll go to Keywords
Explorer and type in “supplements.” Now, I touched on the keyword difficulty metric
here in part one of this series, but I didn’t go too in-depth. And that’s because this section here is
meant to just give you a top level view of how hard it will be to rank on
Google for this target keyword. And you can see that it has a keyword difficulty
score of 77 and it says that I need 291 websites to rank in the top 10 for this keyword. But is that really so? mmmm… Not necessarily. This part here, where it says you’ll need
291 links from different websites to rank in the top 10 isn’t a super crazy algorithm. We just take a weighted average
of the top 10 Google rankings. Also, something that keyword difficulty doesn’t
take into consideration are on-page factors, relevance of the topic, and if the backlinks
are dofollow or contextual. So the best way to gauge the difficulty of
a keyword is to look at the top 10 Google rankings, manually examine the quality of
their backlinks and see what they’re doing. And you can see all of this information by
scrolling down to the SERP overview. Now, if you look at the top 10 search results,
you might be a bit confused. Vitamin Shoppe ranks quite high with only
4 referring domains, ODS or the Office of Dietary Supplements ranks below that even
though they have thousands of referring domains. And looking even further below that, this
page has just less than 20 referring domains, yet keyword difficulty said that we need almost
300 unique linking websites. So what gives? One word: relevance! When you look at the top ranking pages, you’ll
see that the majority of them are eCommerce pages, which shows that there’s a good chance
that someone searching for the keyword phrase “supplements,” is looking to shop. Now, looking at this result from ODS, you’ll
see that it’s a home page where people have to navigate to find what they’re looking for. And in this case, I would suspect that this
isn’t really what people are looking for. And even though the page may not perfectly
match the searcher’s intent, they still rank quite high because they just have way too many
backlinks compared to the other ranking sites. For the other site down here that has very
few unique sites linking to them, you’ll see that they match what I believe is the
searcher’s intent for this keyword, which you can see is an eCommerce category page. If you’re new to analyzing keyword difficulty,
then that might have been a bit heavy. So let me review this quick
keyword difficulty process fast. First, search for a keyword phrase in Keywords Explorer. Second, I’ll scroll down to look at the
top 10 search results and look at the raw number of referring domains. And if you notice something like this one
that has vastly more referring domains, but ranks lower than ones like these that have
less unique linking websites, then look at the titles and visit the pages to get a better
understanding of how Google tries to serve the searcher’s intent. And we already know that these are ecommerce
categories, which shows that there is likely some kind of intent to shop when
people search for “supplements.” And this goes to prove that just using the
referring domains alone to gauge keyword difficulty isn’t always the most reliable either. Let’s look at another example. If I look at the top 10 search results for
the search query, “how to write a cover letter,” you’ll see these results. And aside from SERP features, the top ranking
page has 55 referring domains, and the one down here from Wikihow, has 209 referring domains. And if we look at the titles, both seem to
be perfectly relevant to what a searcher would be looking for. Now, this is where you would need to take
an extra step and research the websites that are linking to these pages. So, if we look at Up to Work’s homepage,
it looks like they offer a resume building tool, which suggests that the rest of the
content, and this article on cover letters is going to be closely related to employment. Now, I won’t even bother going to Wikihow’s
homepage since I’m sure you know they write about basically anything on how to topics. Let’s look at their link profiles. I’ll click on the respective numbers and
open the referring domains reports in new tabs. First, I’m going to set this to the “Dofollow”
filter to find only the value passing links. Finally, I’ll sort the domain rating in ascending order. This is going to help us to spot
potentially spammy links. And you can see that there’s one here that
looks like an IP address and then there’s another blogspot one here. But scrolling through the rest of the results,
you can see that they come from some pretty relevant websites. And if I expand the backlink report here on
something like The Oddyssey Online, you can see that it’s a perfectly good editorial link. In fact, the page linking to it is an article
about writing a cover letter that gets you hired. And the same goes for this one from wework.com. The article is on how to make a standout resume
and looking at the anchor and surrounding text, the context of the link says that you
need to know how to write a good cover letter. Now let’s look at WikiHow’s links. I’ve already applied the same Dofollow filter
and sorted these in ascending order. And as you can see, the first 70 or 80 referring
domains come from spammy blogspot sites. But, if we go to page 2, you can see that
they do have some perfectly good links in here, which is probably why they rank in the
top 10, but in my opinion, it looks like the first ranking page has more solid links from
other relevant domains in their space. The last thing I want to touch on is a bit
more of an advanced technique, and that’s SERP volatility. Even if you’re a complete beginner to keyword
research, I’m going to give you such vivid examples that should give you a ton of value. So, if we go back to our first example on
the keyword, “supplements,” and scroll down the page, you’ll see this
graph called SERP position history. This graph shows you the position history
for the pages that currently rank in the top 5 for a given keyword. Now, when you look at this graph, you can
see how volatile the rankings have been particularly for the orange line and the green line. Now, if we click on the corresponding checkboxes
here to remove them from the graph, then you’ll see that the other top ranking pages have
been more stable as of the past few months. What’s even more interesting here is that
the ones that are jumping from completely invisible to a top 10 ranking are all
non-ecommerce category pages. This is basically telling us how “satisfied”
Google is with the current rankings. If they’re consistently promoting and demoting
new pages in and out of the top 10 results, there’s likely some kind of indication that
the current ranking results aren’t properly serving search intent. Now, compare this graph to our other example
on “how to write a cover letter,” and you’ll see that the position history is
a lot more stable here aside from the red one, which just looks like they’ve been
actively building links and progressively ranking higher in Google. One final example I want to show you is for
the query “cars” vs. “best cars.” If you look at the query for “cars”, the
SERP positions have been super volatile. But look at the different ranking pages. There’s a few that are clearly about automobiles,
but then there’s also top ranking pages from IMDB, Wikipedia and Disney which are
talking about the movie Cars. So clearly, the searcher’s intent on this
query can go either way. But take a look at the history for
the search query, “best cars.” When someone types this in, they’re clearly
looking for reviews or comparisons on different vehicles. And as expected, the SERP results seem to
be quite stable, so this tells me that Google seems to be satisfied with
the results they’re showing here. So analyzing the position history of the top
5 rankings is a good extra measure to take before selecting your keywords because it
tells you a lot about how Google views the searcher’s intent and you should know right
away, whether you can serve that intent or not. So as you can see, keyword difficulty can’t
be summed up into a number. You need to analyze the top 10 ranking pages
to get a full view of the quantity and quality of unique backlinks. You need to understand the searcher’s intent
behind a keyword so when you create your piece, you can match the searcher’s intent. From there, you can pick and choose the keywords
that will drive a ton of valuable traffic to your website. That’s it for this keyword research series. There’s a YouTube card right up
here with a link to the playlist. Make sure to subscribe to Ahrefs YouTube channel
for more actionable SEO tutorials and marketing strategies over here and feel free to ask
questions and I’d be happy to jump in and help. So keep grinding away, and I’ll see you in the next video.

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