Well, this has probably been a long time coming… I’ve mentioned SEMRush in a few posts already, so I think it’s about time that I really cover it in detail, from the good to the bad. But first, let’s put a little background on the tool, shall we?

In essence, SEMRush is one of many multi-function tools available to a Digital Marketer. You can look up backlinks, rankings and campaigns belonging to you, your clients and their competitors. This is done by search through SEMRush’s database for a specific domain, and the tool giving you all the information they have on that domain.

The biggest question, however, is whether this is all worth it, in terms of cost and usefulness. So, let’s get into it, shall we?

Installation/Setup

As SEMRush is a purely web-based system, there isn’t any installation to speak of. In fact, there isn’t even any setup involved either! If you wanted to, you could just put a domain into the tool and see the data. Go ahead and try it yourself using this handy little module they gave me to put on this site.

However, you do need to have a paid account to access all of the data. And to be honest, the most useful data is locked behind this pay wall, so if you really want to get the most out of the tool, you’re going to need a subscription. Therefore, if you’re on a really tight budget and looking for something free then SEMRush probably isn’t for you.

The free version is great for running a quick, pretty top level analysis of a domain, but if you really want to track keywords, or crawl a particularly detailed website, then you’re going to need to cough up the cash. This will put off a lot of people, but we’ll go more into that when we look at the cost of the tool.

In terms of actual setup, I would say it is a win simply because all you need to do, even if you want the paid version, is sign up and give the payment details. Unlikely some Digital Marketing tools, there’s no code to add to your website or anything, so that means the tool is actually really accessible.

Effectiveness

When it comes to the effectiveness of any Digital Marketing tool, the focus really is on the reliability of the data that tool provides. With SEMRush, there is so much data that there you almost expect that there will be some inconsistencies, and you’d be right. Because the tool uses its own database, it can sometimes be behind on things like rankings… For example, this site ranks for a number of keywords related to WordPress, AMP plugins and Google related news, but SEMRush doesn’t have any of that in its database yet. So, there will be times when you are looking into a website and find that the data just isn’t there.

Thankfully, this is pretty rare and almost entirely limited to new sites. There are the odd few older domains that don’t show everything, but for the most part you won’t run into these problems.

One really great aspect of the SEMRush tool that I use on an almost daily basis is the ability to look at the keywords a competitor is targeting with PPC ads, as well as actually seeing those ads as well! You can literally see the advert copy they are using, and then edit yours to compete.

This level of information and data can really help you to understand exactly what you need to be doing to overcome your competitors! For example, if you’ve heard on the grapevine that your competitors are using a certain type of PPC ad, targeting a specific audience, you can simply have a look and see for yourself! If you’re thinking about running a Display Network campaign, but hear that your competitors don’t bother, you can find out rather than just taking someone’s word for it.

I, myself, use this feature a lot! When you are speaking with clients about their advertising spend, it can be a really powerful thing to show them exactly what their competitors are doing. You can show them all of the different ads and keywords, and they can then make an informed decision about PPC spend.

Of course, it’s not only limited to PPC, as you can check the Organic rankings and targeting of competitors as well, which the tool handles admirably. The only complaint I have with that part of SEMRush is that, if you new to the tool (or showing the results to clients), you’re going to need an explanation as to what certain metrics are. This is because some are not specifically obvious, even if they seem so.

For example, Amazon.com currently have a Traffic score of 6.2 million in the Organic section of SEMRush. Now, you might immediately thing that this means they get that much on average, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that. It’s how most tools work. SEMRush is different though. The Traffic score is actually the expected traffic of the next month, if visibility and average traffic change continues.

So, again, the data itself is really useful, but you need to know what you are looking at. SEMRush do give explanations of these metrics when you hover over them, which is great, but for someone just coming into the tool for the first time, it can get confusing.

All in all, though, the Effectiveness of SEMRush is astounding! And I’m not just saying that because of how much I, personally, love the tool. I’m saying that because it is so good, in the past I have seen clients be willing to pay for it just so that an agency can use it for them!

Usability

Now, in terms of Usability, SEMRush does get a bit complicated, mostly due to the sheer amount of data that is available. In fact, as you can see below, there are so many options and sections to the tool that they actually have to have an “entire menu” option as one of the menu items!

This brings up a floating menu with all of the sections and subsections within that area of the tool (Domain Analytics) in the example above. Now, when you consider that there are 5 main areas of tool, that can be pretty daunting. However, it is for good reason! So, here are those 5 areas;

  • Domain Analytics
    • This covers Organic, PPC, Display Network, Video Ads and Backlinks, amongst other domain-specific data
  • Keyword Analytics
    • This covers keyword difficulty, phrase match keyword research, related keywords and more.
  • Projects
    • This is where any projects added to the tool site, and gives access to SEMRush’s site audit social media tool and much more.
  • Lead Generation Tool
    • This one is more for agencies, as it allows you to put a “free site audit” widget into your site, designed to increase leads for your agency.
  • My Reports
    • Pretty self explanatory, but basically, SEMRush has a PDF Report creation system that allows you to build reports for your business or clients. If you have the “Guru” or “Business” level subscriptions, these can also be branded with your branding.

So yeah, there’s a lot to fit into the tool, which makes the UI pretty cluttered. On top of that, it you want to check something quickly whilst on the go, SEMRush has an m.semrush.com site. However, when you actually search for data using a domain, it takes you to the standard tool, which is not mobile-friendly.

And whilst I completely understand that fitting that amount of data into a responsive, mobile-friendly design would be a nightmare, a stripped back, top level only version could work… Or even an app… For now, though, you’re definitely better off using SEMRush on a Desktop!

Cost

Now, cost is actually a difficult one when it comes to SEMRush… There are 3 tiers of subscription, starting at $69.95 and going up to $549.95! And when you consider that you can get some decent top level information for free (just not the actual, juicy stuff) there is such a huge difference in price points!

All in all, I would say it is probably worth the money, especially the $69.95 version if you are a freelancer or a normal business. If you’re an agency, I would recommend looking at the $549.95 version just because of the branded reports, historical data and the ability to look at Google Merchant PLAs as well. It is quite a high cost though, and I’m not going to sugar coat that.

SEMrush

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