How to use SEMRush to Rank Above Your Competitors

SEMRushYour competitors are beating you badly in search results, what are you going to do about it?

How much research do you do on your competitors? Do you want to analyze the areas where they are doing better than you online?  Do you know which of their posts are driving them the most traffic?

There are some great tools out there to help with this research and one of them is SEMRush.  In this article we carry out a review of SEMRush to look at the functionality that we use here in RazorSocial on a very regular basis.

Note:   For the purposes of this review we used the paid tool.  You can go to the SEMRush website and start using the tool for free, but there are some limitations.


1. Understand how you are doing

Before you analyze how your competitor is doing, you need start off by figuring out how you are doing yourself!

When you go to the SEMrush tool and enter your web address you will see an overview screen, which will show you how you are doing in terms of the traffic you are getting – both paid and unpaid. You can immediately see if your traffic is going up or down, if your ranking is improving or getting worse for your main keywords, how you are ranking within SEMrush, and more. You can download the report produced by SEMrush as a pdf and also change the date ranges so that you can see progress over the last year or two.

Here’s one part of the overview screen, which shows  traffic growth over a period of time.

semrush traffic growth

As there are no ads running this only shows the growth based on organic traffic


Here is what we are ranking for, organically, around the world: most of the ranking is in the US, as you can see in the chart:


semrush organic keywords

View of graph of where you are ranking for keywords



Monitor your dashboard on a weekly basis to keep an eye on your progress.


2.  Analyze your competitors so you can beat them in search results

From the first SEMRush screen, enter your competitor’s name and select their location.  In this example we are focussing in on a social media news site called Social Media Today and we have specified that we’re interested in their US search results.


semrush competitor search

Enter your competitor and location


When I run the research I see lots of very useful information but lets focus in on the keywords.  This is the screen I see:


semrush competitor results

View the keywords a competitor is ranking for


This is only part of the screen but it contains some of the most interesting sections:

  • Keywords:  The top keywords that Social Media Today are ranking for.
  • Position:  Where they are ranked for these keywords (the number in brackets is their ranking the last time SEMRush evaluated search results).
  • Volume:  The estimated monthly traffic that is generated from these keywords (i.e. how many times people search for them).
  • CPC:  The average price of a click if someone advertised based on this keyword (in US Dollars).
  • URL:  The web page generating the traffic.
  • Traffic:  The average percentage of all traffic the website is getting from this keyword.

So, from this report we can see a broad range of keywords that are generating traffic.


I know you’re thinking that this is great, but what do we do?!

If a competitor is getting traffic for keywords that are relevant to your business, why don’t you try to get that traffic instead?

Of course, to do this you must be realistic. If their website has much higher rankings than you and they have optimized their content well, you don’t have much of a chance of beating them.

Note:  To understand how to rate how highly a site is ranked read this post on understanding domain authority.

So, your options are:

a).  If your competitor is ranked higher but the post is not keyword-optimized, write an article focussed on those keywords.

b). Find competitors (or similar companies) that have a lower domain rank and research them using SEMrush.  It will be much easier to write content that will rank more highly.

c). If their domain rank is much higher and the page rank is high (each page is also ranked) then ignore it and move on!


3.  Analyze the competitors of your competitor

What about the competitors of your competitor?

SEMrush does an analysis to find other companies that are ranking for very similar keywords, which it then ranks in a list. Based on this list you can see an estimate of the amount of traffic these companies get from their top 20 keywords so you can get a good idea of their traffic levels. The traffic is always estimated but it can be useful if you want to compare A with B.  For example, if competitor A has 60k of traffic and B has 20k, you know that A has roughly 3 times the volume of traffic.


semrush competitors

The competitors of your competitor


  • Domain:  The website name of the competitor
  • Competition level:  How competitive it is to rank for those keywords
  • Common keywords: The keywords in common with the site we are analyzing that are ranked in the top 20 search results.
  • SE Keywords:  The number of keywords this site has in the top 20
  • SE Traffic: The estimated monthly traffic from these top 20 keywords


Pick out the competitors you think are really relevant and do a full analysis on their competitors.  You’re looking for the same again i.e. keywords that get traffic that you could rank on.

4.  Make sure you don’t lose existing traffic

It’s great to get new traffic, but what about the risk of losing old traffic?   Who are you going to lose it to?  Yes, you’re right those competitors again!!

If you don’t look after your existing traffic, over time you might lose it.  It may be ranking highly for a while but then start drifting down the search results.

Luckily SEMRush provides functionality to monitor this.  In the position tracking section you need to fill out some details:


semrush position tracker

You need to complete all steps to set it up


Here is what you need to set up:

1. Choose what to track – Enter the domain you want to track.  If you select the domain ‘custom title’ you can name it so you don’t get it mixed up with other domains you are tracking.

2. Choose location – Specify the location that you want to track keywords positions for.

3. Competitors – If you want to compare against your competition, select from the suggested list or add more.

4. Connect to Google services – This connection to Google Analytics or Google Webmaster Tools allows SEMRush to retrieve additional information to help you do the analysis.

5. Add Keywords – You can add the keywords you want to track in multiple ways – manually, by letting SEMRush add the top 20 keywords,  from a text file or by retrieving information from Google Analytics/Webmaster Tools.

Once you add the keywords then you are ready to start tracking.


Set up this SEMRush tracker to monitor your top 20 (or more) keywords.  When you see that important keywords that normally drive traffic start to drift down the search results, you need to take action.

Here are some options:

1. Re-evaluate how well your posts are optimized and optimize them further.

2. Find out your highest ranked pages on your website (e.g. using Moz toolbar) and link to a post that is in trouble: this will help to push up the value of the page.

3. Get links from other websites to this content.  You can do this in the following ways:

a). Write a guest post on a high profile website. Write an article that is about the same topic, and then link back to it.

b). Actively promote the post on social media. When others see it, if it provides great value they might link back to it from their own site.


5.  Find advertising opportunities before your competitors do!

There are websites paying for traffic, through Google AdWords, while you are driving your own traffic for free. AdWords can be quite expensive, so if you were able to find these companies you could make money by suggesting they put their ads on your site directly.

SEMRush makes this easy. It looks at all the keywords you are ranking for and then identifies companies that are advertising based on these keywords and displays them in a chart.

semrush ad traffic

These are the sites that are paying for traffic that you are getting for free

In this chart you can see:

  • Domain:  This is the website paying for the traffic
  • Common keywords: These are keywords they are bidding on that you happen to rank for.
  • Ads keywords: The keywords they are targeting.
  • Ads traffic: The traffic generated from these ads.
  • Ads traffic price:  The cost of driving this traffic.

One of the companies listed is Sproutsocial.  If I click on the column that shows common keywords, I see the following:

semrush ad options

View the keywords you are ranking for in the top ten that sprout social are advertising for


This is a list of some of the keywords that RazorSocial ranks in the top 20 for that are also targeted by Sprout Social when they pay Google for AdWords Ads. The first one I highlighted is for Twitter analytics.  If you look at the image below you’ll see the ad run by Sprout Social and my organic search result.


semrush advertising potential

Sprout Social are paying and our result is organic


If you look further down the list and see ‘free twitter analytics’, we are ranked number 1 for this term and SproutSocial are advertising.


SEMrush is a great way of sourcing opportunities and partnerships with companies that are spending money on keywords that you rank for.

Search out some relevant companies and approach them to see if they want to put ads on your site.  This can be especially successful if you find that they are spending a lot of money advertising for keywords you already rank for.  Because they are shelling out on Google ads, you are in a great position to negotiate good rates!


You can see how valuable SEMrush can be for analyzing your performance and that of your competitors.  We use this tool on a regular basis and you should consider it too.  The free version does provide some useful analytics so start with, and if you find you are benefiting from what it has to offer, you might want to go ahead and get the paid version.


What’s Next?

Here are some potential actions after reading this SEMRush review.

1.  Try out SEMRush initially on a trial for free.

2. Put a comment in the box below and tell us what you think of the post.

3.  Share the post with all your friends.

4. None of the above – do something that I haven’t thought of yet!

Thank you!