How to Use SEMRush to Identify Search Trends and Competitor Insights

Any effective search marketing strategy should combine both paid and organic data and leverage tools to glean competitor insights. This allows us to identify gaps in our own strategy and emulate and improve upon tactics used by competitors.

But which tools do we need and how can we compile these findings in an actionable, impactful way? Using powerful features and reports from SEMRush, we are able to provide a Competitors Domain Trends Analysis to help clients understand changes in the search landscape, emerging trends, SERP features, and competitor behavior. 

What SEMRush Tools Can We Use?

There are a number of tools in SEMrush that our team members use daily. We can monitor keyword rankings for clients and competitors and look at paid and organic search data on an ongoing basis.

For the Competitor Domain Trends Analysis, we use two specific tools:

  1. Organic Competitors Report
  2. SEMRush API

Let’s look at the data that fuels these tools and how we can use our findings to craft a competitive, effective marketing and content strategy that drives results for our clients.

Organic Competitors Report

The Organic Research Competitors Report helps us to identify search competitors. Note that search competitors aren’t always the same as business competitors. For our purposes, we want to know which websites own valuable real estate in the SERPs, which may not necessarily be the top competitors across other channels.

We simply enter a client’s website into the search bar and we’re able to see a list of the domains that rank for the same organic keywords, as well as the number of keywords, estimated monthly traffic, and estimated cost of that traffic.

Here’s an example using our own website:

Now that we have this data, we’re able to determine which 10 to 15 competitors we want to compare in our analysis. Before we move to the next step, however, it’s important to answer the following questions:

  • Am I surprised by any of the domains in my results?
  • Are any competitors irrelevant to our business goals or strategy?

You may also want to discuss this competitor set with your client before proceeding to confirm the resulting analysis will be as useful and impactful as possible.


The Application Programming Interface (API) allows us to export raw data at scale without using the standard website interface. We can automate the process to get the data we need quickly and efficiently.

💡 For more information on how to use the SEMRush API, here is an in-depth guide.

Using the API, we export 36 months worth of historical data. This allows us to consider seasonality, shifts in the marketplace, and industry and world events (think COVID-19) that may have influenced search behavior or performance.

For our Competitor Domain Trends Analysis, we pull the following data from the SEMRush API:

  • Domain
  • Date 
  • Organic traffic 
  • Keyword count
  • Paid traffic 

Once we have all the data we need, our Data Strategy team uploads this into our data warehouse and builds visuals using Power BI. We analyze our findings and create a deck to present our findings and recommendations to our clients.

What Can We Learn From This?

So why is all this data important to both our clients and to us as a consultant? Here’s what we’re able to learn when we analyze the data from SEMRush:

  • Understand at a high-level how the search landscape has changed over time
  • Identify which search competitors have gained or lost market share
  • Analyze how competitors’ ownership of SERP features is shifting, and if there are opportunities or threats if others in the market are changing their approach to winning the SERP.
  • Understand if shifts in SERP ownership is specific to our site or is spread throughout the industry. 
  • Pinpoint major increases or decreases in competitor visibility
  • Assess if traffic may be skewed towards one channel over another; identify seasonal trends where one channel may increase. For example, are competitors decreasing their paid spend during certain times of the year, is this an opportunity for us?

Findings and Recommendations: A Medical Client Example

For our client in the healthcare industry, we analyzed API data for 26 search competitors over 36 months. We were presented the following findings and recommendations:

  • Finding: Organic traffic growth outpaced keywords year over year, which indicates we’re gaining visibility for keywords with higher search volume or increasing CTR. 
    • Recommendation: Continue to prioritize content development and content optimization based on priority keywords
  • Finding: All competitors are seeing consistent increases in both Organic traffic and keywords, but one competitor’s rate of growth eclipsed the rest. Upon further investigation of that domain’s keyword ranking history in SEMRush, we discovered they created a location specific strategy (which our client already has) and are increasing investment in local content. 
    • Recommendation: We need to prioritize data-driven content optimizations to prevent being outpaced by competitors, and should revisit our local strategy to protect market share.
  • Finding: People Also Ask are the most prevalent SERP feature owned by our competitive set.
    • Recommendation: Perform a People Also Ask Analysis to determine opportunities to own People Also Ask features in SERPs.
  • Finding: Competitor ownership of Featured Snippets saw increases, especially during the summer months. 
    • Recommendation: Create content that offers clear, concise features to be competitive for these SERP features. Perform a comprehensive search seasonality analysis.
  • Finding: Paid traffic increased during the summer months, which means certain campaigns may be in higher demand at certain times of the year.
    • Recommendation: Adjust national campaign budget planning to ensure funds are available based on seasonality.

Leveraging SEMRush Data to Inform Our Search Strategy

This is just one example of how organic, paid, and competitive data can help us drive strategy and results for our clients.

Understanding what competitors are doing in their own strategy can be the key to getting buy-in from stakeholders on important initiatives and budget decisions.

What tools and data collection methods do you use most often to inform your search marketing strategy and drive results?

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