SEMrush Competitive Research Tutorial


Be sure to watch the videos in full screen mode to see all of the details.

Two of the most important parts of search engine marketing are keyword research and competitive analysis. If you are a marketing professional working inhouse or at an agency, this tutorial will show you several valuable tips to improve search engine visibility.

Follow along with your SEMrush account, if you don’t have SEMrush sign up for a free trial, you can do all of the research and then cancel if you don’t need it.

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In this hypothetical project MarquisYachts.com wants to improve their search engine visibility and research what their competition is doing. They are already ranking well for the keyword yachts.

Brand Research

The first step is to search their domain in SEMrush.com and look at the overview tab. Make sure the website ranks number one for their brand name. The top keywords table shows us this website does indeed rank number one and is most likely not sitewide penalized by Google. However, it could still be partially penalized for other keywords.

brand research

Always take it one step further and run a Google incognito mode search for their brand name to see what other pages are ranking. In this demonstration, the main site is ranking along with several other resellers and their Facebook social page.

Next, check for negative press on page one that could negate the value of our search marketing efforts. Open up all of the websites and spot check that everything looks fine.

This not hundred dollar or even thousand dollar keyword research, this is multimillion dollar keyword research and competitive analysis.

The company already ranks well for the keyword yachts but is looking for additional profitable opportunities. They have a long sales cycle so having higher visibility today may lead to more sales in the future and help with forecasting.

Google Keyword Planner

Add your seed keywords into Google Keyword Planner to view the average monthly search volume, ad competition level and suggested bid. The keyword yachts has almost twice the suggested bid of yacht and yachts for sale and most marketers would assume it is the best of the three keywords to target. However, you need to test! Please remember the competition is not the SEO competition, it is the ad competition.

google keyword planner

Google has suggested some other keywords sorted by relevance. These keywords have some search volume and none of them have a CPC that stands out. With yachts being hundred thousand to multimillion dollar products, the low suggested bid may indicate that most searchers are just looking and not potential buyers or it takes thousands of impressions over many years to a potential prospect to get them into the sales funnel.

Find Competitors in Google

Take a look at the competition. For the keyword yachts, I opened up all of the websites ranking on the first page. Do the same for websites in your industry.

The goal is to familiarize yourself with other brands to determine which sites are direct competitors and which are indirect.

Yachtworld.com is not a manufacture of yachts so they are an indirect competitor; however fraseryachts.com is a direct competitor. Wikipedia is a reference website. Yachtingmagazine.com is not a direct competitor. Neither is superyachts.com, which is search directory of yachts for sale. Hatterasyachts.com is a manufacture and direct competitor as well as tiarayachts.com.

Competitive Positioning Map

Next, add your direct competitors into SEMrush to find new competition. I added fraseryachts.com, hatterasyachts.com and tiarayachts.com

Use the competitive positioning map to discover new sites with similar amounts of organic traffic. Like this company, burgessyachts.com

competitive positioning map

After visiting burgessyachts.com, we can conclude they are a direct competitor.

Vikingsyachts.com and princessyachts.com also look like direct competitors and have similar organic traffic numbers. This is confirmed after checking out their websites.

The last of the three initial seed direct competitors tiarayachts.com reveals cruisersyachts.com. Their website shows a number of different models that directly compete with marquis yachts.

To take the analysis one layer deeper, I also found competitors to burgessyachts.com, vikingyachts, princessyachts.com and cruiseryachts.com

Looking at burgessyachts.com, the website azimutyachts.com emerges as a direct competitor.

Later on, I will show you how to catch mistakes like this using the SEMrush Site Audit Tool. When you remove the www. the website breaks. This is costing them valuable traffic every day.

Organic vs. Paid Traffic Trends

Compare organic and paid traffic across all known competitors to find trends. With Marquis Yachts they had some traffic, it was consistent and then went up and then decreased. Was the traffic seasonal? Was there a marketing campaign that gave a temporary lift? Were they overoptimized and then penalized? Or maybe hit by one of the Google algorithm updates? There were also two attempts with paid traffic that did not last long.

Next, evaluate the traffic trends of your competition. For frasieryachts.com there is a general rise in organic traffic along with one big spike. Hatterasyachts.com looks very consistent, same with tiarayachts.com.

organic paid traffic trends

Burgessyachts.com has a strong upward trend with one major drop that may have been a manual or algorithmic penalty. They appear to have recovered. Vikingyachts.com looks stable, while princeessyachts.com has a general increase.

Cruiseryachts.com is consistent. Most of these websites are getting 5,000 to 10,000 organic visitors per month.

Find Competitor Keywords

The next step is to assess the competitive landscape to see what keywords your competition is ranking for and why. You should also export the top keywords to build a master keyword list.

For example, Marquis Yachts ranks for the keyword yachts. However Fraser Yachts ranks for yachts, yacht charter, rent a yacht, and yachts for sale, but we do not see their brand as a top contributor which causes some concern.

Hatteras Yachts has brand related keywords and so does Tiara Yachts Burgess Yachts has been optimizing for luxury yachts and yachts for sale. The remaining sites all have brand name searches as top keywords.

There are two anomalies in our competitive landscape, which are Fraser Yachts and Burgess Yachts. Why do these websites get so much traffic from their top keywords? You can use the SEMrush to view Backlinks and then Anchors.

There is something out of the ordinary going on. There are several foreign anchor text keywords, then their brand name anchors, followed by several spam keywords. These are the most spammed keywords on the internet and this appears to be a negative SEO attempt, most likely by a competitor.

find competitor keywords

If I was consulting Fraser Yachts, I would recommend creating a disavow file to tell Google to ignore all of these unnatural inbound links. Most likely this company has already uploaded this file because they are ranking well for the keyword yachts.

Examining Burgess Yachts, there are a few incoming backlinks with the anchor luxury yachts. On the surface there is not anything out of the ordinary. A natural link profile typically has the brand name and URL as the top anchors.

In the next video, we will continue the Keyword Research process and compare Google Keyword Planner to SEMrush’s Keyword Research Tool.

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