How To Do Keyword Research Using SEMRush For SEO

Brandon LazovicApril 20, 2020

Are you looking to improve the organic visibility of your content and have opted to use SEMRush for your keyword analysis tool? After spending some time speaking to various clients, many of them have only scratched the surface when it comes to utilizing SEMRush for keyword research, prompting me to create an outline walking them through my process when crafting content.

This article will walk you through the process of how to do keyword research utilizing SEMRush for new articles that you’re writing. The concepts in this article also apply when using other tools such as Ahrefs or Keysearch as a SEMRush alternative.

To start, let’s take your topic idea and plug it into Google. For our purposes, we’ll take the topic “X tips for the first-time homebuyer” and record the top 3 results that appear in Google:

  • https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/mortgages/tips-for-first-time-home-buyers
  • https://www.bankrate.com/real-estate/first-time-homebuyer-mistakes/
  • https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/tips-for-first-time-home-buyers

Performing Keyword Research Using SEMRush

Next, let’s use the SEMRush tool to see what these pages currently rank for. Log into SEMRush and click on the Organic Research tab to look up the URLs.

Organic Research Tab In SEMRush for keyword research

Based on the SEMRush graph, Dave Ramsey’s article ranks very well for a large variety of keywords. Our next step will be to view all the organic keywords these pages ranks for and pick out which ones generate decent volume that we want to rank for in the search results. Here are a few that we could target:

  • home buying tips - 1600 volume
  • first time home buyer tips - 4400 volume
  • what to expect when buying your first home - 90 volume
  • advice for first time home buyers - 480 volume
  • tips for buying a house - 1900 volume
  • first time home buyer guide - 1000 volume

Because the topic of our article is on first time home buying tips, we will want to use “first time home buyer tips” as the primary keyword that we’re going after for this piece. By default, the other keyword phrases are secondary keywords we’re going to target (which I’ll explain further in the outline).

Now that we have a decent selection of keywords to retarget, the next question should be “Do these keywords fit the topic of this article?” Also, will these keywords lead to a potential conversion? It’s enticing to only go after short-tail, high volume keywords, but we should be looking at both the searcher’s intent, as well as the potential to convert readers who land on our page to drive the right kind of traffic.

As a quick check, make sure that our primary keyword isn’t currently ranked on other pages. To do this, perform a filter search of the primary keyword in SEMRush. It will show you pages that also rank for this keyword. If there are competing pages, then we won’t try to rank for this term to avoid what is known as keyword cannibalization (this hurts your ability to rank when multiple pages are competing/targeting the same keyword).

SEMRush’s Keyword Magic Tool

Next, we’re going to use the Keyword Magic Tool under the Keyword Research tab to look for more keywords that we can target in our article. Typing in our primary keyword will generate a list of Related Keywords that we can also incorporate into our content. SEMRush will highlight how related those keywords are to our primary keyword; I would stick to anything with a related score of 35 or higher. You can also toggle the results to show keywords in the form of questions, which is a great way to have content appear as FAQ rich results.

SEMRush Keyword Magic Tool

Using Google Trends For Content Ideas

Next, let’s search our primary keyword in Google Trends. This tool will show user interest over time, which is a great way to see if people are still using the same search terms to find specific topics on Google. It will show related topics and queries that are displaying an increase in user interest, which we can use to further expand our content. You can also use this when performing research for adding your business to Google Maps.

Using Google Trends For Content Ideas Photo

Final Competitive Analysis With SEMRush

Finally, in SEMRush we are going to use the SEO Content Template under the On Page & Tech SEO tab to look for other improvements we can make to our page. First, let’s plug in 5 of our target keywords and click “Create SEO Template.”

Using SEMRush to perform competitive analysis photo

The SEO Content Template tool pulls an aggregate for the top 10 search results of our target keywords and will show us the average readability score, average number of words on page, and related keywords that the top 10 results share, as well as other suggestions to improve on-page content. This is a good check to determine what we can improve based on what our competition is doing. 

From this content check tool, we want to pull all the keywords from the “Recommended Keywords” tab to ensure that we’re integrating them into our content. Here are the words that we don’t have included in our content that we need to include:

  • Closing costs
  • Mortgage options
  • Property taxes
  • Interest rate
  • Homeowners insurance
  • Buying your first home
  • Va loans
  • Credit score
  • Emergency fund

Next, let’s move onto laying out the actual outline for the article. If your article is already written, consider checking out my latest guide on how to update old content for SEO.

Creating Your Article Outline For SEO

Primary Target Keyword(s)

The primary keyword is the main word we’re trying to get ranked for this article. It needs to be included in the meta title, meta description, URL, H1 header, and first 150 words of our article for the best chance at ranking.

first time home buyer tips - 4400 volume

Secondary Target Keyword(s)

For our secondary keywords, we want to make sure we’re including them in the subheads (H2’s, H3’s) of our content, as well as mentioning them at least once in our content paragraphs. These are the other keywords that we’re targeting that are important with decent search volume but aren’t the primary focus of the article. Secondary keywords should complement the primary keyword.

  • home buying tips - 1600 volume
  • what to expect when buying your first home - 90 volume
  • advice for first time home buyers - 480 volume
  • tips for buying a house - 1900 volume
  • first time home buyer guide - 1000 volume

Related phrases to include

These phrases aren’t as important, but we should include them to improve the relevance of our article in relation to our primary/secondary keywords.

  • Closing costs
  • Mortgage options
  • Property taxes
  • Interest rate
  • Homeowners insurance
  • Buying your first home
  • Va loans
  • Credit score
  • Emergency fund

Interlinking

To pass authority between pages, we should always aim to interlink existing and relevant articles. Interlinking from higher authority articles to our new article is a great and easy way to pass additional SEO juice for keyword ranking improvements if we’re struggling to move the needle. Beyond referencing our internal linking sheet for high-priority pages, look at Search Console to identify 3-5 articles that draw traffic and we can link to/link back from.

You can also do a site search like site:example.com “homebuying tips” on Google to find other related articles to link to. Also be sure to use keyword rich text variations for interlinking; in this example, if we wanted to link back to this article from a different page, we would use a variant of “tips for first time homebuyers”, so an example sentence might read, “Check out our latest article that dives into first time homebuyer tips.”

Readability Score

This is from the SEO Content Template in SEMRush. This metric grades the aggregate reading difficulty for top articles, factors that contribute to a higher readability score include writing in simpler terms, making sure paragraphs aren’t long, sentences are short and are broken down into appropriate subheads.

Words

This is from the SEO Content Template in SEMRush. We should always aim to make our content longer/more comprehensive than our competitors.

SEO Article Outline Template

Audience: Who is the intended audience for this article? What are we trying to get them to do when they visit this article? What is the anticipated behavior for this audience?

[                    ]

Topic: Does this topic closely fit our industry? Are we trying to be informative and answer a question? Are we trying to create seasonal/trending content that isn’t evergreen? Are we trying to drive readers toward a conversion? Is this a high or low-funnel topic? (high volume of searches, but low conversion potential vs. lower volume of searches, but higher conversion potential).

[                    ]

Primary Keyword: What’s the main keyword we are trying to focus on for this article?

Is the primary keyword included in the meta title, description, H1 header, first 150 words of content, and URL?

Pull Using SEMRush (Organic Research)

[                    ]

Secondary Keywords: What other keywords, or subtopics, are we including for this article?

Are all of our secondary keywords included in the H2’s and H3’s?

Pull Using SEMRush (Organic Research, Keyword Magic Tool, SEO Content Template)

Pull Using Google Trends

[                    ]

[                    ]

[                    ]

[                    ]

[                    ]

Related Keywords: Are these keywords included in the content body for this article?

Pull Using SEMRush (Content Template)

[                    ]

[                    ]

[                    ]

[                    ]

[                    ]

H1: Does the article title (h1) include the primary keyword?

[                    ]

H2’s, H3’s, H4’s: Are our secondary keywords being included in these subheads? Does the hierarchy for H2’s, H3’s, and H4’s make sense? Can we break down our H2’s further into H3’s and H4’s? From a reader’s perspective, does the sub-topic breakdown for this article make sense?

Meta Title: Does the meta title include the primary keyword? Does it include the brand name? Does it meet Google’s length limit?

Meta Description: Does the meta description include the primary keyword? Does it include the brand name? Does it meet Google’s length limit?

Readability Score: Is our readability score better than our competitors? What is the competitor average?

Pull Using SEMRush (Content Template)

Word Count: Is our word count longer than our competitors? What is the competitor average?

Pull Using SEMRush (Content Template)

URL: Does the URL contain our primary keyword?

Internal Links: What links should we interlink with? Are they relevant to our article? Did we link back to this article from those other pages?

Pull Using Google Search (site:website.com “primary keyword”)

Keyword Cannibalization: Does this article directly compete with other articles for its primary/secondary keywords?

Pull using SEMRush (Organic Research)

While on-page optimization is important, your articles can also receive lift when structured data is added to your site pages. Check out my latest articles on the new SEO structured data types Google launched for COVID-19 related searches, how to update your GMB hours during COVID-19, and the new COVID-19 announcement tool that was added to Google Search Console.

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