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SEO ranking software now forms an essential part of owning a business or a website to increase its overall visibility.
I call applications like: SEMrush, Ahrefs, Moz, Link Assistant, etc. SEO ranking software because at its core they all have one thing in common and that is to improve your standings or ranking within the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) through SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
To do that, there are lots of factors to consider and tools like SEMrush keeps you safe from Google algorithm hits, ensure your content is optimized for the search engines, monitors your progress and visibility and lets you see what your competitors are up to.
Then of course there is the all important keyword research so you can optimise your visibility within the SERPs.
SEMrush is one such popular; all-in-one SEO solution for your website.
When I first looked at obtaining SEO ranking software for my company’s website, I needed to do some research to find the best keyword tool and auditing software that fits our pocket, is easy to use and that produces results:
It took me a long time to do so and if you considered making use of SEMrush like I did, but need more information quick – Well, that is why I wrote an SEMrush review so you can make an educated decision whether SEMrush is for you or not.
My Verdict – Recommended
SEMrush Review 2019
Spy On Your Competitors
|Ease Of Use|
|Value For Money|
What I Want You To Know
Firstly: I am a customer and affiliate of SEMrush but SEMrush is not the only SEO toolkit I am using. There are certain things SEMrush excels at in my opinion and there are some things other tools are better at.
But here I will give my honest evaluation of SEMrush so that you can decide what appeals to you and what not.
Secondly: (This is my opinion) If you write content for your audience and do not intentionally try to manipulate your standings within the SERPs, you do not have to worry about getting hit by any future Algorithm, Google or otherwise.
At the same time: It is still important to check for broken links, grammar and spelling, internal links, broken images and on page SEO to mention some.
This is where tools like SEMrush can be very useful / valuable as an SEO auditing – and analysis tool.
What is SEMrush
So I called SEMrush an SEO ranking software package before, but here is a better summary: It is an all-in-one digital marketing suite that contains all the tools needed to grow your website’s presence in one online package.
From site auditing, backlink checking, spying on your competition, link building, rank tracking and more, SEMrush has a toolkit for you.
SEMrush Free Account
There is a very limited SEMrush free account that you could use which is different to the 7-day trial they offer. (Used to be a 14-day trail)
Simply go to SEMrush and do any search. A block will pop up asking you to register.
In the next heading below, I have outlined the limits.
For the 7-day trail, you will get the full functionality of SEMrush for 7 days and then you will start to pay a monthly subscription fee.
To sign up for the trial account you will need to also fill in your credit card details and then they will start to automatically bill you after the 7 days expired.
SEMrush Free Account Limits
- 10 Searches per day
- 10 results per search
- 1 Project
- Track 10 keywords
Site Audit Tool:
- Crawl up to 100 pages
Getting Started With SEMrush
It can be confusing where to start and what toolkit to use when using SEMrush for the first time. In reality, it is quite simple once you understand it a bit better.
All the available tools are listed in the left margin with a drop-down box at the top to select the specific toolkit you want to use. These tools are divided into 5 groups: SEO, Advertising, Social Media, Content Marketing and Competitive Research.
For example: If you want to do research on your competitors: Where their traffic comes from, what keywords they promote, their linking strategy, etc.; then you will use the tools under the Competitive Research toolkit.
There are two ways of gathering data:
- Pulling results from the SEMrush database or
- Creating reports which will gather information outside of the SEMrush database.
What is the SEMrush database
SEMrush collects data of millions (if not billions) of keywords for both mobile and desktop per country as well as domains. The top 100 results and top 8 ads through Google Ads will then be stored in their database.
It takes around a month for SEMrush to update all the keywords which means the data in its database/s is not older than one month.
Querying the SEMrush database spits out results quickly and accurately.
So if you do not get any results or data for your query, your domain or keyword is not listed in the top 100 results for the country you have selected.
The easiest thing to do would be to enter a domain name or a keyword in the top search bar of your dashboard. This will query the SEMrush database for your query.
For example: I want to learn more about my competitor’s SEO strategies and so I will type their domain name in the search bar.
Try it below:
The menu in the left margin will change to the available tools for my search query, starting with Domain Overview in this example.
Let me take you through a quick overview of the tools provided:
The SEO toolkit tools are grouped in 5 categories:
- Competitive Research
- Keyword research
- Link Building
- Rank Tracking
- On Page and Technical SEO
The tools I like to use from the Competitive Research group are: Domain overview mostly and sometimes I use Organic research. This gives me a good understanding of my competitors SEO strategies.
Let us have a quick look at these:
SEO Toolkit – Domain Overview
The Domain Overview is split into 4 groups:
- Organic Search – The blue number shows the estimated traffic per month to the domain.
- Paid Search – The blue number indicates the estimated traffic received from paid advertising.
- Backlinks – The blue number here represents the amount of links pointing to the domain.
- Display Advertising – The blue number indicates all the ads (text and image) that is displayed through Google Ads.
You can click on any of the blue numbers to give you a more detailed report.
In essence, I can pretty much see everything needed to analyze my competition. This includes, but not limited to, where their traffic comes from, their competitors, their top keywords (paid and organic), where their backlinks are coming from, see some of their advertisements through Google Ads, the top anchor texts used and more.
Put together, it is pretty powerful information that will aid you in adjusting your SEO efforts in outshining your competitors.
SEO Toolkit – Organic Research
Sometimes I am only interested in my competitors organic traffic that they receive. I will then use the Organic Research report for an in depth look at their organic traffic.
You will be able to see who your competitors are, for which keywords they rank, which of their pages gets the most traffic (even on sub-domains) and more.
From the Keyword Research group, I mainly use the Keyword Magic Tool if at all. Keyword research is a must but I prefer other keyword research tools to this.
SEO Toolkit – Keyword Magic Tool
Keyword research is very important before you write any content. The Keyword Magic Tool is what you will use for all your keyword ideas and finding low hanging keywords based on the KD (keyword difficulty) and volume.
I will show you a bit later how to find valuable long tail keywords using the Keyword Magic Tool and what exactly long tail keywords are.
There is nothing wrong with the Keyword Magic Tool, but I prefer using Jaaxy, as I personally feel it is the best keyword research software to use without the fluff.
Before carrying on with the SEMrush tools, let me quickly fit in the following:
Keyword Research Benefits
If it is important to write quality content for your audience then why does keyword research matter? What are the benefits of keyword research?
The aim is for your content to reach your intended audience. People rarely go beyond the first page of the search engines and the precise reason why you would want your content showing on the first page.
Doing keyword research lays the foundation for achieving just that.
There is no point writing on a broad topic keyword with loads of traffic but so many competing pages that you will simply never show up on the front page.
That is why you are looking for that one keyword in relation to the topic you want to write about, that has got low competition and yet receives some traffic/viewers/people searching for that keyword.
For me keyword research benefits are:
- Receiving targeted traffic
- Increasing your traffic on a consistent basis
- Provides you with loads of ideas for your niche
- Results in more comments and shares
What Are Long-Tail Keywords?
The length of the keyword or the number of words in it has got nothing to do with the keyword being long-tail.
“Long Tail” is a term used pointing to the popularity of the keyword.
The most popular keywords form the head of the graph above and the less popular keywords form the tail.
Therefore, a keyword can have 7 words in it, but if it gets 15,000 views a month (as example) it forms part of the head.
The opposite is also true. A keyword can have only 2 words in it but only receives 15 views a month and that will make it a long-tailed keyword.
So why would you aim for the low popularity keywords? Because there is less competition, which makes it easier to rank for and far more valuable than a popular keyword you may not be able to rank for and as a result receive no organic search traffic.
Some traffic is better than none, right?
Let us get back to the tools…
SEO Toolkit – Position Tracking
Position tracking is another tool under the rank tracking group I would use. It allows you to add the keywords you would like to check your standing for in the SERPs.
For you to be able to use Position Tracking, you will need to have created a report first.
When setting up Position Tracking, you choose the device (mobile, tablet or desktop computer) along with the location you would like to check your keyword standings in the SERPs.
Once you have added the keywords you want to check for, a report will be generated for you that includes an overview of your keyword ranking and options you chose as shown above.
It is cumbersome for me to select only a single location and device which is the only option for you when paying for the Pro plan. This will be fine if you are starting out as a blogger, company with a new website or online marketer.
You can; however, select multiple locations and devices when when paying for the Guru – or Business plan.
Personally, it is an important feature for me to have along with historical data. The Pro plan therefore does not meet my basic needs for a small business.
SEO Toolkit – Site Audit
This is a tool I often use and possibly my preferred site auditing tool from all the others I used before.
It is not that I get better or more information from SEMrush’s audit tool than other site auditing tools, but the ease of use and the quick results I get from it.
Some site auditing tools takes hours to complete.
This leads me to the Advertising Toolkit:
The Advertising Toolkit is well suited for a PPC (Pay Per Click) specialist and where you can do all your planning for a Google Ads campaign.
The Advertising Toolkit is grouped into 3 main groups:
- Competitive Analysis
- Keyword Research
- Ad Research and Creation
Let us have a look at some of the more useful tools in the Advertising Toolkit:
Advertising Toolkit – Advertising Research
Analyzing your competition is the first place to start if you want to run a successful PPC campaign.
The Advertising Research Reports provides you with detailed information on paid advertising and keywords that enables you to plan a successful PPC campaign.
Some of the useful information you will get:
- Where your competition gets their traffic from
- Analyze keywords by CPC (Cost Per Click)
- See the competition’s traffic per page
- See the competition level
From the Keyword Research section I will have a look at the PPC Keyword Tool:
Advertising Toolkit – PPC Keyword Tool
The PPC Keyword Tool simplifies your task when setting up PPC campaigns.
You add your keywords to the PPC Keyword Tool and choose your location. The keywords can be added manually or automatically pulled from a SEMrush report.
Keywords can then be grouped and more campaigns can be added. Duplicate keywords can automatically be found and removed with the click of a button.
Managing your keyword is a simple task whether refining the keyword, moving them to another group, exporting keywords or adding keywords to a negative list.
Next, I will use the Display Advertising tool found in the Ad Research And Creation group.
Advertising Toolkit – Display Advertising
The Display Advertising Toolkit will help you figure out the best placement for your ads.
Some of the useful information in this report is:
- The top publishers of your advertisement/s
- How many times it was seen.
- How each type of ad is performing – Interestingly, it seems that text advertisements mostly win.
- How your ads are doing per device and mobile operating system.
- When your ad was first seen and last seen.
Advertising Toolkit – Ad Builder
The Ad Builder works hand-in-hand with the PPC Keyword Tool and will automatically create a PPC Keyword Tool campaign on building and advertisement.
With the Ad Builder Tool you can research ads using keywords or see your competitor’s ads. From there you can even use one of the advertisements as a template.
I will briefly go over PLA Research:
Advertising Toolkit – PLA Research
PLA (Product Listing Ads) Research Tool is used to analyze the performance of Google Shopping ads.
When someone is searching in Google for a product that has a listing on Google Shopping, you will see the PLA listing.
The same way that Google has got an image search, it also have a search for PLAs specific here.
The PLA reports are only available with an SEMrush Business Level subscription.
This tool is helpful for when you have an e-commerce website as example.
Some of the valuable information gained from the PLA Research Tool includes:
- Seeing your competition’s keywords targeting their PLAs
- See the pricing of your rival’s products
- Determine the position of your competitor’s ads and more.
The next toolkit is the Social Media Toolkit
Social Media Toolkit
There are 2 tools in this toolkit: Social Media Poster and Social Media Tracker.
Social Media Toolkit – Social Media Poster
As the name suggests, you can post and schedule content to your social media accounts.
The following social media accounts can be linked to the Social Media Poster:
- Twitter (schedule and post)
- LinkedIn (schedule and post)
- Instagram (Schedule only)
- Facebook (schedule and post)
Once you have connected your social account, it is time to configure the settings (like: Time settings, Instagram Reminders, etc.) and then you are good to go.
Scheduling works off a calendar.
The amount of social media profiles you can set up depends on your subscription:
- 2 Profiles at a time for Free users
- 10 Profiles at a time for Pro users
- 30 Profiles at a time for Guru users
- 50 Profiles at a time for Business users
Pro Tip: Scheduling is a good feature to use for social posts because the right timing matters. The best day and time for me to reach my audience is normally on a Tuesday around 12h00.
You can correlate this with your analytics of when your posts gets the most unique visitors during the week.
The Social Media Tracker can assist in comparing the frequency your competitors post to their social accounts compared to you and you can accordingly adjust your posting time if you are outshone by the competition.
Social Media Toolkit – Social Media Tracker
This is actually where you should start before posting anything.
Grab the opportunity and get ahead of the competition by studying their strategies and adjusting yours.
Social Media Tracker can also show your Twitter Mentions so that you can respond timeously.
Tracking works on the following accounts:
- Instagram (Business accounts)
Reports provided on competitor’s social networks:
- Hashtags on multiple platforms
Content Marketing Toolkit
There are a total of 6 tools in the Content Marketing Toolkit:
- Content Audit
- Topic Research
- SEO Content Template
- SEO Writing Assistant
- Post Tracking
- Brand Monitoring
Content Marketing Toolkit – Content Audit
Content Audit is the first step in analyzing the content of your pages and finding pages on your website that needs improvement.
SEMrush finds the pages on your website from the sitemap.xml file and you simply tick off the sub folders you would like to audit.
To identify the weak content from the analyzed pages, simply sort your content by the quality metrics obtained. Like: Backlink count, social shares, views, word count, etc.
That is the basics.
Next, you run the identified URL’s of the content you would like to improve through the On Page SEO Checker found under your Projects dashboard and in the left margin menu.
From there you can enable post tracking to track the progress of your updated and improved post.
A bit about Post Tracking a little later.
Content Marketing – Topic Research
Topic Research is as the name suggests: Type in a topic in the search bar and you will be presented with loads of sub topics to brainstorm on content for your niche.
See the volume of average searches per month per subtopic, use mind maps and ask question on the topic to find the trendiest sub topic to write about.
Content Marketing – SEO Content Template
The SEO Content Template tool generates templates for you with SEO recommendations based on keywords you enter in the search bar including recommend word count.
You can then export the template to Google docs.
Content Marketing – SEO Writing Assistant
I have not used the writing assistant and it is still in BETA. I am not sure that I will be using it either but perhaps it will appeal to you.
The idea is that you can add SEO Writing Assistant as a Google Docs, WordPress, FireFox, Edge, Safari and Chrome add-on.
The tool will then check your content for originality and how well it complies with SEO recommendations.
My honest opinion is (as I stated earlier) there is no reason to check for plagiarism if you simply write naturally as you would to a friend.
Content Marketing – Post Tracking
Post Tracking can be enabled on a post to track its progress on a daily basis.
It will show metrics like:
- Referral traffic – Traffic that comes to your post from an outside source. This data is gathered from Google Analytics and therefore you will need to connect Google Analytics to your SEMrush account.
- Keywords – The number of keywords in the post ranking in the top 100. A maximum of 5 keywords per post can be tracked.
- Shares – The amount of shares amongst the social networks.
- Backlinks. – The number of external pages linking to your post.
Content Marketing – Brand Monitoring
With Brand Monitoring you can any word or phrase to be tracked for mentions around the globe.
This can be a valuable tool for brand managers.
This tool allows you to:
- Track mentions for specific domains on a daily basis
- Find link building prospects
- Visually compare trends of up to 3 words or phrases
- Filter, tag and label mentions and more.
Competitive Research Toolset
The competitive research toolkit simply contains all the tools available to you for spying on your competition. Most, if not all, of the tools were discussed earlier.
Onto the PDF builder:
SEMrush Custom PDF Report Builder
With the Report Builder it is easy to create the exact report you would like to generate.
There are templates to choose from or you can simply start a blank report and then drop available items from the left menu bar into your report.
You can move things around, create headings, columns, page breaks and more.
How To Find Valuable Long Tail Keywords Using The Keyword Magic Tool
First get a list of potential keywords by following these steps.
- Type your domain name in the Organic Search Tool to find your top competitors
- Choose 4 of your top competitors
Enter the decided on competitors in the Keyword Gap Tool with your domain last
Apply a filter to filter out only keywords with a KD (Keyword Difficulty) below 60
From the list of keyword, add keywords to the export manager that suits your niche
Change the Venn diagram (next to your domain) from ‘common keywords’ to ‘unique to first domain’
Filter again for keywords with KD less than 60 and add some more relevant keywords to the export manager.
Let’s find some long-tail keywords:
Open the Keyword Magic Tool and then:
Enter your harvested keywords as seed keywords and filter once more for a KD of less than 60
Also filter for a word count greater than 4
Choose your relevant long-tail keywords from the list to form the foundation of your content.
This is a good strategy perhaps and quite involved and no doubt can yield excellent keywords based on your top ranking competitors keywords.
I may sometimes go through this process to look for more ideas, but I much prefer Jaaxy that is designed to find awesome long-tail keywords and is a keyword research tool at its core.
Who Is This For?
- Established businesses and small businesses
- Those hosting e-commerce websites
- PPC managers
- Digital marketers
Who Is This Not For?
Most of the tools are meant to improve your standing of your website. So just starting out with your website or just starting as an online marketer, I will not recommend SEMrush.
It is an excellent tool if you already receive traffic to your website and when it is a bit more established.
The training is excellent. There are webinars, a blog, a detailed help file, free courses and games that will increase your knowledge.
What are SEMrush’s Pros?
- It is online so there are no updates
- Their databases provides quick results for your queries
- Great training and help
- All the tools you will need to improve your website ranking
- Fantastic insight to your competition’s marketing strategies
- Ease of exporting reports to PDF
- Scheduling of reports directly to your e-mail address
- Awesome custom PDF report builder
What are its cons
- Price – The Pro level to my mind is too limited for an established website. You will need to use the Guru – or Business level
- The 7-day trail requires a credit card.
- SEMrush is quite involved so a 7-day trial is a bit short in my opinion. (It used to be 14 days)
- No package for hobbyists or those starting out with online marketing
How much does it cost?
I find SEMrush a bit pricey. Most of what SEMrush does is comparing you to your competitors and gives you great advice in improving your ranking.
The above description is very basic, so please do not get me wrong: SEMrush is an powerful and excellent digital marketing suite.
But when you start out and you do not yet have any clear competitors or you are simply new to online marketing, keyword research will be the focus.
With keyword research being the focus, I feel there are better and much cheaper alternatives to start with.
My Opinion & Verdict
SEMrush certainly sports a few things to like.
I love keeping an eye on my customers websites health with regular reports straight to my e-mail with the Site Audit report.
Overall SEMrush is a digital marketing suite to take note of and has got loads of useful features.
I know and understand that the Pro level is SEMrush’s entry level package, but I mostly see businesses with established websites sign up with SEMrush and for that reason:
I find the Pro lacking; since you are unable to do multiple location and device selections for position tracking and I feel it is important to have for a business.
I will therefore recommend the Guru or Business level for businesses that considers investing in SEMrush.
The 7-day trial is also a bit short for properly evaluating SEMrush in my opinion.
Lastly, I personally believe that SEMrush would benefit with a different and cheaper package for those just starting out.
On that note: My recommendation for Bloggers and those starting out with online marketing is to have a look at Jaaxy.
If there any of you that made use of SEMrush, I would love to hear your comments and please feel free to differ from my evaluation.
Do you have a question? Please feel free to ask in the comments and I will do my best to answer you.
In the end we all aim for that first placing on the search engine result pages and SEMrush is one of those tools that will help get you there.
I do not think there is one perfect tool and I am sure we cannot be masters of all that is out there but we can share knowledge.
So should you find this post helpful and believe that someone else can benefit from my review, please pass it on.