If you’re reading this, you probably already know what SEMrush is. But if you don’t know, it is probably the most popular SEO tool out there, along with Ahrefs (another popular SEO tool). And is touted as the best SEO software for small businesses.
I’ve been using SEMrush for almost a decade now and this is my honest SEMrush review.
After all, most popular SEOs use it. But how much of it is true? Let’s find out.
In this SEMrush review, I’m going to review SEMrush for the following.
- Domain overview
- Traffic analysis
- Organic research
- Keyword gap analysis
- Backlink gap
- Keyword research
- Backlink analysis
- Backlink audit
- Link building
- How does SEmrush compare with other SEO tools
- Should you buy SEMrush and more…
What is SEMrush?
Simply put, SEMrush is a popular SEO (Search Engine Optimization) software, that can help you make your website popular on search engines like Google and Yahoo by getting more traffic and clicks from them.
And how does SEMrush help you get more traffic?
It has a set of tools that will tell you,
- How to optimize the pages of your website to get more traffic
- Find what people are searching for on Google, related to your website
- How your website compares to the competition
- Which searches are your website ranking for on Google on the first page
- Which search phrases are your website not ranking for on Google
- How many websites are linking to your website
- What are the technical SEO errors on your website and more…
By giving you a comprehensive and in-depth analysis of the above, SEMrush will help you make your website better and make it possible for you to potentially get better ranks and more traffic on search engines.
In this SEMrush review, we’ll go through all the features in-depth. Read on….
Here is a summary of how SEMrush features.
SEMrush for Google SEO
- SEMrush can help with finding out what your competing websites are ranking for on Google.
- It can also tell you what keywords your website is ranking for on Google.
- SEMrush can tell you which keywords your website lost or gained ranks on Google.
- It can show you which pages your competition is getting all the traffic for on Google.
- SEMrush can show you what content you’re missing on your website compared to the competition.
- SEMrush can also show you which websites link to your website.
- It can also tell you which websites link to your competitors’ websites.
- SEMrush can show you which websites you should get links from in order to beat your competition.
SEMrush for Paid Advertising
SEMrush can also help a lot with paid advertising on Google and other search engines.
- Analyze competitor Ad budgets and keyword data
- Spy on competitors’ Ad copies and landing pages
- Discover new competitors from Google Ads
- Optimize your Ad campaigns locally
SEMrush for Content Marketing
SEMrush is also an excellent tool for content marketing teams.
It can do the following tasks and save a lot of time with content marketing.
- Find out keyword search volumes for a particular topic.
- Figure out keyword competition.
- Set up content marketing workflows.
- Analyze your website pages for SEO.
In this series, I’ll share articles that will show you how to do SEO and Content Marketing with SEMrush.
How to use SEMrush
Let’s take a deep dive into how to use SEMrush by exploring its features.
Domain overview is used to find out what is wrong with a website from an SEO perspective. For example, if you are optimizing a website for SEO, the Domain Overview in SEMrush will give you a good idea about how the website stacks up in SEO metrics.
Like seen in the above example, you can see the following metrics in Domain Overview.
- Overall Authority Score of the website
- Total volume of organic search traffic the website gets
- Total number of backlinks the website gets
- Engagement metrics like how many pages/visit, average visit duration, bounce rate etc.
In Domain Overview, SEMrush also shows the overall organic traffic stats of the website on a historical basis.
Two of my favorite options in SEMrush’s domain overview are filtering results by device and country.
If you notice, there is a little toggle that lets you switch between countries (seen as flags).
Clicking on the right flag will show you all the above stats from that particular country.
Similarly, if you click on the little arrow beside the Desktop icon, you can switch to the mobile version as well. This will show you all the stats from a mobile perspective 9particularly useful if the website has switched to primarily mobile indexing).
Trust me, stats in the US is not the same as in India (or any other country) and is significantly different. This makes a lot of difference in your SEO research.
Overall, the domain overview feature on SEMrush is extremely useful to find out how good or bad the website is, from an SEO perspective.
One question that I get asked a lot is “Are traffic stats shown on SEMrush accurate?”.
Well, to be fair, no. The traffic stats shown by SEMrush is procured from third-party sources and not from the websites directly.
This means that there is a fair amount of approximation in the stats.
Having said that, it is probably the closest you will get to the actual traffic figures of a website.
How to do keyword research with SEMrush
So, SEMrush is popular among SEOs for being able to do “keyword research”. Let me explain what it is.
SEMrush essentially helps you to…
- find out what people are searching for on Google and other such search engines.
- the search volume of certain keywords/search phrases.
- figure out what questions people ask on a certain topic on search engines.
- and how a website’s content ranks on Google for certain keywords.
Here’s how to do keyword research with SEMrush.
Go to SEMrush and you’ll see a search bar right on top. This is where you type in your “seed keyword”.
What is a “seed keyword”?
Well, let’s say for example you want to find out how many people are searching for “apples” on Google.
Then you type in “apples” in the search bar on SEMrush and hit enter.
SEMrush will show you the search volume for that keyword and also show the related keywords to the main/seed keyword.
You will also get an overview of the keyword like this (seen below).
You’ll get to see the following.
- Total search volume of the specified keyword on Google.
- Keyword Difficulty – A metric that will tell you how hard or easy is it to rank with your website for this keyword.
- CPC – What other companies are bidding on Google Ads to show ads for this keyword.
- Country-wise split of search volume.
In the above example, “red apples” is a better choice for you, as a target keyword instead of “apples”, as “red apples” have a lower keyword difficulty score of 57%, and “apples” have a higher keyword difficulty score of 97%.
Apart from this, SEMrush will also show three different types of keyword variations for the “seed keyword”.
- Keyword variations
- Questions and
- Related keywords
“Keyword Variations” are basically different variations of the seed keyword.
“Questions” are related, long queries that people have been asking search engines based on the seed keyword.
And “Related Keywords” are different yet related searches people have done based on the seed keyword.
If you’re trying to find more keywords based on a seed keyword, it is a good approach to look at all three clusters (Keyword Variations, Questions, Related Keywords), so that you get a holistic picture.
Clicking on a keyword/question will take you to detailed stats (shown above).
Here, you can find “Keyword themes” on the left-hand side, keywords, and their corresponding search volume/trend stats on the right-hand side.
How does this help in keyword research?
Well, the themes on your left-hand side, will show keywords filtered by certain themes. For example, for a seed keyword like “apples”, the themes might be “can”, “watch” etc.
When clicking on “can” it will show you keywords containing apples + can.
This is a good indication that if you create pages/content on your website related to relevant themes from the left-hand side, you could potentially create content, that matches the search intent.
Search intent (also known as user intent) is the primary goal a user has when searching a query in a search engine. Many times, users are searching for a specific type of answer or resource as they search.Moz
How to find top keywords with SEMrush
Step 1 – Go into Domain > Overview (Or click here)
And enter the domain you want to find keywords from.
You’ll get a view of all the details of the domain (in this example, Amazon.com).
From this view, click on “Organic Search Traffic” and it’ll take you to a table of all the keywords this website is ranking for on Google.
You can click on “Pos” to sort the keywords based on positions. Or click on “Volume” to sort by search volume or “Traffic” to sort by search traffic.
Note: Traffic and Volume are different. “Traffic” is the actual traffic this website gets from Google, while “Volume” is the estimated search volume for the keyword.
“Traffic” is usually lower than “Volume” and often a percentage of it.
How to find top keywords on mobile with SEMrush
To find out which keywords a website is ranking for on Mobile search results, just toggle the “Device” option from Desktop to Mobile. See the screenshot below.
How to find keywords from different countries with SEMrush
If you want to find out the top keywords of a website from different countries, click on the three dots next to the flag icons and choose the country you like or want data from.
SEMrush will show you the data from almost all countries.
Keyword data provided by SEMrush
SEMrush provides the following types of keyword data for any website.
- Keyword – The keyword itself.
- SERP Features – Whether or not the keyword features Rich snippets, Answer box, etc.
- Position – Search engine rank of the keyword.
- Difference – Rank change within the chosen time frame.
- Traffic – The amount of estimated organic traffic driven to an analyzed domain with a given keyword over a specific period of time.
- Volume – Costs – The total cost of all traffic driven to an analyzed domain with a given keyword over a specific period of time.
- KD% (Keyword Difficulty) – An estimate of how difficult it would be to rank well in organic search results for a particular keyword. The higher the percentage, the harder it is to achieve high rankings for the given keyword.
- Traffic % – The percentage of traffic driven to the website with the given keyword for the specified period.
- CPC – The average price in the selected currency advertisers are paying for a user’s click on an ad triggered by the given keyword (Google AdWords).
- URL – The page URL that is ranking in Google’s top 100 organic search results. Click the sign with an arrow to view the landing page, or click the link to open the Overview Report for the URL.
- Costs – The total cost of all traffic driven to an analyzed domain with a given keyword over a specific period of time.
- Com (Competition) – Competitive density of advertisers using a given term for their ads. One (1) means the highest competition.
- Results – The number of URLs displayed in organic search results for a given keyword.
- Volume Trend – The interest of searchers in a given keyword during the period of 12 months. The metric is based on changes in the number of queries per month.
- SERP – A snapshot of the search engine results page (SERP) for a given keyword.
- Upd (Updated Time) – The time when a given keyword was last updated.
How to add keywords in SEMrush
Go to Projects > Choose your project > Click on “Position Tracking”.
Click on the number of keywords.
Then you will get a window like this.
This is the window where you can add keywords that you want to track positions on Google.
You can add keywords in the “Sandbox” window in the following format.
Keyword 1, Tag 1, Tag 2
Example: How to start a blog, Blogging, Tutorials
Here, “How to start a blog” shall be the keyword, and Blogging and Tutorials, the tags where the keyword will be added to.
When you add similar keywords later, you can repeat the tags you used once, so that the keywords get added to the same tag group.
Click on “Add to Project” and the keywords, along with their corresponding tags (if provided) will be added to the project for position tracking.
You can also add keywords from another project in SEMrush by choosing the “Campaign” tab.
You can also add keywords from SEMrush data. i.e if you have set up another project with different domains, you can use the data from that project. Click on the “SEMrush” tab and you should get a similar option in the window.
Here, you can select which report choosing keywords from.
a) Domain Report – Organic rankings of a website.
b) Domain Report – Adwords data of a website.
c) Phrase report – All the related keywords data of a website.
d) Phrase report – Full search data of a website.
In the second drop-down menu, you can choose the website name.
In the third drop-down menu, you can choose the number of keywords to choose (seen as 10 in the screenshot).
In the fourth form element, you can add a filter to the keywords to be added. This is an easy way to choose only the keywords you need,
Click on “Add to Sandbox” to add all the keywords to your project.
If you have connected your Google Analytics account to SEMrush, then you can add keywords from your Analytics report as well.
How to track keyword ranks with SEMrush
Perhaps the most popular feature of SEMrush is its ability to track keyword ranks on search engines. It’s fairly simple to do.
You add a keyword and SEMrush keeps track of its position on Google (or the chosen search engine) and tells you whether or not it has gained or lost ranks every day, every week.
Here’s how you can track a keyword rank on Google with SEMrush.
Go to Projects > Site > Position Tracking.
You’ll see a snapshot of your rankings like this.
Clicking on each link will show you the appropriate list of keywords and their rankings. You can choose Top 3, Top 10, Top 20, and Top 100 keywords.
Clicking on a keyword can show you the rank/position changes for that keyword against last week’s/chosen time frame.
As seen in the above screenshot, you can get the following..
- Keyword list
- Featured snippets/Answer boxes etc if any, for each keyword
- Past rank/position
- Current rank/position
- Difference in rank (up or down)
How to do SEO audit with SEMrush
Another major feature of SEMrush is the site audit.
SEMrush can scan your website and give you all the information you need about the website.
Here’s how to do a website audit with SEMrush
To do a website audit, add the domain name you want to audit to SEMrush, as a new project. You’ll need to set up the basics by giving some vital information. Afterward, you should get a screen like this with the audit overview.
There are a bunch of settings required for every project and you can change these settings anytime you want.
In the site audit report, you’ll get an overview of your site health as seen below.
The site audit reports also show you top issues from your website that are related to crawl-ability, site performance (speed), and internal linking.
The tool picks up everything from small issues to big ones and not everything that is reported needs to be actioned.
Like for example, sometimes it picks up similar URL names and reports them as duplicates. As the website owner, you have to make the judgment yourself as to what needs to be fixed and what is ignored.
You can see all the pages from your website with issues, in a page structure/tree format as well. This is very useful if you have a lot of pages and want to figure out patterns in them.
You can also see the audited issues on your website graphically or by statistics.
I personally love the statistics, list view because it shows me all the issues on the website in one single place. The insights next to every metric and explains why there is an issue and why it needs to be fixed.
How to use SEMrush keyword magic tool
SEMrush has an amazing tool in its kitty – the keyword magic tool.
It’s kind of different from your regular SEO keyword tools in the fact that it makes keyword research so much easy.
Let me show you how it works.
Once you give in the primary keyword that you’re interested in, choose the geographical location you want to get data from, and click ‘”Search”, you’ll see a list of keywords for that keyword.
The interface for the keyword magic tool will look something like this.
On the top, you can select the geographical location (drop-down menu showing country flag).
There are a bunch of filters that switches between…
- Broad Match
- Phrase Match
- Exact Math and
- Related Keywords.
You can choose the options, based on your content strategy is. For example, if you’re doing keyword research for PPC (paid ads on Google AdWords), you can choose phrase/broad or exact match combinations so you get a sharper keyword approach.
If you’re doing keyword research for a blog or broader content strategy, then you could use the “Questions” and “Related” options as well.
For example, if your primary keyword is “blogging”, then questions will show you keywords like “how to start blogging”.
You can use the filters on the left-hand side to do deeper keyword research as well. It gives you modifiers to add to your primary keyword that will provide thematically related keyword clusters.
For example, some of the modifiers for the “How to” primary keyword (as shown in the screenshot) are.[How to] Get > [Get] Rid of > [Get] Back etc [How to] Make > [Make] Without > [Make] Videos etc
SEMrush has a keyword manager tool where all your keyword searches, lists, and position tracking are saved at.
Every keyword magic search is automatically saved as a new list. You can rename the list and make it unique for later access.
You can export all the keywords data in any list to any format (csv, xlx etc) from the keyword manager.
How to do a backlink audit with SEMrush
Simply put, backlinks are links to your website from other websites. Technically, every link from any other website is a backlink.
For example, any link from Facebook, Twitter, comments, etc are all backlinks. But, in today’s SEO world, these links are discounted and not counted as valid backlinks.
Because they are social media links that are “no follow”.
Nofollow is a web protocol for links that states search engines like Google, not to follow the content linked to.
So, nofollow links are NOT counted in SEO but “do follow” links are. Which are likely “recommendations” from other websites.
SEMrush scans the internet and finds out the total number of websites that are linking to your website, and counts them by domains, pages, and IP address.
It also counts how many links are text-based, images, form, or frame-based. Text links obviously are more important and carry more value as compared to images or UGC (user-generated content or comment links).
In the above screenshot, SEMrush shows which are the top anchor texts used by other websites to link to our website.
What do Top Anchor Terms mean?
Top anchors data usually gives a good idea about what other websites see as good content in your website. Or essentially, what you are popular for on the internet.
SEMrush also shows you the top domains that are linking to your website. If you have an active link building strategy, this is usually a good benchmark figure for your website.
What does the SEMrush Backlink Audit tool do?
SEMrush’s backlink audit tool checks for toxic links/websites pointing at your website so that you can remove them from your backlink profile.
But wait. What are toxic links and how do they affect your website negatively?
Toxic links can generally be classified as links or references from harmful websites, like spam, low-quality websites, that add no value to your website.
As you can see above, SEMrush scans the entire list of websites linking to your website and checks if there are any toxic ones, and gives you an overall Toxicity score.
This is a good indicator of the backlink profile for your website.
Clicking on the toxic score will give you a breakup of all the links toxic and otherwise.
You might want to filter out the toxic links and get them removed from your profile using the disavow option within the Google search console. In the section below, I’ve shown how to disavow toxic links from your website’s backlink profile using SEMrush. Do check it out.
How does SEMrush collect keyword data?
According to an official SEMrush page,
SEMrush’s Google US database contains 160 million keywords and analyzes the first 100 organic results for each keyword to gather data for our Domain Analytics and Keyword Analytics reports.
How to use SEMrush to improve SEO
SEO is one of the marketing channels that SEMrush can support and help grow. Though, it isn’t the only thing.
Here’s how SEMrush can help with SEO.
- Monitor your website’s keyword ranks on Google.
- Monitor SEO search performance on different search engines.
- Monitor SEO search performance on platforms (mobile, desktop)
- Monitor your competition & their SEO performance.
- Find out link partners for your website.
- Assist you with finding links to your website.
- Assist you with hiring content writers.
- Help you create a content marketing strategy for SEO.
- Find out what’s wrong with your website.
- Spy on your competition – find out their top pages.
- Spy on your competition – find out their top keywords.
- Spy on your competition – find out their top links.
- Alert you for possible Google algorithm updates.
SEMrush is a powerful SEO tool. But it really depends on what you can do with the data.
If you’re expecting SEMrush to spoon-feed you with action items, then you might be disappointed.
As an SEO expert, what I recommend you do is that you use SEMrush to have a thorough understanding of your website, and build a solid base.
Make sure there aren’t any errors, your pages are fast loading, no broken links, no bad code, no thin content, no bad links pointing at your website, etc.
Then, use SEMrush’s content marketing tools to build solid content on top of that base.
If possible, use social promotion tools and PPC ads to do a little bit of outreach and promotion as well.
Using a Hub & Spoke strategy is a great way for building long terms SEO results.
Hub & Spoke Content Marketing Strategy
According to this strategy, you split your keywords into two categories based on relevance and priority – hub and spokes.
Hub – Relevant keywords related to the primary product, published higher up the site architecture, linked more, and accessible within one click.
Spokes – These are long-tail, relevant keywords related to the hub, that are published under each hub, linking back to the hub articles but also accessible from elsewhere.
How much does SEMrush cost
SEMrush costs $99 per month.
SEMrush has three plans (Pro, Guru, and Business) and a free 14-day demo.
This is the starter plan for freelancers, bloggers, startups, and in-house marketers with a limited budget. Basically, anyone with 1-3 websites trying to do grow their marketing channels.
You have access to all the tools in this plan but are limited in terms of the number of keywords, number of websites, projects, etc.
When you need to expand the number of keywords, projects, etc, you’ll need to upgrade to the Guru plan.
SEMrush’s Guru plan is for small businesses and growing marketing agencies.
It includes all the features in the Pro plan and the following features added.
- Content Marketing Platform
- Branded reports (Great for marketing agencies)
- Historical Data (Useful for comparison)
- Extended limits
SEMrush’s business plan is for bigger agencies and businesses with perhaps more than 5-10 web properties.
This plan includes all the Guru features and the following.
- White-label reports (Useful for marketing agencies)
- API access
- Extended limits and sharing options
- Google Data Studio Integration
How to find broken links on SEMrush
To find broken links on your site, go to site audit here.
Navigate to the “Issues” tab and you’ll see something similar.
You’ll get a list of links that are broken. Click on the URL to go to each page and fix the links.
How to find backlinks in SEMrush
Another cool feature of SEMrush is the ability to find links pointing to your website (known as backlinks).
With just the click of a button, you can find all the sites that are linking to your site. To find all the backlinks to your site, go to “Backlink Audit”
You should see something similar to the screenshot below.
Click on the Referring Domains number and it’ll take you to the list of all websites linking to your website.
You can see the following on the link audit page.
- Linking URL
- Link Status – Whether new or not
- Anchor Text – The text used to link to your page (sometimes images)
- Toxic Score – The overall toxic score of the domain. Lower the better.
- Actions – What you choose to do with the links.
It’s a good idea to remove/disavow all links pointing to your site that have a high toxic scores.
How to disavow bad links with SEMrush
To disavow bad links pointing to your site first, go to Link Audit (as mentioned above.
From the link audit page, either manually go one by one into each link and click the “To Disavow” button.
You’ll also find a “To Remove” button.
This feature will help you contact the webmaster of the website who has linked to you and deletes the link.
a) Adding to Disavow list.
Clicking the disavow button will make all the links show up in a special list called the “Disavow List” on SEMrush.
From here, you can download all the bad links and add them manually to the Google Disavow tool.
The links can be downloaded as a .txt file, and you can straight away upload it to Google Disavow tool, as it is in the right format.
b) Adding to Remove list.
Check out my SEMrush Tutorials
Also, check out my SEMrush Tutorials on YouTube, where I have quick and short video tutorials on doing pretty much everything with SEMrush.
Hope you like it.
Can you get Free SEMrush account?
I wish. 🙂
But if you’re planning to buy SEMrush or upgrade to a different plan, let me know in the comments or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, I might be able to get you a discount or little something extra. 😉
Update: May 15th, 2020
As of today, SEMrush has added some new features to the tool.
- A brand new dashboard – It has more metrics in quick glance and is really useful when you have multiple projects.
- Subfolders and Subdomains – Now you can analyze data for a subfolder/subdomain/exact URL in the Domain overview.
- Keyword rank checks in bulk – Now you can check up to 20 keywords in a bulk inside the Keyword overview.
- Broken links – Now you can filter out broken links from the backlink index.
All the best!
Summary – Is SEMrush worth it?
So, should you hand out your credit card and buy it for $199?
I think yes. But it depends on who you are and what you want.
You’ll find SEMrush useful..
- If you’re someone who goes the extra mile and does more than the regular content production.
- If you want to keep track of your competition and stay updated.
- If you want to keep track of your search engine positions.
- If you’re an affiliate blogger who’s focused on content and free traffic.
- If you’re an agency that does marketing to multiple clients.
- If you’re a small company with an in-house SEM team.
- If you’re a content marketer whose strategy is scalable content.
For all of the above folks, I think $199 is a steal!
What I really think is the USP of SEMrush however is the community around it. There’s probably no feature request that gets unnoticed or no email/tweet that goes unanswered by the SEMrush team.
I find that a very comfortable ecosystem to be in.
Also check out Alejandro Rioja’s SEMrush review here.
Is SEMrush the best SEO tool?
No. SEMrush is not the best SEO tool out there. There are more sophisticated, enterprise-level SEO software like BrightEdge, SEO Clarity, etc that can do a lot of weight lifting and make your SEO effortless.
But the question is, whether you need such enterprise-level SEO tools or not.
For most small businesses, a tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs is more than enough to do the essential SEO stuff.
For the price point, I think SEMrush is placed well and packs a lot of features that are useful to small businesses and startups.
Full Disclosure: I’m a paid customer of SEMrush and have been using it since 2014. But I also keep trying every other SEO tool out there and my opinions here are based on my experience comparing them.