How to Analyze and Rate Keyword Difficulty in Google

You may have thought about the keywords for which you want your site to rank well in the search engines, but do you have any idea how difficult it will be to rank for those words? Just how many sites are competing for visitors with phrases like “dog training” or “mortgage broker”? If you’re not sure, keep reading; this article will explain the factors you must consider when trying to learn how difficult it will be to rank for your chosen keywords

In any search engine optimization activities, keyword research is the most important element. This is because the content placed on any page of a website with the intention to get good rankings in Google depends on the targeted keywords.

Most website owners fail to realize the importance of analyzing the difficulty of the keywords they are targeting. As a result, their search engine optimization campaign is very difficult and costly.

When the campaign is difficult, it’s hard to climb up the rankings. This leads to a higher campaign cost because you’ll need a larger amount of resources to get feasible results. More expensive campaigns tend to give a lower return of investment for the business.

This is one of the big reasons there are a lot of websites that are not making money due to the wrong choice of keywords.

This article dissects the mystery of keyword difficulty in Google  to come up with a process of analyzing and rating of keywords to target.

Using this methodology will minimize campaign difficulty while attaining a good conversion rate for your website. As a result, you will gain a good return of investment for your online business.

This article will discuss each factor defining the difficulty of keywords in Google, and then propose a method for rating the keywords so that you can easily see which keyword or key phrase is the best to target. 

Google search volume data

No data will ever give much information as to the difficulty of the keyword except for “search volume.” How is this defined?

One of the most reliable free online tools for keyword research is the Google Keyword Tool.  This tool will provide you with search volume figures relating to the keywords you are targeting.

To start with, Google uses three types of keyword matching. They are Broad, Phrase and Exact match. Broad match search volumes include queries in which your keywords appear even though it is “broad.” So, for example, 1,220,000 searches for “mug” appear in the US version of using “broad” as a match type. This includes search queries like: “coffee mug,” “antique mug” and so forth. In other words, the “broad” match type matches all queries that contain your keyword.

Illustrating the point arithmetically, say that your targeted key phrase is XYZ (search figures are for illustration purposes only):

XYZ = 500 monthly searches in Google using broad match.


Cheap XYZ = 150 persons typed in this phrase. 

Affordable XYZ = 150 persons typed in this phrase. 

Free XYZ = 200 persons typed in this phrase.

This equals a total of 500 searches containing the phrase “XYZ.”

A “phrase match” follows the same principle as a broad match. For example, if you are targeting the key phrase “Cool XYZ,” which, for example, yields around 600 searches using “phrase match” type:

Cool XYZ = 600 monthly searches in Google using phrase match (search figures are for illustration purposes only):


Free Cool XYZ = 50 persons type in this exact phrase.

Affordable and Cool XYZ = 150 persons type in this exact phrase.

Cheap Cool XYZ = 100 persons type in this exact phrase.

Cool XYZ downloads = 300 persons type in this exact phrase.

If you select “exact match,” then the search volume figures relate to the actual number of search queries using “exactly” that term.

Say for example that you are targeting an exact match of “customized mug” in USA. According to the Google keyword tool, there are around 210 average monthly search queries for that match.

If those queries are coming from unique searchers, “customized mug” (the exact term) is being entered into the search box, on average, about 210 times a month.

It is recommended that you use the exact match option in your keyword research so that you can ensure that you are targeting the correct customers. It matters a lot, for example, if you decided to target “customized CD logo.” If you use broad match, then these are the keywords that could possibly used by visitors to find your site:

Free customized CD logo”

Buy online customized CD logo”

Cheap customized CD logo”

High Quality customized CD logo”

What if you are selling customized CD logos on your site? If someone chose to visit you in the hope of finding a “free customized CD logo,” then you lost the opportunity to get some sales. Always aim for the most relevant exact match term that describes your services.

Search volumes are analogous to the amount of persons visiting a store or a section in the mall. It makes sense that quick eating establishments collect in a mall’s food court, to take advantage of the large volume of people attracted there for the same purpose: grabbing a quick bite before, during, or after browsing and buying at the mall. 

Lesson 1: The higher the search volume for your exact match, the more difficult the keyword will be.  

Number of pages in the Google Index containing your targeted term (exact match)

Google’s ranking algorithm sorts out pages from the most relevant all the way down to least relevant results. The number of web pages to be sorted depends on the search term. The more popular the search term, the higher the number of pages containing that term in the Google index.

To see how this works, let’s illustrate this point. Say that you are examining the “CD Stickers” niche to see the number of web pages in Google’s index currently containing your targeted terms:

“CD Stickers” – 20,000

“Free CD Stickers” – 251

“Buy CD Stickers” – 107

“Design CD stickers” – 5

“CD Stickers for download” – 3

It makes sense that the broader terms should have a higher number of web pages containing the terms. If you plan to optimize for “CD Stickers,” you need to overtake around 20,000 web pages in the Google index, but if you only plan to rank for “CD Stickers for download,” this is a more specific phrase and you need to compete only with three web pages!

Lesson 2: The higher the number of competing pages in Google;s index containing the exact match for your targeted terms, the more difficult the keyword. 

Conversion rate

You may be surprised to know that conversion rate is the measurement of your page relevance. The higher you think the conversion rate of you page is, the more relevant that page is in the search results.

Conversion rate is defined by:

(Number of desired customer actions/ Total visits to the page) x 100%

“Number of desired customer actions” varies a lot, and this defines your success. For some online business owners this could be a successful checkout or sale; for others, it just means the number of inquiries via a contact form. For still others it could mean the number of sign-ups for their newsletter.

It is you that should define the desired customer actions. You use them in deciding which key phrases should be easiest to target.

To fully understand this, consider the example below if you have assigned the following conversion rates for those selected key phrases you like to target:

CD Stickers” – 0.2%

Free CD Stickers” – 0.2%

Buy CD Stickers” – 0.2%

Design CD stickers” – 5%

CD Stickers for download” – 0.7%

These percentages show that your page is highly relevant for “Design CD stickers.” Perhaps the page helps the user design CD stickers, but it is not a free CD sticker page or a CD download page. 

Pages directly relating to the search query will have an easier time climbing Google’s ranking pages, because the page is naturally relevant and does not need to use methods to artificially inflate its relevance, which could violate Google guidelines.

Lesson #3: A search query that is an exact match for your page topic or services is an easy keyword, while one that appears to be broad and not match your services is difficult.

Summary and recommendations

Rating the difficulty of a keyword should take the following point into consideration: keyword difficulty is directly proportional to the search volume of an exact match and the number of pages in the Google Index containing your exact match but INVERSELY PROPORTIONAL to the conversion rate of the keyword.


Keyword difficulty rating = (Search volume of exact match) (Number of pages in Google index) / (Conversion rate of the keyword)

DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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