Building a strong foundation of organic traffic and SEO is one of the most powerful marketing channels available to businesses.
With rising PPC costs and increased competition on social media, ranking in search engines can be a major competitive advantage when it comes to driving leads and customers. That said, SEO is also highly competitive and more of a long-term game that requires consistent time and effort to see notable business results.
Since ranking organically is a longer-term investment compared to other marketing strategies, if you decide to invest in this channel you need the right tools to ensure success. In this guide, we’ll discuss how to use one of the most powerful tools that marketers can use to succeed with SEO: Semrush.
As one of our marketing partners and most highly used integrations, Semrush has become a key part of our client’s SEO success. In order to understand how marketers are using this tool, we also reached out to several agency owners to hear how they’re using the Semrush in conjunction with AgencyAnalytics.
In particular, in this guide we’ll discuss:
What is Semrush? Key Tools & Features
How to Use Semrush to Improve your SEO
Case Study: Automating Your Semrush Reporting
Let’s get started.
What is Semrush? Key Tools & Features
Semrush describes itself as an online visibility management platform that’s used for everything from SEO, content marketing, competitor research, PPC, and social media marketing.
We’ll discuss use cases and examples of each tool in more detail below, although to start, a few of the core SEO features to be aware of include:
Competitive Research: With tools such as domain overview, traffic analytics, keyword gap, and more, Competitive research provides unique insight into the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors and prospective customers.
Keyword Research: Keyword research is an essential part of any SEO campaign and allows you to be strategic about the content to create. One of the most widely used Semrush keyword research tools is their Keyword Magic Tool, which gives you a “powerful resource to analyze an entire search market, study niche subtopics, and groups, and save your research as you go”.
Link Building: Link building is another effective strategy to increase domain authority and rank higher in search engines. To help with this, Semrush provides tools for backlink analysis, backlink audits, and link building tools.
On-Page and Technical SEO: Whenever starting a new campaign, on-page and technical SEO is always the first place to look for quick wins. By identifying and resolving on-site issues, this can often provide an immediate increase in search rankings. To facilitate this, Semrush provides tools for site audits, SEO content templates, on-page SEO checker, and more.
Rank Tracking: As you begin to implement SEO changes and consistently put out content, rank tracking allows you to efficiently monitor how the strategy is playing out over time.
In addition to these SEO features, Semrush also provides tools for local SEO, paid advertising, social media marketing, content marketing, and more. In this guide, we’ll just focus on SEO, so let’s now look at several strategies you can use to improve your own organic rankings.
How to Use Semrush to Improve Your SEO
Now that we’ve reviewed a few of the main SEO features provided by Semrush, let’s look at how professional marketers are using them in their day-to-day lives. To do so, we reached out to several agencies and brand owners and asked them their favorite features and use cases of the platform.
Before writing any content or even creating a content calendar, it’s key to identify which keyword opportunities you are going to target, including how valuable the keyword is, the level of difficulty to rank for it, and more. To do so, Nik Sharma, the CEO of Sharma Brands suggests using the Keyword Overview tool as follows:
I always start with a quick analysis using the Keyword Overview tool. It's a comprehensive summary of volume, CPC, competition in paid search, and more. As I've said before, there's no shortage of data, but the key is how we analyze it. Do I want to target a highly-competitive keyword, or should I nail down several small ones to increase traffic as much as the big one? The next step is working on my master list of keywords using Keyword Magic. This helps me with in-depth analysis and narrowing things down, as well as keeping them organized. Finally, I make my decisions on which keywords to target based on the Keyword Difficulty metric in Semrush.
Content Calendar Creation
Next up, after you’ve done some initial keyword research, you’ll want to prioritize your most important content with a data-driven content calendar. As Joey Randazzo, the Founder & CEO of Portland SEO Growth suggests:
Creating value-adding content is an integral part of SEO. However, many companies go wrong before they ever put pen to paper. Here's how the content calendar creation process looks for many companies: their marketing team sits around a table, talks through what their audience might like to read, and then builds a content calendar based on that. No data is involved! We build out data-driven 6, 12, or even 18-month content calendars by doing extensive keyword research using Semrush’s keyword magic tool and by doing comprehensive competitor analyses through the keyword gap analysis tool.
Identifying Onsite Issues with Daily Site Audits
One of the most important aspects of running an effective SEO campaign is ensuring there are no technical on-site issues with the website. As Adam Kaminski, a digital marketer from Anura.iosuggests, starting your SEO work with a daily site audit can go a long way in terms of identifying and resolving issues before their impact your organic rankings:
I usually begin my SEO work by running a daily Site Audit under their SEO menu to ensure complete optimization and linking throughout our entire website (leaving zero broken links, images, or videos behind).
From here when issues are found, Semrush rates the issues based on their rule sets whether the issue is an Error, a Warning, or just a Notice (Notice has zero negative SEO impact, however when fixed can benefit SEO long-term). Found issues can be as simple as a web developer incorrectly inputting a meta description during maintenance or an outgoing backlink returning a 404.
With the thoroughness of the Site Audit tool, you are able to pinpoint down to the proper page and asset that is causing an SEO error. Ensuring your site’s health is half of the job of getting great SEO results.
Position Tracking & Traffic Value
After you’ve determined your target keywords and created pillar content around the topic, the next step is to monitor the site’s performance for those terms over time. As Jonathan Zacharias, the Founder of GR0 suggests, using their “Traffic Value” and position tracking tools can help automate this process:
Semrush is a great SEO tool and is best for their "Traffic Value" metric and their position tracking. I use this to go and choose my top 25 keywords per brand and monitor their fluctuation day over day, week over week, and month over month. This is fantastic to keep track of where we are for our most valuable keywords to the business.
Competitor Research & Analysis
Another effective keyword research strategy is to identify what your competitors are doing. Not only can this help you come up with new keyword ideas, but also to identify gaps in the market and link building opportunities. As Justin Smith, the CEO of OuterBox suggests:
We find that Semrush is a total game-changer when doing competitor research - especially if you're looking to build out your keyword list or uncover link-building opportunities. In particular, their Keyword Gap tool makes it extremely easy to plug in your competitors' websites and build a complete keyword profile so that you can easily see where you have gaps in your master list. We also love their backlink analytics dashboard, as it gives an in-depth look at your competitor's backlink profile. This feature is especially helpful for seeing when a competitor loses a backlink (and signals to you that it is available to claim!)
Identify Low Competition Keywords
If you have a relatively new site, one of the fastest ways to get it off the ground is to identify low competition, often long tail keywords. Before targeting broad, high search volume keywords, ranking for these lower competition terms can help build up domain authority over time. As Ryan Stewart, the Founder & CMO of the SEO agency Webris suggests the following four steps:
I use Semrush to find the good keywords that also have the lowest competition. I do this in four stages. First, I generate a list of preliminary keywords by using the Organic Research option. I enter my competitor’s domain name and Semrush generates a list of keywords that they are presently ranking for within Google’s top 100 search results.
In the second step, I expand my keyword master list using the Keyword Magic Tool where I then learn the best long tail keywords for my content project. Long tail keywords allow me to better understand my customers' problems by seeing what they are searching for and then I can create content that I know will address their queries.
Step three involves determining high volume keywords that have the lowest competition by using the filter options, Keyword Difficulty and Competition Level.
The fourth and final step involves filtering my master keyword list to identify low competition keywords. I recommend utilizing keywords with a KD(keyword difficulty) score of less than 75.
Use SEO Content Templates & the Writing Assistant
Finally, when it comes time to actually creating the content, it’s helpful to not start each article from scratch. Instead, Semrush’s SEO content templates and writing assistant can drastically speed up the time it takes to create a page 1 worthy piece of content. As Nicola Younger, the CMO of MakeMeLocal suggests:
Our copywriters mainly take advantage of the SEO content template within the content marketing tab. They use it to compile the top ten pages ranking for a given keyword, making it easy to identify important ‘semantic keywords’ that we need to insert into our written content to ensure it outranks what is already out there in Google’s top search results.
It also advises on the optimal word count our copywriters should aim to reach (for both headings and in the body of the text) and provides tips on readability to make sure people will want to read the finished web page. The SEO writing assistant is also useful for our copywriters to check how well our work fits with those recommendations and to find places where keywords need to be added or the text needs to be more readable.
Now that we’ve discussed common use cases and tips from SEO experts, let’s look at one case study of how a client of both AgencyAnalytics and Semrush has used the tools to simplify and scale their agency.
Case Study: How WSI Ottawa Automated their Semrush Reporting
In order to better understand how clients are using both AgencyAnalytics and Semrush together, we sat down with Mark Jamieson from WSI Ottawa. They’ve been in business for 7+ years now and their core offerings include search engine optimization, web design, and paid search. As SEO is one of the main focuses for the agency, they’ve looked at nearly every tool on the market for both ranking organically and reporting on the results.
In the early days of building the agency, like many other agencies, Mark and the team were doing manual reporting. This involved manually building out PowerPoints for each client by taking screenshots from Google Analytics and other platforms. While this was manageable in the early days, as the agency grew to 80+ clients they knew that they needed to automate their reporting process.
On the SEO side of things, they had been using Semrush since the beginning and loved their SEO tools, although they still needed a reporting solution that could integrate with all their data sources.
In order to automate their reporting, Mark and the team looked at a number of solutions. One of the main selling points for AgencyAnalytics was that it had all of the integrations they needed, including Semrush.
Immediately their clients were much happier as their enterprise clients could access their own live dashboard and look at their data on their own schedule. In addition, their internal marketing team would now use Semrush and AgencyAnalytics daily to get a quick snapshot of client results. In particular, Semrush is their SEO intelligence tool while AgencyAnalytics gives their team analytics at a glance and allows them to build custom dashboards for clients.
AgencyAnalytics gives our marketing team an edge over the competition. Instead of having to dig into Google Analytics and search for data, we just open up a dashboard and everything we need is right there. The man-hours we save each month compared to what we spend with AgencyAnalytics is a no-brainer.
In terms of quantifying their results, Mark estimates they used to be spending 2-3 hours per client each month for reporting, and even more for enterprise clients. After implementing AgencyAnalytics, their reporting is almost entirely automated, except for their review process and personalizing each report.
On the SEO side of things, Mark has tried nearly every tool out there, although Semrush has become their go-to tool as it’s the most robust solution they’ve found. They have a paid search team, web development team, and SEO team, and each of the departments uses both AgencyAnalytics and Semrush almost on a daily basis.
For each new client they bring on, they set up a campaign inside both AgencyAnalytics and Semrush and use each tool to evaluate and make data-driven decisions.
If I had to say my favorite part about AgencyAnalytics, it would be simplicity and ease of use. All the other tools we looked at were complicated and the user interface just didn’t look good.
To conclude, Mark’s advice for other agency owners that may be earlier in their growth curve is to find the tools that will 1) help your clients get results and 2) reduce the time you spend on manual tasks. In the early days, it can be easy to get shiny object syndrome and end up with 10+ tools, and the costs can add up quickly. At the end of the day, you need to show clients the progress you’re getting for them in a way that won’t overwhelm them. This is exactly why AgencyAnalytics and Semrush are Mark’s two go-to tools for running his agency.
Time is money. If you’re an agency owner you need to be investing your hours in growing the business and you can’t do that if you’re in front of your computer all day manually taking screenshots for reporting. You need to invest your time wisely to scale and agency—these two tools help us do exactly that.
Summary: How to Automate Your Semrush Reporting
In summary, scaling an agency is all about finding the right tools that help you both improve your client’s results and automate your internal agency tasks. As Mark has found, his two favorite tools to do just that are AgencyAnalytics and Semrush.
On the SEO side of things, Semrush is their go-to intelligence tool that helps them rank their clients higher in search and improve their paid advertising results. In terms of reporting, AgencyAnalytics has automated their manual tasks and allowed them to scale the agency while still demonstrating the value of their services to clients.
If you want to learn more about how to use AgencyAnalytics and Semrush together, you can sign up for our upcoming webinar here.