Content marketing and SEO: what would one be without the other? Not much. One provides valuable information for users, the other boosts visibility.
They’re codependent and need each other to exist and prosper.
Every piece of content you post must be carefully planned and optimised (that is, if you intend to generate organic traffic with it) — starting with keyword research.
Whether or not you have an SEO specialist on your team, it’s always practical to have someone on your team (preferably the head of content) who has a solid understanding of the basics of SEO.
Enter: SEMrush, one of the keyword research tools and best partners in crime to create top SEO content.
In this guide, we’ll go through how to do keyword research with SEMrush and show you its most practical features, which will come in especially handy for non-SEOs.
Here’s what we’ll be covering:
- Keyword overview
- Keyword magic tool
- Keyword manager
- Competitors’ keywords report
Disclaimer: There are other keyword research tools that work equally well. But we’ll talk about SEMrush for this guide because it’s what we use and understand best.
SEO keyword research
On your dashboard, click on Keyword Analytics on the menu on the left.
This brings up five different options: Overview, Keyword Magic Tool, Keyword Manager, Ad History, and Keyword Difficulty.
To create SEO content, the best tools you’ll need are the first three. Let’s dive into how they can help with keyword research and analysis.
The Keyword Overview tool allows you to do keyword analysis for up to 100 keywords in one go and it’s great to get — as its name suggests — an overview of the keywords as an initial assessment.
This is what you’ll see if you enter only one seed keyword (this is the search term and can either be one word or a phrase):
- Keyword search volume (global, top markets, and the market selected, if not already in top markets)
- Keyword difficulty
- Keyword search trend over the past 12 months
- Number of results on SERP (Search Engine Results Pages)
- Keyword variations, questions, and related keywords
- Top search results
As an example, let’s enter “keyword research tool” as the seed keyword we want to analyse.
Entering multiple seed keywords (with Bulk Analysis) generates essentially the same data on SEO keywords but presented in a summarised table for quick and easy comparison.
This is the best place to quickly assess and discover the most interesting SEO keywords, taking into consideration their search volume and keyword ranking difficulty.
Keyword Magic Tool
The Keyword Magic Tool is a wonderful little sorcerous tool by SEMrush. It’s where you get a list of related SEO keywords and all the details about them.
Insert your seed keyword into the Keyword Magic Tool and you’ll find various options that allow you to filter the results according to how they match the seed keyword.
Let’s go through them one by one.
This shows all the different variations of the seed keyword. If it’s a key phrase (a seed keyword with multiple words), the results can take on different word forms and words can appear in any order.
For example, if your seed keyword is “keyword research tool”, results include:
- “best keyword research tools” (note how it includes the plural form of your keyword)
- “seo tools keyword research”
Under Phrase Match, the results exclude variations of your seed keyword. In other words, no plural, gerund, or any other forms of the individual words of your seed keyword. But you may still see keywords in a different order.
Staying with our “keyword research tool” example, these are some of the results we got with Phrase Match:
- “keyword online research tool”
- “adwords keyword tool for keyword research”
This shows us SEO keywords with the strictest matches. The results include only matches of your seed keyword in the exact same way you’ve entered it — no variations, no changes in order. For instance, the results of our seed keyword “keyword research tool” include:
- “free keyword research tool”
- “seo keyword research tool”
- “competitor keyword research tool”
To discover the best SEO keywords for your content, you need to have a broad vision of the different variations of the seed keyword and take into consideration the user’s search intent. That’s where the Related option helps.
While selecting Broad Match brings up keyword variations with the same lexical root, results from Related include SEO keywords with semantic variations (same meaning, different root word).
Let’s say you’re targeting people who want to learn Chinese and while “learn chinese” may seem like an obvious keyword to search for, that’s certainly not the only possibility.
Entering the seed keyword “learn chinese” into the Keyword Magic Tool shows you the different possible and related SEO keywords and their semantics.
Even though the SEO keywords highlighted may not contain the exact words used in the search term, they all respond to the same search intent.
That’s why it is absolutely crucial that your content is optimised with keywords that consider the different possible queries and respond to what users search for.
Google certainly does.
Using different SEO keyword variations not only helps Google understand your page’s content, but it also helps to create content that sounds natural.
Gone are the tricky days of having to repeat the same SEO keyword over and over again without sounding like a broken record.
Pro tip: Select and analyse results with specific SEO keywords using the table on the left, which groups terms by seed keywords. These are by default sorted by the number of keywords in each group. But you can sort it by volume, which is more useful as it shows you the combined search volume for the group.
With the Keyword Magic Tool, you may export or save a list of SEO keywords that interest you. The lists are stored in the Keyword Manager. Here’s what you can do with these lists:
- Consult and analyse the complete data of the selected keywords
- Add keywords from different databases into one list (this is particularly helpful if you have keywords that are ranking in different countries)
- Send these keywords to other SEMrush tools such as position tracking, which monitors keyword rankings and tracks changes over time
- Import relevant keywords into the list from other sources
SEO keyword analysis of your digital competitors
Everything is relative in the world of SEO. Where you rank depends on many different factors including users’ search intents, your domain authority, and where your digital competitors rank.
As per the competitive nature of rankings, it’s a dog-eat-dog world where there can be no two winners. The only way to advance a spot is if your competitors lose theirs.
That’s why it’s important to include a good SEO content benchmark in your digital content strategy. Whether you want to analyse your online competition in depth or have a look at what keywords a particular page is ranking for, SEMrush is your place.
Identifying your competitor’s keywords
So you’ve found a keyword with an impressive search volume. But before you jump straight into producing your content, you need to know what pages are already ranking for that keyword and how they’re doing it.
You will find this information in SERP Analysis at the bottom of the Keyword Overview report.
This is one of the most overlooked steps in content writing. But for us, it’s one of the most fundamental parts of keyword analysis.
Because when it comes to keyword ranking, your strategy depends on whether you’re a David or a Goliath.
If the top results on SERPs have high domain and page authority and have top-notch content, you’re going to need a kickass plan to be able to join the big guns up there.
How can you differentiate your content from theirs? Will it be better than theirs and/or good enough to rank?
If you don’t have a clear answer to these questions, you may want to focus on a variation of that keyword that’s less competitive.
Competitor keyword research
Maybe you want to learn more about a new competitor who’s just entered your radar. Maybe you are evaluating possible channels for your content strategy. Or maybe you’re just plain curious.
Being able to analyse your competitors’ top keywords is one of the best features of SEMrush.
Who wouldn’t want to have a better understanding of their competitors’ strategies?
To do this, click on Domain Analytics → Organic Research and enter your competitor’s domain.
SEO keywords of a specific page
This is very useful if you’re using your competitors’ content as reference for your content creation.
You can find all the keywords that are driving organic traffic to a given page with the Organic Research report.
By default, this report gives you keywords for the entire domain. But you can choose to view keywords for a subdomain, subfolder, or an exact URL.
Other SEMrush keyword research features
There are other keyword analysis features on SEMrush to help with creating content. That includes SEO Content Template and SEO Writing Assistant, which you’ll find on the left-hand menu. These are, in a way, summaries of other reports aimed to facilitate keyword research and SEO content writing.
- SEO Content Template: Provides a list of basic SEO recommendations such as adding related keywords and including keywords in the title, H1, text body.
- SEO Writing Assistant: Helps you check whether your text can be further optimised. If you’re used to working in Google Docs, you can also download the Google Doc add-on so that SEO recommendations show up in Google Docs directly.
If you’re not familiar with keyword research, getting used to SEMrush (or any other tool) may be challenging. But as you’ve seen in this post, all of its reports are practical, insightful, and comprehensive.
Hopefully, we’ve provided you with clear steps to take to conduct keyword research and analysis on SEMrush. It takes a bit of time and effort but as you familiarise yourself around it, the process becomes much easier and the results will be worth it.