Traffic is the lifeblood of any website. Without it, your site is useless.
But do you know what keywords are driving the most traffic to your website? Now that Google has stopped providing keyword referral information in your analytics, it’s unlikely you do. Without this keyword info, we can no longer optimize our sites around the keywords that bring the most traffic for us.
Fortunately, there are some third party services that you can use to fill this void and my favorite of these is called SEMRush. SEMRush has been around for a long time, but it has now become extremely vital for anyone doing competitive keyword research and site optimization.
In this SEMRush review, I’m going to highlight some of my favorite features and how you can start using it to analyze your keyword data and drive more web traffic to your website.
What is SEMrush?
SEMRush is a web based competitive research service from the same guys who made the excellent SEOQuake toolbar. What they have done is collect data for over 95 million keywords and provide a simple interface to search, sort and organize this data in several useful ways.
For site owners, this service is awesome because it provides data that you can’t find anywhere else. And since it is primarily a paid service, you know that there is only a limited subset of people who will actually have access the information SEMRush provides.
Let me demonstrate how it works by analyzing one of my favorite blogs, Quicksprout.com.
From this screenshot I can see that Quicksprout ranks for almost 3900 keywords in the SEMRush database.
The bottom table shows a list of all the organic keywords that SEMRush has found for the site. There’s a lot of data here, but I usually pay attention most to the keyword, search volume, Google position, url and the traffic % columns.
The true power though is how SEMRush allows you to search and organize this data. Each of the columns are sortable, so you can do things like sort by volume and see what the most potential high traffic keywords any site can target.
You can also use filters to really drill down to the data you want to see. For example, I can do things like look at the keywords with a search volume > 1000 and ranks on the second page of Google (positions 11-20) which will allow me to identify the keywords that could potentially really increase my traffic.
Using SEMRush Data To Help Your Site
As you play around with SEMRush, your eyes will get opened to all the different ways you can leverage this data. Here are some of the ways you can use the tool to optimize your site and get more traffic.
Find out what keywords my site ranks for
With SEMRush, you have now solved your keyword (not provided) problem. Put in the root url of your domain and you can see all the keywords that your site ranks for. At a glance you can identify the keywords will bring you the most traffic and where you currently rank for them.
Do competitive keyword research on your competition
You will also want to use SEMRush to look at your competitors. This allows you to discover new, high traffic keywords that you probably hadn’t thought of targeting yet. If you are a blogger, then this is a powerful source of blog post ideas.
Now you can quickly identify the blog posts that are getting visitors from high traffic keywords. Write an even better post on the same topic, and you can “steal” this traffic for yourself.
Promote affiliate products
SEMRush is great for anyone who is promoting affiliate products and building niche websites to promote them. Especially if you are not an expert in that niche going in.
To start, you can build a list of keywords that competitor sites are using to promote these same affiliate products. Not only should you use the organic keyword search data, but you can use the paid search data to find the keywords that competitors are targeting using Adwords.
A relatively new feature of SEMRush (still in Beta) is the Position tracking tool to track your search engine rankings. With the Pro plan you can create up to 5 campaigns and track up to 500 different keywords. You can track the keyword positions of both your site and your competitors sites as well.
The features are pretty standard to any rank tracker. Each day you can see your keywords’ current position and any position changes. By clicking on the Keyword Rankings tab, you will also find a graph of your keyword rankings over time.
Since this is all web-based, you no longer have to worry about being blocked by Google or purchasing proxies like you would have to with any desktop based rank tracking software.
Check your backlinks
The domain backlinks report shows you all the backlinks SEMRush has found, together with the backlink source url, target url and anchor text. You can export all this data to CSV if you like.
I wish it would provide some more info like anchor text analysis which is so important these days, but this feature is still in Beta so we perhaps we will see this added in the feature.
Anyone can go to SEMRush.com and use it for free. However, the free version is quite limited and you will only get 10 results per query. Basically the free version will give you a taste of how the service works and how to use it.
To really get the most out of SEMRush though, you will have to sign up for one of it’s paid plans. If you don’t see yourself using the service regularly, then you can opt for the $79.95 Pro plan option where you can pay to use the service for one month.
If you are a power user, who will be looking at this data regularly, then you can subscribe to the same PRO plan on a monthly basis and get a $10/month discount.
I would say that the Pro plan is pretty much suitable for most users. However, you can also opt for the Guru plan which also gives you the ability to see historical data as well. For sites that got hit hard by the Google Panda and Penguin updates, this historical data would be useful to find the keywords your site used to rank for.
Before Google took away our keyword referral data, I would have said that SEMRush was more of a luxury type of service that not everyone needed. But now that our keyword data is gone, SEMRush becomes much more essential. If you use it smartly, you can leverage the data it provides to drive a lot more traffic to your site. If you do this, then SEMRush quickly pays for itself.