SEMRush Guide 2021 – Complete Step By Step Tutorial

Running a blog, online business, or eCommerce shop is no small feat. There are tons of things to take care of from publishing content to fulfilling orders, to site maintenance and marketing your brand. And if you’re a one man team, finding the time to take care of everything cam be challenging. But the thing is, you can’t afford to neglect anything when it comes to running a successful website, especially when you want to beat the competition.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most important aspects of digital marketing. It can help you grow your following or business, rank higher in search results, and establish your brand as an authority in a saturated industry.

That said, despite Google receiving 82,800 searches per second, over 90% of the internet’s webpages receive no organic traffic from Google.

That’s not good.

If you’re looking for a great way to boost your site’s SEO, you’re going to need to invest in an SEO tool to help you out. Because obviously, whatever the majority of site owners are doing isn’t working. But with a tool like SEMrush, you can conduct better keyword research, fine tune your content for higher rankings, and even track your competition to become a leading authority in your industry.

Don’t believe us? Check out this detailed review first!

If you’ve already heard about SEMrush, but want to learn more about how to use it to boost your SEO efforts, keep reading. Today we’re sharing our SEMrush ultimate guide to improving SEO and ranking higher in search results.

1. Audit Your Website

Before you make any improvements to your website, whether it’s to site speed and performance, security, or even SEO, you should understand the condition of your site as is. After all, there’s no way to effectively gauge the success of your improvements if you have no baseline to compare to.

SEMrush helps you perform an SEO audit. It will provide a full picture of how your site is performing in terms of SEO, so that you can quickly see what’s working and what’s not.

To audit your site, go to Projects and then click on the green Create my first project button.

start new project

Fill in the project domain (your website) and give it a name for your future reference. Then click Create project.

For our example, we’re going to use the highly reputable SEO resource website Backlinko. Once your project is created, click on Set up in the Site Audit box.

semrush site audit

You’ll see a modal popup that will ask you to fill out the audit settings.

site audit settings

Once this is done, simply click Start Site Audit and let SEMrush do its magic! When the site audit is done, you can click on the Site Audit box and see your results.

site audit results

How this helps your SEO: When you have a clear view of your site’s current condition you can craft a plan of action that will be meaningful. There’s no sense trying to make changes if you don’t know what’s already working for you and what’s not.

2. Run a Domain Check

Another great thing to do to check the status of your website in terms of SEO is to run a domain check.

To do this, got to Domain Analytics > Overview and enter your site’s domain name. Again, for a good reference point, we’ll use Backlinko.

domain overview

To start, you’ll get data such as:

  • Authority Score: the value placed on your domain in terms of overall quality and influence of SEO. The more valuable and authoritative your site, the higher the authority score.
  • Organic Search Traffic: how much organic traffic is coming to your website from Google.
  • Paid Search Traffic: how much traffic is sent to your site via paid ads. You can see here, this domain does not have any traffic related to paid ads.
  • Backlinks: the number of links on other websites leading directly back to your website. If you can convince others to cite your website’s content in their own content, Google will reward you with higher search rankings.
  • Display Advertising: how your website appears in the Google Display Network. If you do not have advertisements running for your website, like Backlinko, you will not have any data to view.

As you scroll down, you’ll also get valuable information about your website’s domain that will help you see where you traffic comes from, which keywords your site visitors use to get to you, your current positions in Google, and even your biggest competition.

In addition, you’ll be able to see:

  • Branded vs non-branded traffic
  • Backlink domains
  • Types of backlinks (image, text, form, or frame)
  • Top backlink anchor text
  • Top referring domains
  • Visuals of your ads

How this helps your SEO: It’s not enough to run a site audit to see how search engines see your content. You have to dig deeper than that and identify basic metrics that relate directly to SEO such as traffic, backlinks, and the ads that are displaying for your brand. This way you know where you currently stand and can develop a plan that will help you improve the right areas.

3. Scope Out the Competition

One of the best reasons to use SEMrush for boosting your site’s SEO is that you can easily tap into everything your competition is doing too. This will help you see what is working for them that you can do for your own site. Plus, it’ll help you outrank them.

After running a domain check on your website, it’s time to take dig deeper and perform some organic research. And the best part is, you can conduct this research on your own site’s domain and your competition’s.

Domain Organic Research

The first thing we suggest is analyzing your own website’s domain. To do this, go to Domain Analytics > Organic Research. Then, enter your site’s domain.

The Overview tab will give you the most essential information you need to know about your site’s domain in search results:

domain organic research

As you scroll down, you’ll also have access to valuable data like:

  • Your domain’s top organic keywords
  • Position changes
  • Featured snippet information
  • Your domain’s top pages and subdomains
  • Main competition

How this helps your SEO: Scoping out the competition is crucial if you want to outrank them. But again, knowing where you stand first helps you develop a data-driven strategy for boosting SEO. Knowing which content is driving the most traffic to your site shows you what type of content and keywords to continue targeting. The same goes for your site’s top pages. Knowing which pages your site visitors are clicking on the most gives you the chance to capitalize on what’s working and avoid what’s not. Sometimes, the content you feel will be most popular is not. And this tool will help you easily see that.

Competition Organic Research

Now it’s time to look at your competitors. When you do this you can take what’s working for them and copy their strategies, make your content that much better, and eventually outrank them.

To find the data you need, go to Domain Analytics > Organic Research and click on the Competitors tab. Here, SEMrush takes all the guesswork out of who your biggest rivals are in search results.

competitor organic research

The Competitive Position Map shows you how competitive you are in the midst of the best in your industry. For example, Backlinko is fairly competitive against Ahrefs and SEMrush. However, Moz is the strongest website here.

Interested to see what your competition is offering site visitors? Scroll down a bit and you’ll see an extensive list of competition, complete with data like:

  • Competition level
  • Number of common keywords
  • Keywords driving traffic to a domain
  • Traffic resulting from a specific keyword
  • Cost of traffic based on certain keywords
  • Paid keywords currently in use
competitor organic research domains

Remember, just because a competitor has more organic traffic than your site, doesn’t mean they are the absolute domain to beat.

The whole point of fine tuning your SEO efforts is so that you bring the right kind of traffic to your site, even if that means your numbers are lower. That’s why it’s important to look at the competition level too. This metric will show you which websites are taking traffic away from your site.

How this helps your SEO: It’s likely you already know who your biggest competition is. However, running a check like this one will help you discover websites that you didn’t even know existed that are capturing your leads, in addition to giving you a clear view of how you stack up against the very best.

Individual Competition Organic Research

One reason SEMrush reigns as the leading SEO tool is that it doesn’t just give you the basics. Sure, if that’s what you’re looking for, it will give a quick bird’s eye view of most SEO metrics. However, it also provides site owners to do things like target one specific competitor and glean more information about it.

If you want information about one specific competitor, go to Domain Analytics > Organic Research and click on the Competitors tab. Then, just like we mentioned above, scroll down to the Organic Competitors section and click on the domain you want to investigate.

Based on the competition level, we notice that Ahrefs is a close competitor of Backlinko, so we’ll click that domain. When we do, we see this:

individual competitor organic research results

These type of results here are the same as the ones we found earlier when we ran an organic research check on Backlinko. This lends itself to an easy comparison between you and your rival in terms of traffic, paid search, backlinks, and even keywords.

How this helps your SEO: Sometimes comparing your website to several competitors becomes overwhelming. It also makes it harder to develop a specific strategy for outranking your competition. After all, you will not be able to outrank everyone all at once. By picking one competitor and using what works for them in your own marketing plan gives you a good chance of outranking them. It also narrows your focus so you don’t lose sight of what you’re really trying to accomplish.

4. Gather SEO Ideas

SEMrush knows that not everyone knows what to do with the data they see in their advanced SEO tools. That’s why it provides actionable SEO recommendations that all website owners, regardless of skill level, can perform.

To access SEMrush’s SEO ideas, go to Projects and select your project from the list. Next, click the Set up button in the On Page SEO Checker box.

on page seo checker

You’ll be asked to select a location and the webpages you’d like SEMrush to analyze. If you don’t want to choose, you can let the tool automatically select 50 webpages for you.

on page seo checker settings

Click Collect Ideas when you’re ready.

SEMrush will then analyze your site’s webpages. To see the results, click the On Page SEO Checker box.

semrush ultimate guide - on page seo checker results

You’ll see how many total SEO ideas SEMrush has for your website, as well as the ideas broken down into categories like:

  • Strategy
  • Backlinks
  • Technical SEO
  • User Experience
  • SERP Features
  • Semantic
  • Content

SEMrush also displays the top pages you should optimize for SEO and how many SEO ideas there are for each.

You can choose to see the SEO ideas for a specific category or webpage by clicking on them. For this example, we’ll click Strategy Ideas and the green 3 ideas button to see the tasks that SEMrush is recommending we do.

on page seo checker tasks

How this helps your SEO: When you know your SEO needs help, but aren’t sure what to do to make improvements, this tool will keep you right on track. And the best part is, SEMrush not only lists what it thinks you should do, but why. Understanding why you are making changes will help you maintain your higher search rankings in the future.

5. Perform Keyword Refinement

When people think about search engine optimization, they usually think about keyword research. After all, one of the best ways to rank well in relevant search results is to use the right keywords in your site’s content.

That said, guessing the right keywords is not helpful. And while there are many reliable WordPress SEO plugins like Yoast SEO to help site owners target the right keywords in their content, SEMrush makes sure people can pinpoint the exact keywords to use.

Keyword Overview

To start your keyword research with SEMrush, go to Keywords Analytics > Overview and enter the keyword you want to analyze. For our example, we’ll use the term �?search engine optimization.’ Keep in mind this tool also allows you to choose a location.

semrush guide - keyword analytics

SEMrush delivers a wealth of information about each keyword you analyze.

keyword basic overview

You’ll have access to data such as keyword volume, difficulty, SERP results, and trends. And if you market your brand with paid advertisements, you’ll also be able to see the keyword’s average cost per click.

Scrolling down, you’ll also see data like:

  • Longtail keyword variations you can use in your site’s content
  • Questions real people are asking in search engines that relate to the keyword
  • Related keywords that may help your content appear in more relevant search results

Each of these also come with a volume. This is helpful for those that want highly targeted keywords that are not that popular.

Lastly, you’ll see live domains that appear in search results for the keyword you’re analyzing. This is another great way to tap into the competition that’s actively ranking well and glean some inspiration.

semrush ultimate guide - real time domains with keywords

How this helps your SEO: It’s best to conduct keyword research and not just assume the keyword you have in mind will drive traffic to your site. Not to mention, it’s also a good idea to use keywords that are generic as well as highly specific. You don’t want to get lost in shuffle always targeting high volume keywords. And chances are, your target audience is looking for something specific too, which you can use to your advantage after using this tool.

Keyword Magic Tool

Part of mastering SEO is knowing how to use your target keywords in your site’s content the right way. This includes using the right variations, complementing words, and LSI questions.

When you go to Keyword Analytics > Keyword Magic Tool in SEMrush, you’ll find a ton of useful information about the keyword you want to rank for.

keyword magic tool

To start, you can refine your search results based on the following criteria:

  • Broad Match
  • Phrase Match
  • Exact Match
  • Related
  • Questions

You’ll then find a huge list of keyword variations and associated metrics like volume, trend, difficulty, cost per click, competitive density, SERP features, and number of results displaying in search engines.

Best of all, if you look on the left hand side of the results, you’ll see another list of seemingly unrelated words.

semrush guide - accompanying keywords

These words are terms that are often found accompanying the keyword you’re analyzing. For example, many people search for the term �?search engine optimization.’ However, there are plenty of people that also search phrases such as:

  • Company search engine optimization
  • Best search engine optimization
  • Local search engine optimization
  • Affordable search engine optimization

How this helps your SEO: Knowing the most common variations of a keyword you want to rank for helps you publish better content that ranks in relevant search results. Adding to that, accompanying words help people find exactly what they’re looking for. It also helps website owners refine their content to meet the needs of their target audience, drive the right traffic to their site, and prevent site abandonment.

6. Perform Backlink Research

One thing major search engines like Google look for when crawling websites and ranking them in search results is the quality of backlinks each site has. The more links leading back to your website you have, the more link juice you receive from Google, and the higher you rank.

Of course, these backlinks must be valuable and coming from authoritative websites. You cannot simply add a link to your site on every website you come across and hope to reap the SEO benefits. In fact, doing this will often get your site blacklisted by Google.

However, performing legitimate backlink research can help you improve SEO.

Go to Domain Analytics > Backlinks and enter your site’s domain to get started.

semrush ultimate guide - backlinks overview

Here you’ll see things like:

  • Referring domain categories
  • Top anchor text used
  • The authority score of referring domains
  • Backlink types (image, text, form, or frame)
  • Top countries
  • Top pages being referenced in referring domains

How this helps your SEO: All of this information can be used to help you determine the strength of your link building efforts. Remember, Google and other search engines want to see your website referenced on high-quality websites that are recommending your content to their own audience. When this happens enough, you are recognized as an authority and rewarded with better search rankings.

Competitor Backlink Research

If you’re interested in seeing how your backlinks match up to your competition, go to Domain Analytics > Backlinks and click on the Overview tab.

Then, in the field labeled Add Competitor, add the domain of your competitor and click Compare.

backlink comparison

Now you’ll see a head-to-head comparison of each domain’s backlinking metrics.

semrush ultimate guide - backlink comparison results

How this helps your SEO: Choosing to compare your backlinks with a close competitor will give you the insight needed to boost your link building efforts. You’ll be able to see where their backlinks are coming from, what the most common type is, and how many they get over time, so you can refine your marketing strategies to mimic their content, take away some of the backlinks, and eventually rank above them in search results.

7. Use the SEO Content Template

One of our favorite tools in SEMrush is the SEO Content Template. So many times people focus on the external logistics of SEO and forget that the content they write and publish has to be optimized for SEO too. And no, this does not mean just adding a few target keywords in the content and calling it a day.

To use this tool, just click on SEO Content Template. Then, enter the keyword(s) you want to use in the content you’re going to publish on your site and click Create SEO Template. Again, we’ll use �?search engine optimization’ for this example.

create seo content template

The first thing SEMrush will show you are the top 10 Google rivals. Of course, if you’ve used the other tools we recommend above, you probably already know who your competition is. Below this, you’ll find key recommendations such as:

  • Semantically related words
  • Backlink opportunities
  • Readability goal
  • Ideal text length
seo content template recommendations

Below that, you’ll find your competitor’s content using the keyword you’re trying to rank for. This is especially helpful to view before you start writing your own content. After all, if they’re already ranking, you should use what they’re doing, make it better, and watch your content rank higher.

semrush ultimate guide - seo content template competitors

Real-Time Content Check

If you really want to get some great use out of this tool, you have to click on the Real-time Content Check tab.

Next, copy and paste your final content into the box.

semrush guide - seo content template real time check

When you do this, SEMrush will recommend:

  • Readability suggestions, complete with a score of your content’s readability as is
  • Keywords that your competitors are likely using
  • Tone of voice suggestions

You can also check the originality of your content too using the built-in plagiarism check.

How this helps your SEO: It would be a shame to do all the behind-the-scenes SEO work only to have your actual content fall flat and fail to rank. Double checking your content in this popular SEO tool will help guarantee that all your hard work has been put to good use and that you’ll make progress when it comes to ranking higher.

Wrapping Up

And there you have it! The SEMrush ultimate guide to improving your content’s search rankings.

SEO is an extensive strategy that cannot be neglected by website owners looking to succeed. That said, improving your site’s SEO doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as many make it out to be, especially when you use a tool like SEMrush.

Are you in the beginning stages of launching a brand new website? If so, be sure to check out this easy to follow guide on how to create a WordPress website without a lot of hassle.