2016 SEMRush Complete Review and Overview of Features

SEMrush is an amazing tool that can help you with pretty much all your online marketing research. Primarily the tool helps you identify competitor keywords; in other words, keywords that your competitor is generating traffic from. This includes keywords that the competitor site is ranking for organically in Google/Bing as well as paid keywords (primarily Google Adwords). In addition to that, this tool can also help you with a range of other marketing research, making it a must have tool for every online marketer. Here is a list of some of the things you can do using SEMrush:

  • Comprehensive Competitor research for both organic and paid keywords.
  • Keyword research
  • Backlinks research and analysis.
  • Site audit to identify and rectify SEO errors.
  • Keyword position tracking for both your own site and competitor sites.
  • Social Media tracking and monitoring.
  • Brand monitoring.

In this article, let's have a look at the various features available in SEMrush. If you are a beginner, this article will help you with getting started with using SEMrush. So let's begin.

Organic Research

Ever wondered how much organic traffic a competitor site is getting from Google? With SEMrush organic research, you don't have to second-guess. This tool gives you accurate information on not only the traffic a website is getting but also helps you identify the exact keywords a (competitor) website is ranking for organically in Google and Bing (United States Only). You can use this report to spy on competitor websites and thereby identify lucrative keywords to optimize for your own site.

The image below shows organic traffic data for the website UniverseToday.com. As you can see, this tool gives a good estimate of traffic the site has been receiving since Jan 2010. You also have the ability to select from over 30 countries to view Google organic data.


Further to this, the report gives you a range of useful keyword related information which include the following:


  • Keyword: Total number of keywords a site is ranking for within the top 100 results in Google.
  • Position: Ranking position of each keyword in the Google SERP (or Bing) .
  • Volume: Total number of queries/searches performed for the given keyword in the past 12 months. In other words, how popular the keyword is.
  • Keyword difficulty: KD or Keyword Difficulty which is an estimate of how difficult it would be to rank for the keyword in Organic search results based on the total competition. The higher the KD, the harder it would be to rank.
  • CPC: CPC or Cost Per Click is the average price advertisers pay (in Google Adwords) for a click on an ad triggered when a search is conducted using the given keyword.
  • URL: Exact URL (internal page) Which is ranking for the given keyword.
  • Traffic Percentage: Share of traffic the website receives for that particular keyword.
  • Search Trend: Helps you identify how much the search for this keyword fluctuates over a period of 12 months.
Note: Sorting using the keyword difficulty (KD) field can help you identify low competition keywords that you can use the rank in the SERPs.

In addition to researching the root domain of a website, you can also research individual URLs of a website to see all the keywords a particular URL is ranking for as shown in the image below:


You can also use filters to filter out specific keywords. The below image shows the results for UniverseToday.com based on two filters:

  1. Show only keywords that contain the word 'Zodiac'.
  2. Show only keywords that have a search volume higher than 1000.


Using filters this way can help you conduct more accurate research and save you a whole lot of time.

Phrase Research

The phrase research tool allows you to find queried keywords that are related to the given phrase. You can use this tool to find a host of content ideas for your blog/business. As mentioned above, the results can be sorted using the 'Keyword Difficulty' field to find lucrative keywords that are easy to optimize.


Backlinks Research

The backlinks tool helps you find the total number of backlinks a website has and gives various other important bits of information as follows:

  • Total number of nofollowed and followed links.
  • Type of links - text links, frame links, form links or image links.
  • Total referring domains.
  • Total referring unique IPs.
  • TLD Distribution: total number of links based on .com, .net, .info etc. TLDs.
  • TLD Authority: Links from authority TLDs like links from Governmental and Educational institutions.
  • Country: Backlinks segregated by region.

From the TLD Distribation and TLD Authority sections, you can select specific TLDs to check backlinks from. This is a great way to identify links from authority .edu and .gov sites from where your competitor has secured links from and you can then try getting a link from the similar source.

From the overview section, clicking on the total backlinks link will take you to a page with details of all links. Some of the information contained on this page is as follows (refer image):


  • Page Score: A quality score for each page on which the backlink is present.
  • Source URL: URL where the backlink is present.
  • Target URL: URL of the target website.
  • Anchor Text: Anchor text used for the backlink.
  • External Links: Total external links present on the linking page.
  • Internal Links: Total internal links present on the linking page.
  • Type: Indicates if it is a nofollow, frame, form or image link.

The tool also has a filter that allows you to see only the links that you want to see. For example, let's say you only want to see links that are dofollow and exclude nofollow, sitewide and image links; you can do this using the following filter as shown in the image below:

  • Exclude nofollowed links
  • Exclude sitewide links
  • Exclude Image links


In addition to all this, the tool also allows you to compare backlinks for upto 5 domains.

Advertising Research

The advertising research tool helps you identify all keyword queries against which an competitor is running paid search ads for using Google Adwords or Bing. Using this tool, you can easily estimate how much traffic a site is receiving via paid search ads and the keywords they are targeting. This tool gives you the following bits of information:


  • Ad: Displays a snapshot of the exact ad being used by the advertiser.
  • Keyword: Organic keyword query for which the ad is being displayed in Google search results.
  • Position: Position at which the ad is being displayed.
  • Block: If the ad is being displayed on the Top block (before the organic search results) or bottom block (after the organic search results).
  • Volume: Search queries performed using the keywords in the past 12 months.
  • CPC: Average cost paid per click by the advertiser on the ad.
  • URL: Destination URL of the Ad.
  • Traffic: Percentage of traffic attracted by the site because of the ad.
  • Competition: Competition density of the advertisers targeting the same keyword.
  • Results: Total results for the keyword in Google search.
  • Trend: Overall trend of the keyword calculated based on the number of searches for the keyword in the past 12 months.

Here again, you can use filters, to find exact keywords that are relevant to your site. The image below shows an example of using a keyword filter to find keywords containing the phrase chocolate truffle:


PLA Research

PLA stands for product listing ads. These ads get triggered in Google when a product based query is being made. If your competitor sells products, then you can use this tool to check if they are using PLA ads to generate traffic.

As shown in the image below, you get the following bits of information using this tool:


  • Ad: Shows a sample of the actual Ad copy.
  • Keyword: Keywords for which the ad was triggered.
  • Position: Position of the ad.
  • Volume: Total search volume of the keyword in the past 12 months.
  • URL: Landing page URL of the advertiser's website.
  • Product Title: Title of the product being advertised.
  • Price: Price of the product being advertised.

Display Advertising Research

The display advertising report helps you identify publisher websites and ad copies being used by an advertiser to display ads (Text or Media Ads) using Google Adwords Display Network. By identifying this, you can then target the same publisher websites to display your own ads.

  • Publisher: The URL of the publisher website.
  • Ads: Number of ads being displayed.
  • Text/Media: Ration of text to media ads being displayed on a publisher website.

Site Audit

The Site Audit feature of SEMrush allows you to conduct a comprehensive analysis of your website. This tool crawls all your website pages and then gives an overall quality score along with issues present on the site that need to be rectified. The issues are segregated as errors, warnings and notices.


Errors: Broken links, broken images, duplicate title and meta tags, duplicate content issues, blocked pages, DNS resolution issues, bad status codes, Robots.txt file errors, XML Sitemap errors and canonical tag errors.

Warnings: wrong nofollow tag usage, wrong usage of heading tags, missing title/meta/alt tags, low word counts, errors in title/meta tags, URL parameters, faulty redirects, slow page load speeds and other similar issues.

Notices: Blocked pages, long URLs, missing Robots.txt and Sitemap files, external links.

In addition, there is also a SEO ideas report that helps you with ideas on improving your site to rank better organically. The site audit feature is in the projects section. Multiple projects can be created to track multiple websites.

Position Tracking

Along with a site audit, SEMRush can also help you track organic keyword position changes in Google. This way you can keep track of how well your or your client/competitor website is doing in organic search for specific keywords. You can also compare and track up to three additional competitor websites in a single project.


And if that was not enough, new features that SEMRush added in 2016 can also help you with social media and brand monitoring. I have said this before and I am saying this again. SEMrush is an amazing tool and is definitely a must have tool for any online marketer.


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