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It’s safe to say Semrush is the go-to SEO tool of choice for many marketers. Other than Ahrefs, it’s hard to name a platform that’s so popular.
Semrush has also been in the game a long time, and there’s a reason for its popularity. This is an all-in-one SEO toolkit that caters to solo SEO contractors, bloggers, and digital marketing agencies alike.
However, Semrush is pricey, and the sheer number of tools can feel overwhelming if you’re researching if Semrush is right for you.
In my Semrush review, I’ll be covering all of the main features, why this platform is so popular, and if it’s ultimately the right choice for your SEO research.
- All-In-One SEO — Semrush is meant to cover all of your SEO needs, and for freelancers and smaller agencies, this is largely the case.
- Competitive Research — Dig into your competitor’s organic traffic, keywords, backlinks, and paid advertising efforts.
- Keyword Research — Use the Keyword Magic Tool to research organic and paid keywords.
- Project Tracking — Monitor different aspects of your website, like keyword rankings or brand mentions.
- Steep Learning Curve — With 45+ features, Semrush is overwhelming if you’re new to SEO.
- Somewhat Clunky UI — Certain tools are split across multiple smaller tools, and the UI isn’t always as intuitive as software like Surfer.
- Jack Of All Trades — Since Semrush tries to do everything, it’s not always the best software choice for a specific SEO task.
- Costly — The cheapest Semrush plan is $119.95 per month.
What is Semrush?
Semrush is an SEO and paid ad tracking SaaS platform that was founded by Oleg Shchegolev and Dmitri Melnikov.
What began as a small software solution in 2008 has since grown into a leading SEO tool that’s used by more than seven million marketers. Currently, Semrush offers tools for SEO, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, competitor research, content marketing, and social media management.
Semrush has over 45 tools, making it one of the more robust SEO software options.
However, the bulk of these tools fall under several core features that help you improve your website’s visibility and, ultimately, rank better on search engines.
1. Competitive Research
Researching how your competition is ranking and what you can do to compete is a foundation of SEO. Thankfully, Semrush’s bread and butter is their domain analysis tool and ability to help you research your competition.
With the domain overview tool, you can dig deep into a website’s performance. But, at a glance, you get metrics like:
- Domain authority score.
- Organic traffic and the overall traffic trend.
- Paid search and display traffic.
- Backlink count, type, popular anchors, and the follow vs nofollow percentage.
- Traffic share by country
- Organic keywords and keyword position distribution.
- Organic and paid keyword competitors.
However, this is just scratching the surface. Clicking on any tab takes you deeper into the data, and SEMrush covers multiple aspects of a domain.
This tool lets you view traffic metrics for a domain and benchmark it against three competitors. Data in the report includes:
- Unique visitors.
- Pages per visit.
- Average visit duration.
- Bounce rate.
This data is broken down at a device and subdomain level as well.
In my opinion, organic research is where Semrush shines. Aside from pulling an extensive list of organic keywords a website ranks for, Semrush also shows you:
- Current keyword positions and their traffic percentage to a website.
- Keyword difficult scores.
- Keyword volume.
- Average cost-per-click (CPC).
- SERP features, like having a knowledge panel, reviews, or video carousel.
Semrush also shows keyword position changes, and the top position changes tab is particularly interesting. This tab categorizes keyword position changes into new, lost, improved, and declining keywords. If you’re spying on a competitor, this is an excellent way to identify weaknesses in their rankings or areas where they’re improving.
Semrush lets you compare organic and paid keyword positions between up to 5 domains, subdomains, or exact URLs. If you want to compare your website’s rankings against your competitors, this tool helps save time and also identifies ranking opportunities you’re missing out on.
Specifically, the Keyword Gap tool displays the following keyword categories:
- Shared — Keywords every site ranks for.
- Missing — Keywords your competitors rank for but you’re missing.
- Weak — Keywords where you rank lower than every competitor.
- Strong — Keywords where your domain ranks the highest.
- Untapped — Keywords where your domain doesn’t rank but at least one competitor does.
- Unique — Keywords that only you rank for.
A “Top Opportunities for” tab is also immensely helpful for highlighting keywords you can create content around to outrank your competition.
The Backlink Gap tool is like the Keyword Gap tool, only for comparing backlinks for a specific website against four competitors.
One useful metric in this tool is the “Best” backlink category, which highlights websites that link to all of your competitors but not to your website. A “Weak” backlink section also displays domains that point to your website less frequently than your competitors.
If you want to begin link building, these two categories are an ideal point for beginning outreach efforts.
2. Keyword Research
Keyword data is built into Semrush’s competitive research tools. However, you can also search for keyword data using a root domain or keyword idea.
For starters, the “Keyword Overview” tool lets you get a snapshot of a specific keyword that includes:
- Search volume for a specific country and globally.
- Keyword difficulty score.
- Average CPC and a paid competition score.
- A keyword interest trend graph.
- A list of keyword variations, questions, and related keywords.
Overall, this will feel familiar if you’ve used Ahrefs’ keyword research tool. The main difference is that Ahrefs has a bit of a nicer UI and also breaks down how many clicks you can expect if you rank for a keyword.
In contrast, Semrush shows useful information like search trends over time and also incorporates Google Ads copy and advertising metrics for keywords.
If you work in advertising, Semrush is the better choice. Otherwise, choosing between Ahrefs and Semrush for keyword research largely comes down to interface preferences.
Keyword Magic Tool
While the Keyword Overview tool is a fast way to start keyword research, one of my favorite Semrush features is the Keyword Magic Tool.
It is something I use often when starting my on what article to write.
With this tool, you enter a base keyword or phrase to begin research. Semrush then displays keywords based on parameters like:
- Broad Match Keywords – Any variation of your base keyword or phrase.
- Phrase Match Keywords – Uses your base keyword or phrase in different orders.
- Exact Match Keywords – Uses your base keyword or phrase in exact order.
- Questions – A list of keyword questions that relate to your base keyword or phrase.
- Related – A list of general keywords that relate to your base keyword or phrase.
Data includes keyword volume, search trend, difficulty, CPC, and SERP features. There’s also a keyword percent score that rates how similar keywords are to your base keyword or phrase.
Keyword categories are grouped on the sidebar by the total number or search volume. This is similar to Surfer’s content planning tool that groups related keywords into clusters.
However, I prefer the Keyword Magic Tool because of the filtering options. You can set search volume requirements or use advanced filters to set ranges for:
- Word count.
- Competition score.
- SERP results.
- SERP features, like knowledge panel, reviews, instant answers, and local pick.
If you want an easy method to find low competition, long-tail keywords, the word count filter is your best friend. In this example, I set the filter to include keywords with at least eight words and filter for low competition scores:
3. Link Building
Like other categories, Semrush lets you begin backlink analysis at a broad level with their Backlink Analytics tool. Simply enter a domain and view a breakdown of:
- Referring domains.
- Backlink count and percentage of followers follows or nofollow.
- Authority score.
- Top backlink anchors.
- Categories of referring domains.
- Top pages with backlinks.
You can compare a website with up to four other competitors. Semrush tracks new and lost backlinks, which is useful for monitoring your overall link-building progress and contacting webmasters to potentially recover lost backlinks.
There’s also a Backlink Audit tool that provides deeper insight for a specific domain and highlights new, lost, and broken backlinks in more detail:
However, I will say that in terms of actual link building outreach. Ahrefs’ content explorer tool is much easier to use for finding websites to pitch guest posts to.
If you type in a keyword, Ahrefs returns a list of articles that match the topic. You can view domain strength, backlinks, and traffic value upfront. You can also add a broken pages filter that lets you find 404 pages or pages with broken links to start pitching.
4. Rank Tracker
SEO is an on-going battle against the competition. Therefore, it’s not enough to just rank well: you need to monitor how your keyword positions hold up over time.
Semush’s position tracking tool lets you set up domains to monitor:
- A visibility score which is based on current keyword rankings and click through-rate estimates.
- The top 100 keywords and if they are improving, stable, or declining.
- Pages that are improving or declining.
There’s also a cannibalization report that shows if your site has overlapping content where keywords are potentially competing against each other. This feature is only available for Guru and Business plans, but more on this in the pricing section.
5. Technical SEO
I’ll start out by saying that for on-page SEO, I rely on Surfer. This is because Surfer is the fastest way to research SERP results to learn how the competition is ranking and what you need to do to compete with them.
Additionally, Semrush’s technical SEO tools often feel redundant.
For example, the site audit tool lets you crawl a website for things like:
- Broken pages.
- Internal link distribution.
- Core web vitals and page speed.
- Pages with markup, like Schema.org or Twitter cards.
However, if you run an audit on a fairly large site, you inevitable get swamped with hundreds or thousands of errors about things like page speed and missed internal link opportunities:
Is this helpful?
Well, you can run Google PageSpeed Insights or just analyze your website as a user to decide if speed is an issue. I also prefer Ahrefs’ site audit tool since the UI is way easier to navigate and scan.
The on-page SEO checker isn’t much better.
Once you enter a domain, Semrush provides keyword ideas for the top pages to optimize. It also benchmarks your content against Google’s top 10 pages for metrics like content length, referring domains, and readability.
This doesn’t come close to Surfer SEO in terms of ease of use. Plus, Surfer SEO analyzes over 500 ranking factors, and you don’t have to click through layers of reports to find answers.
6. Content Marketing Research
One final, main feature for Semrush is their content marketing toolkit.
Once again, this is similar to Surfer SEO’s content planner tool which helps you build a content marketing strategy around a topic.
To start, you enter a topic or keyword. Semrush then generates subtopics, headlines, and questions based on your entry. If you decide to write a post on a particular keyword, Semrush can also create a content template based on top SERP results to guide your writing.
I still prefer Surfer and find that Semrush’s UI is a tad clunky. It almost feels as if there’s too many tool categories when this could be consolidated into a single UI that’s more intuitive.
In any case, where Semrush shines is in its organic and keyword research tools. For content marketing, I’d say it’s a skip.
Brand Mentions – Monitor when your brand is mentioned on the web, forums, Instagram, and Twitter.
Post Tracking – Track backlinks, social shares, and keyword rankings for specific articles.
Semrush Sensor – View SERP volatility and updates about algorithm changes.
Advertising Research – Research PPC and display advertising metrics for any website, research PPC keyword costs, and view ads from your competitors.
Social Media Dashboard (Beta) – Create and schedule social media posts, view engagement reports to find the best time to post, and track what your competition is posting.
Client Management – If you run an agency, Semrush has various reporting templates and a central performance dashboard to help with client monitoring.
|Results Per Domain & Keyword Report||10,000||30,000||50,000|
|Content Marketing Tools||no||yes||yes|
Semrush has over 45 tools, and this amount of functionality is reflected in pricing.
You have three plan options that cater to freelancers, small marketing agencies, or larger agencies. There’s also variance between plans in terms of what features and how much data tools provide, so I suggest referencing Semrush’s pricing page for the full list.
The major limitations for the Pro plan are trackable keywords and projects. However, for individual bloggers or freelance SEO specialists, Pro is enough to get the job done.
Guru is the point where you’re looking to automate reporting, work with multiple websites, and start tracking keywords more seriously.
Note that if you pay annually, you save 17%. There’s also a 7-day free trial.
It’s also worth noting that Ahrefs has a beginner plan for $99 per month or $82 per month if you pay annually. This plan has enough functionality for solo bloggers and SEO specialists, so don’t be afraid to shop around.
Maybe their pricing is a little too rich for you?
If you want a robust tool for competitor analysis and keyword research, Semrush is an excellent choice. In truth, this software has everything a small and medium-sized web operation needs to keep tabs on the competition, monitor rankings, and find content and backlink gaps to exploit.
Semrush falls short in its content marketing research tool. Additionally, the UI takes some getting used to. However, this is the nature of software that tries to do it all. Ultimately, if you only want to use one SEO software suite and keep your tool list short, Semrush has everything you need.