How to Research Competitors Fast with SEMRush in 2022

I recently worked with a client for an hour breaking down how to do some competitive research in SEMRush. He found the time really useful. So in this article, I’m going to share with you some of the exact tactics that I shared with him that you can take when it comes to doing research in SEMRush.

Digging into explainsoccer.com

For this article, I’m going to pretend that I’m doing research for this site called explainsoccer.com.

And as I pull this site up, what you’ll see is that this site is essentially an informational website around some of the common questions that people have around soccer. At the top navigation, what you can see is that they have a very simple site. It’s just home, contact us, disclaimer, terms and conditions, and privacy policy. And then on the right-hand side, you can see some of the key categories that they’re tackling.

They’re tackling things like soccer and health, equipment rules, and so on. And so this is a pretty standard informational website. And what you can see is that they’ve been releasing content mostly back in December of last year. And what you can see as well is that these posts are pretty straightforward posts where they’re just covering some of the key headers and things like that. But maybe I was going into the world of wanting to start a soccer site, and I wanted to do some competitive research on explainsoccer.com.

Digging into SEMRush Domain Overview

In the domain overview section on the left-hand side, you can type in explainsoccer.com. And then when I click into this, what I can see is that the overview tab will be displayed to me and there are a few key things that I like to point people’s attention to right off the bat.

The very first question you want to ask yourself is what exactly is the domain authority of the competitor that I’m looking at here. In this situation, we’ve got a domain authority of 27. That is not necessarily extremely high, but it’s also not so so low either. What this site is, is probably a site that has a little bit of authority, but it’s not super hard to outrank them. So that’s a good place to start, especially if I were thinking about entering this sort of niche because this competitor likely doesn’t have that strong of a core mode when it comes to their authority score.

That said in the next section, what you want to ask is are they getting meaningful organic search traffic? So in this case, SEMRush is guessing that they’re getting about seven point 4k in monthly traffic from the placements of about 5,000 keywords. So that’s pretty good. And then what you’d also want to look at is how many actual referring domains are there linking back to the site? What you don’t want to confuse it with is just the general count for backlinks because sometimes the count in the backlinks are going to include a lot of no-follow links that don’t really add to the authority of the site.

So in this case, what’s important to me is actually to look at these sub number the 257 that’s placed here, which tells me that there is a little over 250 sites that have linked back to explainsoccer.com. So whenever you’re looking at the overview tab, what I want you guys to focus on is just at the start, is this even something in which I stand a chance? And in the case where, you know, you were to look this up and it was like espn.com, for example, you might see a completely different result. So if I go ahead and try ESPN, you can see how that authority score jumps up to 85. The organic search traffic is 230 million or so, and the backlinks go up to 246,000 backlinks.

So that would be something in which if I were being realistic with myself and my project, I wouldn’t really expect to be able to really compete with ESPN anytime soon. That said what this should also show me, is that soccer as a potential niche is potentially a really big niche because we have a tons of sports sites, and we also have these very specific soccer sites that are still doing really well in terms of organic traffic.

Digging into the top performing pages

Once we’ve gone ahead and dug into those top three metrics in terms of the domain overview section, we’re going to want to actually jump into what are some of the top-performing pages for the particular website that we’re researching today.

So jumping right in, what I’m going to do is I’m going to navigate to this section below where it says organic research, and you’re going to select view details. And then from here, you’re going to navigate in the top two pages. And the reason why is because this is going to sort things based off the pages that are giving this domain the most amount of interesting organic traffic.

So in this case, I’ve got 147 pages that have been pulled here. And what I typically tell folks to do is to filter based off traffic percentage. The reason why is because SEMRush is a really powerful tool that does a pretty good job of estimating exactly which pages are drawing the most influence in the eyes of search engines like Google.

So what this is going to tell you is like they say here, this is going to tell you exactly the estimate of the percentage of traffic that is brought into this domain from the organic search results. And then what I tell people to do is look through some of these top five to seven results so that you can better understand exactly what is working strategically for your competitor.

Pulling up the articles related to soccer

So in this case, what I’m going to do is I’m going to open up a few of these pages on fullbacks, yellow card lifespan, what does a midfielder do in soccer, and how many points is in a goal? And what I can see is as I open these articles, what you’ll see is that there’s essentially a detailed article around what a fullback is, it’s pretty standard stuff. You can see there are some backlinks as well that interlink between posts. And so right now, what I can tell is that they’re pretty much creating thousand plus word pages, answering some key questions around questions that people have around soccer.

So in this case, this question is asking how long does a yellow card last. The next one I believe is asking what a midfielder does in soccer. So just from doing this initial research, there’s a few things I’ve learned. The first thing is that they are answering informational questions that people have around soccer. And the second thing is they’re following some pretty basic SEO optimization in terms of having a ton of different headers that cover some of the key points that people have around the core question. And then the third thing that I’m noticing is they’re having a lot of visuals in their posts as well, which is really nice in terms of differentiating their content from every other person, who’s just going to be submitting an article and no supporting visuals within the post itself.

So that’s what I’m learning from this initial view. And what I’m also learning from this is that most of the pages that are giving on the most traffic are pages where they are questions that people have around the game of soccer. When you’re in this tab as well, something else you can do that I tell folks to check out is to look at what some of the backlinks are to these respective pages and whether or not these are getting a lot of backlinks.

The reason why you want to answer this question is because if you can see which pages are getting your competitor the most backlinks, it’ll probably give you a sense of exactly what sort of content you will need to create to also get people to enthusiastically link back to your site. So when we look at this particular example with explained soccer, I can see that from the top five results that it’s this post on what does a midfielder do in soccer that’s getting the most backlinks. Obviously, I could do some more research and dig into those 49, but what that probably tells me is that this phrase, what does a midfielder do in soccer probably gets a lot more core questions around it than some of the other questions that people are having around soccer.

So what’s the key takeaway for you? Well, the key takeaway is that you can use the number of backlinks that your competitors getting on key pages to start to guide the content decisions that you decide to make on your own website.

Breaking down intent feature

Another cool about this pages section is that SEMRush has introduced a new feature since the last time I did a series of SEMRush videos, which is essentially breaking down intent. So, what you can do is you can actually filter down based off of the type of intent that the page is about. So in this case, I can filter for informational, which I know is going to be the bulk of this particular website, because it’s a very much an informational website.

But what I might do is if I were to later on do some research and try to figure out, well, what are some of the commercial keywords or related phrases that people are thinking of when they want to buy stuff, I can search that, and what that will do is it’ll essentially show me the pages where there are potentially more commercially based topics than the informational side of things. So in this situation, what you can see is as you start going down, there are some other pages where SEMRush is essentially classifying those particular keywords as all commercial phrases.

So what is this? This is two excellent soccer formations. So this could it be something where it’s actually informational, but SEMRush has done a misclassification. But the importance of this for you is that if you’re in your SEMRush account and you want to start to bucket out your content ideas to different categories, you can use this intense section in order to figure out exactly what is working for your competitor.

And then in the next section, we’re going to dig into what are some of the top keywords that we should prioritize if we were to pursue this niche.

Digging into position section

So digging right back in, what we’re going to do from the pages section is we’re now going to go into positions. When you’re in the position section, there’s one thing that I want you to do before you filter anything down. And that is just to look at the graph and look at when your competitor really began this website.

What this graph is showing me is that this site really started around December of 2020. So this is something in which it’s been about a year of it’s worth of effort. And it’s not really that old of a website. So that bodes really well because in the case where you’re starting to see that a lot of your competitors were created in recent years, it means that you can easily catch up to them.

However, if you were to come across a website where this graph went all the way back to 2012, or even before that, well, then that would be something that you’d have to consider in deciding whether or not you want to pursue this space. The reason why is because when sites are older, they have typically higher domain authority in the eyes of Google.

So what that means is that it’ll take you longer to actually build up an authority score that is as high, if not higher than the competitor you’re researching. But in this situation, this is a great sign for me if I were to explore the soccer space, just because this tells me that my competitor here was able to achieve these results more or less within a year of building their website, which means that I could easily do the same thing as well.

On the left hand side here, what I always tell people to do is to filter down for positions probably one through five or one to three when you’re starting out. The reason why is because the search results below the fold of six through 10 or after that aren’t as important as the top three to five results.

Most of the clicks will always go to the top three or in the top five. So I always tell people to start out by filtering out for the top one to five and what you can see from there is that we’ve already cut our search down to 208 keywords. And you also see that those 208 keywords are still giving us a ton of traffic. And the trend over the last 12 months is a nice, progressive slope up into the right. So this is telling me that I’m on the right track. And then what I do from here is I make sure that the volume is something that is a little bit more manageable than what I might ultimately want.

What to look for in keywords

What I mean by that is in the case where you’re starting a new website, you don’t want to go after keywords that are in the thousands of monthly searches, because you’re unlikely to actually rank for those yet. That’s something that you want to look after when you’re moving into the second phase of building your website. So in this case, what I really do is I kind of look at the things that are closer to maybe 500 or under a thousand in terms of the cap, and then what I’ll do is I’ll also add a keyword difficulty score of usually it really ranges, but when you’re first starting out on a website, If I say 30 or below is typically a safe place to start because that will actually also fall into SEMRush’s definition of easy or very easy.

So these are the sorts of phrases where Google regularly cycles through content and shows whatever is more recent oftentimes. And so in this situation, these are really easy to rank for. So from here, you’re going to see that I’ve narrowed down to a hundred and 33 keywords. And here are some of the top results that are coming up for me. I see that some of these top results are goal area soccer, how long does it take to get good at soccer, soccer assist definitions, cut sock soccer.

And so what I’m going to be looking for as I go through this list is are there any similarities in terms of the keyword phrases where I can start to bucket them together in order to create either a series of content or something in which it’s a cluster surrounding a particular topic in the niche that I’m thinking about.

So in this case, I’m starting to notice things like goal area soccer, soccer assist definition. I see fullback soccer position. These are things that I would kind of classify as broad level definitions in this particular niche, as opposed to these other things that are more like questions, like frequently asked questions around soccer of how long does it take to get good at soccer. So what I would do if you’re following along with me in your own SEMRush account is categorize what are a few key buckets of content that I can create things around.

So one of the ideas that I have so far are frequently asked questions around soccer. The other idea that I have is just definitions. So maybe it’s like a glossary or a dictionary around soccer. And as I keep working my way through the results here, I can start to see that that’s pretty much the bulk of the strategy of this particular person. It seems like there are some situations where they’re going after some more commercial terms like in terms of cut socks in soccer. But even when I go to this actual page, I see that it’s also still informational in which it’s answering the question of why do soccer players cut their socks.

So what it would do from here is I would start to see what exactly is leading to the most traffic of my competitor. The reason why I always sort by the percentage of traffic first is because these are the things that are actually getting your potential competitor results. And so there’s no reason why you need to reinvent the wheel as opposed to put up an an equally efficient bid at getting that keyword. So I always start there, but then what I would do is I would consider to factor in some of these other things.

And then from here, what I can do is I can actually just pull and export these results. And then actually just filter through this in Google sheets.

But the high-level takeaway for you is from here, what I want you to do is I want you to identify three to five different categories of content that you might be able to work on based off of your competitor. And then separately come up with a backlog of 15 to 20 different keyword phrases that you would want to go after, as you start building this website.

Another useful feature of SEMRush

Another super useful feature that I think SEMRush beginners don’t really make great use of is the SERP feature section. So this is something in which what you can do is you can actually sort by SERP features and then look for things like featured snippets, as well as people also ask sections.

People also ask sections are great because they are so long tail that it’s super easy to rank for them. So what you can do is you can just at and sort by people also ask section on SERP, and then what you can do is you can see exactly which of the organic keyword phrases your competitor is ranking for that is getting one of those top spots in the Google results.

So by sorting by these sorts of results, what you can see here is it’ll tell you when they are getting the featured snippet, as well as the people also ask phrase. So as you can see here, explainsoccer.com is currently getting the top placement featured snippet for everything about the goal area in soccer.

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