SEMrush Review

SEER Interactive is always on the lookout for new tools and API’s to make us more efficient and generate higher revenue for our clients. In order to do this we will be examining the tools we’ve discovered to see how useful they are based off of how they are programmed and what data they provide.

The first tool to be examined in this process is SemRush.

SemRush – The Good

The best part about SemRush is the amount of data that is stored in the database. SemRush is “Currently indexing top 20 results on 30 million keywords across more than 13 million domains.” That is a TON of data. SemRush also boasts several tools including:

  • Google Keywords – Shows keywords that rank for the current domain.
  • Adwords Keywords – Shows any Adwords ads that land on the current domain.
  • Competitors in Google – Shows the domains that share keywords with the current domain.
  • Competitors in Adwords – Shows the domains that have Adwords ads running for the same keywords on the current domain.
  • Adwords Ads Texts – Shows a summary of all Adwords ads found landing on the current domain.
  • Potential Ad Buyers – Shows you can sites that buy AdWords on your keywords.
  • Potential Ad Sellers – Shows you sites with visitors that are the same with visitors from your AdWords campaign.

Full descriptions of these tools can be found at: SemRush

So what makes all of these tools and this data useful for SEO and SEM campaigns? I will highlight some of the better uses of the first four of these tools.

The Google Keywords reports allow you to find a significant portion of the keywords that you rank in the top 20 for (this portion will vary depending on how mainstream the site is) along with several metrics describing the keyword. Perhaps the simplest use of this tool is to look at the combination of position and search volume. If there is a keyword with a high search volume ranked just off of the first page, in position 11 or 12 perhaps, if you specifically target that keyword you may be able to push it to the first page with minimal effort. Competitors in Google is best used for keyword discovery and to keep an eye on how much traffic your competitors are getting on shared keywords.

The Adwords Keywords report is most useful when examining a competitor. If you are managing Adwords for a domain, you will have access to that accounts Adwords information. Therefore the best use of this tool is to enter a competitor’s domain to examine their Adwords strategy. By entering a competitor’s domain you will be able to see a majority of keywords they are bidding on along with several metrics, including estimating volume and cpc. Using this information it should be possible to find quality keywords to add to your campaign.

Competitors in Adwords is best used to find sites that share a significant number of keywords with your domains and give you a brief overview of how they are doing compared to your campaigns. If you discover competitors using this tool, and then use the Adwords Keywords report you have a very powerful combination.

The most powerful aspect of this tool is the ability to export data, specifically via the API. Considering the amount of data stored in SemRush’s database, examining the data manually is far too time consuming. By allowing data to be exported, you may apply rules or filters to the data, and only examine the results that meet the criteria you are looking for.

SemRush – The Bad

The best part about SemRush is the amount of data that can be searched; however the size of the database is also its Achilles heel. Data displayed in reports can be incorrect or outdated. This may include Ads being displayed in results that don’t exist, or incorrect rankings in keyword reports etc. Let’s take a minute to look at why the size of SemRush’s database is the cause of this problem.

SemRush tracks over 30 million keywords, and several statistics associated with them. For each keyword at least several queries must be made.

  • The Google Search Engine
  • The Adwords Traffic Estimator
  • The Google Keyword Tool

This results in millions upon millions of queries that must be made to Google. All of the while SemRush must make these queries in such a way to not incur any penalties or be throttled. As a result gathering this data takes a significant amount of time. The three most recent US database updates have been on June 9th, August 3rd, and September 29th, which means the database is
currently being updated roughly every eight weeks.

While SEO campaigns often require several months to generate results SEM campaigns do not. Many SEM campaigns are seasonal; react quickly to changes in the marketplace; or are otherwise changing frequently. While it is beneficial to have access to competitor’s ads, you cannot run an Adwords campaign using just a snapshot of the marketplace every eight weeks.

Another major concern about SemRush is that it only tracks the first 20 results per keyword. There could be many instances where it would be useful to know keywords beyond simply the first 20 results. Also, SemRush only tracks the ranking for one search engine, Google. While Google is the most dominant search engine with approximately 65% of the market share all other major search engines are ignored. If there were ever a large shift in market shares, SemRush may not be a good indication of how terms are ranking.

SemRush – The Ugly

The dangerous part of SemRush however, is all of that information does not magically appear in the database upon the update! It has to be gathered over the eight weeks prior. The problem is you do not have any way of knowing at what time during the process the keyword you are examining was added to the database. Here is an example (this is an extreme example to illustrate what COULD happen not what is most likely):

On September 29th after the database was updated you checked a keyword, and it says you are ranked #1 for that keyword. You do a search for the keyword and to your surprise; you aren’t even on the first page! How did this happen? Unknown to you, the keyword you are checking was the very first of the 30 million keywords to be updated, and that query was run on August 4th. Since then your ranking tanked and you were no longer on the first page.

If you do not check your keywords and this happened it would take until the next update of the database for you to be alerted to this problem.

While this is an extreme example to illustrate the danger, it’s important to understand that when the database is updated, to some extent all of the data is old. It could be only a day old, or it could be significantly older than that, though no older than the last database update.


SemRush has a massive collection of data, and a number of very useful tools to go along with it. It is great when used to get an idea of the marketplace, find out information about competitors, and to find new keywords. However due to the size of the database, and therefore the infrequent updates and potentially inaccurate information displayed, it is not the best tool for tracking any of your domains. Additionally in order to make best use of the data, some methodology must be created to avoid manually sorting through the huge amounts of information.

***After contacting SemRush’s support team they indicated they try to update their database each month. According to their news feed I haven’t seen any updates in less than eight weeks, but if they do start to update the database once a month the impact of the negative issues discussed will be reduced.

***If you have any other favorite uses of SemRush, or disagree with any aspects of the post, please feel free to comment!