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If you’re looking for a tool to spy on, learn from and gain insights from your competition, and you want magical SEO superhero powers, you need to check out SEMRUSH.

Really, it’s that good!

And if you’ve already given it a try, keep reading as you may have missed some neat little features (as I did).

Like how using SEMRUSH can give you a ticket to travel back in time and learn from the past. Or how it can help spot unique content gaps you may normally miss.

But first, here’s a quick run through of what SEMRUSH is and how it works.

SEMRUSH is cloud-based software that cleverly pulls in the top 100 million keywords and then crawls Google to see which websites rank in the top two pages. Armed with this information, it creates a gigantic pool of 70 million websites which you can spy on to learn their SEO secrets.

And for each of the 70 million websites, you get lots of nifty keyword information, like:

  • The keywords they rank for
  • Their Google keyword positions and search volumes
  • Other cool stuff like the AdWords Cost Per Click (CPC) and SEMRUSH’s new keyword difficulty score

It’s so useful, you may well want to use use it daily.

SEMRUSH offers a free version (which has limitations) and also a paid version, which is what I’m covering in this review.

So let’s jump in and see what SEMRUSH can do and how it can help turn you into an SEO superhero.

#1: Competitor Research

Imagine you’re a small shoe retailer.

You’ve successfully opened your first few shops and now you’re ready to start selling online.

But before you do, you plan to have a nose around and see how other companies are performing for SEO. Companies like Jones Boot Maker, an established shoe shop that do well both in store and online. They’ll make a good candidate to research.

Using SEMRUSH, here are the basic steps:

Step 1: Head over to www.semrush.com and make sure you have a full account (see end of post)

Step 2: Enter the URL you wish to research. In this case it’s www.jonesbootmaker.com

Step 3: Make sure you select the most appropriate country (SEMRUSH collects Google data differently for google.co.uk and google.com and defaults to Google US). We’ll choose the UK.

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SEMRUSH will quickly return lots of useful information. Let’s start off by looking at the three charts:

Domain Traffic Graph

The line chart shows how many keywords SEMRUSH has discovered for the domain (keywords tab) or how much traffic SEMRUSH predicts the domain receives from those keywords (traffic tab).

Pretty neat when you’d like to see how a competitor’s doing.

Top Keywords

Here you’ll see the top organic keywords (SEO). You can click the full report to see the top ten (free version) or all the keywords (paid version). All of these can be conveniently exported into a csv file.

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Keyword Position Distribution

The keyword distribution breaks keywords into three groups:

Top 3 Search Results

As you may already know, the top three results get around half of all the organic clicks.

Positions 4 – 10

The next six positions, from 4 – 10, will get most of the remaining clicks.

Positions 11 – 20

That leaves just a handful of users who view the second page of Google and actually click on a result.

Superhero Tip

The top organic keywords report works best for established domains. Remember, SEMRUSH only collects data on the first two pages of Google, meaning newer sites will have less information.

 #2: Identify and Research New Competitors

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Next up, under ‘Organic Research’ in the left-hand navigation, you’ll find a ‘Competitors’ option to show the biggest competitors for the domain you’re researching.

The calculation is largely based around the number of common keywords between that domain and other relevant domains that SEMRUSH knows about.

The bubble chart highlights the biggest competitors, based on search traffic and common keywords.

And the table view also looks for sites with common keywords but with more of a slant towards sites of a similar SEO size as the one you’re researching.

You can then explore each competitor in more detail to see which keywords they rank for, the common keywords and get an estimate of how much traffic each site receives.

Superhero Tip

Research competitor’s competitors and dig really deep (illustrated in point #6 below). When brainstorming for new ideas, export each website’s keywords into a csv file for a full review later on.

semrush-historical#3: Historical Keyword Rankings

Are you ready to travel back in time? Would you like to see how Google’s Search Results Pages used to look?

Well, you can. SEMRUSH has quietly and magically collected keyword data, including rankings, since January 2012.

For example, in June 2014, Jones Boot Maker ranked #2 in Google UK for ‘Gabor shoes’.

Sticking with ‘Gabor shoes’, they ranked:

  • #3 in Jan 2014
  • #4 in Jan 2013
  • #8 in Jan 2012

That looks like steady and sustainable progress to me. And there’s no sign of a Google Panda or Penguin penalty either.

So if your had a dramatic increase or decrease in keyword rankings, could you diagnose whether it was due to a Google Algorithm update?

Quite possibly, especially if the change happened at the same time as something documented in Moz’s Google Algo Change History. Pretty handy, don’t you think?

Note: Historical keyword rankings are only available on SEMRUSH’s top dollar ‘Guru’ pricing plan (see end for more details).

Superhero Tip

When identifying the top competitors that you can learn from, pay close attention to the ones who have consistently ranked well over time, as some websites only have fly-by success.

#4: Historical Keyword Volumes and Trends

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Are your most important keywords trending in the right direction?

Or to put it another way, are your top money keywords decreasing or increasing in value?

Not knowing this can have big repercussions on your SEO success.   Luckily with SEMRUSH, you can easily use your Superhero powers to travel back in time and check.

For example, in June 2014 ‘Gabor shoes’ has a UK monthly search volume of 22,200.

Now let’s see how that term faired over time:

  • 22,200 monthly searches in Jan 2014
  • 9,900 monthly searches in Jan 2013
  • 8,100 monthly searches in Jan 2012

It’s clear that ‘Gabor shoes’ had plenty of growth in 2013 and also stability in 2014.

In fact, with a bit more digging, the overall market appears to be growing, as many other shoe brands like Hush Puppies, Converse and Clarks saw similar levels of growth.

Perhaps 2013 was a turning point year where people felt comfortable buying shoes online, rather than going into a shoe shop?

Note: Historical keyword volumes are only available on SEMRUSH’s top dollar ‘Guru’ pricing plan (see end for more details).

Superhero Tip

Monthly keyword search volumes are averaged for the previous 12 months (and not the actual month). If you want the actual search volume for any given month, you can get this from the Google Keyword Planner in a csv export but only for the last 12 months.

#5: Domain vs Domain Keyword Comparison

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If you’re a visual person like me and you want to find overlapping keywords for up to five websites, you’ll love the Chart tab view on the Domain vs Domain keyword comparison tool.

In addition to identifying keyword overlaps in a Venn Diagram, you can filter in many different ways – like showing the keywords one domain ranks for but all the others do not.

If you prefer plain numbers, stick to the default Keywords view. There you’ll get a table showing how each domain performed for a list of overlapping keywords:

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Superhero Tip

If you’re ready to show off your SEO results to your boss, client or friends the table view is a great way to illustrate how much progress you’ve made over a selection of competitors.

#6: Identify Unique High Impact Content Gaps

As SEOs, we often focus on a certain type of keyword: the transactional ones. That’s because they have the strongest chance of converting, as people use them when they are ready to buy.

But what about useful words a little higher up in the buying funnel?

Well, using Superhero tip #2 (research competitor’s competitors and dig really deep), I went all the way down to Jones Boot Maker’s 25th SEMRUSH competitor (pavers.co.uk), and I found their top SEMRUSH competitor (dancesport.uk.com) to be rather interesting:

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They ranked ridiculously well for almost all words relating to ‘shoe sizes’ which collectively weighed in at around 100,000 monthly searches.

And this is the page that did all that…

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Wow… that’s super impressive for such a ‘minimalist’ design!

Could you find a similar piece of unique, valuable content?

Superhero Tip

If you find a piece of content like the shoe size conversion chart and feel you can create a better version, consider using Brian Dean’s clever Skyscraper Technique. It might help you rank better for those terms and earn you an extra few backlinks for your troubles.

#7: Heaps of Other Cool Tools

If that’s not enough for you, how about checking the following:

  • Keyword Difficulty: this new feature is a nice alternative to Moz’s keyword difficulty tool that gives an idea of how competitive a keyword is. It currently only works for keywords in SEMRUSH’s database.
  • Site Audit (still in beta): this gives you daily or weekly updates to help diagnose technical issues on your website.
  • Position Tracking: a simple to use cloud-based keyword rankings checker. It will automate the process for checking a list of keywords and send you a weekly email.
  • Backlinks: not a replacement for Open Site Explorer or Majestic SEO, but the backlinks tool offers an additional ‘pair of eyes’ to see where a website gets its backlinks from.
  • AdWords Keyword Data: as well as organic keyword data, SEMRUSH provides Google AdWords keywords, Ad Copy data and more.

Superhero Tip

Pay close attention to AdWords keywords. If competitors are prepared to pay money on keywords, there’s a fair chance they are important – not just for them but maybe for you too.

All in all, I’m very impressed with SEMRUSH and would go as far to say it’s in my top 3 SEO tools. I’d definitely recommend it.

If you’d like to give it a try, there are three options:

#1 Free: For a small number of queries, you’ll get some high level information like the traffic report over time. You’ll also be able to see the top 10 keywords and top 10 competitors.

#2: Pro plan: allows 3,000 reports per day (10,000 results per report), API access and allows you to track up to 500 keywords. One month pricing: $79.95 and recurring pricing: $69.95.

#3: Guru plan: allows 5,000 reports per day (30,000 results per report), API access and allows you to track up to 1500 keywords. The big extra is that you also get historical data too. One month pricing: $149.95

Could SEMRUSH be the greatest new superhero tool for your SEO utility belt? Give it a whirl with this free 30-day trial on the pro plan.

If you can think of any other awesome uses of SEMRUSH or you have anything to share, please pop them in the comments below.

p.s. If you want social proof about SEMRush, read this SEO tools post by Robbie Richards.