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SEMrush the Ultimate Guide

What Exactly Is SEMrush?

SEMrush is a well-known SEO tool for keyword research, competitor analysis, and Google Ad campaign optimization.

Important Characteristics

Organic Investigation

SEMrush rose to prominence thanks to its “Organic Research.”

And it still works perfectly.

To use it, enter the following URL into SEMrush:

semrush-enter-website

You also gain access to a wealth of insanely useful data:

semrush-useful-data

Let me quickly go over each metric on this page.

First, there are “Keywords”:

semrush-organic-research-keywords

This is the total number of keywords for which a website ranks.

This metric, in my opinion, isn’t very useful. After all, suppose a website ranks on the second page for 1,000 different keywords. Those 1,000 keywords generate almost no traffic for that website. This metric isn’t very useful because it doesn’t focus on keywords that rank in the top ten.

Then there’s “Traffic.”

This is an estimate of the monthly search engine traffic to that site:

semrush-organic-research-traffic

This is not entirely correct. However, it is a good way to compare your SEO to that of your competitors.

Finally, we have the metric that I am most concerned with: “Traffic Cost”:

semrush-organic-research-traffic-cost

The traffic cost estimates the value of that site’s organic traffic.

(This assumes you paid for the same traffic through PPC.)

This is my favorite metric in the entire SEMrush suite because it considers both traffic and the value of that traffic.

For example, putting Nerd Wallet into SEMrush reveals that they receive an astounding 73 million dollars in SEO traffic each month:

semrush-nerd-wallet-traffic-cost

Positions in Organic Search

This is where you can see all of the keywords for which a site ranks.

(As well as where they rank)

This is extremely useful for keyword research.

Instead of mining for gold in Google Keyword Planner, you get a silver platter of awesome keywords:

semrush-organic-search-positions-keywords

After all, if your competitor ranks for these terms, you can as well.

Now:

By default, SEMrush displays the keywords that drive the most traffic to that site:

semrush-organic-search-positions-traffic

Which is a good starting point.

But there’s a lot more you can do with this information.

For example, you can sort by “volume” to see the most frequently searched terms:

semrush-organic-search-positions-sort-by-volume
You can also use an advanced filter to see only terms with a CPC of $5 or higher:

semrush-organic-search-positions-filter
You can also exclude keywords with a SERP feature (like Featured Snippets). This allows you to zero in on terms that receive a high volume of organic clicks.

semrush-organic-search-positions-serp-feature-filter
In a nutshell:

I usually begin my keyword research with Organic Search Positions.

Unlike most keyword research tools, this feature provides me with a list of keywords for which I can easily rank.

That’s pretty cool.

Analytics for Traffic

Traffic Analytics provides information on a website’s overall website traffic.

(Not just Google organic traffic)

In other words, this is SEMrush’s equivalent of SimilarWeb.

It’s also a very useful feature.

To begin, when you analyze a site with Traffic Analytics, you get an estimate of the overall traffic numbers for that site:

semrush-traffic-analytics-traffic-numbers

(useful for benchmarking where you are in comparison to your competitors)

You also gain access to how visitors interact with the site. For instance, you can view a site’s average page views, bounce rate, session duration, and other metrics:

semrush-traffic-analytics-other-data
You also get a graph that shows how these metrics have changed over time:

semrush-traffic-analytics-metrics-chart

The real meat and potatoes of this feature, however, is “Traffic Sources.”

semrush-traffic-analytics-traffic-sources
Traffic Sources is exactly what it sounds like:

Not only can you see a breakdown of a site’s traffic sources:

semrush-traffic-sources-chart
However, here is a list of the specific sites that send the most traffic to that website:

semrush-traffic-sources-referring-sites

For example, you can see that WordStream sends me a lot of traffic:

semrush-traffic-sources-wordstream

So, if you also ran a digital marketing blog, you’d probably want to guest post or be featured there as well.

You can also see which social media platforms drive the most traffic to your competitor:

semrush-traffic-source-social-networks-tab

Again, this is a great way to reverse engineer what is already working for your competitor.

Paid Search

Most people use SEMrush solely for SEO campaigns.

However, it is a VERY effective PPC tool.

(This is especially important if you want to mimic a competitor’s keywords and ad copy.)

You can see which keywords your competitors bid on the most frequently:

semrush-paid-search-moz

(In this case, you can see that Moz bids a lot on branded terms.)

However, they also bid on targeted non-branded queries:

semrush-paid-search-moz-non-branded-terms

Even better, you can see the exact ads that are running on those terms:

semrush-hover-to-see-ad

And if you come across an ad that has been running for months or years, you KNOW it has a high Quality Score.

So, if you use some of the same copy in your Adwords ads, you have a good chance of replicating their results.

Keyword Gap

Keyword Gap displays a list of keywords for which a large number of your competitors rank.

And when you find a keyword that multiple competitors rank for, you know it’s one you have a good chance of ranking for as well.

For example, when I entered two of my competitors into the tool, I discovered a slew of new keywords.

semrush-keyword-gap

Pro Tip: By default, this displays keywords that rank in the top 100 of Google’s search results. Obviously, if two competitors rank on page 5 for the same keyword, that doesn’t tell you much.

That’s why I set up advanced filters to only show keywords for which both sites rank in the top ten:

semrush-keyword-gap-filters

And that simple filter provides me with a much more useful list of keywords to work with:

semrush-keyword-gap-filtered-results

Overview of the Keywords

So far, I’ve discussed features that revolve around reverse engineering a competitor’s website.

There’s a reason for this: reverse engineering is SEMrush’s specialty. And it excels at it.

However, you can also use SEMrush as a traditional keyword tool.

In other words:

You can enter a seed keyword into the tool…

and receive a list of keyword ideas and metrics for that term.

For example, here’s what I get when I type “Paleo Diet” into SEMrush:

semrush-keyword-overview-paleo-diet

I get the usual stuff (like search volume and CPC)

semrush-keyword-overview-search-volume-and-cpc

But I also get a very consistent keyword difficulty score.

semrush-keyword-magic-tool-keyword-difficulty-score-

(More on that later.)

SEMrush also generates a list of suggested terms that include my seed keyword (“Phrase Match Keywords”):

semrush-phrase-match-keywords-

This returns terms that are related to my keyword… but do not always include my seed keyword

If you’re interested in Google Ads, you can see an overview of which sites bid the most on that term here:

semrush-keyword-ads-history

Keyword Magic Tool

This SEMrush feature does only one thing:

It generates a TON of keyword ideas.

For example, when I typed in Paleo Diet…

semrush-keyword-magic-tool-enter-keyword

I get a massive list of 494,040 related keywords:

semrush-keyword-magic-tool-related-keywords

494k+ keywords is insane.

Fortunately, you can sort the results by search volume, difficulty, CPC, and other factors.

semrush-keyword-magic-tool-sorting

Keyword Difficulty Meter

Identifying keyword competition can be DIFFICULT.

After all, you must consider:

Page authority

Domain authority

On-page SEO

Content quality

User Intention

There’s a lot more.

Enter SEMrush’s Keyword Difficulty Tool.

It does not examine every aspect of a keyword. However, it can help you determine whether or not you have a chance to rank.

To use this feature, enter a keyword that you want to rank for:

semrush-keyword-difficulty-tool-enter-keyword

And you get a difficulty percentage ranging from 0% to 100%.

semrush-keyword-difficulty-tool-enter-keyword

You can also compare multiple keywords to determine which ones to target first:

semrush-keyword-difficulty-results

Position Monitoring

This is the built-in rank tracking tool in SEMrush.

It functions similarly to the majority of other rank trackers on the market.

You provide it with a domain and a list of keywords…

Position tracking – SEMRush New project… and you receive a daily ranking update:

semrush-keyword-difficulty-multiple-keywords

This feature is extremely dependable in my experience.

(In other words, when I manually check my rankings, they match up with the SEMrush report.)

That is why I use it.

My only complaint is that the default view is “Visibility Trend”:

 

semrush-position-tracking-new-project

This displays changes in rankings… for the top 100 results.

Again, ranking on the second page is roughly equivalent to ranking on page 10. So I wish they paid more attention to “Estimated Traffic,” which shows you keywords that are likely to generate clicks from Google searchers:

semrush-position-tracking-daily-update

semrush-position-tracking-estimated-traffic

That is my only real complaint about Position Tracking. Overall, it’s a good rank tracker that can compete with most standalone rank tracking tools.

Audits of the Site

semrush-site-audit

You can see serious errors that can harm your technical SEO here:

 

And “Warnings” about non-critical issues… but may require repair:semrush-site-audit-view-errors

View warnings in SEMRush’s site audit.

semrush-site-audit-view-warnings

The cool thing about Site Audits is that you can compare crawls:

semrush-compare-crawls

This allows you to track how your site’s technical SEO health evolves over time.

The fact that SEMrush’s SEO audits run automatically is my favorite feature.

You won’t have to remember to run an audit every few months. Every time you log in, your report will be visible on your dashboard.

Template for SEO Content

This feature is intended to assist you in creating content that contains a high number of LSI keywords.

Assume you wanted to be ranked for “Paleo Diet.”

SEMrush will then examine the top ten results for that term.

And I’ll give you some “semantically related words” to incorporate into your content:

semrush-seo-content-template-semantically-related-words

You can even request that the tool analyze a draft of your content to see how it compares:

semrush-seo-content-template-realtime-content-check

That’s awesome.

Insights into Organic Traffic

Every old-school SEO pro recalls the days before “not provided.”

SEMrush, on the other hand, has a feature called “Organic Traffic Insights” that attempts to simulate the keyword-level data we used to get from Google Analytics.

To begin, link your Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts to SEMrush.

Organic Traffic Insights from SEMRush Accounts for Google Analytics and Google Search Console must be linked.

semrush-organic-traffic-insights-connect-ga-and-gsc-accounts

SEMrush will then analyze the data to determine which keywords generate the most organic traffic:

semrush-organic-traffic-insights-keywords-which-bring-most-traffic

Very useful.

Creating Links

SEMrush’s link building tools are actually quite good.

(However, it is not quite as good as Ahrefs.)

You can perform standard tasks such as analyzing a site’s link profile:

semrush-link-building-analyze-a-links-profile

In addition, examine their links for anchor text, dofollow vs. nofollow, and overall link authority:

semrush-link-building-anchors-dofollow-nofollow-link-authority

SEMrush is unique in that they have created an intriguing link building tool:

semrush-link-building-tool

This is how it works:

First, you enter the keywords for which you want to rank:

semrush-link-building-tool-enter-keywords

SEMrush will then look for sites that link to the sites that rank for those keywords:

semrush-link-building-tool-results

You can even build a prospect list and contact people within the platform (similar to BuzzStream):
SEMRush – Prospect List – Link Building Tool

semrush-link-building-tool-prospect-list

On Page SEO Checker examines your content for conventional on-page SEO elements (like title tags and H1 tags).

semrush-on-page-seo-checker

However, it also informs you of semantically related terms that you should include in your content:

semrush-on-page-seo-checker-semantic

And here are some sites from which you should try to obtain backlinks:

semrush-on-page-seo-checker-backlinks