How-To: Perform a Kick-Ass Competitor Analysis in SEMRush

Why is Competitor Analysis Important for SEO?

While strategy and planning are both integral to an effective SEO strategy, understanding the competitive landscape is equally as important to make informed decisions. Using SEMRush’s analysis toolkit, it is possible to get a comprehensive view of where the competition stands and the tactics that contributed to their success, as well as the areas of missed opportunity that can be capitalized upon. The major areas of a quality competitor analysis are:

  • Keyword Portfolio
  • Content Strategy
  • Advertising
  • Backlinks

Assess Your Competitor’s Top Performing Keywords

One of the core offerings of the SEMRush platform is the ability to review the keyword portfolio for any given domain. To start, enter the competitor domain URL in the main search bar within SEMRush:

From the main site dashboard, find the ‘Organic keywords’ segment:

This will give you a quick view of the top performing organic keywords for a given domain. Clicking ‘Full Report’ in the bottom left-hand corner will take you to the full list of indexed keywords. This full report will give a histogram of keywords over time, along with trend, volume, and competition statistics.

By clicking the heading rows in the table, the keyword data can be sorted by any of the given dimensions. Using this keyword data in conjunction with manually reviewing the competitor site will give a better understanding of targeting goals, as well as content strategy and tactics.

Comparing Keyword Portfolios

SEMRush also has the capability to compare multiple domains side-by-side. In the left navigation bar, look under Tools and find the Domain vs. domain tool. Multiple columns with individual search boxes will be displayed:

Input the domains to compare into the search columns and then hit GO. SEMRush will display a keyword list similar to the single domain keyword portfolio, though it will show rankings for each given domain side-by-side. SEMRush also provides a visual representation of keyword overlap in a Venn diagram by pressing the Chart button at the top of the comparison table:

Content Strategy

With a better understanding of a competitor’s keyword portfolio, it is easier to analyze site content and user experience within the context of a competitor’s goals. An easy and quick way to do this within SEMRush is to analyze the landing pages for a competitor’s top keywords to understand the on-page tactics that contributed to those top rankings.

The keyword portfolio overview provides a SERP Source for each ranked keyword, which shows the exact page linked in organic search, as well as the SERP results that come before and after your competition for added context. Clicking through to this SERP Source will display a cached version of the search results page as detected by SEMRush when the crawl was completed:

Take this opportunity to learn from the competition. Analyze how they implement heading and title tags, keyword variety and density within the content to maintain consistency and focus on the targeted phrase(s). This example shows results forhow to get likes on facebook – HubSpot currently holds the #1 spot for this phrase. A look at the landing page provides some useful insight into the strategy used:

  • The keyphrase is used in the heading (H1) tag, before any other content appears in the body.
  • The first subheading (H2) tag uses a slight rewording of the same keyphrase
  • Large internal link/call to action that cross-promotes content, while including the keyphrase in the anchor text
  • Content URL contains keyphrase ( marketing/ get- more-facebook-likes)

Estimating Ad Spend

Though it might not seem like it, understanding how your competition spends money on advertising is an important piece of the competitor analysis puzzle. SEMRush aggregates one of the most comprehensive live databases of organic and paid search data on the web, second only to Google themselves. Using the paid research toolkit within SEMRush will allow you to understand a competitor’s paid search campaign with regard to:

  • The number of keywords bringing visitors to their site through paid search.
  • The amount of traffic they generate through paid ads.
  • An estimate of how much your competitor is investing in paid search.
  • A comparative chart of their key competitors in paid ads.

Using this data affords insight into a number of factors: if your competitor has a dedicated landing page for their paid campaign, whether they are they using benefit-driven headlines with keywords, and how they are structuring ad copy such as keywords, benefits, incentives and CTAs. Trends over time allow for an at-a-glance view of how volume trends fluctuate throughout the year.

Using HubSpot as an example again, we can see that HubSpot’s strong organic performance has almost completely replaced their paid search traffic, from over 6,000 targeted paid keywords at the end of 2013 down to only 81 as of April 2015.

Understanding Competitor Link Portfolios (Backlinks)

SEMRush provides a fairly robust interface to understand and identify backlinks, as well as attributes such as anchor text, canonical linking, follow/nofollow, and TLD (top level domain) distribution. The backlinks overview display provides a macro view of a given domain’s backlink portfolio:

From the overview, the full backlinks report can be customized to show data from a domain level, down to a page-by-page index of links that displays the source and target (landing) URL in addition to the anchor text. The report also includes DFS (date first seen) and DLS (date last seen) to give an idea of the age and accuracy of a given link.

In Conclusion

Understanding your competition and learning from their triumphs (and failures!) is a great way to inform your strategy decisions for your own brand or business. By doing a little bit of legwork and looking at your competition through an analytical lens, you can quickly and easily identify opportunities for growth. Knowing is half the battle!

About Andrew

Andrew Peron, SEO Account Manager for UpCity, has serviced top-tier brands such as Henri Bendel, Limited Brands, and Havaianas. When he’s not doing SEO kung-fu for clients, he enjoys cycling through Chicago and writing content for his digital marketing and SEO blog, Indexed Marketing.

Bing Surpasses 20 Percent Market Share in U.S.

According to comScore’s March search data, Bing has finally secured over 1/5th of the total organic search market in the United States, stealing partial percentages from both Google and Yahoo between February and March of 2015. Bing’s slow yet steady gains in market share have effectively unseated Search Alliance partner Yahoo from the number two spot, despite the fact that Bing is actually serving Yahoo’s organic results.

comScore Bing Desktop Search Data March 2015
comScore’s Core Search Report – March 2015


The last time Yahoo enjoyed a similar market percentage was in May 2009, two months before Bing’s launch in June 2009. Yahoo’s share of the pie is around 12.7 percent today, thanks in part to a performance boost as a result of a default search partnership with Mozilla’s Firefox browser.

When you factor in the Search Alliance partnership between Yahoo and Bing, the effective reach of Bing’s organic SERPs is nearly 33 percent, which is certainly not a figure to scoff at. Google should be feeling a bit of heat on the back of their neck as tertiary search providers like Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo slowly erode their market share by a few percentage points in aggregate as concerns about search history privacy and user data continue to grow.

Bing and Yahoo – A Shifting Partnership

This news also comes on the heels of a related Yahoo-Bing announcement which will allow Yahoo to begin serving up to 49% of ads on desktop from their own Gemini platform, as well as from other providers such as Google. Yahoo and Google have circled each other for an advertising partnership in the past, with Eric Schmidt himself floating the idea in late 2012 before the idea was crushed by the US Government for anti-trust concerns. In the short term this may seem like a loss for Yahoo, but as their own Gemini platform grows and they learn to better serve contextual ads, having this amount of control over their own campaigns should prove to be beneficial in the long run.

Mobile SEO Tips – Preparing Your Site for Google’s Mobile Algorithm Update

This post was written for UpCity’s SEO Blog. It has been syndicated here.

Some people are calling it ‘mobilegeddon’, others are calling it ‘mobile-pocalypse’, but no matter what you call it, Google’s Mobile Algorithm update, slated for April 21, is purported to be the biggest, most significant algorithm update to date. Industry experts predict that some 15-20% of mobile queries will be affected, and many speculate that even desktop rankings will suffer as a result.

By arming yourself with the information we’ve been able to obtain ahead of launch, you can position your web properties to be fully prepared for Google’s changes.

Mobile Friendliness is no Longer an Option

Google has been slowly moving towards this eventual reality for a long time, but most digital marketers did not expect them to draw such a clear and abrupt line in the sand. With this new update, sites that are not optimized for mobile will be actively penalized in mobile results, and webmasters can expect to see fringe falloff in desktop results as well.

However, it’s not as bad as some marketers have predicted. Last week, Google clarified the mechanics surrounding the new algorithm rollout in a Q&A session that centered around the new update and mobile-friendliness in general.

How To Prepare for Google’s Mobile Algorithm Update Now

As with most Google updates, we won’t be able to assess the full impact until the change has been made. However, there are a few key points that we are certain of now:

  • The algorithm rollout begins April 21st, though it will take 3-7 days to be reflected globally.
  • There is no longer a sliding scale ranking system for mobile-friendliness. Your site either is or isn’t, there is no longer a middle ground.
Google's Mobile-Friendliness Testing Tool in action.
Google’s Mobile-Friendliness Testing Tool in action.
  • You can check whether your site passes Google’s mobile-friendly requirements right now by checking for a ‘Mobile-Friendly‘ label next to your SERP entries. If you’d prefer to check on a page-by-page basis, check the mobile-friendly testing tool, which should match the live Google search results. We discourage the use of mobile usability reports in Google Webmaster Tools, as they can be delayed based on crawl time.

Mobile-Friendliness Will Update in Real Time

At SMX West, Google’s own Gary Illyes fleshed out some more details about the operational mechanics of the algorithm change, which gives some better insight on how webmasters will be able to rebound from ranking losses caused by the update.

You can check mobile-friendliness right in SERP results by looking for the 'Mobile-friendly' tag next to results descriptions.
You can check mobile-friendliness right in SERP results by looking for the ‘Mobile-friendly’ tag next to results descriptions.

Illyes explained that the algorithm runs and scrapes in real time, so that in theory, you will experience organic performance increases the minute your site becomes mobile-friendly and Google has a chance to crawl it. This should ease some concerns about the ability for sites that previously ranked extremely well to adapt to the new algorithm without seeing a permanent hit to SERP performance.

The Mobile Algorithm is Page-by-Page, not Sitewide

Illyes also clarified how the algorithm will treat sites that may be mostly mobile-optimized, yet still have a handful of assets that are not. Because the algorithm assigns value at the page-level, you will only see a performance hit on those pages that aren’t optimized. If you have a site with 20 pages, 5 of which are not mobile-friendly, you’ll still be able to rank and benefit from the update for the 15 pages that are ready to go. For webmasters that maintain e-commerce sites, or other properties with high page count and specialized content, they can breathe easy knowing that being less than 100% mobile-friendly won’t be an organic search death sentence.

The Short List: What Should You Be Doing To Prepare?

If you’re just looking for the CliffNotes version, here’s what you absolutely need to know:

  1. Your first priority should be to make your website mobile-friendly as soon as possible. A responsive design is best, both from a usability standpoint, and from Google’s point of view.
  2. Run an audit in Google Webmaster Tools to address any mobile usability issues.
  3. Use Google’s Mobile-Friendliness Test Tool to identify any problem areas with your site or content.
  4. Begin monitoring your site analytics with a fine-toothed comb starting now. By giving yourself a deep understanding of how your site performs and behaves in organic search now, you will be able to better mitigate any negative performance changes after the flip is switched on April 21st.