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How to do Keyword Research with SEMrush [Tutorial]

Keyword Research with SEMrush: Find the Most Effective Organic and PPC Keywords in 30 Minutes or Less.

Any good digital marketing strategy starts with keyword research. If properly done, it lets you rank higher in search, increase engagement and conversions, improve the ROI of your ad campaigns, etc.

With the largest database in the market, featuring more than 10.5 billion keywords, SEMrush has proudly retained the rank of best keyword research solution for around a decade.

In this article, we’ll show you how to use SEMrush tools and reports to perform quick and easy keyword research for any purpose.  We have given each type of research 10 to 30 minutes, depending on its difficulty and the number of tools involved. However, you are always welcome to go beyond these limits and gain deeper insights into the data.

Tip: If you don’t already have an account try SEMrush 30 days for free.

10 Minutes: Burning Topics

Nowadays, keyword optimization starts before the content is even created. It also takes much more than just stuffing your text with the words you want to rank for. If the topics you are covering don’t hit the mark with your audience, showing your website in Google’s TOP 10 won’t bring you the desired clicks.

Topic Research offers a simple yet effective way to find resonating topics, subtopics, and ideas to include in your content.

Type an interesting idea into the search bar, choose the location and language to target or enter the domain to search on, hit the “Get Content Ideas” button, and enjoy the results.

SEMrush will collect headlines, questions, and related searches for the keyword you enter. You’ll be able to view them in four different modes, depending on your goal.

Cards – small lists of subtopics, questions and related searches arranged by resonance. These can be sorted by volume, difficulty or topic efficiency. You can also choose to see the trending subtopics first.

Explorer – a table containing information about the subtopic, content idea, the number of backlinks the subtopic gets, Facebook audience engagement, or total shares. A Trending subtopics first function is also available in this mode.

Overview – top 3 subtopics and top 10 headlines, questions, and related searches for those who prefer to follow the leaders.

Mindmap – an inspiring visualization of all content ideas and their details displayed in a click.

Choose the ideas that appeal to you and work through them right now or save them to Favorite ideas for the future.

20 Minutes: SEO Keywords Master List

As for SEO keyword research, SEMrush has made finding the words that will put your website right in front of your target audience as simple as 1, 2, 3:

  • Find your strongest competitors
  • Analyze their keywords
  • Pick the ones that fit you best

Listing Opportunities

Explore the Competitors report of the Organic Research tool to see who you are running against and which of your competitors outrank you by most keywords and are getting the most traffic.

Below the Competitive positioning map you’ll find details about each competitor’s domain, its keywords, and their price, and the keywords it ranks for in Google’s top 100.The Competition level column reflects how tough your competition is with the chosen website based on the number of keywords you share and the total number of keywords your rival ranks for.

Now replace your domain with the domain of the selected rival and switch to the Positions report. There you’ll find the full list of keywords your competitor’s website ranks for in the top 100 search results.

The data on each keyword will include the domain’s position, the amount of traffic the keyword brings, the URL of the exact landing page that ranks for the keyword, the snippet of the SERP and other metrics that you can use for advanced filtering.

If you know your competitors by name, use Keyword Gap to compare their keyword portfolios against yours and see which keywords you share and which you’ve missed.

If these searches haven’t given you enough keywords, you can try to seize your rivals’ unrealized opportunities and pick up their Lost and Declined keywords from the Organic Research Position Changes report.

Sorting the Wheat from the Chaff

The list that you have at this stage cannot be called the SEO master list yet, however, you are just one step from it. Now it’s time to assess each keyword you have and find the ones that will let you hit it off with your prospects. SEMrush has three handy solutions for thorough keyword analysis.

The Keyword Overview report offers you the most important keyword metrics, such as search volume, number of results, keywords’ popularity over the last 12 months (Trend), phrase match and related keywords, etc. It also features the real URL ranking for any given keyword.

Browsing this data will help you spot seasonal (or any other) fluctuations in the word’s popularity, check the exact websites and pages you’ll compete against trying to rank for it, and understand the value of the target keyword.

For more data, switch to the Keyword Magic Tool, which will help you get your master list into shape. Enter your seed word or phrase in the search bar to obtain a list of related terms.

Sort the list according to your preferences and explore the suggested groups or subgroups of related topics.

Tick the keywords you find to be strong and export them to a CSV or XLS file for further use. I’d also recommend adding them to the Keyword Analyzer tool as from there you’ll be able to send them to other SEMrush tools like Position Tracking and the PPC Keyword tool.

Manage Expectations

Now you own a perfect master list, but getting the most out of this perfect list will require just one more step. The Keyword Difficulty tool will help you estimate how hard it would be to outrank competitors for a certain keyword. The difficulty is shown in percent. The higher it is, the more effort you’ll need to rank high in Google’s search results. Paste your list into the box (if it’s bigger than 100 words you’ll have to do it several times) and press the “Show Difficulty” button.

Prioritize your keywords by balancing the search volume, the difficulty and the number of SERP Features you can win. In the end, you’ll get a master list that might be shorter but will be much more potent than the one you started with.

30 Minutes: The Right Keywords to Bid On

After succeeding in SEO keyword research, finding effective keywords for your advertising campaign should be as simple as anything. The steps are relatively similar, however the SEMrush tools and reports to look at might differ.

  • Start by finding your biggest paid search competitors with the help of the Advertising Research Competitors report and then Positions report to get a keyword list for each of them the same way you did for organic search.
  • Benchmark their keyword portfolios in Keyword Gap for more opportunities, but choose paid keywords instead of organic.
  • Explore the potential of each keyword via Keyword Overview, focusing on paid search data such as CPC (the average price for a user’s click) and Competition (the density of advertisers bidding on this keyword for their ads at a national level). Check Ad Copies ( actual examples of AdWords snippets and Product Listing Ads) and Ads History (the bidding activity for the targeted keyword in the last 12 months). These will help you plan your advertising spend in terms of size and timing.

  • Run the obtained keywords through the Keyword Magic tool to find related searches with lower CPC in the target niche.

  • Export your list and send it to Keyword Analyzer.

What’s Next?

Obviously, you should use the obtained keywords to optimize your content and enhance your PPC campaigns. Set up the Position Tracking tool to monitor the daily rankings for any keyword. But don’t stop there! Many people see keyword research as a self-contained and one-off process. However, you’ll be able to get much more out of it if you go beyond this approach.

  • Integrate Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and SEMrush data to obtain the most accurate and complete keyword data (including the ‘non-provided’ keywords from Google Analytics).
  • Keep monitoring your rivals’ lost and declined keywords via the Organic Research Position Changes report for more opportunities to rank.
  • Use Organic Traffic Insights to analyze your website’s organic search performance.
  • Keep up with SERP fluctuations with the help of SEMrush Sensor to learn the real reasons for the changes in your rankings.
  • Try PPC Keyword Tool to group your keywords in the best way possible and optimize spend.
  • Check CPC Map to see the costs of advertising across different regions or states.

Tip: If you don’t already have an account try SEMrush 30 days for free.

About the author

Darina Andronova
Content writer and blogger for digital marketing resources. I have always been interested in digital marketing, tried lots of tools, done lots of research, and SEMrush gave me a chance to speak out.

Content Writer @SEMrush

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