If you want to take your site to the next level, SEMRush provides a complete suite of tools that helps to fast track your success. From content planning to link building, site audits, competitor analysis, rank monitoring and more - SEMRush is your one stop shop.
I think you’ll agree with me when I say:
Driving traffic to your website is really hard work!
And if that’s not bad enough, competition is fierce.
But I’m going to let you in on a little secret:
You can save a lot of hassle by just copying what is working for your competitors.
Why go through all of the hard work testing what works when you don’t need to?
So my Semrush review is going to show you exactly how to complete competitor analysis to find out what they are doing and where to focus your marketing efforts.
Then you can find the same success with your site!
Table Of Contents
Semrush Review: What Semrush Does
Semrush is a complete digital marketing research tool that helps you to understand precisely how and where your competitors have found success so that you can replicate it for your business as well.
There’s nothing you can’t do with Semrush when you know how to use it (which you will by the end of this guide).
The simplest way I can put it?
Semrush is like having a mole in your competitor’s digital marketing department.
Someone who gives you all the data, results and information straight from their office floor. And, then shows you how to build an SEO strategy to win.
It focuses on saving you SEO efforts, time, money and showing you the perfect opportunities to get marketing results that matter.
There are no vanity metrics here; the only measurables are the ones that will make you money in the long-run.
You can see the moves your competition is making and create a solid strategy to combat them. Let’s take a deeper dig into the how with my full Semrush review & walkthrough.
Optimise Your Site With Semrush
READER EXCLUSIVE: CLICK HERE TO GET SEMRUSH TOTALLY FREE FOR 14 DAYS!
Before you look at your competitor websites, it’s important you understand how using Semrush can benefit you and how you can use it to improve your own site.
This gives you a clean, strong, and ready-to-build-on platform to attack your competitors from.
1. Audit Your Website
The first step you should really take is to perform an audit on your site.
Semrush’s Site Audit tool goes above and beyond your usual free audit tools and gives you an incredibly clear picture of your site. To do this simply follow these steps:
Projects > Add New Project
Then enter your information into the box like so:
You’ll then need to click on ‘Site Audit’…
Fill out the audit settings…
Wait a couple of seconds – or minutes depending on your site – and you’ll be presented with a lovely, complete audit of your site.
Here are the results for this site so you can get a real behind the scenes look at me, too:
With various unique site health checks like structured data implementation, AMP and HTTPS errors, you’re getting one of the most thorough audits ever.
From internal linking to site performance issues, you can get recommendations for reaching 100% site health to be in full competition-ready mode.
Take some time to look around on here – or save it as a PDF – before heading on to the next stage.
2. Strengthen Your Backlink Portfolio
Another important thing to take care of before going into any competitive research is your own backlink profile. This is why regular backlink audits are crucial.
Because toxic links can really hinder your site performance(or website health) and even cause Google penalties.
So, for this, I’m highly recommending Semrush’s one-of-a-kind Backlink Audit tool.
If you’ve already set up a project for Site Audit (previous step), simply do the following:
Projects > Backlink Audit
Pay special attention to Toxic Score, a Semrush-specific metric that runs each referring domain through 50+ markers indicating link profile toxicity.
High Toxic Score means that you have to get rid of that link straight away before it harms your site performance.
If you connect your Google Analytics profile to the SEO tool, you will also get referral traffic counts, which should make your backlink management prioritization even easier.
And you don’t have to worry about being too late with spotting a toxic backlink, as Semrush’s backlink analysis tool now holds over 30.8T backlinks in its database that gets updated every two weeks.
3. Collect Benchmark Data
This is your platform. Your checklist, if you will. You can find out just how your site is performing and what you’re going to need to focus on.
Simply type your site name into the search bar like so and select the Domain Overview option from the drop-down:
Hey-presto, that gives you a whole insight into the world of your site (almost) through the eyes of Google itself.
You can see a wide range of results that are easy to track in movement – both good and bad – within a really easy to view dashboard.
Here’s a visual breakdown of what you can track:
4. On-Page SEO Checker
Keeping the focus on you for just a few more minutes, the On-Page SEO Checker tool is a potent weapon in your arsenal.
According to the official word from the Semrush team this is one of the most undervalued tools by users, but that makes no sense to me, because this is awesome and absolutely unique to the market.
Each page of your site is analysed (and prioritized in regard to site performance impact) and you’re given a set of instantly actionable optimization suggestions- from page strategy, backlink, and keyword research to technical SEO, UX, and content recommendations.
For example, let’s take a look at the results from my analysis- apparently, I have a 1000% traffic boost potential:
By clicking on the Ideas button it takes you to a page like below where it suggests keyword options, possible page improvements, and backlink opportunities from specific sites:
If you want even more depth you can see the data behind these suggestions as well by clicking the See Detailed Analysis button.
To access this hidden gem simply follow this path:
Project > [Select Site] > On-Page SEO Checker
Get The Inside Scoop On The Competition
Competitor analysis is everything you can do in Semrush, so don’t be fooled by this section being standalone.
Instead what you’re going to get here is the SEO tools, in isolation, that can have the most impact on your campaigns.
5. Identify Your Organic Search Competitors
Identifying your Organic Search Competitors couldn’t be easier. First, follow these three steps:
SEO > Organic Search > Competitors
That’ll take you to this screen where you can enter your domain name. Drop it in the search bar and hit submit.
You will get a complete breakdown of:
- Who your organic search competition are
- The level of competition
- Your keywords in-common
- The competitions’ search traffic
- Visual representations of how you stack up
This competitor list can give you a truly stunning list of competitors you didn’t know existed, either.
Like, these sites weren’t even really on my radar:
Don’t quit this page yet, though, because it brings you squarely on to the next step.
6. One-Click Competitor Overviews
Take the list of competitors at the bottom of the analysis and choose, say, three of the sites on the list. They can be known competitors or ones you’ve never heard of.
Then ctrl and click on the links of the site.
This will open up a domain overview (like you saw for your site earlier) of your competition.
You can see a tonne of information that we’ll come to a little later, such as top keywords, backlinks, traffic data, their competition, and how they stack up in the rankings, too.
7. Take a Behind-The-Scenes Look at Your Competitor’s Organic Search Performance
On the same page, you can get an incredible insight into your competitors’ organic search performance.
This is located in the top portion of the page, right here:
And you can get this information for their mobile SEO traffic too:
These graphs allow you to see trends and observe when they’re launching a new campaign.
This could be that they’ve found a new keyword, started creating better content, focused on link building, or any of the above.
This is where it pays to do further research, as you’ll find out how to do in the next few steps.
8. Find Untapped Keyword Opportunities By Analyzing Your Competitors’ Keywords
For further competitive keyword insights, jump straight onto the Keyword Gap tool:
SEO > Competitive Research > Keyword Gap
Then, enter your domain and your rivals’ site (up to 5 domains in total) and let the SEO tool stack up your keyword profiles against each other:
If you don’t need to analyze the entire website, the tool allows you to benchmark keyword profiles on a domain, subdomain, subfolder, and single URL level.
To spot top keyword opportunities, you can leverage multiple handy filters that allow you to group keywords by unique, strong, weak, missing, shared and untapped values.
Next Level Keyword Research
With over 20 billion keywords in its database (the biggest one on the market!) and super accurate volume data, Semrush’s keyword research tool is now simply the most powerful.
You can get super specific results for your target keyword (organic and paid) – whether that’s for long-tail keyword research, cost per click data or anything between – and make more informed keyword decisions.
9. SEO Keyword Magic
Let’s kick this section off with another impressive tool, shall we?
The Keyword Magic tool is designed to make your keyword research easier by giving you more refined results, with more data to back them up.
While you still get your usual data – CPC and Volume – you can also get a deeper insight into Keyword Difficulty, Competition, and SERP features.
As the cherry on top, the tool automatically gathers keyword variations, including groupings, questions, and related keywords
You can access this tool through:
Keyword Analytics > Keyword Magic
Enter your target keyword(s) into your search bar and submit:
That’ll bring you to a page where you can find all of the most relevant keywords for your website. And, if you choose to, you export up to one million of these keywords in a single file.
On the sidebar you can drill down your searches in less time, and get suggestions you may not have considered, like this result for PDF’s:
You can filter out based on anything you want.
You can take out specific words, rates of competition, costs, and difficulties.
Less time searching; more results. Not a bad tool to have under your belt.
10. Comprehensive Keyword Data
What makes Semrush an even better keyword research tool is the detailed keyword analytics it provides. You can drill down into the long tail keywords while still remaining incredibly specific to your target.
Go ahead and open up the Keyword Overview by going to:
Keyword Research > Overview
Enter one of your target keywords into the search bar – I’ve gone with Travel Guides – and hit enter.
- Global Volume
- SERP Features
- CPC Data
- Keyword Difficulty
- SERP Results Analysis (Google’s Top-100 for this keyword)
- Questions, Keyword Variations, and Related Keywords
And if you hit the Mobile tab at the top you can see all of this data for Smartphone searches too:
In just a matter of seconds, you can have lots of relevant, targeted information to help you make decisions. And, you can even expand on this and turn it into a long tail keyword search tool too.
This brings me squarely to the next point…
11. Deep, Specific, Keyword Research
On the overview page you’ve got open right now, take a look at this set of boxes right here:
Don’t worry too much about these initial results.
Instead go ahead and click the view all keywords button underneath the Related Keywords tab (we’ll look at the rest next, don’t worry).
You will be redirected to the Keyword Magic tool where you’ll get a consistently live updated view of longtail keywords surrounding your target keyword:
Here you’re given enough information to make informed keyword decisions for your content. And, find extra keyword ideas to place into your existing (or upcoming) content.
Or you can go deeper and use the Filters to create your own filters, too.
Depending on your strategy, you can use the tool’s automatic capability to showcase keywords grouped by match types: broad/exact/phrase match.
To tackle voice search queries, make sure to focus on Questions (pictured below) and integrate them into your content strategy:
And don’t forget to use Semrush’s custom algo for calculating Keyword Difficulty (for organic keywords) and Competition Density (for paid keywords) to make smart high-impact keyword decisions by choosing high-volume keywords that are easier to tackle.
So right now, you have hundreds of easy to use long-tail keywords right in front of you. You can even export them or build custom reports if you’d like.
Now, once you’ve had a search here, head to the side panel (pictured below) and choose the Phrase Match tab.
This will come up with a similar page for this type of keyword, that can all be filtered in the same way.
The difference here is that these results are based on the phrases that people use when they search around your target keyword.
So, these are a bit more semantic search focused. And they come with an extra benefit I’m going to talk about in this next point.
12. Manage Your Keyword Workflow From One Place
Now, this wide range of keyword research tools may seem overwhelming.
But you can manage all of your keyword efforts from a single spot – the brand new Keyword Manager.
Keyword Manager can be used to store your keyword lists previously gathered in the Keyword Magic tool.
Furthermore, the tool is integrated with the entire Semrush, which enables you to add keyword data from any Semrush analytics and project tools.
So, essentially Keyword Manager streamlines your entire keyword research job.
Get Tactical Organic Ranking Information
With the Semrush organic ranking tools, you can see where your competitors rank, what for and how they do it.
You can get specific too, by looking at accurate rankings for entire sites, pages, subfolders, and even phrases.
13. Track Website Rankings
Okay, from looking at my competitor list, you can assume I don’t know much about Monitor Backlinks. And, I want to know more about where they rank and where I can get the upper hand.
To get their entire site rankings all you have to do is head to the dashboard and enter their domain (without the http:// or www.) into the main search bar.
This gives you all of their site information like you saw earlier. But, in order to see all of their rankings follow this pathway:
Sidebar > Organic Research > Positions
Now you have a complete breakdown of every keyword they rank for; where they rank for it; the volume of searches and a handful of other metrics we’ll cover as we go.
You can even use the search results screenshot to verify and see who else is competing for the same keyword and SERP feature.
But when it comes time to go on the attack and try to outrank, this can show you where the real chinks in their armour are.
14. Find Rankings For Specific Pages
This is where we start getting really deep. You can look at the exact rankings for a specific page, too. And there are two ways you can do it…
If you’re following the process above and want to see all the data of a page that ranks for a keyword you’re trying to rank for, you can just click on the link in the search results:
That will take you to a page that shows you a complete breakdown of the data for that page.
Or, if you already know the page you want to see the data on, you can just enter it into the search bar at the top and go directly to the results.
15. Find Mobile and Historical Rankings
Semrush is one of a few suites that makes mobile web data and historical data available to all users at no extra cost.
It can also provide you with all of their historical rankings and keyword metrics. Letting you uncover trends, strategies, and pick out campaigns throughout their history.
Change the data from the live data dropdown menu here:
You can export this data so you can track all of their historical position changes as well.
Level Up Your Link Building
As you saw before in the backlink analysis section (you did check that tool out, right?) backlinks are one of the top three most important metrics in search right now, and for the foreseeable future.
That’s why Semrush has put so much time and effort into crafting this set of link building and analysis tools.
16. View Your Competitor’s Backlinks
Enter your competitor’s domain into the search bar (I’ve mixed it up and gone for Ahrefs from my list this time) and from the dropdown menu to the left (the grey box pictured below) select the Backlinks option:
That’s going to bring you to this page where you can see all of the overview backlink information of the site:
This is a great way to see how well established your competitor is, where their audience is located (the map below), and the authority of the sites linking back to them.
From this snapshot alone you can get to grips with what you’re up against and where they’re building their backlinks from.
17. Find Subdomain Backlinks
You can do this through a similar process by entering the subdomain or URL link into the search bar of Semrush.
Why do this?
This can allow you to see the performance of each subdomain and how it makes up their overall link profile, giving you information on where to focus your link building efforts.
You could have a competitor that has a lot of links to their on-site content, but poor links to their blog, which would show you an opportunity to create great blog content to win in rankings.
18. Find Backlinks To Specific URLs
You can get hyper-specific by targeting a single one of your competitors’ pieces of content, or pages on their site, as well.
Enter it here to find out how many, and who is linking to it. Be sure to include the http:// so that the tool searches for page-specific data:
This is brilliant if you’re looking to create content to fit a specific backlink, implement the skyscraper method, or already have content marketing that would better fit a link.
19. Compare Backlinks For 5 Different Domains and Find New Prospects
How’s that for time management, eh?
Using the Backlink Gap tool you can look at the backlink profiles of five different sites all at the same time. You can access it through this process:
Backlinks > Backlink Gap
Choose your four competitor domains (it’s good to include yourself here) and enter them into the tool and hit Find Prospects. That will bring up a comparison table of each site.
This will give you the overview for each site in one place, like so:
You can filter out backlinks by Authority Score (a Semrush-specific metric for assessing domain quality and reliability).
Then, choose referral domains unique to your competitors to gain ideas for new potential prospects.
Up Your Advertising Game In Minutes
According to Semrush this is one of their underdogtools. And, that’s a real shame, because the information you get here can save you: time, money and energy.
Heck, if you use the tool right it can save you a whole copywriting budget too.
20. Find Your Paid Search Competition
You’ve already learned who your organic search competition is in this article, so now it’s time to find your paid competition.
These competitors may be the same in your niche, or they may be completely different, which is why conducting this research is important.
To access your competition, follow this process:
Advertising > Market Analysis > Advertising Research > Competitiors
Now you can add your domain into the search field at the top of the page.
I was going to show you this for my blog, but in all honesty, there’s no data for paid search between me and my competition. So, instead, I’m going to do this for a tool we all know: Spotify.
Entering your information will bring up all of your main, and peripheral paid search competition. You can see:
- How many keywords you’re in competition for
- How much competition they are (in order)
- How much traffic is driven as a result
- How much their ad spend is
You will probably find a lot more competition here than you did with the organic search; and there will be some variation on who those competitors are, too.
Export (to Excel or CSV file) that information so you have it to hand, it’s going to come in handy over the next few steps.
21. See Competitor’s Current Google Ads
From the big list of competitors Semrush has generated, go ahead and click on one of them.
That’ll take you straight through to their online ad landscape overview:
Go to the tab titled, Ad Copies (pictured above).
This is a live-updated stream of the search ads they’re running right now.
Why do you want to see this?
Firstly, as you’ll see in an upcoming step, you can dissect the advertising copy that they’re using to convert.
Secondly, you can look at the relevant ads to you – chances are they’re targeting audiences and subjects other than just yours – and compare the landing page copy.
Overall, this feature can help you to develop better advertising & marketing strategies by showing you your competitors’ ads and landing pages.
22. Get Brand New Keywords
There are a few ways to do this, but I like doing it through these Ad copies because you can see what’s being done in real-time from your competitors.
Choose one of the Ads that are relevant to you – relevancy is key – and select the drop-down menu.
Here you can see an amazing amount of other, long tail, keywords that you can use for your ad campaigns:
Not all of these will be a perfect fit, but they’re a great insight into other keywords that will fit your content and product. Or, to deeper understand what else your audience is searching for.
I’d have never known that there was a market, or even a keyword, for 2018 hit songs in 2021 without doing that.
Go through these ads and keep track of the keywords that pop up, and their volumes, there could be a super-targeted goldmine just waiting to be found.
Semrush Review Conclusions
Overall: I consider Semrush as a “must-have” digital marketing tool for anyone serious about SEO.
My SEO team and I use it to complete SEO tasks such as keyword research, content marketing creation, competitors analysis, backlink analysis and much more!
The insights are fantastic and it has been a game-changer for my clients’ websites as well as mine.
In other words: it’s an outstanding tool that provides a great user experience.
Pro: Semrush offers an easy to use and visually appealing user interface with exceptional features such as its site audit tool and link building tool.
The first tool gives you a complete checklist of ways that you can improve your on-page SEO and the second tool gives you a high quality “CRM” style method of building backlinks.
Not forgetting, it offers great keyword tools and a content marketing tools to help you with your content creation.
Plus, Semrush also integrates with both Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
Cons: The only thing I can think about is that sometimes you can feel overwhelmed by the tons of information Semrush provides you.
Wrapping It Up
Phew! You made it all the way here.
How are you feeling?
My Semrush review is one of the longest I have ever written!
So now you know how to use Semrush to get the data you need on your own site, your competitors and see a real-life improvement in your overall SEO performance.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Semrush used for?
Semrush is a fantastic SEO tool that can be used to carry out competitor analysis and keyword research.
Using Semrush can help you (and your team members) review sites, run SEO audits, search for backlink opportunities, track everything (mainly keyword tracking and position tracking) through reports and so much more.
Semrush is well known and highly trusted by internet marketers everywhere.
But if you want more detail about this SEO tool, I suggest you read my full Semrush review.
How accurate is Semrush?
Semrush accuracy can occasionally be a little give or take but it provides a fantastic overview of key areas on your website.
I always recommend combining results across a few different SEO tools like Ahrefs, Google Analytics (among others) to get the most accurate data and Semrush is always one of the main tools I use.
Is Semrush suitable for me?
Semrush is suitable for-
- Anyone looking to take their site to the next level
- People looking to increase traffic & ranking in search results
- People that want to spy on their competitors & steal their secrets to success
- SEO’s that are struggling to increase search engine traffic
- Busy people that want to get more done in less time
Does Semrush offer a free trial?
Yes, Semrush offers a free trial- like most SEO tools available.
You can take advantage of this exclusive offer I setup right here.
How much is Semrush per month?
Semrush can be paid per month with 3 plans available.
First is the Pro plan (for freelancers, small business owners & startups) which has a fee of $119.95 per month.
Next is the Guru plan which has a fee of $229.95 per month. The Guru plan suits perfectly SMB & growing digital marketing agencies.
The third is the Business plan (for marketing professionals & big SEO agencies that conduct large SEO project) which has a fee of $449.95 per month.
But my best advice will be to check out their pricing plans on their website.
And, if you want to try it out before to make the jump, you can enjoy their free trial.
What countries & languages does Semrush support?
Semrush holds data for over 20 billion keywords across 142+ countries which you can see here. The Position Tracking Tool will allow you to crawl search results and check search rankings from any location in the world.
How does Semrush collect data?
As I explained in my Semrush review, Semrush analyses the top 100 search results for each keyword in their database which features over 20 billion keywords and 784 million desktop / 32 million mobile domains.
How often does Semrush update its data?
Semrush uses a live update algorithm to update all of its databases on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
The more popular a keyword is, the more often it is updated For example they update 3 million keywords per day in their USA database alone.
What is Semrush rank?
Semrush rank is a custom ranking assigned to each of the 784 million desktops and 32 million mobile domains that Semrush tracks.
The number is calculated based on how visible a domain is in organic search rankings for the one hundred million plus keywords Semrush tracks.
The lower the number, the better the rank!
How do I cancel my Semrush account?
If you use Semrush and want to cancel your subscription all you need to do is drop a cancellation request email to [email protected]
They will cancel your account for you within 1 business day.
Tools like these above offer complete & easy to use SEO tool sets with their own unique features.
However, if you are struggling with on-page SEO I highly suggest you take a look at my Surfer SEO review first.