A Quick SEMrush Review
Since getting more involved in search engine marketing, it was necessary I searched out tools or services that gave me the competitive edge against my competitors. In my early days of SEM, I sought after Google Keyword Planner because it was free. Can’t complain about free, can you?
Although I love just about everything Google offers, I felt that the Google Keyword Tool fell a bit flat. There are always going to be downsides to free tools, in my opinion. Therefore, I needed to find a better, more in-depth tool that satisfied my need for search engine marketing and competitive research. I looked up, down, left and right. And somehow, SEMrush continued popping up. So, I took the free trial they offer and loved it.
I’d encourage you to take a quick dive into their free access to get a better sense of the user interface, their reporting options and much much more.
I’ve expanded on some of the primary sections of SEMrush to give you an idea of what to expect and how to get started with SEMrush. Take a dive using the navigation above.
If you don’t use SEMRush what can you expect?
- Less than optimum ROI on your advertising dollar.
- Remain in the dark about what your competitors are doing with their advertising dollar.
- No way to analyze your competitor’s organic Google search process.
- Guessing which keywords will actually drive traffic to your site.
Benefits of SEMrush
- Comprehensive data focusing on the amount of traffic coming to your site or a competitor’s site and the estimated value (cost) of those visitors.
- SEMRush can track the percentage of traffic, provide a list of targeted keywords, page ranking, and the number of hits for every URL you search.
- The ability to estimate the website value of your competitors.
- Optimizes your page ranking to the first 2 pages of any search.
- Estimates your advertising dollars by tracking Google Ads and PPC campaigns.
- Provides a millions of keyword database that is consistently updated.
The Overview dashboard of SEMrush provides you exactly that – an overview. It provides a snippet of information from each key data set you might be interested in when doing competitor research.
For this exercise, we’ve analyzed www.bluehost.com, a common web hosting platform. You’ll notice in the image above that each data set has information collected and displayed. This makes for a great analysis when doing competitor research.
You may find that analyzing a website turns up zero data points for a specific data set. This is commonly due to SEMrush not yet finding the website, the website has little to no traffic to analyze or the website does not participate in certain efforts – such as advertising through Google Ads.
To begin your search, simply type in the URL you want to analyze into the search bar. What I have found is that it doesn’t matter if you type in http, https, or www. However, I’ve made it a habit to type in www.domain.com.
If you’d like to analyze activity within a certain region, you may choose that region in the drop-down. Next, click “Search.” Each data set will be populated with the most recent data if available. Remember, you can always update the dates if needed.
SEMrush does provide a higher level account type if you’d like to research data that goes back to 2012. This is useful if you’d like to analyze historical data for a competitor.
The 6 key data sets you’ll see in the Overview box are:
- SEMrush Rank: This is the website’s overall ranking based on the top 20 organic Google searches. It’s important to remember that this is an SEMrush rank, not a Google rank or any other search engine ranking. If a website has an unusually low (high number) ranking but you know performs well online, SEMrush might have just recently found the website.
- SE Traffic: This is the overall traffic the website saw based on the top 20 organic Google searches.
- SE Traffic Price: This is an estimated cost for the top 20 organic Google keywords. You may find that this price fluctuates depending on your given time-frame.
- Ads Traffic: This represents the amount of traffic the website received through Google Ads. If a website does not do paid advertising, this will show 0 data points.
- Ads Traffic Price: This is an estimation in $’s the website spent on Google Ads based on the paid keywords. It’s important to note this is a monthly estimation and not an exact figure.
- Display Ads: This doesn’t represent an exact figure but it does represent the number of Ads found by SEMrush since they “found” the website.
The traffic graph is helpful when analyzing a competitor’s website but great when analyzing your own website. This chart shows you the percentage of traffic that comes from Paid Search vs Organic Search. You might be surprised how much traffic you’d lose if you put a halt on your paid efforts. Or, perhaps you wouldn’t see much of a traffic difference if you decided to stop paid advertising. It could save you a pretty penny.
Organic Keywords Table
This is by far one of the most important sections of SEMrush. We’ll get into the details of this section later on. However, this provides a glimpse into the search queries used by Users who find your website. You’ll also be provided the average search position of the website for that keyword, the search volume for that keyword and the average cost per click for that keyword.
This data is important extremely important. It could bring to light keywords people are using to find your competitors that you aren’t optimizing for. It could also do the opposite and provide proof that your current efforts aren’t what they should be.
Competitors In Organic Search
This table provides the top competitors against your analyzed domain based on keyword similarity. You may already know who your competitors are. But, do you know who their competitors are?
A great idea for this data is to analyze each of the given competitors using SEMrush and find out the domains that are listed as their competitors. This data may provide insight into competitors you aren’t aware of, competitors to look out for or upcoming companies that might make a play in your market.
This table shows the specific paid keywords that are bringing traffic to the website. It also shows the position of the website for that particular query, it’s average search volume and cost per click an advertiser would pay for that keyword.
Competitors In Ads
This table displays websites that are paying for the same keywords. You’ll see exactly who’s in charge of raising the cost for your most precious keyword 🙂
Unique Ads Overview
This table displays a selection of unique ads during the given time-frame.
This shows you the text ads found during the given time-frame.
This shows you the visual ads found during the given time-frame.
SEMrush Organic Research Dashboard
This section is great when analyzing the organic data for a particular keyword or website. We’re sticking with Bluehost so we can start building a complete story.
As you first notice, the Overview box is still present on this report page. This is great as it continues to provide context for the addtiional data you’re inspecting.
Organic Keywords Graph
The Organic Keywords graph is almost more useful when you aren’t performing that well in organic search. This is because you can easily tell if and how many keywords fall witin the 1-5 position. If you have little to none fall into these higher positions, you might want to analyze your content and your keyword optimization.
Organic Keywords Table
Now, the best part about the Positions page is the large table that provides thousands of keywords for the domain you’re analyzing – if available. You can order these keywords by position, keyword volume, CPC and more.
You may find it most useful to organize your keywords by position more so than not. By doing so, you can do a complete comparison between the “real” keywords people are using to find your website and what you think people are searching for. If your focus keywords are not within the top 1-30, you may want to focus your keywords elsewhere You never know – the market may see your content and business differently than you do.
Organic Keywords Table
The Position Changes page addresses increases and decreases in organic keywords. The page begins with a graph with four options:
- New: This graph and chart displays the number of new keywords that have been found that Users query to find your website.
- Lost: This graph and chart displays the number of keywords that have been lost, or dropped out of the top 20 for your website.
- Improved: This graph and chart displays those keywords that have improved in organic ranking.
- Declined: This graph and chart displays those keywords that have dropped in organic ranking.
Here’s where we get to find out who our real competitors are. The chart is first organized by the top competitor based on SEMrush’s findings. These rankings are based on keyword similartiy. Meaning, if you have 3 competitors that have 100 common keywords, 200 common keywords and 300 common keywords, the website with the most common keywords is going to be your top competitor.
Now, there might be occassions where you will see one competitor have a higher number of common keywords than another competior but rank lower. This has to do with the value of those keywords. So, be aware of this if you see slight variations in the reporting.
Tip: A great idea is to take some of your top competitors and analyze their top competitors. You might find that there are competitors out their that you weren’t aware of. Or, that are just coming into the marketplace and soon to have a target on your back.
When we’re looking in the advertising section of a report, we’re now looking at data sets that are directly related to paid traffic.
The Positions section is by default, organized by traffic %. What this means is that the paid keywords that bring the most traffic are listed at the forefront. Of course, if you’d like to organize these keywords using a different data point simply click on the appropriate column header.
What’s interesting about this table is the “Block” column. This provides you information as to where that ad performance was collected from. So, it’ll show you where the ad was displayed on the search results page: at the top, right or bottom.
The chart and table are similar to that of the Organic Research section. It shows you the keywords that have decreased in performance or increased in performance. This section is slightly difficult to use for competitor research as it’s much more likely to change within an hour of a previous avalysis. The additional budget variable of a competitor comes into place. Because of that, you can see a keyword perform poorly during the morning, but great in the evening. So, it can be slightly volatile which makes getting a solid competitor analysis difficult.
Again, this section is great when you want to know who’s raising the cost of the particular keywords you may be buying 🙂 The competitors are ranked by largest to smallest based on keyword similarity.
This is a great tool for analyzing both your website and your competitor websites when it comes to Ads. You will be presented all the current text ads (that SEMrush can find) on a single page. You will also be able to see the number of keywords that are associated with that ad. This makes it easier than something like the Google Ads dashboard where you might have to fumble page to page to gather the same data.
The Ad History provides a longer, more in-depth look at the keywords that have been purchased for the given domain. Pay attention to the coverage column. This column shows you what keywords the competitor find most valuable to their paid search. As an example: if a particular keyword has a 100% converge, that means that all ads that were created for that company have been targeted for that keyword. You’ll typically see this with the company name. Like, “Bluehost” for www.bluehost.com. All advertisements they’ve created in Ads have been targeted to users searching “Bluehost.”
Lastly, the URL page is more of a reverse look up in a way. If you type in a given URL of the competitor you’re analyzing, you can see the paid keywords that brought individuals to that single page. You’ll need to do a little leg work and go between various sections of the Advertising Research section to determine what URLs are being advertised. Not every company advertises their homepage. Some target only landing pages.
SEMrush Display Advertising Dashboard
The Display Advertising section of SEMrush is still in beta phase. I’ll be honest – I have had some difficulty understanding it’s true purpose. I say this because you can find the same data throughout other sections of the SEMrush dashboard.
What is valuable in this section is finding out what Publishers the Advertisers (your competitor) are advertising on. You can take this same list and focus your advertisements there. If your competitor is much larger than you in size, they might have already determined the best places to advertise based on CTR (click-thru-rate). Use this same data to your advantage.
Come back later and much more SEMrush help literature for this section will be available.
The Overview section of the Keyword Research dashboard quickly address some key areas you need to pay attention to, either regarding your own website or your competitors website.
Most importantly the related keywords report is something you definately want to dive into. This key area takes your queried domain or keyword and expands on keywords that are closely related to your query. What this allows you to do is expand on your SEM and SEO marketing efforts to cater to either a larger auidence or possibly a keyword or group of keywords that has a lower competition rating.
When searching a keyword, the full search dashoboard simply expands on that keyword providing phrase-matched keywords, the volume of search, CPC and competition for that keyword. Phrase-match keywords are keywords that include the search query +/- any word or group of words that’s also searched using that same query.
The Related Keywords report is exactly the same as the Full Search report excpet the keywords are those related to the searched query, not phrase-matched. This means that the keywords presented are probably common terms used in the business you and your competitor are in. If we take “Bluehost” for example, the related keywords may present “web hosting” or “domain hosting” as a result.
If you’re wanting to do a research lookup you can search a term and find out what websites are targeting that specific keyword. The table will also supply you the traffic brought to that domain when targeting that specific keyword.
Domain Vs Domain
The domain vs domain tool is extremely useful if you’d like to see a comparisons between your website and competitor websites on the same screen. Sometimes this can be overwhelming so you’ll need to make the call to run this report or study each domain separately.
The process to run a competitor analysis is pretty simple.
- Step 1: Make sure to type in your own domain in one of the 5 available spaces. Continue filling the remaining spots with your competitor domains.
- Step 2: Use the +, -, x and / symbols to select how you would like the keywords to be handled. SEMrush has put a small chart together in this section to help you picture the types of comparisons you can expect based on the symbol selected.
- Step 3: Analyze the data.
You’ll first be presented with the keyword comparison in a table form. The keywords default to a rank-by-volume. Most importantly it provides you the ranking your website receives for that particular keyword, compared to your competitor. If you see a focus keyword of yours performing poorly against a competitor, you may want to put some extra time into that keyword or group of keywords.
You can also click on the “Chart” button to get a visual showing you the overlap of keywords. There will likely be a difference in the size of the circles between you and competitors. The difference comes from the total number of keywords for that domain.
If you’re more into charts and graphs vs tables, this section will be great. Like the above Domain vs Domain section, you can type in your domain and up to 4 competitor domains. What’s great about this section is you’re able to expand the comparison from just keywords to data points like traffic, traffic price, improved keywords and more.
A few other variables you can adjust is the graph-type and the timeframe which to analyze.
Keyword difficulty is a new feature of SEMrush. It helps when you’re analyzing keywords that you might want to focus on in your content efforts. The key data points in the table is the competition level and the volume of search.
The difficulty percentage is based on a 1-100% scale. The higher the percent, the more difficult it could be to compete for that term in search. Keep in mind that some keywords you choose might be low on the competition level but this is where volume comes into play. If the competition is low but the search volume is only that of a few hundred, it might not be worth focusing on that keyword. So, you’ll need to make it a point to look at both data points to come up with a solid plan of action.
This is a great new feature that’s still in beta phase. What the site audit tool does is scan the first 250 pages of your website and provide key feedback for those pages. The analysis includes common errors that can easily be fixed such as external broken links, possible duplicate content, images without alt tags and many others. This analysis won’t typically help with your search performance of your website. However, it will lead to an overall improvement in health of your website.
There are two additional tabs that provide detailed information on the reports.
- Detailed Report: This report lets you examine the specific data sets in detail. For example, you can see what page the external links are broken on.
- Page Report: This report allows you to analyze a specific page and see the errors associated with only that page.
This section in particular might not provide you the most valuable information when it comes to competitor research. Unless of course, your website is in the top 100,000 SEMrush-ranked domains.
If your website is not in the top 100,000 listed you can still use this data to become familiar with the strategy and tactics of the big players in the online arena. For example, you might choose to analyze a top website’s keywords they purchase or perhaps how they target their market with their SEO strategies.
In terms of the data points for this section, you’ll be presented similar data to all other areas of SEMrush, but on a much larger scale – many of them in the millions.
Winners & Losers
This report is interesting if you’d like to know what websites are losing traffic or gaining traffic for each type of data set and by what amount. If you don’t like having to figure out numbers in the millions, don’t bother 🙂 Many of the top websites have millions upon millions of visitors. And, even if they lose 100k visitors within a given timeframe, that’s just a small drop in the bucket for them.
So, similar to the SEMrush Rank section, this won’t provide a lot of detailed data on your competitors.
SEMrush has truly adapted to the evolved needs of users to research information relevant to their client’s needs. Its quite helpful in providing the broader view of client’s industry and its standing in the market. Its keyword research tool, the competitor audit and the tools section are among its coolest functions. The marketing industry is evolving at a fast pace and those who know SEO know it well. So there are so many marketing tools coming in the marketplace and their number is quite overwhelming. In our busy lives, time is the most precious commodity. If you really lack time then I would highly recommend SEMrush as a search tool for keywords. In case you have already used SEMrush then I would love to see your comments.