SEMrush review – is it really best tool in the industry?
SEMrush has been considered as a go-to tool in internet marketing (especially SEO) industry … and there is a number of reasons why … I mean, more reasons than I have fingers on 4 hands). In this post I will try to evaluate SEMrush and tell you exactly why (or why NOT) you should use it … and, perhaps, offer alternatives (probably cheaper).
First of all, SEMrush is used by probably 99% of agencies. I use SEMrush at work, for my private clients and even my own personal projects. OK, I am addicted to SEMrush … and I will try to convince you to use it too (mainly because I want affiliate monies … 😀 ).
SEMrush for SEO agencies and specialists
Alright, let’s start where my heart truly is … since I am SEO specialist for the past 13+ years and I have been using SEMrush for around 2 years now … I must say that this tool is probably the best in the industry … I mean, there aren’t that many that would offer such vast amount of features … sure, you could say … “BUT DON, there is Ahrefs, Moz, etc …” … come on, my friend, I love Ahrefs but it’s mainly to analyse the links … just like Majestic … just more expensive … and Moz … well, Moz is super slow and very easy to manipulate … it does not stand a chance against Ahrefs or SEMrush … and believe me … this comes from someone who does SEO for living … (because the dead do not require SEO 🙁 ).
Organic keywords by SEMrush
This is probably my favourite feature from SEMrush. Everyday, at work, I log in and the first thing I do is look how many keywords I rank for … this is probably NOT 100% accurate but it gives you pretty clear idea how amazingly your site ranks!
Of course, it has separate database for each country … perhaps, you rank for 700 keywords in the US and 500 in the UK? Would you like to know how well you rank in Canada, Australia, Germany? You certainly can! And the best thing is that it is updated daily.
This is also a great tool to see what keywords your competitors rank for … you can also discover keywords that you might not considered before … or didn’t even know they existed … for example, if you are selling various products and try to rank for their brand names … you might find new products to add to your website after looking at what keywords your competitor(s) rank for …
SEMrush as a keyword tracking tool
Well, to be honest, it’s decent tool … it tells you where your keywords rank. Not only that … but you can also add up to 20 competitors per project. This is great when you wish to compare how you rank against your competitor(s).
However, what I find annoying is that you can track up to 500 keywords across all projects if you choose their standard license (I believe it comes to $99.95/month). When you are into internet marketing or make money online niche, I can easily brainstorm 2,000+ keywords I would LOVE to rank … therefore, adding extra 500 keywords (which is additional $60/mo) is ridiculous … lucky for me though, I don’t need to track thousands of keywords … but if I had to, I would go with Microsite Masters as, for me personally, are good enough.
There is a cool thing that comes from SEMrush though – visibility. In order to get 100% visibility, you need to rank #1 for all keywords you are tracking … this can give you a great idea how well your competitors rank for keywords that you are targeting. I also like it how SEMrush lets you “stalk” your competitors and how their visibility is being affected on daily basis.
SEMrush’s keyword research tool
Well, keyword research feature is quite good. Sadly, it is only single-country based. So if you would like to see global search volume for that particular keyword then you will have to view all the countries and add them up … I mean … that’s like 3 hours job … however, if you are mainly after US or UK (or whatever other country search volume) then you can easily use SEMrush’s keyword tool.
There is another sub0feature that I love. They automatically add phrase match keywords and let you know the total volume. For example, your keyword is “make money online”. SEMrush will add all the keywords that contain those 3 words. Keywords like “how to make money online?” and “make money online without a website” will be included as all 3 words were there. Another columns is for related search terms, for example “earn money online” or “make money with website” and similar … I love this feature as it gives me idea of how much monthly volume there is for your keyword including all the phrase match keywords and related keywords.
Technical SEO analysis
Oooohhhh, this is a big one. I absolutely love it. I believe that technical SEO is now very important – more important than ever … especially now with the emerging need to be mobile-friendly and super-fast … it is very important to keep your site healthy and well-performing … You wouldn’t believe how small changes can affect your SEO, it’s crazy.
With that being said, I gotta say that SEMrush does amazing job at assessing and auditing your technical SEO. The best thing is – it crawls every page (if you let it) and tells you every single details in 3 different levels (errors being the most important ones to fix, warnings being less important but certainly considerable and notices – something you could fix but it may or may NOT affect your technical SEO). I wouldn’t worry too much about notices … I would fix them if it took a few minutes to fix … however, if it takes hours to fix then I wouldn’t.
You can also set up scheduling. I love to do it every morning at 5 AM or so (while you are asleep so when you get up – you can read email or check if there is anything that you might need to fix).
Here’s the audit before fixing:
And this is what it is today (took me roughly 6 hours to fix everything):
Link building features
To be honest, that one is tough … sadly, SEMrush is not good for those who are doing link analyses and link building. I don’t really care that the team says that they have greatly expanded their database – it is not good use for that reason. First of all, they crawl new links really slowly (links may be added within 2 months, if you are lucky). Their toxi domain analysis is also bad … it’s already giving you orange flag if you gained a link from a brand new site … just because it has zero (yet) authority, it doesn’t mean it’s bad … and provided their very slow link crawler, it might show you as an orange flag for several months.
If you are after link analysis tools, I’d suggest to go with Ahrefs and/or Majestic SEO. They both much faster and reviews are underway 😉
SEMrush for social media managers and specialists
While SEMrush does not offer social media suggestions, what it does offer is automation. I just LOVE their automation system. DOn’t get me wrong, I don’t do a lot of social media stuff as this is not my cup of tea … what I do is schedule things for the month ahead and I am done with social media. I am actually creating a new social media strategy for myself where I share great stuff regularly.
Yes, you got it right. You don’t just schedule posts, you can also make it post the same post on regular basis. For example, I will be setting up my 12 traffic strategies guides to go out twice a month. I have 13 posts system (introduction post + 12 posts related to different marketing strategies) which I will be scheduling to post on social media everyday. That means that every post will be shared every 15 days. Each introductory post will be shared every other Monday (let’s say 1st and 15th of the first month), the first traffic strategy every other Tuesday (2nd and 16th of the first month) and so on and forth … SEMrush can easily do this!
Apart from scheduling, you can also track down the profiles’ growth. Not much really … just likes/followers/fans, unlikes/unfollows/unfans, etc … you can also track your competitors down (I think up to 10 or 20).
So how do you start with SEMrush?
1. Sign up to their free trial (14 days free trial)
They offer 14 days free trial. Within those 14 days you can easily test the software out and see if it is for you or not. If you run 1 or more decent size projects and your main traffic source is organic traffic then I am almost certain that you will need SEMrush.
2. Add your project
The next thing you need to do is add your project – its name, URL, it’s pretty much self-explanatory. The one thing that I dislike is that we get only up to 5 projects for the Pro plan (the cheapest plan for $99.95/month). If you have 5 or less projects then it is perfect otherwise, you might need to opt for Guru plan which is $199.95 / month.
3. Set up your site audit
This step is probably the very first I do once I add a new project for myself or my client. I can simply do other stuff while SEMrush is analysing my site in the background. Once the audit is finished, I always check for errors, warnings and notices. Often times, there are some errors that can be quick wins. For example, fixing broken external/internal link(s) can be quite quick (unless you have several hundred of them). If you can’t fix something, you can always contact me and I might be able to assist you.
4. Add keywords and competitors
The next step is to add keywords and competitors. Sadly, I am not going to talk about how to perform keyword research here but I promise you that I will do an entire blog post about it. You can use their keyword research feature, type in base keyword(s), look through Phrase Match and Related Keyword columns, delete the ones that are ot relevant. If you get thousands of keywords then you can also delete all the keywords that have less than 50 search volume. Remember, you are not doing keyword research to write new content about therefore you don’t have to worry about its difficulty. You would do keyword research differently if you had to add new an fresh content that could rank well and give you profitable traffic.
When it comes to your competitors, you probably already know them. If not then SEMrush gives you organic competitors. That means that you will get companies and websites that already rank for keywords you wish to rank for. It is quite a big time saver and you can add up to 20 competitors.
5. Add social media profiles
This is not necessary step but I always create social media profiles (usually Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and Pinterest). Then I attach them onto Social Media Poster and Tracker features on SEMrush. I love that I can schedule content regularly once and it will keep the posting for me for eternity.
6. Analyse competitors
I probably haven’t touched on this here yet but competitor analysis is quite decent. You can look for keywords that your competitors are ranking for. You might end up getting better keywords than your initial keyword research.
Also their links analysis is quite OK but it’s outdated. I already told you that they have poor link building features. I normally use Majestic SEO and Ahrefs to see their links and do reverse-engineering. I will talk about it at some point but not here. Reverse-engineering link building is very cool thing.
7. Explore other features
There are dozens other features of SEMrush. I can’t really say which ones are particularly good or not good as I normally don’t use them. I know that they have suggestion feature where they suggest changes on your site that could greatly improve organic traffic. They also do the same for link building but when I looked at it – I wasn’t very happy. Often times they tell you to build link(s) on this particular site that happens to be your direct competitor. Do you know what the chances are of getting links from such sites? Less than slim. I mean Zer0 (get it? Borderladns 3 just came out and I LOVE IT).
8. Keep daily routine
Everyday I get up, I check how my projects are doing. First, I look at organic traffic and how many keywords I have in top 100 today. I get anywhere from 1 keyword to 50. It always depends on projects – how fresh they are, what have I done lately, etc …
Then I look at the visibility and how my site compares to my competitors. If competitor’s visibility has significantly increased then I analyse their domain – I look what keywords they rank for today and if they got any new content or perhaps, new links (usually via Ahrefs and Majestic).
Then I check the health of my site(s). Since I schedule the site audit to run everyday, I see immediately if there is something not working properly. It is important to swiftly take care of it.
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