Content ideas? Check. Blog outlines? In the bag. Keywords? You’ve picked a few, but are they the right ones? 🤔Enter Keyword difficulty: the magic metric for gauging keyword competition. It’s your go-to for making informed keyword choices. 

Hello, rankings, traffic surges, and cha-ching conversions!

We chatted with Lyon Content’s SEO extraordinaire Kim Fischer to get the lowdown on keyword difficulty, how it compares to other metrics, tips for picking the right keywords, and best of all:

Her bulletproof competitive analysis process for ranking content at the top of Google’s search results.

Ready for your kick-ass content to attract ready-to-shop browsers? Keep scrolling! 

Keyword research and keyword difficulty: WTF is it?

Keyword research involves researching competitors, search data, and keywords to determine what phrases your target audience frequently plugs into their Google search queries. You might use keyword research tools, analyze competitors on Google’s organic search results, or directly engage with your audience via social media comments or surveys to gather intel.

Like we mentioned earlier, keyword difficulty is a metric that tells you how competitive your keywords are—specifically, how difficult it’d be to rank those keywords in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs). This metric is measured as a percentage known as keyword difficulty score. The higher the score (100% being the highest), the tougher it is to rank for that keyword.

So, what if your keyword difficulty analysis presents you with a high-intent keyword (lead potential) with a hella high keyword difficulty score? Kim suggests treading carefully. 

Unless you have a higher domain authority (meaning search engines recognize and show your content at the top of the SERPs and view you as an authority), it might be best to strategize differently, depending on the context:

“If the domain authority is low (under 25), we typically would never target a keyword difficulty under 50.”

However, Kim reminds us this isn’t a “hard and fast rule.” Competitive analysis insights can sometimes justify efforts to rank high-difficulty keywords, even if you’re working with a lower domain authority.  

hand holding bars that say seo traffic ranking optimization and keywords in post about keyword difficulty

Why is competitive keyword analysis essential?

Competitive analysis sheds light on which keywords your competitors rank for. If you reverse engineer the process, you can conduct a competitive analysis to pinpoint which competitors are snagging those coveted SERP spots for high-difficulty keywords you’re eyeing. 

The quality of content that ranks for these keywords can sometimes reveal opportunities. Even lower-domain authority brands can identify and capitalize on these gaps, making their way up the SERPs.

So, where do you start? Kim suggests exploring the content that currently ranks at the top for high-difficulty keywords. Ask yourself the following:

  • Is it relevant? 
  • Is it helpful? 
  • Does it fully answer the question?
  • Does it use accessibility tools?
  • Does it use other on-page features to make the content easier to consume?

If you answer no to any of the above, Kim says there’s an opportunity to score some high-difficulty keyword rankings. 

Here’s a sneak peek into our winning formula for killer competitive analysis:

1. Run your domain through a keyword research tool

Popular keyword research tools include Semrush, Ahrefs, and UberSuggest (more on these in a bit).

“Look at the keywords you’re currently ranking for, who comes up in your competitive positioning map, and what percentage of your estimated traffic comes from branded keywords, etc.”

2. Check the competitive positioning map

Consider competitors with comparable organic traffic and overlapping keywords as yours.

“Who is outranking you? What else are they ranking for? How is their content strategy similar to yours? See if you can fill any content or keyword gaps.”

Brands without a content strategy often miss the mark when it comes to competitive keywords. In these cases, Google might not have sufficient information to position you against competitors. 

Luckily, Lyon Content can help you with stellar content and brand messaging framework to elevate your game. 

3. Zero in on your competitor’s content

From social media posts to web copy and blog articles, you’ll want a comprehensive view. Kim recommends assessing:

  • How and why it’s ranking
  • The depth of information provided
  • How helpful the content is
  • Its efficiency in answering questions
  • Extra content like videos, infographics, and photos

Pay special attention to how they infuse keywords across different content types. Now, let’s bridge the gap between these content pieces…

4. Review competitors’ internal linking strategy

Internal links are links within your content that go to other pages on your site. For example, linking to your About page from an article or other web page. According to Kim, they improve navigation and give Google’s crawlers more material to index:

“Check what else they are linking to on their site. This gives you insight into their topic cluster strategy.”

Cluster-what? If some of these terms have you scratching your head—hang tight. We’ll break it down in our mini keyword glossary coming right up.

colorful image of open laptop with loading bar under decoding message

Keyword Strategy: Decoding the Jargon

New to SEO? Cue the confusion that comes with all the new marketing lingo you need to get a handle on. 

Even if you’ve enlisted the help of an SEO content writing agency for keyword insights, some terms might leave you puzzled. 

Let’s make sense of your keyword research by defining some common terms and metrics:

  • Search volume: How often an SEO keyword is searched monthly in a specific location
  • Keyword difficulty: The competitiveness or challenge of ranking for a particular keyword
  • Search intent: A person’s goal when they type a query into Google, including informational (to learn), navigational (to find), commercial (to research before buying), and transactional (to buy) 
  • Keyword topic cluster: Groups of keywords that represent multiple users with the same search intent
  • SEO keyword: The term or phrase entered into Google’s search bar
  • SERP features: Anything in the organic search results beyond traditional listings, such as carousels, image packs, rich snippets, and knowledge panels

Now that we’ve decoded the lingo, let’s shift our focus into keyword strategy.

Crafting an Epic Keyword Strategy

Your keyword strategy helps you understand what’s important to your audience and how to best appear on their radar. But you won’t find perfect keywords right out the gate. It’s a journey of understanding and connecting with your audience. Here’s how to kick things off:

1. Dive deep into audience insights

Who exactly are you speaking to? Send out customer surveys, study social media engagement, or tap into social listening tools like Brandwatch to learn more about the language, interests, and behaviors of your audience. 

2. Identify their pain points

Through audience research, you’ll identify the challenges your ideal customers face—these are their pain points. Pinpoint these and align them with the solution your biz offers. 

For example, a single, middle-aged woman might seek premium platforms to meet love interests. Their potential pain point? Flaky men and fleeting encounters—your high-end matchmaking service could be the solution. 

3. Map your customers’ journeys

Remember our chat about search intent? It’s the key to understanding your customer’s online motivations. Each stage of the customer journey (awareness, consideration, decision, retention, advocacy) correlates with distinct intents and, by extension, different keyword queries. 

woman with glasses looking intently at two computer monitors in front of swirling background

How to Pick the Right Keywords

Your keyword strategy starts with a sea of potential keywords, stemming from audience research, pain point analysis, and customer journey mapping. But the real challenge? 

Figuring out which ones truly resonate. 

While keyword difficulty gives you a glimpse into the ranking challenge, Kim opts for a holistic approach. She zeroes in on high-volume, low-difficulty gems, while also weighing the merits of tackling higher-difficulty keywords. 

Here’s her first priority:

“Search intent is by far the most important. Targeting keywords for content that doesn’t match up with what the searcher is looking for is not helpful content, which is what Google has been all about recently. Multiple helpful content updates over the last couple of years show that Google is really prioritizing content that really answers people’s questions.” 

Our luxury alternative hair client, Daniel Alain, focused on audience research centered around these high-intent blog keywords: 

  • Most comfortable wig
  • How to buy a wig
  • Hair toppers for women

And guess what? We scored top-three SERP rankings for all three! Peep our case study to uncover the mix of tech and talent that made it happen. 

Bonus: Best Keyword Strategy Tools

Think seasoned pros dive into keyword research solo? Think again. In today’s digital era, Kim synergizes her vast SEO experience with insights from leading keyword strategy tools. 

She kicks off with a simple Google search, sparking her creative juices. This is followed by a few query results from Answer the Public. Then, she plunges into detailed site audits, competitive analysis, and intricate keyword metrics (including a keyword difficulty checker) with a variety of software tools.

Her personal favorite? Semrush: “It’s clean, relatively easy to understand, and does everything I need it to.”

While Ahrefs offers similar capabilities at a premium, Ubersuggest stands out as a user-friendly and cost-effective alternative.

Feel like playing around with these tools for your blog strategy insights? Run wild. But Kim advises not to commit to premium tools unless you know how to use them:

“SEO software is expensive and takes time to learn, and when you want to have a more advanced strategy, you have to know what you’re looking for.”

Psssst. Lyon Content already has premium access to the best SEO software tools in the game. Leverage our exclusive software, expert analysis, and actionable content advice in one of our tailored SEO packages

Reel in Organic Traffic with Lyon Content!

Keyword difficulty tells you which keywords are hard to rank on the SERPS—but it’s merely a facet of the intricate landscape of ranking elements. 

The real game-changer? Unwavering support and demonstrated expertise from bonafide pros:

“It’s very easy to make choices in an SEO strategy that aren’t the best. Having someone on your team who understands the data behind the content is vital to having an SEO strategy that actually drives growth (and conversions!). 

Lyon Content backs you up with a comprehensive, fuss-free, effective SEO content package. We power our kickass content writers’ niche experience with our SEO prowess to produce engaging, high-quality content that roars and ranks. 

It’s time to level-up your brand with an SEO content package that wows and converts your readers—ready to dominate? Shoot us a DM. 

Chrissy, tech and marketing writer at Lyon Content

By Chrissy Kapralos


Chrissy is a contributing writer at Lyon Content based in Toronto. She loves writing and editing tech, marketing, and lifestyle content. But her favorite part of writing is helping businesses express themselves. When she isn't writing, she's traveling as much as possible and eating a lot of cheese.