What Is the Best Keyword Difficulty Tool for Content Planning: Ahrefs vs SEMrush

Do you know that there are more than 200 Google ranking factors and one of them is keyword difficulty? Are you using this parameter during content planning? Or you aren’t? How to choose the best keyword difficulty tool? Let’s start with the short definition: what is keyword difficulty?

According to, keyword difficulty (KD) is a score that estimates how hard it would be to rank on the first page of search results for a given keyword. It is based on the number of backlinks that current top results have.

According to, the keyword difficulty score has been designed to help estimate how much effort it will take to seize the competitors’ positions in organic search for a particular keyword. Now it has been added to the Google search interface, if you enable SEOquake browser extension.

keyword difficulty analysis done by SEOquake

How SEOquake checks the keyword difficulty for the search query

Keyword Difficulty Tools: How They May Help or Confuse You

From day to day we are planning and uploading content to websites of our clients. We are searching for the best keywords to get desired traffic. But do we pay attention to keyword difficulty? How may this parameter help us? Should we pay attention to it or skip?

The best way to measure this parameter is using one of the popular keyword difficulty tools. Here you may find a list of tools, gathered for you. You may try them now and see the results for chosen keywords.

keyword difficulty & serp analysis services – just enter a keyword or keyword phrase in the search box and get “difficulty score” and “difficulty level”:

  • Less Than 1: Extremely Easy
  • Between 1 and 10: Easy
  • Between 11 and 100: Medium
  • Between 100 and 1000: Challenging
  • Between 1001 and 10,000: Very Hard
  • More than 10,0000: Extremely Hard

how works

Screenshot of how works – this tool will help you exclude the terms, by which you will not achieve top page positions. With this keyword difficulty tool you may select the keywords you have a good chance to rank for.

how works

Screenshot of how works –  just start typing your keyword in the search box and check the results. You may add a list of keywords, separating them with the comma, the new line or a tab. You can run up to 20 reports at once, and the daily limit is set at 400 searches for the Standard subscriptions.

how keyword explorer works

Screenshot of how keyword explorer works – this tool allows you to get real-time keyword difficulty in one easy click and expand your research. Also, you may find long tail keywords relevant to your niche with high search volume and low keyword difficulty that your competitors don’t use.

  • 0 – 9: go for it
  • 10 – 19: super easy
  • 20 – 29: easy
  • 30 – 39: not hard
  • 40 – 54: possible
  • 55 – 74: hard
  • 75 – 89: super hard
  • 90 – 100: don’t even try:)

how works

Screenshot of how works – this simple in use tool helps you to compare the difficulty of up to 10 keywords, entering one keyword per line. The metrics are based on competition between domains that are ranking for the requested keywords in Google’s top 100 organic search results.

how works

Screenshot of how works

Let’s do a small experiment by measuring keyword difficulty for “IT services” using different tools:


Comparison of “IT services” keyword difficulty

As we may see, the results differ from each other. These tools have different algorithms, but how they may show hard and medium difficulty levels for one keyword? And which tool to use for proper results? Our team of experts tried to do the small experiment comparing data from Ahrefs and SEMrush. Let’s see the results.

Ahrefs vs SEMrush Case Study: The Best Keyword Difficulty Tool

Our team was very interested in this parameter and how to use it for content planning, so, we’ve decided to do keyword difficulty analysis to see how to use it on the practice, not just in the theory. For our experiment, we chose our clients websites’ pages published in September. Only minor promotion was done for these pages and it was done in an equal manner on all websites. 98 pages on 13 different domains were checked. First of all, we checked pages’ ranking and organic visits for these pages in September. It was important for us to see the percentage of pages and domains that had 1 organic visit and 10 organic visits. The results were the next:


pages ranking and organic visits

Then we compared keyword difficulty data from Ahrefs and SEMrush. We gathered main keywords for all pages in one file and checked whether those correlate. The results were quite impressive for one keyword Ahrefs showed low keyword difficulty, but SEMrush – high. And when we filtered all data by keyword difficulty from SEMrush we noticed that data from Ahrefs didn’t change in the same progression.

chart on how KD differs

Chart on how KD differs (blue – results from SEMrush, red – results from Ahrefs)

Then we started filtering data by keyword difficulty from Ahrefs.

chart on how keyword difficulty differs

Chart on how KD differs (blue – results from SEMrush, red – results from Ahrefs)

As we may see, the data from Ahrefs differs from SEMrush. So, you need to choose one keyword difficulty checker and plan your content according to its results.

Also, we checked how keyword difficulty influences on ranking. And results were amazing. According to SEOquake, posts that were planned by keyword with KD > 50 rank better than posts planned by keyword with KD < 50.


keyword difficulty from SEOquake

But according to Ahrefs, posts planned by keyword with KD < 20 rank better. For every keyword (according to its KD), Ahrefs shows how many links we need to build to be in top 10. If you are interested in effective link building, check out our post!


keyword difficulty from Ahrefs

There are a lot of tools for keyword difficulty checking. These tools show different results as they have different algorithms! You should choose one tool that suits you the best and follow it during your keywords research.

If you don’t know how to use keyword difficulty tool in content planning, feel free to contact us and we will do the keyword research for you!

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