SEMRush Keyword Research Tutorial for Beginners

Are you stressed when it comes to keyword research? Or maybe you’re thinking about using SEMRush’s organic research tool to speed up your research and start creating the content that actually helps you rank.

If that’s the case, then stick with me until the end of this article, because I’m going to do a walkthrough tutorial of how to use SEMRush’s organic research tools so that you can discover which keywords you need to create content for, how to find the best ones out of the thousands that your competitors rank for and also some of the key differences between SEMRush’s paid tools versus traditionally free SEO tools.

I’ve led tons of digital marketing efforts that generate millions of page views, thousands of leads, and millions in revenue. As a result, I’ve used SEMRush for over seven years. So I know the ins and outs of the platform.

What is SEMRUsh?

The first thing we need to understand is what is SEMRush? SEMRush is my number one SEO tool, just because of its sheer firepower. It is an all in one tool that literally saves me hours of work every single week, because I don’t have to use a ton of different extensions or different sites in order to get the job done.

A good alternative to SEMRush is a Ahrefs. So be sure to check them out if you try out SEMRush and you don’t like it.

All right. So now that we understand what SEMRush is, let’s dig into an actual real-world example of how we might and use it for keyword research.

GirlsWhoSTEM.com is the site we go over in our real-world example

For the purposes of this tutorial, I’m going to dig into a site that I thought was super cool when I first saw it. And it’s pretty much a website that’s targeting informational content for stem toys for girls.

So as we’re going through this article, I want you to imagine for a second, that we’re a toy maker considering entering into the space of stem toys for girls or toys for girls in general. And we’re going to dig into specifically some potential opportunities that we can identify using SEMRush.

All right. So now that we have the competitor that we want to dig into GirlsWhoSTEM.com, we’re going to go ahead and put that URL into SEMRush. So I’m going to go ahead and type that into the organic research tool. And as you can see here, this is the output of SEMRush for this domain.

From here, we can see that this site ranks for about 3,200 keywords and gets an estimated traffic of 1500 views per month which isn’t bad. But the other thing that we can do is we can start to see some of the keywords that are giving this site a ton of organic traffic.

What I like to do when I’m using SEMRush is I like to sort by traffic percentage because it is essentially shows you which things, which longtail keywords are giving this site the most organic traffic.

So here you can see that there is some great keywords like stem toys for girls, stem gifts for girls, engineering toys for girls and so on. But what you really want to do is you want to make use of SEMRush’s filtering tools because SEMRush filtering tools are super powerful.

So what I’m going to do is I’m going to apply the criteria that I taught you in my easy keyword research article. Be sure to check that out if you haven’t already. And I’m going to apply it using the advanced filters. To do that, I need to look for things that fall between the volume of a hundred and a thousand. So to do that, I’m going to go to a hundred versus a thousand here for volume, apply that. And then what I’m going to do is I’m going to isolate for things that have a keyword difficulty below 80.

And then the last thing I’m going to apply is I’m going to look for things that only rank in the top 10 for the organic rankings. And the reason why is because things that rank on page one are ultimately what’s most important for any website, things that rank past page one, don’t really get that much organic traffic.

So, what I see here is that 14 keywords alone are actually already giving this site about 910 visits a month. So that’s super powerful to know, because these are the pretty much the moneymakers for the site. These are things like stem toys for girls, stem gifts for girls, engineering toys for girls, science toys for girls and so on. What you’ll notice is that these are all things that this site is doing exceptionally well as it’s ranking for at the top spot in these particular phrases.

So looking at that example, again, where, we’re a toy maker looking into the space. If we were to just is to take some of this traffic related to these searches and convert 3% of the 900 or so visits that we get every single month and sell a $50 toy that’s going to be over a grand in revenue, just from some simple content marketing efforts.

So as you can tell, there’s a ton of opportunity when we can identify the longtail keywords that are giving other sites some great traffic.

SERP features of SEMRush

Another cool thing I want to show you about SEMRush’s keyword research tool is the SERP features.

So what I can actually do is I can isolate for the sorts of things that are ranking in those featured snippets and things of that nature. So those are the things that are like, if I were to search the phrase and it has a dedicated box at the top. And so what I can see here is I can isolate by just the featured snippet and what this probably is showing me is, it’s showing me the things that if I were to search for stem tools for girls, this site GirlsWhoSTEM.com is owning that featured snippet right now.

Using the search feature is coupled with the advanced filters can be a great way for you to figure out what are the best and most valuable keywords to these competitors that I’m looking through. And it’s already been validated by these competitors so you know that if you make better content for this and try to outbeat them, that you’re going to get some of their traffic.

Keyword Manager overview

Another cool thing I want to show you about the organic research tool in SEMRush is that you can create keyword lists and put them into the keyword manager. All you need to do is check off the keywords that you want to add to the keyword manager and then click right here.

Pages view of organic research

Now I’m going to jump into the pages view, which I think is super valuable when you’re trying to do any competitive analysis when it comes to keyword research.

All right. So now let’s dig into the pages section of the organic research tab in SEMRush. This is what’s going to output all of the highest ranking pages of your competitor to show you what they’re doing really well and what’s giving them the most organic traffic.

So here you can see that this page on best stem toys and games for girls is estimated to bring this site 50% of its traffic. And so we definitely want to check out this URL to see what they’re doing well and how we could potentially outrank them. You’ll also see that the second thing, best engineering toys for girls is bringing in 24% of the traffic. So these two pages alone are super valuable pages to this website.

Whenever I’m going through this pages view, I like to choose the five to 10 URLs that are giving the most percentage of traffic. And I’d like to go through and understand what’s specifically, the competitor is doing there to figure out specifically what I need to do when I’m creating my own content.

Top-ranking pages for SEMRush

So let’s go ahead and take a look here. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to isolate by this URL. I’m going to click in to that URL. And what it will do for me in SEMRush is it’s going to filter all the keywords that this particular page is actually ranking for. It also shows how this page is ranked over time, which is also super cool cause you can potentially tie to any potential algorithm changes that have happened through the years.

And when I can see is that this page is ranking number one for stem toys for girls, along with a ton of other phrases number one. So let’s go ahead and take a look at this page. What I can see here is, I can see that this page is super long, super in depth and it covers a ton of different headers. We go over things like the top rated stem toys, as well as who should buy them, important features to consider, frequently asked questions and more. So what I’m getting from this is that in order to rank well for the phrase like stem toys for girls, I need to not only answer that question, but I also need to provide some factors of consideration and the who, what, where, when, why, and how behind stem toys for girls if I were that toy maker.

The other thing I want to see is I want to see how they are ranking these particular things. Like what sort of content is in here. And when I can see, which is a staple of a lot of affiliate sites, is this person is going in depth about each of the products that they’re reviewing. And they’re also going into some of the key features or key aspects of stem toys for girls that a potential buyer might be interested in.

So this gets into making sure that you’re writing content that covers buyers intent. Something else I like to do is just look for the actual phrases that the page is ranking for to see if they are potentially doing the outdated method of keyword stuffing or not.

So let’s go ahead and take a quick look for stem toys for girls here. And as you can see, as I searched this phrase, stem toys for girls is actually not directly being used in this piece at all. And yet Google is identifying it as the number one page for this phrase. Why is that? Well it’s because they use LSI keywords that are related to stems toys for girls in the form of things like stem toys and games for girls, the slight variation on the phrase.

And what you have to understand is that in today’s world, Google is smart enough to figure out that this page is about stem toys for girls. After we’ve taken a quick look at the particular page itself, we can also run the same filters that we ran in the first step on this particular page. And what this is going to do is it’s going to allow us to potentially look for opportunities to slowly chip away at their lead right now.

And what I mean by that is if I modify my criteria to maybe be 100 to 500 and it’s in the top 10 results, I can potentially find some of the subheaders that this page is ranking for and longtail keywords that I can make an individual post that’s super in depth and super valuable. So as I run that filter, I can see here that there’s something about science kits for girls that this page doesn’t rank that great for it actually ranks below the fold and below the top five results.

And so potentially an opportunity for me. As that toymaker, if I were to explore my content marketing opportunities, is to create a post on just talking about science kits for girls, as opposed to just stem toys for girls. So here you can see that there are some smaller keywords that you can always use chip away at with your competitors and still build that organic traffic.

So key takeaways for this pages section, make sure that you’re using those advanced filters again, like we did when we were looking at the overall domain and also we’re making sure that we’re understanding what this person is doing in their content marketing that does so well on Google. Now let’s assume that we’ve exhausted our pages breakdown.

Reviewing competitors in SEMRush

The next phase that we’re going to go into is looking at the competitors. What we’re going to do is we’re going to click competitors. And what it’s going to do is it’s going to show, so all of the potential competitors to GirlsWhoSTEM.com. What SEMRush does, is it essentially looks at their database at what other sites are ranking for and tries to figure out who are the closest competitors to the domain that we’re looking at.

So what I can see here is that a site like stemtoyexpert.com is probably the top competitor to GirlsWhoSTEM.com. And if I were to pull up their site, I’m probably going to see that they are a STEM toys for girls or STEM toys for kids in general website. And that’s exactly what it is. You can see that it’s a breakdown in their header of best STEM toys by age, by subject boys and girls.

And so, SEMRush has already identified that for me. And what I like to do with any niche that I’m in is, I’d like to dig into at least three or four of the competitors.

Jumping into a competitor of GirlsWhoSTEM.com

So I’m going to dig into stemtoyexpert.com next. All right. So as we dig into stemtoyexpert.com, I can see here that this site is ranking for 4,200 keywords and an estimated 5.1K in monthly traffic from organic search.

And what I’m going to do is I’m gonna apply the same method I did in the first phase in which I’m going to apply some filters so I can figure out what are they heavy hitters in terms of what’s giving them the most organic traffic.

All right. So as you can see here, I have isolated for three filter conditions. And these 86 keywords are giving this site an estimated 2.3K of traffic. In other words, these 86 keywords alone are accounting for almost 50% of the estimate of traffic inorganic traffic for this particular deal. And as we start to go through this list, what I’m looking for is I’m looking for keywords that didn’t necessarily fit the original criteria of GirlsWhoSTEM.com, but do fit this stemtoyexpert.com domain so that I can potentially find additional opportunities to the ones I already identified earlier in the first one. And as you can see here, there’s a great longtail that wasn’t being ranked for by GirlsWhoSTEM.com and that is stem toys for four year olds.

And so again, thinking about that toy maker, if I were to niche down even further, and I want to launch with, for example, a toy for STEM toys for four year olds or a set of toys for four year olds, that’s related to stem toys, this would be a great keyword to go after. It gets 880 monthly searches. It’s a keyword difficulty that’s less than 80. So it’s going to be pretty easy to rank for the honest, once you build up your authority in the space. And so these are some potential great options.

We also have things like build the computer for kids. So these are things that weren’t coming up in the GirlsWhoSTEM.com site that we’ve now identified by simply digging another layer down the onion at some competition in the perspective niche. This site is doing pretty well at ranking for things like build your own computer for kids. And so if I was that toy maker, I might consider doing a toy in the space of building a computer for kids because there’s clearly search volume around this and people want this.

So from here, I can follow the same steps I did with GirlsWhoSTEM.com. I would open up these pages, try to understand what this site is doing so well that’s getting it to rank better than GirlsWhoSTEM.com. Maybe it’s just because GirlsWhoSTEM.com didn’t cover that this topic. But I would try to understand specifically the content marketing strategy of these other sites.

What I’m going to do is I’m going to open up these URLs. I can just click this hot link and it’s going to take me to these top ranking pages. I’m going to understand what’s going on with this particular domain and what they’re doing with the content. As you can tell, just right off the bat, as I skim through this.

A lot of this is honestly not that great of content compared to GirlsWhoSTEM.com. It’s not nearly as thorough. It’s not covering things like the buying considerations or aspects for a buyer. And so honestly, if I were to make a conclusion, I would say that the reason why this site is ranking for best stem toys for four year olds is just because GirlsWhoSTEM.com, haven’t made articles specifically targeting this keyword phrase.

So if by any chance, you’re out there and you’re watching this article, GirlsWhoSTEM.com, I would make this because I think you could easily outrank your competitor here. But pretty much what I’m trying to understand here is I’m trying to just, I understand what are all the sites doing? That’s getting it to the point in which these are ranking in the top page for the results.

So as we dig into the pages view, we’d start to identify the best ranking pages for this domain. Here you can see there’s best engineering toys for adults, as well as best robot kits for adults and so on. So for this domain stemtoyexpert.com, the main thing that they’re doing better than, and GirlsWhoSTEM is that they have an actual broader approach towards the niche of stem toys, which is allowing them to open up to different buyer profiles.

Favorite SERP features

I want to quickly show you some of my favorite SERP features to use in the advanced filters tool on SEMRush.

My favorite ones are specifically featured snippet as well as People Also Ask. If you’ve seen my easy keyword research method, you know why this is the case. These are the things that are most highly relevant around the buyer’s intent and search intent of people. And so what you can do whenever you’re on SEMRush is, you can just filter by the things that actually fall into People Also Ask. And these are things that can make for potentially great subheaders when you are creating your content.

Once you have a decent list, build out from you’re doing your competitor analysis, you can add those to your keyword manager and then you’ll have your go-to short list of potential longtail keywords to go after.

Now in this last step, we’re going to start coming up with some content ideas for the keywords that we’ve identified.

I’m gonna display on the screen right now, some of those keywords that we identified as potential candidates from the two sites that we reviewed in the niche of stem toys. Well, we want to figure out from these longtails is, what are people searching for and how can that be potentially relate to the toys that we create as this toy maker so that we can draw people to our page. And then from there convert them to buy our toys.

So from these keywords, I can imagine a great piece of valuable content could be something along the lines of The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide for Stem Toys for Girls. And then what we could do is we could have a ton of subheaders that then relate to some of the longtail keywords that we’ve also identified.

A few examples I came up with were, Seven Top Things to Consider When Buying STEM Gifts for Girls, Five Must Knows about Science Kits for Girls,  What to Look for in a Build a Computer Kit for Kids, When is the Best Time to Buy the Latest STEM Toys for Girls. What you’ll notice is that I’ve integrated those other longtails into the subheaders of the post, so that it all builds up the authority of the post as an ultimate place for stem toys for girls.

By using this stacking method, we’re giving ourselves as that toy maker, multiple opportunities to rank for not just stem toys for girls, but also those other keyword phrases.

Brainstorming content ideas

This step in terms of content brainstorming and thinking about how everything connects together is a huge part of keyword research. When I looked at some other keyword research tutorials, none of them went into this side of things, which I think is an, a big oversight because if the actual content pieces that you’re making from your keyword research, that’s going to measure the success of your keyword research. So don’t forget to do the stage before you start creating your content.

Big takeways

There are two big takeaways I want you to remember.

  1. The first one is that when you’re using SEMRush for competitor research, always be exhaustive in your search. I want you to look at not just the top ranking page, but actually the top five to 10 ranking pages. And when, when you’re done with that competitor, go into the next two or three. By understanding your niche very well, you’re going to be able to connect the dots between pages and what everybody is doing well.
  2. The second thing I want you to remember is to always be using the advanced filtering features on SEMRush. That’s really where the power of the platform is and what differentiates it from all of the other free tools.

In the next article, I’m going to do another SEMRush tutorial, where I’m going to do a deep dive into the Keyword Magic Tool.

If you liked this article, be sure to check out my YouTube channel to get new videos every single week. I’ll help take you from zero to self-starter as you grow your business, get more customers, and hone your business acumen. Also, feel free to share this with anybody that you think might benefit from learning how to do keyword research with SEMRush.

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