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 find out what your competitors are doing.
Then you can find the same success with your site!
What Will I Learn?
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 marketing department.
Someone who gives you all the data, results and information straight from their office floor. And, then shows you how to build a strategy to win.
It focuses on saving you time, money and showing you the perfect opportunities to get marketing results that matter. There’s no vanity metrics here; the only measurables are the ones that will make you money in the long.
You can see the moves your competition are making and create a solid strategy to combat them. Let’s take a deeper dig into the how with my full SEMRush review & walkthrough.
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Before you look at your competitors, it’s important to understand what you can do to improve on your own site.
This gives you a clean, strong and ready to build on platform to attack your competitors from.
The first step you should really take is to perform an audit on your site.
This 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’s the results for this site so you can get a real behind the scenes look at me, too:
While on the surface it may not look like you’re getting the most in-depth audit ever, you’re actually getting the information you need without any of the fluff.
Take some time to look around on here – or save it as a PDF – before heading on to the next stage.
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.
Simple 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 themselves. You can see a wide range of results which 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:
Keeping the focus on you for just a few more minutes, the SEO Ideas 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.
Each page of your site is analysed and you’re given instantly actionable SEO advice. For example, let’s take a look at this results from my analysis:
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 Get Data Behind It button.
To access this hidden gem simply follow this path:
Project > [Select Site] > SEO Ideas
Check out my 4 step SEO audit case study to see how regular SEO audits can help your website grows.
Competitor Research 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 tools, in isolation, that can have the most impact on your campaigns.
Identifying your Organic Search Competitors couldn’t be easier. First, follow these four steps:
Domain Analysis > Show Entire Menu > 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:
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.
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, their competition and how they stack up in the rankings, too.
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.
On the overview page you’ll also see a list of Keywords that are performing well.
Take some time to look at this in more depth by hitting the view entire report button:
This gives you a complete breakdown of every keyword they’re ranking for and the complete insight into them – more on that in the Keywords section – so you can see what they’re currently ranking for, or trying to, rank for.
Now, like me, you might have a lot of branded results that show up.
After all, Majestic have done a great job of branding themselves. You can filter out these results to get to the heart of the keywords you want to compete for right here:
That gives you a more actionable list of keywords you can pay attention to and look to leapfrog them with.
You can get super specific results for your target keyword – whether that’s for long-tail research, cost per click data or anything between – and make more informed keyword decisions.
Let’s kick this section off with another brand new 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.
You can access this tool through:
Keyword Analytics > Keyword Magic
Enter in 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 side bar 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.
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 Analytics > Overview
Enter one of your target keywords into the search bar – I’ve gone with Travel Guides – and hit enter.
Right here you can see:
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.
Which brings me squarely to the next point…
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 full report button underneath the Related Keywords tab (we’ll look at the phrase match next, don’t worry).
On this page you’ll get a consistently live updated view of long tail 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 tab to create your own filters, too.
But right now you have hundreds of easy to use long-tail keywords right in front of you. You can even export them 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.
Want to do keyword research but Semrush is out of your budget? Check out my list of free keyword research tools.
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.
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 SERP Screenshot to verify the result and see who else is competing for the same keyword.
So this is the entire site and you can get a lot of information just from this. 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.
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 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.
SEMRush can provide you with all of their historical rankings. 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.
Want to get more accurate tracking data? Check out the best mobile rank tracking tools.
As you saw before in the backlink audit 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 have put so much time and effort into crafting this set of link building and analysis tools.
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 page will show you your competitor’s entire backlink profile.
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.
You can do this through a similar process by entering the subdomain 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.
Ahrefs don’t have a subdomain (at least that I could access) so here’s the information for the Majestic blog subdomain for transparency:
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 that would better fit a link.
How’s that for time management, eh?
Using the Backlink Comparison 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 Comparison
Choose your four competitor domains (it’s good to include yourself here) and enter them into the tool and hit Compare. That will bring up a comparison table of each site.
This will give you the overview for each site in one place, like so:
Each result is colour coded and shows you who is performing best, worst and on an equal playing field for each.
According to SEMRush this is one of their most underused tools. 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.
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:
Domain Analytics > View Entire Menu > Advertising > Competition
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:
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 that information so you have it to hand, it’s going to come in handy over the next few steps.
From the big list of competitors SEMRush has generated, go ahead and click on on one of them.
That’ll take you straight through to their domain overview:
Scroll down the page and find the section titled, Sample Ads (pictured above).
This is a live-updated stream of the ads they’re running right now.
What you’re going to do is get a look at the complete spread of their adverts, though. Click on the View Full Report option and you’ll get to see a breakdown of their ads 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.
There are a few ways to do this, but I like doing it through these Sample ads because you can see what’s being done in real time from your competitors.
Choose one of the Ads that is 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 have known that there was a market, or even a keyword, for Oldies but Goodies love songs 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.
So, now we can answer the question… Is Semrush any good?
Overall: Yes, Semrush is a great tool. I consider SEMRush as a “must-have” tool for anyone serious about SEO. I use it to complete my SEO tasks such as keyword research, content creation, competitors’ 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.
Pro: SEMRush offers exceptional features such as its auditing and link building tools.
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 a great content marketing toolset.
Cons: The only thing I can think about is that sometimes you can feel overwhelmed by the tons of information SEMrush gives you.
Phew! You made it all the way here.
How are you feeling?
My Semrush tutorial 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 SEO performance.
Want to go further?
Check out how Semrush stands against the competition with these posts:
Want to write product reviews like this one? Use my product review template!
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.View More Details