SEMRush Tutorial: 5 Easy First Steps You Need to Know

  • 2
  • April 27, 2017

SEMrush Tutorial

semrush tutorial

Do the words “Search Engine Optimization” strike fear in your heart? Feel like SEO is a topic that’s so far over your head you can’t even see it anymore?

Well, it is a complicated subject, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t actionable steps that even the most inexperienced person can use right away to create an SEO strategy that works.

That’s why I got together with Clayton Wood, digital marketing and SEO expert, to talk about his SEO tool of choice, SEMRush.

In this tutorial post, we’ll break down five things to do right away with SEMRush to hit the ground running and get the most from the tool. Then we’ll wrap up with three simple on-page SEO tips you can use right away.

Let’s get started!

Step 1: Find Your Current Organic Keyword Rankings

Before you can start to improve your rankings, you first need to know where you’re at right now. This step will show you the low-hanging fruit – great opportunities where you can move up the rankings quickly.

Start by typing your domain name in the search bar at the top of the dashboard.

semrush tutorial domain overview

As you can see, I’ve put our domain,, and that pulls up the Domain Overview.

Now, this is A LOT of information, and it’s all useful, but we’re going to focus on one section to find those opportunities.

Scroll down the page until you get to the TOP ORGANIC KEYWORDS section on the left side of the screen and then click “View full report.”

semrush tutorial organic keywords

When you get to the full report, it lists your top organic keywords and filters according to traffic by default. Click on any of the parameters at the top to sort by those.

Sort by “Pos.” (position) first to see if there are keywords you’re ranking on the first two pages of Google (20 or below).

semrush tutorial ranking positions

Next, search by “Volume” and see if there are keywords with very high volume that you’re ranking on the first two or three pages of Google (20-30 or below).

Make note of the pages or posts that you find. They’re prime candidates to optimize with the tips included in the last section of this tutorial.

Step 2: Check Your Backlinks

The next step is to look at your backlink portfolio. Backlinks are simply when another website has linked to a page on your website. How many links you have pointed to your site and pages is a major ranking factor for search engines like Google and Bing.

Start by clicking the Backlinks link nested under the Domain Analytics section in the left sidebar of SEMRush:

semrush tutorial backlinks link

Again, having a clean, diverse portfolio of backlinks is critically important to SEO. SEMRush will tell you everything you need to know about your backlinks.

The Backlinks page will show you an overview of your total number of backlinks, referring domains, backlink types and more.

You can also drill down further by clicking the Backlinks tab for details on each of your backlinks.

semrush tutorial backlinks tab

You can even export the information to save and to compare to competitors:

semrush tutorial export backlinks

Which segues nicely into our next step…

Step 3: Steal Backlinks from Your Competitors

Okay, I realize that may SOUND unethical, but I promise it’s not.

When your competitors are ranking highly for a keyword, they’ve almost certainly achieved that through great on-site content and great off-site content – meaning good backlinks.

What you can do is take your competitor that’s ranking for keywords you want and pop them into SEMRush.

Do the same thing you just did to check your backlinks, but do it with the competitor’s domain.

Stay on the Backlinks page, go to the search bar at the top and enter your competitor’s URL.

semrush tutorial search your competitors

Now, export their list of back links. Then compare their backlinks to yours on a Google Docs or Excel spreadsheet.

One cool thing about SEMRush is it gives a score for each backlink. Use that score to determine your competitor’s top quality backlinks with the highest scores.

Once you’ve located those, click through to the backlink to go to the source website. Often times you’ll find that is a publication, resource, or list you can reach out to and get a backlink to your content from.

That’s how you “steal” backlinks from your competition.

Step 4: Start a Project Inside SEMRush

A recently added feature is to start a project and connect a lot of components of your digital marketing into the SEMRush dashboard.

Start by clicking the Projects link in the left sidebar:

semrush tutorial projects

When this is your first project, you’ll land on a page with a list of features for projects. Click the “Create my first project” button to get started.

semrush tutorial projects page

Here you will be able to get awesome analytics on your site’s SEO, SEO ideas, the ability to connect to social media – everything you need to monitor and resource new ideas.

There’s a lot you can do with a project. For a detailed guide of all the options and how to set them up, see this knowledge base page from SEMRush.

Step 5: Set Up a Domain vs. Domain Comparison

With this feature, you can compare your domain versus your competitors for a host of different aspects and metrics. You can look at things like organic research, backlinks, display advertising, video, and more.

Start by clicking the Features link in the top menu bar of SEMRush:

semrush tutorial features

Then click the Tools dropdown and click the Domain vs. Domain link:

semrush tutorial domain vs domain

Here you can look at the mentioned aspects in terms of difficulty and how your website performs compared to your competitors’.

You can also use all the project features we discussed before and compare domain vs. domain. So if you ever want to know how and why your competition is doing well with SEO, this is where you can find out.

3 Helpful On-Page SEO Tips

Now that you’ve seen how to start gauging your SEO, here are a couple of quick on-page tips you can implement right now.

1. Consider Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) in Your Posts

Latent semantic indexing – sounds fancy and confusing, right?! It’s not.

LSI is used by search engines to recognize keywords closely related to each other to determine the relevancy of the post.

For instance, if the title of your post was “How to Get More Twitter Followers,” search engines would expect to find related keywords like social media, tweets, twitter analytics, increase twitter followers, etc.

So how do you easily find these related keywords. Good news – there’s a tool for that! Head over to and plug in your focus keyword. You’ll get a treasure trove of related keywords and phrases you can include in your post.

2. Include Keywords in the Title Tags of Images

One often overlooked area of on-page SEO that’s super simple is to include related keywords in the alt title tags of your images.

Use the keyword you want to rank for in at least one image, but also use LSI keywords in other images for the best results.

3. Keep Your Image Files Small

Speaking of images, less is more – at least when it comes to the file size.

Page load time is a ranking factor for search engines. Using pictures that have a file size bigger than necessary slow your load time in a big way.

Before uploading them into your post, save your images in the lowest resolution possible without sacrificing quality to keep your load time as fast as possible.

Wrapping Up

SEO isn’t the easiest thing in the world, far from it. BUT it’s really not as hard as it seems.

Using these this SEMRush tutorial, you can start laying the groundwork for a successful SEO strategy for your small business right now.

So what do you think? Ready to give some basic SEO after reading this SEMRush tutorial? I’d love to hear your comments in the section below!

semrush tutorial pinterest

Author David Boutin

David is the Social Quant content Gatekeeper AND Keymaster, as well as a customer relations specialist.Follow and Connect with David on Twitter. 

More posts by David Boutin
  • Mark

    Hi! Great review! so comprehensive and clear
    Could you by any chance have something about SerpStat on your blog? It would help me to figure this tool out

    • Hi Mark – glad you found the review useful! We’ll keep that in mind about SerpStat and maybe that will be a future blog post – thanks for the idea 🙂

  • Your summary somehow clear my some semrush related doubts.