It is no secret that, for SEMrush competitor analysis and rank tracking have always been popular. Other uses include keyword research, backlink management, site auditing, social media management and PPC optimisation.
I originally became a paid user of SEMrush because of their rank tracking capabilities – it is still one of the best rank tracker tools out there – nowadays the SEMrush competitor analysis tool is worth the subscription on its own. However, SEMrush has been enhanced with many other tools and services so I decided to update my earlier SEMrush review, to bring it up-to-date.
SEMrush has taken the original rank tracker tools and added competitor analysis, social media management, backlink management, Site auditing and several other modules as well, please see the screenshot below of the main SEMrush tools dashboard.
But what about the all-encompassing subject of SEO? This involves all of the above and a lot more, how does SEMrush fit into the bigger picture?
SEMrush – The Swiss Army Knife of SEO Tools
I regard SEMrush as the Swiss Army Knife of SEO. It has many tools, all of which are very useful, but not all of them, apart from the SeMrush Competitor Analysis, go far enough to enable SEMrush to be the only tool you need as a full-time SEO or PPC manager. It has to be said however that SEMrush seem to take the matter very seriously and they have been improving and adding to their portfolio of tools at a very fast rate in recent months.
Perhaps we should take time to look at exactly what is on offer from SEMrush:
As you can see, there are now 8 major tools included in the SEMrush SEO toolbox, some of which are still in beta test at the time of writing. Lets take a look at them, one by one.
SEMrush Site Audit Tool
Whenever I take on a new client, or carry out pre-sales research for a potential client, I always like to run a site audit in order to get a feel for what kind of state their website is in. There are many such tools around and, to be truthful, they all do a pretty similar job, with the possible exception of Deepcrawl which is more detailed but aimed primarily at the developer community.
The SEMrush Site Auditor tool is useful and fairly comprehensive. The reports it generates can be viewed in overview mode, or in detail with the raw data being available for download as a CSV file. If you need to give a client, or your in-house management, an overview of how your a website is likely to fare in the search engine results pages, (SERPs) then the SEMrush Site Audit overview page is probably all you need. It can also be produced as a .pdf for easier reading and circulation.
Here’s an example of a SEMrush Site Auditor overview screen.
Clearly, a site audit score of only 41% is cause for concern and the report can be expanded to enable the user to see exactly what needs to be done in order to put things right.
All-in-all the SEMrush Site Audit Tool is a useful addition to any digital marketer’s kit bag and, although you wouldn’t subscribe to SEMrush just to get this tool, it is a nice bonus for those who need the other, mainstream applications such as Keyword Tracking, competitor analysis, etc.
SEMrush Keyword Tracking (Position Tracking)
I’ve always found that SEMrush gives me pretty much everything I need when it comes to keyword position tracking, or rank tracking as many people call it. You simply specify your list of “important” keywords and phrases, tell SEMrush which search engine database you want to check, e.g. Google.com, Google.uk or a host of others, and away you go. At the time of writing SEMrush was still seperating Mobile results from Desktop results and this should be treated with caution since Google now, allegedly, combines them into one – giving more weight to mobile that it does to desktop.
One of my favourite features in the SEMrush Rank Tracker tool is the ability to compare how you are ranking for each word or phrase, compared to up to 5 competitors. This can be very revealing, showing which keywords your competitors are outranking you for and enabling you to focus future optimisation efforts on those keywords.
As you can see from the screenshot above, the target site does not fare well i this ranking assesment whereas the competitors tend to be doing better. It is easy to identify from the above which keywords/phrases need to be optimised. This is a real life example and the name of the client has been obscured. Notice that the report also shows whether the keyword rank has moved up or down over the period that is being monitored.
The final two columns on the right show the CPC, (cost Per click) if you were to target the word or phrase on AdWords and the Vol (Volume) column shows how many searches there are, on average, each month for the keyword in the geographical territory being analysed.
SEMrush Social Media Tool
The SEMrush Social Media tool is a moderately powerful interface through which you can keep a track on your social media activity and that of your competitors. There are services out there that charge quite a lot for this, including RivalIQ, TrueSocialMetrics, Simply Measured, and many more and it’s true that those paid for services will give you a much more comprehensive coverage fo what’s going on for you in social media land. However, if social media is not overly important in your marketing mix then the free of charge SEMrush offering may be enough to meet your needs.
You start by linking your own social media accounts. You cannot include a social media platform into your analysis until you have linked to a live account of your own. Once done you can then go on to setup your competitors profiles – you do not need to know their login details, just their web address or social media IDs.
From then on it is pretty much a matter of letting it do its thing. The tool gathers data about how many posts, twets etc that you and your competitors make and the level of engagement each of you are getting in return for your efforts.
Reporting from the Social Media tool is comprehensive and will probably cover most people’s requirements. If you need more in-depth social media coverage then you may need to look further afield – but be prepared to pay the price, social media data doesn’t come cheap.
SEMrush Backlink Audit Tool
The backlink audit tool does exactly what it says on the tin – crawls your site and produces a list of backlinks that go to each of your webpages. This is an area where you will find great controvesy – no two backlink audit tools ever seem to find the same results and SEMrush certainly doesn’t find them all. For serious backlink work, especially if you suspect your website is being penalised by google, you will probably have to look towards services like those provided by Majestic or Ahrefs but the SEMrush tool is fine as a general snapshot as to what your backlink profle is looking like.
The image above shows the overview that the tool produces. You can then drill-down to the detail level and see the underlying data. The following screenshot hows the links in detail, including their “toxic score” which highlights links that are likely to cause problems and which may need to be disavowed.
All-in-all, a useful tool which may be useful in highlighting a problem that requires further investigation, perhaps with a more in-depth tool.
SEMrush Competitor Analysis & Domain Overview Reports
For many people, this is the only part of SEMrush they see – you can pretty much use it for free and, as such, it is a nice facility to have for finding out who your competitors are and what you are up against.
Entering a domain, yours or a competitor’s, will give you an overview of that domain’s visibility on Google that looks something like this:
So, in the above example, which is for Nike.com, you can see that they appear in Google’s search results for 191K keywords or phrases – not bad going. Of course, most of the sites you analyse will be somewhat smaller but the principle is the same.
Further down, SEMrush will list the most popular keywords that trigger the site to appear and the most effective competitors. You can click on any of these and drill down in order to analyse in greater depth.
Probably the single most useful facility in the SEMrush range, the Domain Overview report, or something like it, is almost essential to marketers who are taking on new clients and need to get to the bottom of what’s going on.
SEMrush hiked its prices recently by a massive 30% which I took exception to. They justified it on the basis of the new tools that they had added to the package and in a sense that’s fair enough. Where I take exception is that they just assumed that everyone wanted all the extra shiny things and were willing to pay an extra £60 or so for them – wrong! I wasn’t and I didn’t – so although I stll use SEMrush I am looking for alternatives because I don’t think you should base a business on a product whose owners think that kind of behaviour is OK.
The entry level plan is now $99 but there are some serious limitations with that, including the lack of availability of historical data – you new the $199 “Guru” plan to get that.
The product is brilliant, almost certainly the best you can get for the money, but the owners need to consider their customers a bit more when imposing massive price hikes like that. Although I’ve said that, for me, SEMrush competitor analysis and rank tracking tools are the best I’ve found, at any price, that doesn’t mean I will pay any price to get them. After all, unlike the old days, there’s a lot more competition out there now.
Where To Find It
Full SEO Tools Platform
Paid, Various Options plus limited free account
Free Trial Available
From $69.95/month, less if you pay annually.