- Super easy to use
- A comprehensive amount of data that’s easy to filter
- Easy to download and manipulate reports
- Link analysis - excellent tools and data
- Chrome writing assistant extension doesn’t work properly
- Some advanced features poorly executed
- Older historical data seems inaccurate
The information below is a comprehensive review of the SEMrush product written with the beginner in mind.
What I will review is a step-by-step of how you can use the product to do your basic keyword research, understand the findings, run reports, analyze your competitors, along with a pros and cons of the SEMrush audit tool.
Before I begin the review, I want to be very clear that every product I review on this blog I use personally. No product more so than SEMrush. SEMrush is my go-to tool for SEO, competitor, and domain research. In fact, I use SEMrush daily,
By the end of this article, you will understand what the product does, how much it cost, why you will want to use SEMrush for your business, and how to get started.
Also, I included my email address at the end of this article in the event you want to connect with me to ask any questions. If I know the answer, I promise to respond within 24-hours. If I don’t know the answer, I will direct you to someone who can help.
So let’s dive in …
If you have an amazing customer service team, but, if your accounting department is a mess, and your accounts receivables are behind, then that will negatively impact your business.
Similarly, if your accounting department is run like a well-oiled machine, but, your sales team can’t bring in leads and sales, then, you’re going to have a problem scaling your business.
Most importantly, and this is something I write extensively about, marketing is at the heart of a well-run business. Marketing is the engine that drives leads to your company.
No leads mean no business.
No marketing means no business.
And just as digital marketing is at the core of a well-run company, the SEO and SEM strategy is at the core of a well-run marketing department.
I’m writing this SEMrush review because I believe quite passionately about the product. If you’re not using an SEO research audit tool of some sort, then you need to start. The life of your business will depend on it.
Well, marketing is at the core of a well-run business, and like I said a few sentences ago, no marketing means no business.
I use SEMrush daily.
I use the product for keyword research, so when I write an article, I always check the keywords in SEMrush in advance, and when I’m not writing an article, I’m using the product to monitor the health of my domain(s), and then gauge how my competitors are doing.
Needless to say, the product has been an indispensable audit tool, and I believe it needs to be at the core of not only any digital marketing or marketing department but, every entrepreneur should understand how to do some basic keyword research.
And with that in mind, and in this article, I’m going to show you how to use the product, how to run some basic reports, and then, how to do both keyword research and competitive analysis.
What you’ll find is that the product is quite easy to use and is very intuitive. I will provide examples of that below. In other words, you don’t need to be a digital marketing guru to use it. You can be up and running in 30-minutes.
BUT, knowing how to use SEMrush doesn’t make you an expert marketer any more than knowing how to use a hammer makes you an expert carpenter. You need to play with, test, iterate, and spend some time with the product, and then, and most importantly, you need to know what to look for. That’s what I hope to provide in this review. Some basic SEMrush strategy to help you get started.
Incidentally, I recorded a video of me navigating through the SEMrush SEO tool product, and you can watch that in addition to reading this blog post. This will give you a better indication of the product flow and feature set.
SEMrush Review – The Most Comprehensive Review on the Internet Written for Beginners
I’ve been writing on my blog, The Kickass Entrepreneur, for over two years now. I “officially” discovered the SEMrush product in July 2019, and initially signed up for the SEMrush pro free trial.
Prior to working with SEMrush, in July 2019, this blog had a DA (domain authority) of 16 and was receiving approx. 30 Google hits per day. Fast forward 6 months later, and the DA had jumped to 44, and Google hits jumped to 1,300 per day. SEMrush didn’t do the work, of course, but, it was the number one tool I used.
For starters, and before I talk about the product, let’s get the uncomfortable stuff out of the way. The SEMrush SEO tool pricing.
SEMrush has three account types:
- SEMrush Pro = $99.95 per month
- SEMrush Guru = $199.95 per month
- SEMrush Business = $399.95 per month
For most small businesses, the SEMrush Pro account is probably more than sufficient.
The main advantage of the Guru over the Pro version is that the Guru version allows you to run historical reports.
Let me provide an example of what the historical reports option will provide.
In the screenshot below, you will notice I ran a report for my website, thekickassentrepreneur.com. You’ll notice the graph highlights the number of keywords that this site ranks for, and in the image below, for the period of August 2019 to July 2020 specifically.
In the Pro version, it’s possible to click on the month of July, (the most recent month), and SEMrush will show all of the keywords from July.
In the Pro version, I CAN NOT click on any month other than the most recent month.
In the Guru version, you CAN gather historical data. In other words, you can click on the month of June, May, and so on, and you will see all ranked keywords from that time period.
Beyond the historical data, there are subtle differences between the Pro, Guru, and Business plans. For example, in the Pro version, you can only track 3 projects, whereas, in the Business version, you can track up to 25.
Needless to say, the Pro version is probably more than sufficient for most small business’s requirements, and would certainly be an excellent starting place. I will mention a few other features later in this article and highlight some other differences between Pro, Guru, and Business.
Using SEMrush for Keyword Research
Here’s where the magic happens.
When I first started writing blog posts in June 2018, I was led to believe that you should always write for quality, and when you do, the search engines will find your articles and site.
While it is true that quality is extremely important, in the absence of a solid keyword research plan, and although your article might be excellent, it likely won’t be found by the search engines.
I started writing blog posts in July 2018, and as I said earlier, by July 2019, I was getting no more than 30 to 40 page views to my site from the search engines per day. I signed up for SEMrush in July 2019, and I “officially” started doing keyword research in September 2019. You can see, from the image below, that in August 2019 I had approximately 300 keywords total in SEMrush.
Between September 2019, and December 2019, I wrote about 40 articles. I thoroughly researched about 20 of them.
I took a break from blogging between January 2020 and April 2020, so other than writing one blog post per week, I left this blog alone.
By April 2020, this site ranked for more than 6,000 words and was getting approximately 1,500 organic hits per day from Google.
SEMrush Keyword Analytics – Domain Overview
So how can SEO research help your small business?
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume we’re trying to market the services of a small inground irrigation company (incidentally, I did operate an irrigation company while in college many years ago, and before I started and sold my larger company in 2017 to private equity).
Being the smart entrepreneur you are, you realize that you need to start focusing on some SEO. You need leads!
There are many facets to bringing in leads including managing your brand, messaging, website design, and how optimized your pages are for conversion. SEMrush will NOT help with any of that. SEMrush is a research tool that will help you navigate the world of SEO, and to that end, the SEMrush audit tool is amazing. Prior to choosing SEMrush, I researched and used MOZ and Ahrefs, and neither had anywhere near the ease of use, and reporting provided by SEMrush.
Now getting back to the small irrigation company.
You decide you’re going to write an article on “the best time of day to water your lawn“. I’m making this up of course – you could do anything, but we’ll start with that for the purposes of this article.
So let’s head over to Google. We type in the phrase “the best time of day to water your lawn”. Here are the results:
You click on the first article. You copy and paste the URL into the SEMrush tool so that we can do some SEMrush competitor analysis. Here’s the data that SEMrush provides:
As you can see, this article ranks for 761 keywords. It receives approximately 9,800 hits per month.
Keep in mind, the data I’m showing you is for the one article alone.
Now, here’s the biggie … if we were to pay for that advertising in pay per click dollars, SEMrush is estimating that the cost for advertising these 761 keywords would be $12,400 per month.
Next, I want to see what the other 760 keywords are for this article, so I click on the word “keywords”. Here are the results:
For your reference, I downloaded all 761 keywords to an Excel file, and if you want to see what the Excel output looks like, you can get them from this link.
I’ve drawn four circles in the above image – volume, keyword difficulty (KD), CPC, and export. Let’s review all four.
Volume – this is the estimated volume in the chosen country (in this case the USA), for this particular keyword. So you can see that the first search traffic result has a volume of 90, which means that there are approximately 90 searches per month for that particular long-tail keyword. It’s important to note that you can choose the country you want to review, so, if you’re in Canada, or Australia, for example, then you can see how much volume this keyword receives in that country.
Keyword Difficulty (KD) – this is how difficult it will be to rank for the keyword. Anything more than 68, or higher, and it’s quite competitive. Higher than 80, and it’s extremely competitive, and anything under 58, or so, is reasonable. The lower the better. I rarely see anything in the 40s or 90s.
CPC – this is Cost per Click. If there’s a cost noted in this line, then this would be the approximate cost to bid for placement for that particular keyword. For example, the 3rd line item has a CPC of $4.70, which means that it would cost approximately $4.70 per click for that keyword.
Export – this will allow you to export the file, all of the keywords, to an Excel file or CSV. Again, you can download this report here.
SEMrush Research Strategy:
The devil is in the details of course. And remember what I said before … just because you have a hammer doesn’t make you a carpenter (my wife reminds me of that all the time).
Along the same lines – just because you have SEMrish doesn’t make you an SEO Guru.
You need a strategy.
Here’s my strategy, and what I’ve learned from other SEO gurus.
I’m on the hunt for as many “good” keywords as I can find. I’ll copy and paste the URLs from a few of the top articles relating to a subject I intend to write about. I download all of the reports to an Excel file, and merge them into one large file.
I’m looking for keywords that have as large a volume as possible with a keyword difficulty of 65 or under and ideally no more than 1,000,000 results in the SERP.
Let me provide an example:
You can see below my SEMrush findings for this particular article below.
My Excel list had approximately 700 total keywords. I sorted through the list to find the best keywords … the ones where I had the best chances of ranking. You can see a sample of the list below.
Keyword Overview – How to Add Keywords in SEMrush
Now let’s get back to our lawn irrigation example.
I want to show you what happens when you click on one of the keywords in SEMrush.
You will notice that there are 3.3 million results in the SERP – search engine results page. Generally speaking, this particular longtail keyword term is quite competitive in terms of keyword difficulty (KD) at 73%, and with a monthly volume of 90, which is low, this is probably not a keyword term I would try to go for.
Remember, I’m looking for a keyword difficulty (KD) of 65 or lower ideally.
If you scroll down the SEMrush page a little further, you will see the top articles that rank for a particular keyword.
Once again, let’s review the circled items from the listing:
Page AS – Authority Score – SEMrush assigns an authority score to every webpage (more on that later). The higher the site’s AS, the harder it will be to beat in the search terms.
Ref Domain = Referring Domains – this is the number of domains that refer (link to) this particular website’s page. The more the better. This will provide an indication of how difficult it will be to beat this article.
Backlinks – this is the number of backlinks that this webpage has (not domains, but backlinks).
Search Traffic – this is the estimated amount of search traffic that this article receives. Notice the first place receives 9,800 per month, the second place 9,700, and the third-place 1,700 per month.
URL keywords – this is the number of keywords that this particular article ranks for.
I have a list of the 761 keywords that this article is ranking for. I’ve downloaded the list, and have done some basic research. I have some article ideas, keyword possibilities, and the early stages of some direction.
Now, there’s more work to be done, but, before I continue, I want to take a quick break and discuss domain analytics: In particular, I want to review the strength of my (or my competitor’s domain), so I head over to “domain analytics”.
Using the domain from the irrigation company we referenced earlier in this article, we’re now going to do some competitor keyword tracking and domain analytics analysis.
At the top of the SEMrush audit tool, you will notice a toolbar,
I enter the URL for this company into the toolbar.
We have a goldmine of competitor information, and now it’s time to review some of this data.
Competitive Analysis with SEMrush: View Your Competitor’s Backlinks
Here’s what we can tell from the data (image above): This company ranks for 50,000 keywords, brings in 479,800 organic keywords (web) visits per month, and if they were to pay for all of this “free” advertising, this would cost them $279,000 per month.
Organic Keywords Search Positions:
Let’s take a closer look at the 50,000 keywords, in fact, we can download the Excel file to make it easier to sort through.
It’s also possible to sort through the data in SEMrush, so let’s do that first with the built-in filter.
I’ve modified my search criteria as follows:
- volume – between 100 to 1,000 per month
- keyword difficulty (KD) of 65% or lower
The search result produces a list of 225 keywords which is much easier to digest than the initial 50,000 keyword list.
Remember what I said earlier about SEO keyword strategy – volume between 100 to 1,000 with a KD of 65% or lower.
From this list, I’ve found a few longtail keywords that are worth further consideration. For example, “best planting days for 2019” has a monthly volume of 720, and a keyword difficulty (KD) ranking of 58.
That’s an excellent term to add to my shortlist.
I continue going through the list of 225 keywords making note of any that I would like to use.
I now want to spend some time reviewing backlinks.
Domain Analytics – Analyzing Backlink Analytics
Part of any organic SEO strategy is to build a list of backlinks to your site. The more (good quality white-hat) backlink analytics to your site, the greater your domain authority with the search engines.
You can write an extremely thorough, detailed, analytical review or article, and if your domain authority is weak, then you’re going to have a tough time ranking in the search engines.
Using SEMrush’s backlink analytics analyzer audit tool, you can gauge how your site (or your competitor’s site) is doing with regard to backlinks.
As you can see from the image below, and getting back to the irrigation company, there are 1,900 referring domains and 40,500 backlinks. They have a SEMrush authority score of 51.
It is possible to evaluate these referring domains and backlinks by clicking on either option. When you do, you will have full visibility of all of the backlinks linking into the domain. You can investigate the quality, industry, anchor text, and authority of each backlink keeping in mind that not all backlinks are created equal.
A do-follow link from The New York Times is going to have a greater impact to your domain authority than a link from your local restaurant.
It is also possible to download the entire list of 45,000 backlinks as an Excel file.
Getting new backlinks is an art in and of itself, and certainly outside the context of this article.
Writing excellent content is also an art, and to that end, SEMrush has the SEO Writing Assistant. Here you can copy and paste your article (content) into the SEO Writing Assistant so that SEMrush can do some basic writing analysis.
SEO Writing Assistant
NOTE – this feature as well as the SEMrush writing assistant chrome extension requires the SEMrush Guru plan.
Once your article is written, you can copy and paste the content into the SEO writing assistant template, add the targeted keywords (on the right), and SEMrush will analyze your article for content, keyword quality, and then provide recommendations on what within your article can be improved.
This of course doesn’t speak to the actual quality of the content itself.
- Is your article engaging?
- Is the content accurate?
- Will people want to read your article?
The SEMrush tool is somewhat subjective, and SEMrush isn’t equipped to make an appropriate assessment of the suitability of the content itself. It’s a guide and should be used as such.
Is SEMrush Worth It?
I’m going to answer this in two ways – is SEMrush worth it for me, and is SEMrush worth it for a small business owner?
Is SEMrush worth it for me?
SEMrush is my number one go-to tool for all of my SEO and domain overview analyses. I don’t even begin writing an article unless I have done some keyword and competitive analysis using the SEMrush tool. To say the tool has been completely indispensable would be an understatement, in fact, I’m not sure how any business, blog, on anyone making money online, can not have an SEO tool of some sort.
Is SEMrush worth it for a small business owner?
Every single business needs to have an online presence. Spending time on building a website, writing blog posts, adding content, or selling products, and not doing at least some basic keyword research, in advance, is a complete waste of time. Next, and maybe as important, is keeping on top of what your main competitors are doing, and in that regard, you can gain all sorts of insight using SEMrush. For example, you will know what backlinks they’re getting (what products they sell, where they buy from), what type of content they’re doing, whether they’re focusing on SEO or not, and what their strategy is.
At last, if you’re looking to acquire a business, you can use SEMrush to glean all sorts of information on the business and intelligence as it relates to the domain overview. When used in combination with other SEO tools like Way Back Machine, will give you a sense of the online presence, and more, of the business you’re looking to acquire.
As I’ve mentioned a few times in this article, I have been an active user of the SEMrush audit tool for over one-year, and believe it or not, I haven’t had to access SEMrush support or service in that length of time. Having said that, for the purposes of this article, I wanted to test their responsiveness, and so I opened a support ticket on July 27th, 2020 at 10:25 am, and I heard back from someone from their support department at 11:09 am with a response and some suggestions. The total time from support submission to response is 44-minutes, which is excellent.
Digital Marketing Insights – Traffic Analysis
Every company has competition, and it’s always helpful to understand and analyze, how your site is doing vis-a-vis your competition’s website. In this particular case, I am analyzing two competing firms, both in the irrigation business, and both direct competitors with one another.
As you can see from the image below, both sites received roughly the same amount of traffic, up and until March 2020 when the green site audit (Rainbird) spiked in traffic.
There are other reports, like audience insights, traffic journeys, and Geo distribution which is only available on the Guru plan.
Upon further analysis, and using the keyword gap tool, it is possible to see which keywords you have overlap (and gaps) between your site audit and your competitors.
I can see that there are 1,200 shared keywords, and I can also evaluate where there are keyword gaps between my site audit, and my direct competitors so that I can improve my keyword presence.
These tools, the traffic analyzer, traffic analysis, and keyword gaps, allow you to essentially spy on your competition.
Now that you’re getting the hang of the SEMrush tool, and you have a few keywords you want to track – the ones that are most important – you can keep an eye on these particular keywords so you know how your site audit is trending. This is done in the “Position Tracking” section on the left-hand side (this next section is short, and then I discuss the pros and cons).
How to Configure SEMrush Position Tracking Tool
The position tracking tool is set up in four steps:
- Select the search engine you want SEMrush to monitor
- Choose the device you want to monitor – mobile, desktop, or tablet
- Enter your ZIP code
- Enter the business name for the local map pack (more on this later)
You can now input the list of keywords you want SEMrush to monitor. You can:
- enter these keywords manually
- use the SEMrush keyword tool to enter the words
- gather the data from Google Analytics
I’ve entered a sample keyword (for the domain overview) so you can see how it looks:
You can also run a SEMrush visibility trend so you can see how your keywords are trending.
Does the information we’ve reviewed seem somewhat daunting? Are you wondering where to start with SEO and using SEMrush?
SEMrush has a number of online videos and a suite of tools that you, as a user of their product, have full access to. You can visit the SEMrush Academy here.
Pros & Cons of SEMrush
As you can tell from this review, there’s a lot that SEMrush can do. And there’s a lot we haven’t even covered as it relates to marketing & digital marketing.
This article has been written with the beginner in mind. It’s written for someone with little SEO and search traffic experience, and no SEMrush experience who wants to know what SEMrush is, and how it works.
Pros of SEMrush:
- Super easy to use
- A comprehensive amount of data that’s easy to filter
- Easy to download reports
- Backlink report is thorough and has even more backlinks than Google Search Console. A great tool to help with link building
Cons of SEMrush:
- The Chrome writing assistant extension doesn’t work that well, so I stopped using it
- The more advanced features that come with the Guru plan seem like they were added as a bit of an afterthought
How to Use SEMrush for free?
Unfortunately, SEMrush and their suite of tools aren’t free, but, the basic plan is less than $100 per month. If you want to use SEMrush for free (and take advantage of the SEMrush offers) for a short period (14-days), you can get a free trial account with this link.
The SEMrush Pro Free Trial
SEMrush offers a 7-day free trial of their product, and you can obtain the trial from this link.
At the beginning of this article, I suggested that I would provide my email address. Feel free to email me with any questions. My address is: jeff at jeffwiener dot com
That was a lot of information, and if you’ve made it this far, good for you. You’re now on your way to becoming a
master carpenter digital marketing expert. Well, maybe not quite, but, this tool is certainly an excellent first step.
And by the way, I write about how to build a business, improve profits, and create wealth. If you want to learn more, here are a couple of other articles:
If you liked this post, you might also enjoy this one: Do you Have the Most Important Trait Required to Become a Millionaire?
Download my book and Amazon bestseller (number 1 in business, number 1 in non-fiction). You can get your FREE copy here. This book covers in great detail how I protect and grow my wealth through strategically investing in real estate, and maintaining a health cash position.