If you've been debating which search engine optimization platform might be the right fit for your business, you've no doubt already heard quite a bit about Semrush. Semrush is one of the big players on the SEO scene—and for good reason.
In this comprehensive review, I'll provide an overview of the program, including its pros and cons, an in-depth analysis of its features, some honest feedback about my experience as a Semrush user, and a quick comparison of how I think Semrush stacks up against its biggest competitors. I'll also answer some FAQs so you can make the most informed decision possible about whether or not Semrush is the right fit for you.
At Serpfocus, we are fans of Semrush and give it a solid 4.5/5 based on the criteria below, but that doesn't mean I'll hold back in putting the program under scrutiny.
Semrush is not inexpensive, but then again, neither are its competitors. In return for your investment, you get a ton of data—which I'll talk about more later in this review. At its lower two tiers, Semrush's pricing is pretty much on par with its competition. However, its business package is significantly less expensive than either Ahrefs' or Moz's. I give Semrush a 4/5 for pricing.
When it comes to accuracy, I also give Semrush a 4/5. Like any SEO tool, Semrush's organic traffic estimates are not always perfectly accurate and I feel that Ahrefs has Semrush beat when it comes to accurately breaking down the data on specific keywords. That being said, Semrush's SEO and PPC data are tremendous and outdo the competition in many regards.
Semrush really shines when it comes to features. They are constantly updating old features and adding impressive new ones. I think their features are world-class, and I stand by my 5/5 score in this area.
Table of Contents
To make the most informed decision possible, I recommend reading this whole review, especially if you're new to the world of SEO. That being said, you can use the Table of Contents in the side menu to skip to specific sections if you're short on time or already comfortable with your knowledge in certain areas.
Semrush was first created in 2008 and today has over 7 million users. It’s a complete digital marketing research tool that helps you optimize your website for search engines.
As one of the most popular SEO tools currently available, Semrush offers a suite of helpful and innovative tools as well as access to a wealth of data. Used properly, Semrush can really help you increase your traffic and rankings. It’s used worldwide by small start-ups and big corporations alike.
What Is Semrush Used For?
Semrush is primarily used for accessing technical information that can help you optimize your website for search engines. By increasing your website's traffic and rankings, you grow your business and, ultimately, its revenue.
Semrush offers access to data and tools that allow you to find out what potential customers are searching for on Google, create content that is likely to attract traffic, identify link-building opportunities, and fine-tune technical aspects of your site to achieve higher search rankings.
In addition to its SEO (Search Engine Optimization) toolkit, Semrush also provides a comprehensive collection of marketing tools focused on paid advertising (primarily PPC). These can be very helpful in creating a marketing strategy for your own business as well as discovering what’s working well for your competition.
Pros & Cons of Semrush
Pros of Semrush
There are so many things I like about Semrush, and it’s tough to narrow them down. But I've done my best. Here are my top four Semrush pros:
Wealth of Data - Data is the backbone of any good SEO tool, and Semrush delivers. Oh, does it ever! Its backlink database includes more than 41 trillion links, and its keyword and advertisement databases are equally impressive, with 20 billion keywords and 310 million ads, respectively. Semrush goes through more than 17 billion URLs on a daily basis. That's a lot of data. And it can all be put to use for you.
Everything Is Connected - One of my favorite overall aspects of Semrush is that everything on the platform is unified. Effectively, this means that the experience of collecting and analyzing data is quicker and more intuitive than on some other platforms. For instance, when you analyze a site's organic rankings, you can also quickly access its backlinks, traffic statistics, and more.
Strong PPC Toolkit - Compared to its competition, Semrush's PPC toolkit is in a whole different universe. If you’re planning to do a lot of paid Google marketing for your business, I feel comfortable saying that Semrush will be your best option by far.
Generous Free Trial - Unlike much of its competition, Semrush actually lets you sample its product before purchasing—and not just a paired-down version either. The 7-day free trial offers a great introduction to the program and a 30-day version is sometimes also available.
Cons of Semrush
Though Semrush provides a strong product, there is always room for improvement. Here are four things I'd really like to see them improve:
Limited To Google - Admittedly, Google has the lion's share of search engine traffic on the planet, but some of Semrush's competitors (notably Ahrefs), provide data for other search engines as well. This can be critical, depending on your business/content. For instance, if you’re trying to rank for video content, you’ll want access to Youtube analytics. I think Semrush falls short in this area.
Poor Mobile Interface - Because Semrush's interface is not "responsive", it’s difficult to use on a phone or other mobile device. To be fair, most SEO work is best done on a desktop, but having a user-friendly mobile version (even a basic version) would be an asset, in my opinion.
User Interface Requires Many Clicks - Though the data is great and Semrush's organization is pretty meticulous, it still takes a lot of clicks to navigate to the specific reports you want to access. In many instances, I think there could be more intuitive ways to reduce the amount of clicking and searching. I'd like to see Semrush improve in this respect.
Add-On Pricing Is Expensive - Though Semrush's basic pricing packages compare adequately (or even favorably, in the case of their Business Plan) with its competition, there are a lot of add-ons...and they are pricey. The number of projects you can work on simultaneously is limited, and it’s expensive to purchase more than one user account or access competitive analysis features. I think this is unfortunate and that Semrush is overreaching with their pricing scheme in some cases.
Features of Semrush
Semrush has a lot of features, so this is going to be a lengthy section of the review. I won't be able to cover them all, but I'll try to provide an in-depth look at Semrush's core features and a helpful cross-section of the rest.
Since most SEO projects begin with gathering some basic information about the quality of a domain from an SEO standpoint, analytics are a core feature of any good SEO tool platform. Essentially, domain analysis is a way to get a big picture overview of a site's overall SEO and PPC (pay-per-click) marketing efforts and can be used to gather information about your own domain or the domains of your competitors.
The goal of performing a domain analysis on your own website is to pinpoint where SEO improvements can be made. The goal of performing a domain analysis on a competitor's website is to find out how difficult it will be to outrank them and to create a plan for doing so (often via reverse engineering their successes).
Semrush's Domain Analysis Tool provides metrics that include the total number of visitors to the website per month, the total number of backlinks pointing to the website, the total number of keywords the website ranks for (and the "search intent" behind them), anchor text commonly used in links to the website, top performing keywords, advertising statistics, and top competing websites. All of this information and more is displayed in an easy-to-access dashboard format along with a prominent "authority score".
Semrush's Authority Score is the quickest measure of a domain's overall SEO quality; it’s calculated based on backlink data, organic search data, and website traffic data. While the traffic statistics are based on estimates, the Authority Score is still an overall strong indicator of a site's SEO quality or "health".
One unique feature of Semrush's Domain Analysis tool is its Competitive Positioning Map. This nifty visual lets you see an at-a-glance graph that displays where a website fits into a particular market—and how well it measures up against its competition. I think the Competitive Positioning Map is a handy timesaver and truly an example of an instance where a picture is worth a thousand words. I use this feature regularly.
All in all, I feel that Semrush's Domain Analysis tool provides a wealth of information and gives an accurate initial snapshot of a website's overall SEO quality and health. It’s a great starting point for any SEO endeavor and provides the opportunity to dig more deeply into any metric you wish to explore further.
In the world of SEO, organic search results refer to the amount of unpaid (as opposed to PPC) traffic that comes to a particular website. Increasing your organic traffic is generally a major goal of SEO, so it’s no surprise that Semrush offers an Organic Research feature.
This simple feature displays information on how much traffic a site receives from Google as well as how that traffic has changed over the years. The most useful metric this tool provides, however, is a regularly updated list of the keywords that any given site ranks for in organic Google searches.
Knowing what keywords your competition is ranking for is one of the first steps in reverse engineering their successes. Semrush's Organic Search Tool, combined with its formidable Keyword Database, make it one of the best platforms on the planet if this is an approach you’re interested in refining for your business.
More on keyword research later in this review, but for now let me also highlight another facet of the Organic Research tool. By submitting your domain name to the Competitors section of the tool, you can get a complete breakdown of who your organic search competition is and how your website compares to theirs.
Besides revealing competitors you may not have even been aware of, this type of information is also extremely helpful for understanding how to move forward with informed and savvy SEO strategies. While not entirely unique to Semrush, the information in the Competitors section of its Organic Search is the most comprehensive and digestible I've come across. I highly recommend this feature.
Alright, let's talk about backlinks. Backlinks (also known as external links) are links to any given page from external domains. In general, organic backlinks contribute positively to Google rankings and are a major component of good SEO. Semrush includes many diverse features within its Backlink Analysis Tool.
Semrush's Backlink Analytics section allows you to enter a domain name and view a list of all of its backlinks; it even breaks them down by categories of referring domains (e.g., Business & Industrial, Marketing, etc.). You can also access information about the anchor text used for each backlink, the IP address of each backlink, and more.
Semrush's analytics information is user-friendly and clearly laid out. It assigns a value to each backlink as well as allows you to easily track when a domain has gained or lost backlinks.
Overall, I feel that Semrush's basic Backlink Analysis Tool is comparable to what is offered by competitors such as Ahrefs and Moz, but let's take a closer look at some of the specific features Semrush offers.
Backlink Audit Tool
Semrush's Backlink Audit Tool establishes the toxicity of backlinks pointing to a given domain, thus providing one more metric for determining the overall health of a website.
During a backlink audit, Semrush alerts you to potential "spammy" links that you can address via a number of different methods, including disavowal. Google can penalize sites with lots of low-quality links pointing to them, so the Backlink Audit Tool is helpful in staying on top of backlink profile maintenance.
This feature is outstanding and totally blows Semrush's competitors out of the water.
The Link Building tool in Semrush works by determining who your competitors are and what they're ranking for, examining the content on your site, and asking you to specify the keywords you want to rank for.
Then the magic happens.
Semrush compiles a list of websites that it recommends approaching for backlinks. But it doesn't stop there. Semrush also automatically provides email contacts for the websites it has identified and even connects directly to your mailbox so you can compose outreach emails in one smooth step. To top it all off, you can track your emails and responses directly from the Link Building platform.
I'm not a gusher, but this feature has me pretty close to gushing. If you plan to do a lot of outreach for link building, you're going to absolutely love this tool!
Broken Link Building Tool
Broken link building is an important SEO tactic that involves identifying a broken link (one that no longer leads anywhere), recreating meaningful content, and then asking anyone who used to link to the old content to link to your new content instead. It’s a straightforward (though often time-consuming) method of bolstering your backlink profile.
Unfortunately, Semrush's Broken Link Building feature is anything but straightforward.
Reanimating a dead link on Semrush takes more steps than I'd like, especially in comparison to the smooth and easy process offered by Ahrefs. While doable, it's quite tedious, and I'm not much of a fan of this particular feature on Semrush.
Semrush's Backlink Gap Tool is a straightforward way to discover backlink opportunities and find new link-building prospects.
Essentially, you enter up to five different competitors into the tool, and it automatically generates a list of the referring domains your websites have in common—as well as the referring domains you do not have in common.
By analyzing the quality of the domains you're missing, you can determine which ones may provide the most potential SEO impact and approach them for backlinks yourself.
This feature is user-friendly and super helpful. My only wish would be that it didn't max out at five competitors. For larger businesses with more competition, this cap may be problematic.
SEO Ideas Tool
The SEO Ideas Tools on Semrush is a quick and simple feature that can definitely pack a punch, especially if you're new to the world of SEO.
With just one click, you can access instant, automatically generated SEO advice for each page of your site. This advice includes suggestions for keyword options, backlink opportunities, and other possible page improvements.
Like any automatically generated advice, it's important to vet the suggestions from this tool before using them. However, it's a very quick option for jumpstarting your SEO action plan and definitely worth a shout-out in this review.
As I mentioned earlier in this review, Semrush's PPC features are in a whole different league than most of their competition. While the PPC features on many platforms are basic and feel like an afterthought, Semrush truly shines in this regard.
Within your niche, your paid competition may (or may not) be entirely different from your organic competition. Either way, Semrush competently reveals all of the data and statistics that are needed to mine the PPC and advertising landscape as precisely and effectively as possible.
Paid Search Competitive Analysis
If you're hoping for a comprehensive analysis of your competition's ad campaigns, Semrush has got you covered.
Using the Competition feature (under their Domain Analytics umbrella), you can unearth how many keywords you're in competition for, how much traffic is driven as a result, and how much your competition is spending on their Google ads.
Once you've pinpointed your main paid competitors, Semrush gives you direct access to the current PPC and Google ads they’re running. This data is invaluable because it lets you see exactly what’s working for them and why. There’s plenty of data to dissect, and ultimately you can discover new and relevant keywords to increase your own paid traffic.
If I haven't made it clear already, I am a huge fan of Semrush's advertising research features. They truly can't be beaten.
Semrush's Traffic Analytics is a powerful tool for market research. When used effectively, it can give you immense insight into the process of evaluating or benchmarking a new market or niche you want to expand into.
Here's how it works. Enter a website into the Traffic Analytics feature, and—presto—you’ll receive informative data that explores the metrics of its traffic. From an initial estimate of total website traffic, you'll be able to see how much is from desktop and how much comes from mobile. You'll also see traffic sources (even from search engines beyond Google), how users interact with the website, a geolocation-based web traffic analysis, historical data, and more.
While this sort of data retrieval is not unique to Semrush, its Traffic Analytics Tool is well organized and user-friendly.
Semrush's Market Explorer Tool provides an overview of a specific market niche. It can be especially effective when used in conjunction with the Traffic Analytics tool.
Learning who your main competitors are in a given niche can be very time-consuming, but with the Market Explorer feature, it's a snap. Enter your domain into the tool, and you’ll see a graphic that identifies and categorizes the competition (e.g., leaders, established players, game changers, etc.). You can also see how your competitors stack up against each other in terms of their traffic rankings.
All in all, this is a helpful feature for market research and expansion.
Ok, keyword research is one of the bread and butter features of any SEO software platform. So how does Semrush stack up? Let's take a peek.
The primary goals of keyword research generally involve establishing how many people are searching for a particular keyword, discovering how difficult it is to rank for that keyword, finding out who else is already ranking for that keyword, and unearthing gold nuggets—other possible keywords to mine.
Most SEO software platforms offer tools to aid in all of these tasks, and Semrush is no exception. By entering a keyword or phrase into the "Keyword Overview" tool, you can immediately access a wide range of metrics relating to it.
Among the most significant are its "keyword difficulty" score (a higher score correlates to a word or phrase that's more difficult to rank for) and a list of sites that are already ranking for it. You'll also get an estimate of how many backlinks it would take to ultimately rank for the word or phrase in question.
Overall, I think Semrush's suite of keyword research tools compares favorably with its competition. I do slightly prefer Ahrefs' platform when it comes to doing a deep research dive into a single keyword or phrase (mainly because of all the filters), but Semrush provides top-notch data in a well-organized format. No complaints here.
When it comes to keyword suggestions, Semrush does an outstanding job. In Keyword Overview, you can opt to generate keyword suggestions in the form of variations, questions, or related keywords. While all of these are useful, my personal favorite is "related keywords" because it generates suggestions that don’t necessarily include your original word or phrase. Very helpful!
In addition, Semrush has a couple of noteworthy features that, in my opinion, really elevate the keyword prospecting experience.
Keyword Magic Tool
This tool generates a list of keywords that are related to your initial keyword or phrase, along with a list of filter options for sorting and organizing them. These filters include keyword difficulty, number of searches per month, and more.
As you navigate through the suggestions, using filters effectively will help you zero in on keywords and phrases that not only have high-rank potential but are also realistically within the scope of your reach.
Keyword Gap is a Semrush feature that compares your keyword rankings with those of a handful of competitors. The idea here is to identify keywords that your competition is ranking for, but that you're not.
As long as you measure yourself alongside comparable competitors (in other words, not the Fortune 500 companies of the world), you'll find this tool really eye-opening and useful.
For the best results, I recommend paying particular attention to terms that you and your competitors all rank for. With a bit of on-page optimization, you can really pull ahead of them and reap the benefits.
Content Marketing Tools
In addition to keyword research tools, Semrush also provides a Content Marketing toolkit, which essentially supports you in generating effective content to increase your rankings.
Basically, Semrush generates new topics for you to write about (including keywords, words, and phrases to highlight) and then helps you assess the quality of the content you have written.
When it comes to SEO advice, I find this tool to be relatively useful. To be honest, though, I think it falls short when it comes to giving stylistic writing advice. In my opinion, Semrush should stick to what it's best at (SEO) and leave grammar and syntax advice to other more specialized programs, such as Grammarly.
That being said, I applaud Semrush for delving into the content ring, and I look forward to seeing this feature evolve further over time.
Topic Research Tool
Related to the content marketing tools is Semrush's Topic Research Tool. This tool generates content topics that are connected to a topic you’re already creating content around. It also identifies specific content pieces that may be similar to yours and have ranked well.
As with the SEO Ideas Tool, I think it’s vital to vet Semrush's content suggestions carefully because they won’t all be relevant. That being said, this tool is helpful as a jumping-off point when it comes to figuring out what direction to head next in terms of topics for your website's content.
Position Tracking Tool
Position tracking (aka rank tracking) is the process of monitoring how a website performs in search engines for a particular keyword over time. In your SEO endeavors, you will almost certainly find it useful to track not only your own website's rank but also those of your competitors.
Semrush's position tracking tool is not groundbreaking, but it is solid. If you’ve read my Ahrefs review, you’ll know that I take issue with the fact that they only update subscribers' rank tracking reports every 3-7 days. Semrush does a better job of keeping things current. You can opt to receive a weekly summary or to get alerted any time something significant occurs with your rank tracking (e.g., a piece of content enters or drops from the top 10 results).
All in all, I've got no complaints with this feature.
Even though site auditing is a foundational element of any SEO toolkit, I've saved it for last because I wanted to end with a bang—and I love Semrush's Site Audit tool!
Aside from all of the standard site auditing fare you'd expect to see (identification of technical issues that might be having a negative impact on your search rankings), Semrush also provides in-depth explanations of the issues and suggestions on how to fix them.
An SEO novice could stand to learn quite a bit from the straightforward and well-written explanations in the "Why and how to fix it" links and, to my mind, this puts Semrush a cut above the rest.
I think Semrush's Site Audit feature is sophisticated and can offer tremendous benefits for both yourself and your website as a whole.
Interface & User Experience
Semrush's user interface is on par with its competition.
While the amount of data Semrush provides can feel overwhelming at times (even to an industry insider like me), it generally does a good job of categorizing features into logical groupings for ease of navigation and access. In my opinion, Semrush also uses visuals and headings to its advantage to make its wide array of features and tools as digestible as possible.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I do find Semrush's interface to be a bit click-heavy. It often takes between 3-5 clicks to navigate to the exact report you need to locate, and this can be a bit tiresome—though you adjust quickly if you use the program a lot. And, to be fair, the entire point of Semrush (and other platforms like it) is to provide incredible amounts of data.
In this respect, I appreciate that Semrush is continuously tweaking and updating its platform.
Overall, Semrush's user support is top quality—responsive, helpful, and quick. They offer live chat when logged in (which is my favorite channel of communication). In addition, you can also contact Semrush directly by email or phone.
SEO software platforms like Semrush tend to be quite complex in nature, so I appreciate that Semrush makes its contact details easily accessible and that its responses are direct and personal. I wish I could say the same for all of its competitors!
Alternatives to Semrush
Semrush is one of the big players in the SEO tools landscape. Major competitors include Ahrefs, Moz, and Majestic. Other players include Serpstat, Similarweb, Conductor, Google Analytics, SE Ranking, and SpyFu.
For a more in-depth analysis of Ahrefs, check out my Ahrefs review here.
Who Uses Semrush?
Semrush can be used by everyone from SEO novices to professionals who provide SEO services to others. It can be a great tool no matter where you're at in your SEO journey.
Which Is Better: Semrush or Ahrefs?
In my opinion, both programs have strengths and weaknesses. As mentioned in this review, I feel that Semrush outdoes Ahrefs in terms of the frequency of its rank tracking reports, its PPC features, and its Site Auditing tools. That being said, Ahrefs really shines when it comes to doing a deep dive on a specific keyword, its broken link-building tool, and the fact that it includes data from multiple search engines (not just Google). Serpfocus is a big fan of both Semrush and Ahrefs; the program you ultimately choose will depend on your specific needs and preferences.
What Sets Semrush Apart From Its Competitors?
I think Semrush stands apart from its competitors most significantly when it comes to its PPC features. While many of its tools and features shine individually, its PPC and paid advertising suite truly outclass the competition as a whole and, in my opinion, is the best there is. Enough said.
Is Semrush Free?
No. Unfortunately, not. But it does offer a free 7-day trial and, at certain times, also a 30-day free trial, which is more generous than most of its competition.
You can also create a free Semrush account, but the features are extremely limited.
Semrush Pricing & Limits
Here’s the Semrush pricing table:
|Plan||Pro - $119.95||Guru - $229.95||Business - $449.95|
|Who is it for||For newbies and small teams||For agencies and mid-size businesses||For large agencies and enterprises|
500 keywords to track
10,000 results per report
1,500 keywords to track
30,000 results per report
5,000 keywords to track
50,000 results per report
As mentioned earlier in this review, Semrush's prices are pretty comparable to its competition at the two lower tiers (Pro and Guru). At the Business level, however, it’s quite a bit less expensive than its main competitors. Definitely worth noting if you’re looking to purchase an SEO plan for your business!
Also worth noting is that all of Semrush's plans come with only one user account, and buying additional seats is expensive. Some competitive analysis features also cost an additional $200 per month.
So, a Semrush subscription is certainly not inexpensive. But, used effectively, it can be invaluable for your business. Is the investment worth it for you? That's your call.
If you've made it to the end with me, you've now learned quite a bit about Semrush—one of the big players on the SEO tools scene. So will you be opting to try it out for your business?
The choice is yours, but here are my final words of advice...
Like its competitors, Semrush is a formidable and powerful tool in the right hands. With its wealth of data and features, it provides endless opportunities to help you truly take your SEO game to the next level. While no platform is perfect, Semrush can be well used by both SEO novices and experts alike.
To conclude, the team at Serpfocus feels that Semrush is a very strong SEO, too, and we stick by our 4.5/5 score. Despite some criticisms, I would ultimately recommend Semrush to anyone wanting to improve their site's SEO. Though its competitors may have an edge in certain areas, Semrush holds its own, and I believe it’s one of the best options on the market.
Is it right for you? You be the judge. Please don't hesitate to leave feedback about your own experience with Semrush or to contact the Serpfocus team with questions or comments throughout your SEO journey.