Semrush Review (2023) — All the Pros and Cons

In this Semrush review, I put one of the best-known SEO tools available to the test. Is it right for your business, or should you consider using a different product? Let’s find out…

Search engine optimization (SEO) can make or break a business. And a key part of performing SEO well involves using the right SEO tools — choosing software that will give you the data you need to genuinely improve search rankings.

One of the most popular of these products is Semrush, and because of its ‘industry standard’ status within the SEO community, a lot of site owners naturally reach for it.

But just because it’s probably the best-known SEO tool, is it actually the best SEO tool for you? Well, in this post I’m going to help you answer that question.

I’m going to discuss how Semrush stacks up in terms of…

  • Domain analysis
  • Keyword research features
  • Rank tracking
  • Backlink analysis
  • Link building tools
  • Site auditing features
  • Interface and ease-of-use
  • Pricing and value for money
  • Customer support

And more!

Let’s start things off with a quick overview of the tool.

Visit Semrush

What is Semrush? And how many people use it?

Simply put, Semrush is a product that helps you optimize your website for search engines.

The Semrush platform
The Semrush SEO platform

Created in 2008 by Oleg Shchegolev and Dmitry Melnikov, it now has a large user base — according to the company, as of 31 December 2022, the company had 95,000 paying users (Source: Semrush Annual Report, March 2023).

Semrush works by giving you a lot of information that you can use to…

  • find out what people are searching for on Google
  • create new web content that is likely to attract traffic
  • identify link-building opportunities
  • tweak technical aspects of your site so that it achieves higher search rankings.

For example, based on the phrases you enter, Semrush can give you keyword suggestions that can be used as the basis for writing blog posts that are likely to perform well in search results.

It can also tell you how difficult it will be to rank for specific search queries.

It will suggest websites that might be worth approaching for backlinks.

And it allows you to perform SEO audits on your website to find out if there are any technical improvements you can make to it that will help you achieve better search results.

That’s just the beginning though — there are many other features provided by Semrush that are designed to help you improve your site’s search rankings.

I’ll go through these in depth below, highlighting all their pros and cons.

Let’s continue by looking at something called domain analysis.

Domain analysis

Most SEO projects start with some basic domain analysis. This means getting a simple overview of the ‘quality’ of a domain from an SEO point of view.

You typically perform domain analysis on your own website — to see where SEO improvements could be made — or on a competitor’s, to see how difficult it will be to outrank them in search results (and to find ways to do so).

You might also perform domain analysis on a website in order to see if it’s worth approaching its owner for a link from that site to yours — this is because external links (‘backlinks’) from high-quality websites to your content can boost your site’s overall performance in search results.

It’s very easy to perform domain analysis in Semrush — you just enter a domain URL in its ‘domain overview’ section, and you get an immediate sense of how it’s performing in Google.

Below you’ll find a screenshot of some domain analysis being performed with Semrush on a hugely popular website, the New York Times. As you can see, a rich supply of data on this site is provided by the tool.

Performing domain analysis in Semrush 
Performing domain analysis on the New York Times website using Semrush’s ‘Domain Overview’ feature

Metrics provided by Semrush’s ‘Domain Overview’ feature include:

  • An ‘authority score’
  • The total number of visitors to the website per month
  • The total number of external links (‘backlinks’) pointing to the website
  • The total number of keywords the website ranks for, and the ‘search intent’ behind them
  • Anchor text is commonly used in links to the website
  • Top performing keywords
  • Display advertising stats
  • Competing websites

Of the above metrics, the one that gives you the quickest understanding of site quality is usually the ‘authority score.’

Semrush's domain authority score 
The authority score (highlighted above with arrow) gives you the quickest understanding of the quality of a site.

Semrush calculates this based on:

  • backlink data — the number of links pointing to the site
  • spam markers‘ — how many low quality or spammy links are contained within a site’s backlink profile
  • organic search data, including organic search traffic and keyword positions.

Now, what’s important to remember about the domain overview statistics provided by Semrush is that while the majority of them are based on hard data, the traffic figures are estimates — and my experience of them is that they are not always 100% accurate, especially where smaller websites are concerned.

This observation is based on some tests I ran, where I compared Semrush traffic estimates against Google Analytics data for websites that I have access to.

While Semrush managed to estimate the traffic levels for sites with 50,000+ organic visits per month reasonably well, its estimates for sites with lower than 5,000 monthly visits were not accurate at all.

To be fair to Semrush though, it doesn’t actually claim that the traffic figures are 100% accurate — if you navigate to its ‘Traffic Analytics’ tab, you can view an estimate of how accurate its traffic stats for a particular site are likely to be (low, medium or high).

Traffic accuracy estimate information in Semrush 
Traffic accuracy estimate information in Semrush

Nonetheless, it’s best to treat the traffic stats in Semrush as something that gives you an indication of site popularity; the figures are best used to put your site into context against those of your competitors, or to identify sites that are worth approaching for backlinks.

There are other metrics provided by Semrush’s domain overview tool that also help you gain valuable insights on both your own site and others.

For example, Semrush’s ‘competitive positioning map’ lets you see, at-a-glance, where a particular site fits into a particular market — and how well it fares is against its competitors.

Semrush's 'Competitive Positioning' Map 
Semrush’s ‘Competitive Positioning’ Map gives you a simple way to perform competitive analysis

The ability to break things down by country is also helpful — it helps you get a sense of where in the world a site is performing particularly well.

Semrush lets you view domain analysis statistics on a per-country or worldwide level. 
Semrush lets you view domain analysis statistics on a per-country or worldwide level.

Getting historical data is particularly straightforward in Semrush’s domain overview section — a simple dropdown menu lets you access snapshots of a domain’s performance in search from specific months and years (data is provided from January 2012 to the present day).

Accessing historical search data in Semrush 
Accessing historical search data in Semrush — data is available from January 2012 to the present day

But worth a particular mention is the ‘at-a-glance’ breakdown of the search intent behind the keywords a domain ranks for (see screenshot below).

Keywords by intent report statistics in Semrush 
Keywords by intent report statistics in Semrush

Search intent data gives you more context about why people click on search results for a particular website — to research something, locate a specific page, sign up for something, buy something etc.

Competing tools like Moz and Ahrefs are yet to provide this easy-to-access ‘search intent’ data — they require you to ‘infer’ search intent yourself.

The only thing I feel is missing from Semrush’s domain overview is a ‘traffic cost’ figure, which lets you know how much it would cost each month to buy ads that generated an equivalent amount of traffic.

To be fair, you can get this data in Semrush, but you have to go to a separate ‘Organic Research’ page to see it.

Other tools, including Ahrefs, display this as part of their domain overview analysis (and in the case of Ahrefs, you get to see a global value for the traffic in addition to per-country ones — Semrush just shows you per-country values).

Overall though, the domain overview section of Semrush is extremely useful, and this aspect of the product on its own gives you a huge insight into how a website is performing from an SEO point of view.

Now, let’s take a look at keyword research in Semrush.

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