The modern consumer doesn’t make a purchase without investigation. We all go through the same sort of process. We come up with a list of options to solve a problem we have, then we start searching for reviews of each of them. If we see significant negative reviews for one option, we drop it from the list. If we see a lot of positive reviews, we keep it in consideration.
This is why so many businesses are always striving to get more positive reviews for their products. It’s also why a lot of businesses pay for fake reviews or go out and create them on their own. It’s hard to trust positive reviews, and often it’s more telling when there are fewer negative reviews than there are more positive reviews, if you know what I mean.
Many of us have developed a healthy skepticism regarding product reviews, but it’s still difficult to tell when a review is really legitimate or not. A talented writer can write a review of a product they’ve never used and still make it convincing.
What I’ve done here is gone out to do this filtering for you. The product in particular is SEMRush, and the reviews I’ve aggregated are from a variety of SEO experts and bloggers who have used the software. While it’s hard to find anyone who is truly unbiased, I’ve done what I can to weed out the shill reviews, and I’ve pointed out bias when I see it in the reviews I list. First, though, let’s talk about SEMRush itself.
What is SEMRush?
SEMRush is a tool for marketing, though that much is obvious. Specifically, it allows you to plug in any URL – your own or that of a competitor – and pull a ton of information about them. We list it here in a group of free tools for SEO, in this case for keyword analysis.
SEMRush has a huge report of information when you run it. You get organic research about their organic search and paid search traffic and rankings, as well as their backlinks. You get distributions across geographic regions, you get specific keywords and their CPC and traffic measurements, you get as much detail as the SEMRush tool can gather without having access directly to the internal dashboards of the site. They’ve also debuted beta tools for video advertising research, display advertising, and traffic analytics.
SEMrush also has four specific tools in addition to their broad analytics reports. One is the keyword difficulty tool, which is very potent. It analyzes keywords in your niche and looks for keywords with less competition for their traffic volume. Essentially, it looks for opportunities where you can leverage your site to compete, rather than fruitlessly throwing your efforts into a keyword you have no chance of ranking for. It’s an estimate, of course, but it gives you a place to start.
A second tool is a domain versus domain comparison visualizer. It shows you rankings, keywords, and specific information for each site compared to the other, both in charts and in visual graphs. The third and fourth tools, meanwhile, are just other ways of visualizing information, with charts and with exportable reports in PDF format.
On top of all of that, they have project features, which allow you to set up a campaign for your website, tracking specific keywords and specific competitors. You can also check your site’s SEO health and track progress with fixing errors and optimizing it. They have a social media tool to help keep track of your social campaigns, monitor your competitors on those social networks, and visualize all of that data. They have brand monitoring, of course, and also an SEO ideas engine to help you figure out ways to rank.
You can try out their free tool by simply visiting their website and plugging in a URL. This gives you access to a dashboard with analytics information, but some of it is going to be locked. The limitation is not on the data itself, though, it’s on the requests to their engine. You can only click around a few times before they limit you and ask you to fill out a form for an additional 10 requests. Once those have been exhausted, you’ll have to purchase a subscription.
The subscription, as per their website, starts at $70 per month for the Pro package. This includes 10,000 results per analytics report and 3,000 reports per day, a limit that few small businesses are going to reach. They allow you five projects, 500 tracked keywords, 100,000 crawled pages, and 50 social media profiles monitored. You can schedule 5 PDF reports as well, but they’re SEMRush branded, not whitelabel.
If your brand might hit those limits, the next level up is $150 a month and bumps up the results per report to 30K, the reports per day to 5K, the projects to 50, the tracked keywords to 1,500, crawled pages to 300K, and social profiles to 100. You get 20 reports, and they can be branded for your company. This is also where you get historical data, if SEMRush has it in their index.
The next tier up is $550 per month, but gives you much higher limits on everything. The results per report jumps to 50K, with 10K reports per day. Projects are unlimited, with 6K tracked keywords and 1.2M crawled pages. 100 social media profiles can be tracked as well. You get 50 reports, and they add in the ability to track product listing ads. On top of all of this, since it’s more likely to be a team effort at this level, they give you multi-user management.
And, of course, there are custom plans and unlimited high-tier enterprise plans available, but those you need to talk to their sales team directly to find prices.
Are the tools and information SEMRush provides worth the money? I’m not going to offer my opinion. Instead, let’s see what SEO experts and bloggers are saying.
What the Experts are Saying
First, let’s look at the three featured reviews on the SEMRush buzz page. These come from Matthew Woodward, Glenn Gabe, and Aleda Solis, from MatthewWoodward.co.uk, GSQi, and Search Engine Land respectively.
Matthew Woodward’s review gives the software five stars out of five. He likes the way SEMRush gives you an inside look into your competitors’ marketing, like a spy working from the inside, though all of the information it accesses is technically public if you had the resources to find it yourself.
Does Matthew have bias towards the tool? I don’t see anything overt. The wealth of screenshots and detailed tool usage guides prove he’s an avid user and subscriber himself, and while he does have redirect-based links typical of an affiliate marketer, it doesn’t appear that he has an affiliate code tagged to the links. I would consider his review quite trustworthy. It’s also EXTREMELY lengthy and doubles as an in-depth user’s guide and FAQ, so once he convinces you to subscribe to the tool, you can come right back and learn how to use it.
The review on GSQi is also quite positive, however, it’s also very limited. It’s not really so much a review as it is a mention in a list of other tools, similar to our own article linked above. Glenn likes the mobile tool, but doesn’t mention much more than that.
The Search Engine Land mention is also not a review, just a mention of the tool in an article that mentions several dozen tools without actually reviewing any of them. I’ll pass over it and move along to some more actual reviews.
Anil Agarwal of BloggersPassion wrote a comparison between Moz and SEMRush. Now, Anil is an affiliate marketer, and I see right away a “SEMRush offer ending today” (that isn’t ending today, or at all) box with a coupon for a free month attached, and it very definitely does have an affiliate code attached. So, already we have some bias to recommend the software. However, this isn’t a stand-alone review, it’s a comparison to one of the best tools in the business, Moz. So how does Anil figure it stands up?
He starts off by assuring you that both tools are worth every penny, and he also gives it a five stars out of five ranking. He likes that it has a massive index of domains and keywords for monitoring data, and that it has features for just about every aspect of keyword and backlink analysis. He’s also a fan of the domain versus domain comparison tool. However, he criticizes it for not necessarily having accurate traffic data. I say this is a reasonable flaw, though; SEMRush doesn’t have access to Google Analytics, and can only guess at the traffic a site actually gets. Without insider data, there’s only so much it can predict.
So which of the two does he recommend? It’s a bit of a cop-out. He simply tells you to try them both and leave a comment with your favorite choice.
As an aside, Anil also has a direct review of SEMRush, though I give it a little less credence due to how directly he’s marketing it. The primary piece of unique information in it is that SEMRush is a great tool for Indian and Middle Eastern site owners, as it covers them in its index.
Link Assistant, makers of SEO Power Suite, review SEMRush in an overview of various SEO tools. They aren’t necessarily trying to sell it directly, as all of their comparisons are made to their own tool, which they are trying to sell. They give it a 9.3 out of 10 score, claiming that it isn’t quite as informative as their own offering. Whether or not that’s true, well, that’s not a decision you can trust them to make without bias. They have a “review” comparison to their own tool, similar to Anil’s comparison to Moz, obviously skewed to preference their own tool. They also have a special offer to subscribers of SEMRush, offering a discount if you switch. They also only review the Pro level of SEMRush, and list the limited number of projects as a con, when you can boost that limit by paying more.
Ankit Singla, founder of Blogger Tips Tricks, also reviews SEMRush. Warning: be careful reading his side. Just the tagline, “a blog for bloggers by a blogger” is liable to inflict semantic satiation of the word “blog” upon you.
What is his verdict? He loves it in terms of effectiveness and gives it five out of five, but only three stars in terms of price. Reasonable, of course; the tool is expensive. For ease of use he gives it 2.5 out of 5, which is also reasonable. If you’re not used to looking at analytics reports, their system is dense with information and you might not know how to take it all in. He does like their support, though he mentions some delays occasionally. He considers it the best competitive analysis tool out there, albeit one that has a steep learning curve. Of course, he also has the typical 30 day free trial affiliate offer.
Tips2Secure has our first negative review of SEMRush. The review is even titled “I do not recommend SEMRush.” Why does the author, Suresh Kumar, come to this conclusion?
- Some example affiliate queries he used as tests had no information in the SEMRush database. I can understand this; no tool can monitor every possible combination of keywords except Google itself, and even they use sampling rather than 100% accurate data.
- The traffic data it provides is not accurate to what is in Google Analytics. This was mentioned by another reviewer above, and also makes sense. After all, SEMRush is just estimating based on what it knows of search volume and ad traffic data, it can’t hook into your actual traffic data.
- It lists significantly fewer backlinks compared to other tools. This one I will dispute; he shows screenshots of the SEMRush tool, the Moz tool, Open Link Profiler, and the Google Search Console. However, in the three subsequent tools, it’s all links to his site, while the SEMRush tool is limited to links just to his homepage. It’s a false comparison.
- It lists keyword difficult as much higher than Long Tail Pro. While this is true, they use different scales and different factors, so the two metrics are not necessarily equivalent.
My verdict is that T2S is trying to drum up controversy by bashing a great tool, so they can affiliate link to other tools they recommend instead. They have a couple of viable gripes, but their evidence is not completely sound.
Who else has reviewed SEMRush?
- Harsh Agrawal of ShoutMeLoud gives it a glowing review, having used the tool for over three years.
- Robbie Richards gives it a solid review, with the only criticism being the incomplete backlink data and the price.
- Razor Social gives it a great review, though again, they are offering the same 30-day trial as all the other affiliates.
Overall, the evidence is quite overwhelming. SEMRush is an excellent tool, held back only by the fact that one company can only harvest so much data at a time without having the resources of a megacorp like Google.