Keyword Research

Semrush Keyword Research Tutorial

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I agree that keyword research can be intimidating. Many novice bloggers jump into blogging without keyword research and give up when they don’t get desirable website traffic. I don’t want that to be your story. Today, I’m presenting an organic keyword research tool and a simple keyword research process in our Semrush keyword research tutorial and review.

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This Semrush keyword research tutorial will cover the following:

  • Semrush basics
  • The value of niche content
  • Keyword brainstorming
  • An overview of the different types of organic keywords
  • The importance of searcher intent
  • Domain authority
  • A simple keyword research process
  • Competitor keyword research
  • Semrush pros and cons

Semrush Keyword Research…You Can and Must Do It!

My goal is to inspire you to put more focus on doing keyword research as part of your blogging process. The benefits of smart keyword research will motivate you to make it a mandatory part of your content writing and marketing efforts. And the simple process given in this article that utilizes the powerful yet easy-to-use Semrush keyword research tool will give you a new excitement for blogging.

Here is a quick list of benefits of keyword research:

  1. No more wasted time writing articles that have no chance of ranking high.
  2. A more organized and prioritized editorial calendar.
  3. Content will be more targeted, focused and helpful.
  4. Your Google pagerank position will improve over time.
  5. More targeted organic website traffic.
  6. More conversions on your website.
  7. You will learn your competitors’ keywords.
  8. Positive results will motivate you to publish more good content.

What Is Semrush?

As a company, Semrush was founded in 2008 with a mission to make online competition fair and transparent, with equal opportunities for everyone. As a service, Semrush is more than a keyword research tool. It is a competitive research service for online marketing.

Focus Your Blog Content on a Niche

Photo by Agence Olloweb on Unsplash

Focusing your blog content on a niche (or a very specific topic) will help you filter out a lot of keywords and ideas and home in on keywords and topics that interest you and your readers. Writing niche content will help you find long tail keyword gold mines.

Power Tip: Only write about things that you’re truly passionate about. You want blogging to be fun. Your passion for the subject will shine through your writing. With that said, you’d likely want to turn a profit with your blog. And you’d want to write on topics that can yield affiliate and advertising revenue if that’s one of your goals.

Also, your niche content should solve a problem. Solve your readers’ specific problems and you’ll grow a loyal readership over time.

Here are some niche blog categories and examples:

Blog monetization – see: Pat Flynn and Brandon Gaille

Personal finance – see: Making Sense of Cents

Food – see: Pinch of Yum

Begin with a Keyword Brainstorming Session

Photo by Leon on Unsplash

Developing a list of specific keywords often starts with a list of raw ideas and topics. Begin your keyword research with a keyword brainstorm. Don’t overthink things. Just let the ideas flow and note your keyword ideas in a document or spreadsheet. Next, note related words next to each keyword idea.

Here’s an example that helped me come up with the focus keyword for this article:

General keyword idea: keyword research

Related keyword: keyword research tool

Specific focus keyword: Semrush keyword research tutorial

You can see my thought and research process as I went from a broad keyword or head term to a specific long tail keyword.

Organic Keyword Search: Broad, Phrase, Exact, Related

Let’s continue by defining the different types of keywords and search options that you will encounter in Semrush. Broad, phrase, exact and related are the keyword search options that you will find in Semrush’s handy Keyword Magic Tool.

Exact match search results

Semrush Head Terms

A head term in SEO is a keyword of one to three words in length that typically represents a general topic with a high amount of search results and volume. These terms usually are difficult to rank for with a new blog.

Semrush Long Tail Keywords

A long tail keyword is a keyword of three or more words in length that represents a more specific or niche topic. Targeting long tail keywords provides the best opportunity for good/faster pagerank on Google (especially for new blogs), because larger and more established websites will likely have pagerank claim to more competitive head terms.

Broad match search results

Broad Match Keyword Search

Broad match keyword search returns keywords that are generally related to the keyword or topic that you’re researching. This default search mode in Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool outputs similar phrases, singular or plural forms of the keyword, popular misspellings, synonyms, stemmings (a root word with a suffix like “ed” or “ing” added to it), and other related keywords.

For example:

A broad match search for the keyword “travel tips” produces keyword ideas like “caramoan islands travel tips” and “kodaikanal travel tips.”

Phrase Match Keyword Search

Phrase match keyword search returns keywords that either contain the specific phrase of the term that you’re researching or a close variation of the phrase. The search results might include keywords with a different word order for the researched term.

For example:

A phrase match search for the keyword “chicken recipes” produces keyword ideas like “Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup recipes” and “farberware pressure cooker chicken recipes.”

Exact Match Keyword Search

Exact match keyword search returns keywords that include your searched phrase in exact word order. This search option produces the fewest keyword ideas. It works best with very simple head terms.

For example:

An exact match search for the keyword “saving money” produces keyword ideas like “dave ramsey saving money” and “what are the benefits of saving money in an rrsp” (a good one for my Canadian readers).

Related Keyword Search (LSI Keywords)

A related keyword search for “chicken recipes” reveals a common spelling error!

The related keyword search option is an option for finding LSI keywords. Personally, I don’t use this feature much. I have other means for finding LSI keywords that I will touch on in another article. You can actually find quality LSI keywords within the broad match search results. Just make sure that the keywords truly relate to your topic.

LSI stands for latent semantic indexing. LSI keywords are keywords that Google has found to be closely related to the focus keyword or topic of a web page. An LSI keyword could be a synonym of the keyword/topic or other words that are typically associated with a certain keyword or topic.

A related keyword search for the keyword “money tips” produces keyword ideas like “how to live frugally and save money” and “dave ramsey financial advice” (boy, Dave Ramsey is a popular dude).

Power Tip: Use LSI keywords to find good secondary keywords for your blog articles and good SEO-rich words to add to your meta title.

Searcher Intent and Buyer Keywords

It’s a good idea to make content that helps people at all levels of the sales funnel — top, middle or bottom. But big SEO and conversion results happen when you produce content with buyer keywords that connect with the intent of the searcher/reader.

You won’t blog on buyer keywords all the time, but when you do…it’s a good opportunity to hit a homerun with your readers.

Here are several buyer keyword examples for your inspiration:

  • “best adsense ready wordpress themes” (blog monetization keyword)
  • “best budgeting software” (personal finance keyword)
  • “best no kink garden hose” (lifestyle keyword)

New vs. Established Domains and Domain Authority

It’s important to know the difference between new and established domains as it concerns Domain Authority and backlinks.

According to Moz, Domain Authority (DA) is a search engine ranking score (from 1-100) that predicts how well a website will rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). Moz uses MozRank, MozTrust, and other proprietary metrics within their Domain Authority algorithm.

The higher the Domain Authority of your blog, the better and faster your website’s pages will rank on Google. High DA also helps you determine the value of backlinks to your website and others. This is crucial for successful link building campaigns.

If you are launching a new blog with a newly purchased domain, you are getting started from ground zero. The Domain Authority of new websites typically starts with a DA score of 1. With a score that low, it could take your blog two to three times longer to get pagerank traction for your blog articles than a blog with a domain that has a more established history with Google and quality backlinks. For this reason, I highly suggest purchasing GoDaddy expired domains with a high DA from GoDaddy Auctions.

Indexing and Keyword Research

A general rule of thumb is it will take 60-90 days for Google to index a new blog article. Indexing is the process of Google finding/crawling your page. But it could take up to a year or more for a well-written blog article to rank well (within the first two pages of results). This is why keyword research, link building and increasing Domain and Topic Authority are so important for the success of your blog.

Here’s a helpful graph that shows the average Domain Authority score by industry. Use this data for benchmarking and inspiration:

Average Moz Domain Authority by Industry chart by Track Maven
Source: Track Maven

If you are blogging on a website with a newly purchased domain, focus your blogging efforts on long tail keywords with under 250,000 search results that also have a high Opportunity Score (more on this below). That way…you won’t be competing against more established blogs that have higher DA scores.  More on this later in this article.

Check out Moz’s Link Explorer tool to see the Domain Authority score for your blog and other websites.

Work the Advanced Filters to Find Long Tail Keywords

Once you’re inside Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool, you’ll notice a blue link that reads “Advanced Filters.” Do yourself a big favor and click it. Working the advanced filters will unlock some hidden gems in long tail keywords.

I will show you how to whittle down your keyword search by editing three fields — Volume from, Results in SERP from, and Results in SERP to.

Volume is the number of people searching a keyword.

Results in SERP is the number of search result items returned by a search engine for a keyword.

A closer look at Semrush’s advanced filter settings

Semrush does a great job with calculating and approximating these numbers, but they aren’t 100% accurate (only Google really knows).

Working Semrush’s Advanced Filters

The first filter to edit is Results in SERP. If your website or blog was launched with a newly purchased domain name and your Domain Authority score is under 10, you need to go after keywords that have fewer than 250,000 results in SERP. This essentially means that you’re avoiding popular keywords that bigger, more established websites rank for. This filter alone will help you find excellent low competition keywords.

Sticking with the Results in SERP filter, you should set a minimum at 1000 results. This will ensure that you’re writing on keywords/topics that have some relevance. This also helps eliminate false positives from your target keyword list.

Finally, set 50 as your minimum Volume value. This will eliminate keywords that no one is searching for. You want to write about topics that your target audience cares about. And speaking of target audience, be sure to write with them in mind by following the 3×3 writing process.

Let’s continue by learning how to use he Volume and Results in SERP numbers to find good keyword opportunities for your blog.

Tools for Any SEO Challenge

SEO Keyword Opportunity Score and Keyword Difficulty Score

Let’s utilize some basic math to find some good, low competition keywords for your blog.

Opportunity Score

I like to keep things simple. The Opportunity Score is the simple formula of Volume divided by Results in SERP. The higher the resulting number, the higher the better. This score tells you if a keyword has relatively low competition and relatively high search interest.

I try to only write on topics with a keyword that has an Opportunity Score of .001 and higher. Of course there can be exceptions. If you’re taking your reader on a content journey through a series of posts, your next writing task might involve writing on a topic/keyword that doesn’t have an optimum Opportunity Score. And that’s okay! Your content should be all about helping and inspiring your readers at the end of the day.

Semrush Keyword Difficulty Score

Semrush has their own built-in difficulty or competition metric for organic search purposes. When you use the Keyword Magic Tool, you will see a column for Keyword Difficulty (KD). This score from 1 to 100 determines how difficult it will be to rank for a particular keyword…the higher the KD, the harder it will be to rank. Here’s what Semrush has to say about their KD metric:

Keyword Difficulty estimates how hard it would be to use SEO on a new webpage to hypothetically outrank the web pages that are currently ranking on the first two pages of Google. This metric can be extremely helpful to SEOs during the keyword research process in order to determine which target keywords are realistic to go after and which ones would be too difficult and waste your time and resources.

In this chicken recipes search, note the KD column on the right

Use the Keyword Difficulty metric in concert with the Opportunity Score metric covered above to find the best long-tail keyword opportunities that will get your blog ranking on Google in a shorter period of time.

Keep up with The Joneses: Competitor Keyword Research

It’s always a good idea to see which keywords your competitors are ranking for. Semrush can help here with their Domain Analytics Organic Research and page rank positions for competitors.

Keywords that your competitors are ranking for (whether high or low) will give you some good ideas for keywords and blog posts.

See your competitors' traffic with Traffic Analytics

Semrush Pros and Cons

No keyword research tool is perfect. I like to be honest and transparent with you guys. . . . so now that you’ve read through this Semrush keyword research tutorial, here is a list of pros and cons for Semrush. Factor these into your decision on whether to sign up or not.


Their keyword analysis tools and broad/phrase/exact search options are second to none.

Competitor research and keyword positions are an A+.

They provide Trust Score and Page Score metrics for website backlinks.


The Related Keywords search isn’t as good as other LSI keyword tools in the marketplace.

Results in SERP totals can be inconsistent, which is understandable because it is not an exact science.

Semrush Keyword Research Tutorial: In Conclusion

Semrush has been a gamechanger for our business. I no longer go into my blogging and online copywriting tasks blindly. I want you to experience the satisfaction of having a clear keyword research plan of attack by properly using Semrush and their set of great tools.

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Semrush Plan and Pricing Information

Let us know what you think about Semrush after you’ve had a chance to check it out.

If you’re still researching Semrush alternatives, check out our Ahrefs vs Semrush vs Moz comparison review article!

This post was proofread by Grammarly Premium.

Chris Craft

Follower of Jesus. Husband. Father. Founder of InspireFirst and Nao Media.