SEMrush: Ultimate Guide + Tutorial


What Is SEMrush?

SEMrush is a popular SEO tool that specializes in keyword research, competitor analysis and Google Ad campaign optimization

Key Features

Organic Research

“Organic Research” put SEMrush on the map.

And it still works GREAT.

To use it, put a competitor’s website into SEMrush:

SEMRush – Enter website

And you get access to lots of insanely useful data:

Let me quickly breakdown each of the metrics on this page.

First up, you have “Keywords”:

This is the total number of keywords that a site ranks for.

In my opinion, this metric isn’t super helpful. After all, let’s say a site ranks on 2nd page for 1,000 different keywords. Those 1,000 keywords send almost zero traffic to that site. Because this metric doesn’t focus on keywords that rank in the top 10, it’s not that useful.

Second, you have “Traffic”.

This is an estimate of how much monthly traffic that site gets from search engines:

This isn’t 100% accurate. But it’s a good way to benchmark your competitor’s SEO.

Finally, we have the metric that I pay the most attention to: “Traffic Cost”:

Traffic cost estimates how much that site’s organic traffic is worth.

(Assuming you paid for that same traffic with PPC)

Because this metric takes into account traffic AND the value of that traffic, it’s my favorite metrics in the entire SEMrush suite.

For example, if you put Nerd Wallet into SEMrush, you can see that they get an astounding 73 million dollars worth of traffic from SEO every month:

Organic Search Positions

Here’s where you get to see all of the keywords that a site ranks for.

(And where they rank)

This is SUPER helpful for keyword research.

Instead of mining for gold in the Google Keyword Planner, you get a list of awesome keywords presented to you on a silver platter:

After all, if your competitor ranks for these keywords, so can you.


By default SEMrush shows you keywords that bring that site the most traffic:

Which is a helpful starting point.

But there’s so much more you can do with this data.

For example, you can sort by “volume” and see terms that get searched for most:

Or you can use an advanced filter so that you only see terms with a CPC of $5 or more:

You can also filter out keywords that have a SERP feature (like Featured Snippets). That way, you can zero-in on terms that get lots of organic clicks.

In short:

Organic Search Positions is where I usually start the keyword research process.

Unlike most keyword research tools, this feature gives me a list of terms that I can easily rank for.

Pretty cool.

Traffic Analytics

Traffic Analytics gives you data on a site’s overall website traffic.

(Not just organic traffic from Google)

In other words: this feature is SEMrush’s answer to SimilarWeb.

And it’s a very useful feature.

First off, when you analyze a site with Traffic Analytics, you get an estimate of that site’s overall traffic numbers:

(Which is helpful to benchmark where you’re at vs. your competitors)

You also get access to how people interact with that site. For example, you can see a site’s average page views, bounce rate, session duration and more:

And you get a chart to see how these metrics have changed over time:

But the real meat and potatoes of this feature is “Traffic Sources”.

Traffic Sources is just like it sounds:

You can not only see a breakdown of a site’s traffic sources:

But a list of the exact sites that send that website the most traffic:

For example, you can see that I get a decent chunk of traffic from WordStream:

So if you also ran a digital marketing blog, you’d probably want to guest post or get featured there too.

You can also see which social media platforms send your competitor the most traffic:

Again, this is a great way to reverse engineer what’s already working for your competitor.

Paid Search

Most people use SEMrush for strictly for SEO campaigns.

But it’s actually a REALLY good PPC tool.

(Especially if you want to copy a competitor’s keywords and ad copy)

Specifically, you can see which keywords that your competition bids on most often:

(In this case, you can see that Moz bids a ton on branded terms)

But they also bid on targeted non-branded queries:

Even better, you can see the exact ads that they’re running on those terms:

And if you find an ad that’s been running for months or years, you KNOW that it’s probably got an excellent Quality Score.

So if you use some of the same copy in your Adwords ads, you have a good chance of replicating their results.

Keyword Gap

Keyword Gap shows you a list of keywords that LOTS of your competitors rank for.

And when you find a keyword that multiple competitors rank for, you know that it’s one you have good shot at ranking for too.

For example, when I put two of my competitors into the tool, I found a bunch of really interesting keywords I hadn’t seen before.

Pro Tip: By default, this shows you keywords that rank in the top 100 of Google’s search results. Obviously, if two competitors both rank on page 5 for a keyword, that doesn’t tell you much.

That’s why I set up advanced filters to ONLY see keywords that both sites rank in the top 10 for:

And that simple filter gives me a much more helpful list of keywords to work with:

Keyword Overview

So far I’ve covered features that revolve around reverse engineering a competitor’s website.

There’s a good reason for that: reverse engineering is SEMrush’s specialty. And it’s great at it.

That said, you can also use SEMrush like a traditional keyword tool.

In other words:

You can pop a seed keyword into the tool …and get a list of keyword ideas and metrics on that term.

For example, here’s what I get when I put “Paleo Diet” into SEMrush:

I get the usual stuff (like search volume and CPC)

But I also get a very reliable keyword difficulty score.

(More on that later)

SEMrush also generates a list suggested terms that include my seed keyword (“Phrase Match Keywords”):

This gives me terms that are related to my keyword… but don’t necessarily contain my seed keyword.

And you’re interested in Google Ads, you can see an overview of which sites bid most on that term:

Keyword Magic Tool

This SEMrush feature does one simple thing:

It generates A LOT of keyword ideas.

For example, when I put Paleo Diet into it…

…I get a massive list of 494,040 related keywords:

494k+ keywords is insane.

Fortunately, you can sort the list by search volume, difficulty, CPC and more.

Keyword Difficulty Tool

Figuring out keyword competition can be TOUGH.

After all, you need to take into account:

  • Page authority
  • Domain authority
  • On-page SEO
  • Content quality
  • User intent
  • Lots more

Enter: SEMrush’s Keyword Difficulty Tool.

It doesn’t analyze everything you need to know about a keyword. But it does help you figure out whether or not you have a chance to rank.

To use this feature, type in a keyword that you want to rank for:

And you get a difficulty percentage from 0-100%.

You can also compare multiple keywords to figure out which ones you should target first:

Position Tracking

This is SEMrush’s built-in rank tracking tool.

It works like most other rank trackers on the market.

You give it a domain and list of keywords…

…and you get a daily update on where you rank:

In my experience, this feature is super reliable.

(In other words, when I check my rankings manually they match up with the SEMrush report)

And that’s why I use it.

My one gripe is that, the default view is “Visibility Trend”:

This shows you changes in rankings… in the top 100 results.

Again, ranking on the 2nd page is pretty much the same as page 10. So I wish they focused more on “Estimated Traffic”, which shows you keywords that actually have a chance of bringing in clicks on Google searchers:

That’s my only real issue with Position Tracking. Overall, it’s a solid rank tracker that rivals most stand-alone rank tracking tools.

Site Audits

You can also use SEMrush to help with SEO site audits.

Specifically, you can see serious errors that can impact your technical SEO:

And “Warnings” of things that aren’t super important… but might need a fix:

What’s really cool about Site Audits is that you can compare crawls:

That way, you can see how your site’s technical SEO health changes over time.

But my favorite part of SEMrush’s SEO audits is that they run automatically.

That way, you don’t need to remember to run an audit every few months. You can see your report on your dashboard every time you login.

SEO Content Template

This feature is designed to help you write content that contains lots of LSI keywords.

For example, let’s say you wanted to rank for “Paleo Diet”.

Well, SEMrush will analyze the top 10 results for that term.

And give you “Semantically related words” to include in your content:

You can even have the tool analyze a draft of your content to see how it stacks up:

Very cool.

Organic Traffic Insights

Every old school SEO pro remembers the good ol’ days before “not provided”.

Well, SEMrush has a feature (“Organic Traffic Insights”) that tries to simulate the keyword-level data we used to get inside of Google Analytics.

First, you need to connect your Google Analytics and Google Search Console account to SEMrush.

And SEMrush will analyze the data to figure out which keywords bring in the most organic traffic:

Very helpful.

Link Building

SEMrush’s link building features are actually pretty solid.

(Although not quite as good as Ahrefs)

You can do the usual stuff like analyze a site’s link profile:

And analyze their links for anchor text usage, dofollow vs. nofollow and overall link authority:

What’s unique about SEMrush is that they’ve built an interesting link building tool:

Here’s how it works:

First, you enter keywords that you want to rank for:

Then, SEMrush will then find sites that link to the sites that are ranking for those keywords:

You can even create a prospect list and reach out to people inside of the platform (similar to BuzzStream):

On Page SEO Checker

On Page SEO Checker analyzes your content for traditional on-page SEO stuff (like title tags and H1 tags).

But it also lets you know about semantically-related terms that you should include in your content:

And sites that you should try to get backlinks from: