semrush

SEMrush: The Complete Guide For Business People

SEMrush is a digital marketing tool that can be used to develop your search engine optimization strategy. But it can also be used as a business intelligence tool to perform market analysis, competitor analysis, and grow your business by understanding current trends to developing better content, positioning, and products/services.

Quick Intro To Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is the set of techniques and strategies that entrepreneurs can use to integrate digital channels within their positioning and distribution strategy. When we look at digital marketing, it’s important not to fall into the mistake of using it only as a distribution strategy.

In fact, digital marketing tools and techniques are essential in the research phase, therefore to unlock a set of insights that can be used to accelerate growth, make fewer mistakes in launching new products, or pèrhaps better understanding an existing audience.

Thus, digital marketing to be really effective needs to be framed in a wider perspective comprising:

  • Market analysis.
  • Positioning.
  • Content development.
  • Digital distribution.
  • Product development.

Digital Marketing Channels

digital-marketing-channels
A digital channel is a marketing channel, part of a distribution strategy, helping an organization to reach its potential customers via electronic means. There are several digital marketing channels, usually divided into organic and paid channels. Some organic channels are SEO, SMO, email marketing. And some paid channels comprise SEM, SMM, and display advertising.

Integrating a digital marketing strategy within your overall business strategy is fundamental to build a sustainable business model, that acquires customers organically and therefore lowers the acquisition cost over time, as the brand gains traction.

In short, an effective digital marketing strategy has to work more like a flywheel following this loop:

  • Uncover consolidating and consolidated trends.
  • Decide a positioning or how you want to be recognized in the long-term.
  • Narrow down further the market, to pick a niche, where to become the leader.
  • Experiment with multiple digital marketing channels.
  • Narrow down experimentation to only 1-2 channels that are working well.
  • Consolidate a single, core, digital growth channel.
  • Expand to other adjacent growth channels.
  • Invest back into your product as part of your branding strategy.
virtuous-cycle
The virtuous cycle is a positive loop or a set of positive loops that trigger a non-linear growth. Indeed, in the context of digital platforms, virtuous cycles – also defined as flywheel models – help companies capture more market shares by accelerating growth. The classic example is Amazon’s lower prices driving more consumers, driving more sellers, thus improving variety and convenience, thus accelerating growth.

As the brand consolidates, grow and strengthens, you can invest further back into developing a better product, and amplifying it further.

The Importance of SEO

inbound-marketing
Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy designed to attract customers to a brand with content and experiences that they derive value from. Inbound marketing utilizes blogs, events, SEO, and social media to create brand awareness and attract targeted consumers. By attracting or “drawing in” a targeted audience, inbound marketing differs from outbound marketing which actively pushes a brand onto consumers who may have no interest in what is being offered.

Among the digital marketing channels, SEO is a powerful one as it’s all about organic growth. In short, with search engine optimization, as of now, it’s still possible to gain a continuous stream of traffic toward your web property.

However, it’s important to understand that SEO is in continuous change. Indeed, Google itself updates its algorithms hundreds of times per year, and there are major algorithms update a few times a year. This does change and can impact your overall SEO traffic, yet, as long as your long-term strategy is solid, that shouldn’t affect you much.

From that perspective SEO is a versatile channel, that can be used both to generate a continuous stream of traffic toward your content but also toward your e-commerce:

e-commerce-seo
SEO stands for search engine optimization. That is the process of aligning the website content to the signals used by search engines to understand whether the underlying content is of good quality. From there, it’s possible through e-commerce SEO to build a digital funnel that leads from the store’s editorial content toward navigational pages (search page, category pages) and transactional pages (products) to build a solid online business.

And many do not realize it in the business world. However, Amazon itself is also a search engine (more particularly a product engine). Thus, understanding the logic behind Google and developing an effective SEO strategy will also help you understand how other engines, like Amazon, perhaps, work.

amazon-seo
Amazon SEO represents the set of marketing tactics that sellers on Amazon can employ to better rank their products’ pages organically (without paying for placement), thus building a continuous stream of customers on the store. In short, Amazon SEO leverages Amazon search capability to rank e-commerce pages and make more sales.

SEO As A Core Growth Channel

seo-hacking-process

Therefore, SEO can be used as a core growth channel, as such it will need to follow the loop above and be focused on the following:

  • Continuous Experimentation: Many approach SEO as a one-time endeavor, you publish a single piece of content, and that’s it. Unfortunately (and fortunately), SEO requires continuous experimentation to analyze how competitive a niche is. Still, until you don’t start testing things out, you will not know for sure how easy or hard it will be to gain momentum. This connects to the second point.
  • Integrated: In many cases, before you get traffic from SEO, it requires developing a whole editorial strategy. For instance, if you start from scratch before Google perceives your site as authoritative on that segment, it might take time. And therefore, it’s important to plan for SEO campaigns that are made of many moving parts. You develop multiple pieces, but you keep it flexible so that you can adjust based on results.
  • Audience Insights: One core advantage of mastering SEO is the ability to know beforehand the interest of people on a certain topic. Thus, from that standpoint, SEO can be useful to prevent mistakes in the initial phase of growth.
  • Micro and Macro Trends: Another core advantage of SEO is to have a clue of micro and macro trends that are developing and consolidating so that you can surf new waves to grow your business.
  • Positioning: Ultimately, SEO can be a great way to finetune the business positioning, to bootstrap your business, rather than pure guessing.

What SEO Can’t Do For You

The paradox is that one of the major pitfalls and mistakes you can make usually comes with this strategy’s mastery. As SEO gives you great visibility on existing trends and what people currently want, you can easily plan for your entire content development or positioning around things that people want right now. Yet, this approach might most probably kill your business in the long-term.

First, because you are not building a strong brand, only following what others are doing and what people already want, second, just focusing on existing and developing trends can lead to dry content or commoditized products, where your business might never develop a concrete competitive advantage.

Therefore, even if you end up mastering SEO, you want to keep using your gut, instinct, and perhaps what you believe the future will look like. Only like that, your business strategy will be balanced. That’s what customer obsession is about, a mix of intelligent and informed guessing coupled with a hunch, gut, intuition, and curiosity!

customer-obsession
Customer obsession goes beyond quantitative and qualitative data about customers, and it moves around customers’ feedback to gather valuable insights. Those insights start with the entrepreneur’s wandering process, driven by hunch, gut, intuition, curiosity, and a builder mindset. The product discovery moves around a building, reworking, experimenting, and iterating loop.

Diving Into SEMrush

Let’s see the several ways you can use SEMrush to build a solid digital strategy.

Keyword Analysis

SEMrush has an incredible Keyword database, and it’s for sure among the most reliable digital marketing tools when it comes to understanding the trends developed and developing through commercial search engines.

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semrush-keywords-growth
semrush-database-per-country
Source: semrush.com/stats

If you are not familiar with SEO, below a quick infographic to have an understanding of how that works:

seo-checklist
SEO or search engine optimization stands for the practice of improving the understanding of your web pages for commercial search engines to enable them to connect you with your core audience, thus bring organic traffic back to your website. SEO can be done on-page or off-page.

In short, since Google became a mass used engine to find anything on the web, people had to input keywords on its search box to find anything. That search data has become an incredible lever for businesses to understand what customers want, even before launching a product and getting to product-market fit more quickly.

SEO is typically broken down into:

  • On-Page: a set of techniques to make your pages more appealing, easier to index, and rank, by developing content that people search for, make it available in formats congenial to search engines, and therefore speed things up.
  • Off-Page: when Google was created, its core algorithm was called PageRank, which determined the relevance of pages indexed in ranked based on backlinks. A backlink is simply a link back from a site; the more backlinks and the more those links come from authoritative websites, the more a site will gain authority via Google, and therefore it will get more traffic, it will get ranked more quickly (on the related topics the site is authoritative for), and become more trusted.

By inserting a keyword in the SEMrush you can have an overview for that keyword:

semrush-keyword-analysis

You can quickly learn about:

  • Volume: how many times in a month a term/keyword is searched through Google. Usually, a lower volume keyword might have a lower difficulty (even though that really depends on how commercially important is a keyword). In the case of SEO (search engine optimization), as you can see, it has a 135K volume, so each month, over a hundred thousand searches happen for that keyword.
  • Keyword difficulty: how hard it would be for a new website to rank on Google’s first page for that keyword. The lower the keyword difficulty, the easier it is to rank on that specific keyword. Keyword difficulty might depend on several factors, such as: how competitive are the sites competing from the same keywords (the more trusted brand there are, the more it will be harder), how much quality content there is on that vertical (the higher quality content the harder to develop content that can be as good and therefore rank) and how much paid advertising there is on that vertical, (perhaps with much advertising on the search results there will be less space for organic results, thus SEO campaigns). For instance, in this case, SEO has an 89% difficulty because it’s an extremely competitive niche (as you can guess) made of professionals that do understand the sector.
  • CPC: or what would it cost if you had to buy that keyword through pay per click. For instance, for SEO the CPC is $6.32, or you need to pay over $6 to get a single click from the keyword “SEO.”
  • Competition: as SEMrush explains that is the level of competition between advertisers bidding on the analyzed keyword within their PPC campaigns.

This very quick analysis helps you understand the level of competition on a niche or segment from a search engine standpoint.

Advanced Keyword Analysis

SEMrush-kw-analysis
In the SEMrush suite you can find also the other analytical tools, where you can find the keyword variations, questions, and related keywords.
semrush-serp-analysis
You can also find the top pages for topic and niche, like in this case you can see the first 10 results related to “SEO” with the estimated search traffic each site gets for its ranking on that keyword.

Gap Analysis

An interesting feature that SEMrush offers is the Keyword Gap Analysis, which can give you insights about how search engines (and therefore searchers) might perceive your brand online compared to other brands on the same vertical. It can also inform you on what brand has more strenght and perhaps on which keywords you can leverage to fill this gap.

Let’s take the example of SEMrush, how can we select its competitors in the first place?

A very simple place to start is to turn to a simple Google search:

semrush-competitors- carousel
When you search for “SEMrush” on the right side, you find a Google visualization called a knowledge panel, and this will tell you a few interesting things about the brand and how Google perceives it (so how users search things on through it). Within the Knowledge Panel, you find the feature “people also search for” with a set of competitors. And if you click on “view 15+ more,” you can dive into the brand’s carousel.
semrush-carousel
Example of the SEMrush brand’s carousel with all the potential competitors, we can pick some of them for the analysis.

To further refine the comparison (Google often might get it wrong there), let’s see through SEMrush which players rank on the first and the second page of Google for “SEO” and that at the same time also provides software as a service. As the main target of SEMrush is still SEO and it’s a SaaS Business Model we find the following:

  • Ahrefs.
  • Alexa.
  • Moz.
  • Serpstat.

Now we take those domains, plug them into SEMrush Keyword Gap Analysis tool and get the results:

keyword-competitor-analysis
keyword-gap-analysis

As you can notice from this GAP analysis there is a substantial overlapping between SEMrush, Moz, and Ahrefs, with Moz taking most space on search results. And a lesser gap with Alexa, that though has a large distribution through search.

By going down the panel you can also find the details of the gaps for each keywords, that can unlock interesting insights about what your SEO traffic is lacking and what you need to do.

competitor-analysis-semrush

Domain Analysis

Another simple yet powerful feature is the domain analysis. By simply inputting a the domain name in SEMrush’s box you will get all the data about that domain, how much organic traffic it gets, from which keywords and a detailed analysis of backlinks, and competitors.

semrush-domain-analysis
When you input a domain name into SEMrush you will get a detailed domain analysis of all the core SEO/organic metrics for the online brand.
semrush-organic-traffic
Among the domain analysis data you get the top organic keywords, and you can also have a detailed overview, and how the organic distribution is spread out.
semrush-organic-analysis

You can also understand the main organic competitors, so the sites that rank for mostly the same keywords. While this is a great reference, in reality, you want to handpick your competitors at a business level because there are other components to take into account. For instance, here, you can see how SEMrush is compared to searchenginejournal.com. However, the two companies have a different business model (the latter is a publication primarily making money via advertising and sponsorship).

branded-traffic-analysis
From SEMrush domain analysis you can also see how the organic traffic moved over the years.
semrush-branded-traffic

Another interesting data point is the branded traffic, so whether people find the site on Google primarily searching for a keyword with the brand name inside.

For instance, “SEMrush SEO” or something similar. When the branded traffic is strong, this is a good signal as it shows that searchers know the brand, and this is also a strong signal for Google, who might, over time, attribute much more relevance to strong brands.

semrush-backlink-analysis

Another important analysis is about backlinks, to gain an overview of which sites are linking to the domain.

paid-analysis-semrush
paid-ads-analysis-semrush

With SEMrush you can also gain an overview of how other competitors are advertising through Google, so how they are spending marketing budget to acquire new customers!

Keyword Research

If you know even the ABC of the world of digital marketing, you would be aware of the fact that keywords are of immense importance and successful keyword research can be a game changer for any business. With the SEMrush keyword research tool, you can easily outperform your competitors. There are a number of ways in which the keyword research tool facilitates your business and gives you a competitive edge over others. The first one being keyword overview, which lets you find out the potential value of any keyword. From instantly judging the keyword on set parameters such as estimated value and the competition that the keyword has to discovering how the keyword actually fits your goal, the Keyword research tool does it all. It also helps you analyze a complete list of your competitor’s organic keyword rankings and pages. This way you not only discover the best performing organic keywords for your niche but you can also target each of those keywords individually and find new ways to win SERPs. The Keyword Research tool also has a database of over 20 billion keywords, which it lets you surf through a friendly and streamlined interface. The integrated keyword manager helps users analyze up to a 1000 keywords at a time and see changes for a keyword in the search engine results in real time. Finally, the keyword research tool also allows you to compare your keyword profile with that of your competitor and device new strategies for launching more efficient SEO campaigns. 

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Figure 1: SEMrush Keyword Research Tool

On-Page SEO

The term on-page SEO refers to the practice of optimizing your website’s individual web pages in a way as to rank higher and earn relevant traffic when a query is made on a search engine. On-page SEO is relevant to applying all the SEO best practices to the web content as well as the html code in order to boost your page rankings. The SEMrush on-page SEO tool lets you analyze your website’s health by checking the interactions that it has with Google, thus providing you with fresh ranking ideas. The on-page SEO tool lets you run a complete audit of your website’s pages with the help of a high-speed crawler in a matter of minutes, which then recommends easy fixes for all the issues that plague your website. It also gives you an exhaustive list of ideas to improve your website’s rank by applying tips related to content writing, link building and SERP feature targeting. Finally, it helps you analyze log files of your website’s interactions with Google crawler to help overcome any hindrances that there might be due to both structural and navigational issues in your website.  

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Figure 2: SEMrush On-page SEO Tool

Local SEO

Local SEO is a digital marketing strategy for a business that has a physical store or location and serves a set local geographic area. Thus, local SEO gives you the tools to promote your product in your own locality when people search for it on the internet. SEMrush local SEO tool can sculpt the perfect strategy for your small business. It has a multitude of features such as listing management, which puts your business data into the most authoritative directories automatically and follows your ranking progress on your locality’s zip code level while monitoring reviews in those directories. The Local SEO tools also makes the use of position tracking feature to track your daily online performance by monitoring device types, keywords and keeping an eye on the competition in the area. It also does an on page SEO check for your website as compared to your local competition by analyzing their strategies and trends in your area. Finally, it also lets you enhance your social media performance allowing you to harness the full power of all those sales channels. 

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Figure 3: SEMrush Local SEO Tool

SEO Competitive Analysis 

In business terms, competitive analysis is a strategy in which you identify all your major competitors and then research their marketing strategies, sales and products inside out and then devise strategies on top of what your competitor is already doing. SEMrush competitive analysis tool lets you analyze your competition in a matter of minutes. All you need to do is enter your competitor’s domain name, and it will show you everything from your competitor’s organic search rankings and position changes to all their keywords that they are ranking on. Using this same tool, you can also see all of their backlinks and thus find all their referring domains and by applying the right filters, you can uncover unlimited new opportunities to find new backlinks for your website. The competitive analysis tools lets you analyze up to five competitors at a time, uncovering the gaps in the keyword strategies that you can put all your focus on. Similarly, you can do this same gap analysis for backlinks as well, find out which domains link your competitors and not you, and then reach out to them to build your own backlinks to those authoritative sites. You can get all of this information in the form of comprehensive SEMrush reports that you can share with your team to work on and devise better strategies. 

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Figure 4: SEMrush competitive analysis tool

Rank Tracking

Another useful tool that SEMrush incorporates is called rank tracking which helps you monitor your performance on Google’s SERPs and then develop your SEO strategy accordingly. The first technique is the one we discussed earlier called position tracking which helps you track keywords, competitors and domains on Google as well as your own campaign progress, spot and fix cannibalization and then taking the next steps accordingly. Similarly, SEMrush also allows you to track the volatility of different search engine’s SERPs based on daily changes that occur in them. Lastly, it allows you to narrow down on domains that have higher rankings globally with the most organic visibility, similarly the ones with paid visibility and traffic to give you an idea of what you need to do even to achieve a fraction of that traffic. 

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Figure 5: SEMrush rank tracking tool

Other Features

Since we are focusing on the marketing and more specifically the SEO aspect of it, we discussed all the major tools that SEMrush houses that help websites build their SEO strategy. However there are a number of other tools that SEMrush comes equipped with that we think are worth mentioning here. 

  1. Content – In the content category, SEMrush has a wide variety of tools and features including content marketing, content creation and distribution, content optimization and last but not least content marketing analytics. 
  2. Market Research – SEMrush also helps businesses carry out market research with tools such as competitor analysis, market analysis, paid advertising and competitor PR monitoring. 
  3. Advertising – In the advertising niche, SEMrush facilitates its users with tools and techniques such as PPC keyword research and website monetization. 
  4. SMM & SERM – Lastly, it also helps with social media management. 

Key takeaways

  • Digital marketing is among the most powerful ways to build a sustainable business model. However, it needs to be framed within a broader strategy, where you can integrate digital marketing tactics for both analyzing a market, better understanding your audience to distribute your content.
  • Among the most effective digital marketing channels, there is SEO, as it can help businesses gain—a continuous stream of traffic to their web properties.
  • SEO itself can be broken down into on-page and off-page, and both imply a different set of activities to amplify the brand through search engines.
  • SEMrush is among the most powerful SEO suites that you can use to analyze a market, analyze an audience, choose to position, and develop a content marketing strategy to grow your business.
  • Among the several features, the most interesting are keyword analysis, keyword gap analysis, competitor analysis, and domain analysis.

Published by

Gennaro Cuofano

Gennaro is the creator of FourWeekMBA which reached over a million business students, executives, and aspiring entrepreneurs in 2020 alone | He is also Head of Business Development for a high-tech startup, which he helped grow at double-digit rate | Gennaro earned an International MBA with emphasis on Corporate Finance and Business Strategy | Visit The FourWeekMBA BizSchool | Or Get The FourWeekMBA Flagship Book "100+ Business Models"