In October, 2011 Google starting reducing the volume of keyword data it passed along to webmasters through Google Analytics. That meant that we had less and less insight into the search terms people were using to find our sites through Google.
Over time, Google restricted the keyword data it passed along to the point that today, the vast majority of keyword traffic is a mystery as illustrated in the infamous (not provided) category in the Google Analytics keyword search report. Here’s what that looks like for one of my sites:
Webmasters were left to make educated guesses about what search terms people were using to find their content by looking at the landing pages people arrived at through search and surmising what search terms drove that traffic based on the content of the page.
Enter SEMRush, a keyword research service that collects its own keyword data we don’t have to rely on Google nor our educated guesses. Here’s SEMRush’s explanation of how they get their data:
SEMrush analyzes the top 20 Google (and Bing U.S.) search results for each keyword in our database. Using our proprietary collection methods, we now have a database of over 100 million keywords and 45+ million domains. For every keyword, we take a snapshot of Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). We use our Live Update algorithm to keep our 26 regional databases fresh.
But SEMRush is useful for much more than figuring out what search terms people are using to find your site.
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Here are five ways we use SEMRush:
1) Keyword Research
In addition to finding out which pages of your website rank for which search queries, SEMRush is an extremely sophisticated straight-up keyword research tool. We’ll use this to understand what search terms are being used for a given topic or brand and what websites are ranking in organic results for those search terms as well as who is paying to advertise on those terms.
SEMRush is an excellent tool for both insight into search behavior as well as a tool to assess the competitive landscape.
2) Website Audit
SEMRush’s website audit report can help you quickly identify errors or issues on a site that can effect performance and therefore, search visibility. We’ll use this report to make recommendations to client about how to improve their site or to evaluate competitors’ sites.
3) Search Engine Position Tracking
When optimizing content for search visibility, we’ll use SEMRush’s position tracking report to understand how our content ranks for specific search keywords and how the competition for those keywords performs as well.
4) Search Engine Advertising Research
SEMRush’s advertising reports let you get a handle on who is spending what on which search terms so you can understand what kind of budget you might want for your own search advertising campaigns. It can also help you understand what kind of budgets your competitors are devoting to search.
5) Backlink Research
We use SEMRush’s backlinks report to understand how our link building efforts are faring for a given client, but we’ll also use it for competition research as well as a discovery tool to find sites related to a specific topic.
SEMRush starts at $69.95 a month.
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