Are you looking for a keyword research tool that can do it all?
Well, SEMrush might be the only SEO software solution you need! I’ve used it myself for years, and SEMrush covers virtually every function that online marketers and blogger need in order to do their jobs.
It’s practically a Swiss army knife for digital marketing!
In this SEMrush software review – part of my tool review series – I want to cover the many different functions provided by SEMrush and share how it fits into your marketing software stack.
Most importantly, I want to explain why I’m a fan of this tool and how it can help you be a more effective marketing pro.
What is SEMrush?
SEMrush is a cloud-based marketing software solution with 10 years on the market. This popular mid-level SEO suite boasts 40 tools, 8 billion keywords, 500 million domains, and 8 trillion backlinks. Yes, that’s trillion with a ‘t’!
Now, when digital marketers are looking for a tool to help with SEO, they’re often focused on keyword research in particular. I know that keyword research is important, but the truth is, keywords are only one piece of a bigger online marketing picture.
That’s why SEMrush is so valuable – it’s an “all-in-one marketing toolkit” that offers the data you need to make informed marketing decisions within a single dashboard.
Speaking of dashboards, all of the data you’re tracking is accessible right when you log into your SEMrush account. You can see your domains, analytics, position tracking, and even personalised SERP volatility scores on one page!
You can also customise it to your heart’s content, making it easy to check in on your projects at a glance without having to dig too deeply into the tools to see your data.
When it comes to SEMrush’s dozens of SEO tools, you can access everything in the sidebar on the left side of the page.
At the top of the sidebar in your profile, you’ll notice a dropdown menu with five different toolkits:
- Social Media
- Content Marketing
- Competitive Research
These toolkits are all drawing from the same pool of 40+ tools included in SEMrush, but each one is organised around a specific function.
Because we’re focused on SEO here, we’re going to be delving into the SEO toolkit specifically – just keep in mind that there’s a great deal of additional functionality in SEMrush that we can’t possibly cover in one SEMrush software review.
With that said, here are the five main SEO categories you’ll find in SEMrush:
- Competitive Research
- Keyword Research
- Link Building
- Rank Tracking
- On-page and Technical SEO
I believe these are ordered this way deliberately: it makes sense to start your marketing efforts broadly at the competitive research level first, and then work your way down to the more granular and technical options as you progress in your campaigns. This organisation scheme reflects a typical top-down workflow.
Now, let’s find out more about each category and look at how to utilise SEMrush’s features to grow your business!
Competitive research is the top category in SEMrush, even before we get to keyword research. There’s a simple reason for this: keyword research is tactical, while overall competitive research is strategic.
Through competitive research, you’re able to get an eagle-eye view of the competitive landscape for your industry or niche. It includes tools like domain overview, traffic analytics, and organic research. Let’s look at two of the most useful competitive research tools now.
With the “Domain Overview” tool, you can enter the domain of your website or a competitor’s site and see the organic search traffic, paid search traffic, backlinks, traffic trends, and more. This is powerful data, and it’s right at your fingertips with SEMrush.
If you’re interested in doing a deep dive into the competition, the domain overview also allows you to generate an accurate profile of their entire web presence – and even do direct comparisons to see how your site fares against other sites based on different metrics and across devices.
Traffic Analytics Tool
Along with the domain overview, SEMrush offers “Traffic Analytics,” a market research tool so comprehensive that it’s actually sold as a separate add-on in SEMrush.
Traffic Analytics will actually give you an estimate of any website’s traffic from various sources – and while it’s not going to be as accurate as your own Google Analytics account, it can provide some insights on your domains as well.
Full access to “Traffic Analytics” costs an additional $200 USD per month, but you can still access the Overview report to see some limited information.
Why It Matters: Competitive Research helps you discover your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, test out new potential niches, scope out ideas for media buying, and more.
Keyword research is the bread and butter of any SEO tool. I know Google’s algorithm has become more sophisticated in the last several years, but don’t be intimidated by buzzwords like latent semantic indexing (LSI) – people still have to type in search phrases to find what they’re looking for on the web, which means keyword research continues to be essential for success online.
There are just as many opportunities as ever, and tools like SEMrush can help you uncover them with its solid keyword tools.
Your starting point with keyword research in SEMrush is the “Keyword Overview” tool. If we do a quick example search for the term “semrush,” we immediately see some data on both organic and paid search for this keyword. We can explore the data even further by looking at desktop versus mobile.
This tool provides a nice overview of the specific keyword you’re looking at, covering trends for the keyword, search engine results, related keywords, and even snapshots of active paid ads that are bidding on the term.
But when you want to go more in-depth, that’s when you’ll turn to the magic keyword tool.
Magic Keyword Tool
As a marketer, it’s important to be able to brainstorm keyword ideas on your own. There’s definitely an art and a science to keyword selection.
However, tools can still dramatically reduce the time it takes to get good ideas for your organic and paid search campaigns. The “Magic Keyword” tool in SEMrush automatically uncovers a list for you.
As an example, if we search for the keyword “vinyl flooring,” we get 65,422 broad match variations. That’s obviously too many to work with, but if you look at the sidebar, you’ll see that it breaks down the keyword nicely into different subcategories, such as:
This allows you to quickly explore ideas for different long-tail keyword variations of your head term. You’ll also see search volume, trend, keyword difficulty, cost per click in U.S. dollars, competitive density, number of SERP features, and total results in the SERP.
Best of all, you can save these as lists to refer back to at any time.
Other Keyword Tools
There are a few other tools here to be aware of in this category. “Keyword Difficulty” is a great way to see the competitiveness of a keyword and the specific search features that are relevant to each keyword as well.
“Organic Traffic Insights” is a handy tool that helps you fill in those “not provided” keywords in Google Analytics that are driving traffic to your highest-performing pages. It also lets you see total impressions and click-through rate for different terms from the SERPs.
All of these tools also allow you to export the provided data as an XLS or CSV.
Why It Matters: Keyword Research gives you the data you need to come up with an actionable organic and paid search strategy for your business.
When it’s time to come up with an outreach strategy to boost your traffic and domain authority, link building is still an essential tool in your toolkit. And what better way to find out what’s working than to see your competitors’ links?
This time-tested strategy for outreach is still popular because it still works: make a list of your rivals’ links and referring domains, and then conduct your own outreach to see if you can get them to link to your site as well.
If you need to execute link building campaigns, SEMrush has you covered with a handful of great backlink tools.
Whether you want to track the backlink profile of your own domains or start poaching authoritative backlinks from your competitors’ sites, “Backlink Analytics” is the tool to use.
First of all, it helpfully breaks down the types of backlink into different categories:
It also displays whether the links are follow, nofollow, sponsored, or UGC (user generated content).
At a high level, you can see the categories of referring domains (by industry), the top-level domain types, the country where the links originated, and the top anchors.
If we take Salesforce.com as a domain example, you can see the CRM website’s incredibly authorative backlink profile. It currently has 24.6 million backlinks and 125K referring domains.
This example shows how robust the linking tools are in SEMrush. Imagine being able to see what every competitors’ link profile is, their referring domains, and their top indexed pages.
SEMrush’s Link Building is one of its most indispensable functions.
Why It Matters: Link Building gives you all the resources you need to conduct in-depth link analysis for your own domains and your competitors’, track your backlinks, and conduct successful link building campaigns.
Rank Tracking is a simple but useful category. It offers tools to help you track your position on the SERPs. The three tools available here are “Position Tracking,” “Sensor,” and “Ranks.”
The most notable tool here is the SEMrush Sensor, a unique feature that informs you about the volatility in the SERPs for different categories. This tool includes a Personal Score that lets you monitor how volatile your own keyword positions are.
You can even set up notifications to be notified about changes in rankings!
I’ll be honest – I don’t have as much experience with the Rank Tracking category in SEMrush, because I use another tool to track rankings called Advanced Web Ranking. Still, it’s nice to have the option.
Why It Matters: Rank Tracking allows you to monitor progress on the SERPs day by day, including your top keywords, and keep an eye on SERP volatility by category.
On-page and Technical SEO
After you’ve come up with a solid SEO strategy and are executing it successfully, you’ll want to make sure that your technical SEO isn’t holding you back. SEMrush comes with several tools to ensure your on-page and technical SEO are optimal.
This is key, because you want the best possible user experience for your visitors, while keeping your site accessible to search engine crawlers.
The best tool here is Site Audit, a counterpart to tools like Moz or Google’s PageSpeed Insights and Search Console. In SEMrush, Site Audit will audit your website and identify onsite errors quickly.
Here are a few of the things it can help you do:
- Add missing tags
- Create titles, meta descriptions, and HTML tags that work for both users and search engines
- Find and erase error pages
- Eliminate duplicate content
Site Audit categorises the issues it uncovers into errors, warnings, and notices – these are in descending order of severity, so you can focus on the most important issues first.
Why It Matters: On-Page and Technical SEO gives you a host of tools to make sure your technical SEO is where it needs to be, including site audit, on page SEO checker, and log file analyser. This is good for an overview of any issues, but for large scale websites, I highly recommend having a proper technical audit carried out.
My Top Tips for SEMrush
So, we’ve just gone over the different functions of SEMrush. But how do you apply it to your business?
The name of the game here is competitor analysis. It’s true that this comprehensive SEO software helps you track your own keywords and links, but this can be done with a lot of different keyword tools out there.
Personally, I think SEMrush’s greatest strength is how it lets you monitor your competition. Here are a few of my favorite ways to use SEMrush:
1) Create a List of Competitors
You may have an idea of your competition already, but SEMrush allows you to build a comprehensive list based on hard data. This also makes it easy to track your own progress in relation to a short list of your strongest rivals.
2) Analyse Top Pages
SEMrush makes it possible to see which of your competitors’ pages are the top performing in terms of traffic and keyword ranking. This gives you market-tested ideas that you can borrow for your own site.
Like with any SEO tool, SEMrush isn’t 100 percent accurate with its numbers. However, it’s definitely one of the best in terms of accuracy, and by providing you a general figure for these things, you can always compare the relative data to get a good sense of how things stack up.
With SEMrush, you’ll find both free and paid options. The free version has significant restrictions, but honestly, if you just need to get some general ideas or an overview for your site, there’s still some good functionality there.
However, most of us will want one of the paid options, because that’s where we can do ongoing research, tracking, competitor analysis, and monitoring for our various domains and projects without running into restrictive limits.
Here’s what you get with the four different SEMrush plans.
The Pro plan costs $99.95/mo USD and is primarily intended for freelancers, startups, and in-house marketers that have a limited budget. You get more than 40 advanced SEO tools and the ability to competitive analysis on traffic, rankings, and social media from the biggest players in your industry.
The Guru plan costs $199.95/mo USD and includes everything in the Pro plan and adds some great additional features, including a content marketing platform, branded reports, historical data, and extended limits for the data.
The Business plan costs $399.95/mo USD and is a good fit for mature marketing agencies, e-commerce projects, and businesses with an extensive online presence. It includes everything you get in the Guru plan and adds white label reports, API access, extended limits and sharing options, and Google Data Studio integration.
The Enterprise plan has custom pricing and features. I don’t think most people will need this level of functionality, but it is an option for larger enterprises. This plan includes custom keyword databases, custom limits, unlimited crawling of large websites, and onsite training.
How to Pick an SEMrush Plan
So, which SEMrush plan is right for you? A majority of users find that the Guru plan offers the best bang for the buck – at $199.95 USD, it’s perfect for an agency or a small-to-medium business with an in-house marketing team.
You can pay for any of these plans monthly or save 16% by going for a plan that’s billed annually.
Also, a quick reminder: the Traffic Analytics package is a $200 add-on for any paid plan, including Pro, Guru, and Business. I would say it’s probably overkill for solo marketers or small teams, but that kind of data is valuable if you decide you need it.
SEMrush Software Review Wrap-up
In this SEMrush software review, we’ve covered the five SEO categories offered in the SEO Toolkit. We’ve seen how these tools help you conduct detailed competitive analysis and track your own domain’s keywords, backlinks, traffic sources, and other metrics.
So, with all that said, is SEMrush the right SEO software for you? How does it compare to Ahrefs, SEOmonitor, Moz, Ubersuggest, or the humble Google Keyword Planner
Well, I’ll say this: If you own a small business with a growing web presence or you run an e-commerce store, SEMrush offers some fantastic tools to help you grow.
It’s also really helpful to have one place to do all of this work, because the dashboard allows you to organise all of the data you’re tracking into a single page for quick reference.
Ultimately, SEMrush is a solid tool – but the only way to know if it’s the best option for your workflow is to try it for yourself. As with many things in the marketing world, this comes down to personal preference and how you work.
So, here’s what I recommend: grab your FREE 7 day Pro trial of SEMrush right here and take it for a spin!
Have you used SEMrush before? How does SEMrush stack up to other SEO tools on the market?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments!