SEMRush is a really powerful tool when it comes to identifying organic keyword research opportunities but it can be just as powerful from a paid side as well.
In this article, I’m going to be sharing with you how you can use SEMRush’s paid analytics side in order to do more competitor research on what might be working for your competition.
Starting things out in the Domain Overview
Digging right in though, we’re going to go ahead and start things out in the domain overview section of SEMRush. So log into your SEMRush account and then from here, input your top competitor into SEMRush.
I’m going to be imagining that I am the founder of Missive, which is a team inbox and chat tool that essentially empowers teams to truly collaborate around email. It is a direct competitor to another very successful startup right now called Front, and Front is all about building teams that build customer relationships, so it does a very similar thing in terms of the tool stack.
But what I’m going to be imagining is that I am Missive trying to understand what is Front’s strategy or playbook when it comes to a paid advertising side of things.
So to do this, what I need to do is I need to go into SEMRush and then type in Front.com. So it always starts by searching with your competitor. And then what you’re going to see is you’re going to see this top section called paid search traffic. So go ahead and click that and when you get into here, what you’re gonna see in the first section is the positions tab.
Understanding our competitor’s ad placement strategy
The positions tab is always going to give you a breakdown of what exactly your competitor is typically putting paid placements on. This can be really useful when it comes to trying to identify what they might be prioritizing more than other sorts of phrases. So I always like to leave it on the default traffic cascading sort of view that SEMRush puts you in.
But what this already tells you is so much information. You can see things like Front is clearly targeting direct competitors to what they do as an application as part of their paid strategy, because they’re going after things like even the Gmail App, ActiveCampaign, searches for Zendesk Superhuman, WhatsApp.
And so right at the bat, I’m already starting to understand what Front is all about in that they are targeting traffic around the product category of what they do.
And so this is probably gonna be a very common strategy if you are a B2B SaaS company because oftentimes there’s going to be people that are in your market searching for something like best customer support tool or best omni channel tool or best email shared inbox tool. And that’s exactly what Front is doing with this sort of competitor based as well as product category-based strategy.
So right off the bat, I’m already learning so much about what Front is doing, but what’s also nice about SEMRush here, is that you can actually open the URL that they are putting paid placements on by simply clicking this expansion button.
And so when I do that, I can go ahead and take a look at some of these actual landing pages that Front is putting towards their paid spent and you can see how a particular landing page is all about SMS customer service.
So it’s clear in this particular example, the Front team is targeting the phrase SMS customer service and you can tell that just because they’re patting SMS into a couple of different places in the page and they’re talking all about SMS throughout this page.
So what this is telling me as I start to work through these SEMRush results is that, Front really cares about product category pages because they’re creating dedicated pages around just their particular product.
Taking a look at the competitor’s comparison page
Let’s take a look at the second one. Here, you can see, this is a different landing page format but it’s talking about how the top teams pick Front over Outpost. So this is clearly a competitor comparison page.
It’s a slightly different format in terms of the page layout, but what you can see here is that again, they are going directly for the competitor. It’s a very simple page. Notice how both of these pages, the first page, and the second page, have very limited, if any, navigation because these are our CRO optimized pages.
So they’re pretty much optimizing for the conversion because they’re spending so much money on paid traffic to this particular landing page and that’s why this particular landing page is so short, tight, and really focused around getting the person to convert the next phase in the funnel.
When we look at this final page that I pulled up the Gmail example, you can see how they’re going back to that base template that we saw in the SMS example, in which in this particular example, they’re saying how Front is the best Gmail client, period.
And so, in this particular example, they are reusing the same page layout, very similar breakdown, not much is different in terms of this.
What does this tell us?
So what does this tell me overall though, right off the bat? Well, what it really does for me is it solidifies exactly what I thought Front is doing, which is they are going after product category phrases as well as they’re going after competing applications or synergistic applications and the search traffic around those phrases.
These sorts of results may differ for you based off of your industry. You may find in cases where it’s a lower average contract value that your competitor is going actually after those middle of the funnel or even the top of funnel phrases, because they just want general eyeballs to the sorts of pieces of content they are producing or things like that.
You will sometimes find cases in SEMRush, where it’s going to output for you how your competitor is actually putting paid spent towards a blog post. And the reason why it might be, because what that would reveal in their strategy is that they are trying to build backlinks for that particular piece of content as opposed to just focusing on pure conversion.
By getting a stronger understanding of what your competitor is doing in terms of what sort of keywords they’re targeting, as well as what sort of landing pages they are creating, you’re going to get a more holistic picture in terms of how meaningful and valuable paid advertising is as a growth channel affairs.
In the case where you were to put in your competitor into SEMRush and then not see anything in paid spend. Well, it might mean that you’re totally fine not spending anything at all.
And that might be a good thing for you, or it could be something where you want a value, pay a little bit more because you’ll realize that your competitor is not doing that and so the competition is non existent. So it can be really cheap for you to go ahead and spend up some paid ads.
Whatever the case maybe, what’s really important for you to do is to go ahead and put in your competitor into SEMRush, so that you can start to understand the landing pages as well as the keywords that they are targeting.
The other aspect of what you really want to look into
The third aspect of what you really want to look into when you’re looking at paid is you want to look at what sort of copy your competitors are using. Now naturally once you know exactly what sort of keyword phrases your competitor is going after, you can go into an incognito window and search it and see what Google feeds you but what’s nice about SEMRush is that it also logs the historical sort of ad copies that have been used by your competitors.
So let’s go ahead and take a look at how that might look in SEMRush. what were going to do is we are going to scroll all the way back up here, and now you can see how I can go into the ad copy section.
So the ad copy section is going to be a great place for you just to understand, at a high level, what your competitor is potentially using as some of the starting copy of their ads. So you can see here how some of the things that we looked at earlier come up here, the SMS customers service platform, the SMS for business, you know it’s clear that Front is really targeting in on these SMS phrases, but you might also see here as I scroll further down the page, more information about how they’re targeting some competitors.
So here you can see, they have a phrase around like how Front beats Gorgias. So I guess Gorgias is some sort of application, and so this is an example where they are showing how it’s a direct competitor page.
And if you ever want to export this, what’s really nice about SEMRush is that they can export it either in just a PDF or in just a CSV as well. So I can just go ahead and export this. Just to show you what this might look like, I’m going to export this and then show you an example here but what you can see here is that I can see exactly the sort of copy that Front is using when targeting these sorts of phrases as well as the sub-copy that might be useful for me to just understand their positioning and how they may be using their headlines in their pay spend.
So this can be super useful just to run through, to kind of understand, “Hey, is there something in particular about the ad copy that Front’s team has seemingly found to be successful here. And if so, how can I incorporate that into my own paid ads.”
So something that I’m noticing, for example, is they love to have some sort of clear call to action as the end phrase for their title in which you can see here, they have the explainer of what their product does, which is all in one email chat, SMS and then there’s a clear call to action on get a free trial or demo. And so they’re clearly driving towards conversion in this particular example.
Another thing that I want to cover today is in the case where you want to get a more holistic view of your paid competition, you can always go into the competitor section, and this is where you’ll be able to see exactly who is competing alongside Front in terms of paid spend.
So this could be really valuable in the case where you’re not as familiar in your space, because you might realize what you didn’t know before, which is that Freshdesk is in this space, ACT.com is in the space, so is Hyper HU as well, as Campaigner.com.
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