logo-small logo-small_halloween
How SEMrush helps:
How SEMrush helps:

Conduct Keyword and Backlink Competitor Analysis with SEMrush

The Wow-Score shows how engaging a blog post is. It is calculated based on the correlation between users’ active reading time, their scrolling speed and the article’s length.
Learn more

Conduct Keyword and Backlink Competitor Analysis with SEMrush

Daria Manshina
Conduct Keyword and Backlink Competitor Analysis with SEMrush

Having a well-optimized site is great, but it won’t remain so forever. You have to work continuously to stay on top. But it is impossible if you don’t know what your competitors are doing to try to outrank you on SERPs. Trust me; they are keeping an eye on you, so you need to do the same.

How can you analyze your competitors?

First, you need to identify them. A great place to start is to review who you are competing with for organic and referral traffic. Organic traffic competitors are pretty easy to spot: you can see them in the SERPs by googling your target keywords. Of course, you can’t google every keyword if you have a lot of them. And it is even more complicated with referral traffic, because who knows where to look for competitors’ backlinks?

But there is a workaround! Let’s look at how to do competitor analysis using the SEMrush toolkit. The post consists of two major parts:

Keyword competitor analysis

Backlink competitor analysis

Keyword Competitor Analysis

Even though you know most of your keyword competitors, there is a chance that you could have missed a dark horse and may be surprised when thrown from the high organic positions.

Catch ‘em all!

Before analyzing your enemies make sure you know them all. The SEMrush Keyword Competitors report will compile a full inventory for you: all the unexpected figures and still-not-too-well-known startups are all here.

To indicate how closely a domain competes with another one, we use a parameter called Competition level.

Your site’s Competition level depends on two things: how many ranking keywords your competitor has, and what percentage of them are your common keywords. For example, if you are a travel blog, Wikipedia won’t be your competitor because, in addition to all of the possible places and travel tips you have written about, it also ranks for billions of other keywords. Another travel blog, on the contrary, will be competing with you.

Pay special attention to those competitors whose site is competing with yours the most in terms of traffic and total keyword numbers.


After you have made a list of rivals it is time to look closer at them. Here are a few tips that can help you beat your competitors with keywords.

Check How They Are Doing

Let’s start with analyzing a potential weak point for your competitor and a place you could easily conquer; your competitor’s new and lost keywords. Their new keywords may show you that the niche they are entering is new. In this case, it is probably not fully taken yet. Their lost keywords might show you that they were penalized and lost their positions, so there could be some free space for you and your site.

You can find all this information in the Position changes report. Spikes on the graph let you learn about sudden changes in your competitors’ actions. By selecting a spike and sorting the results e.g. by position, you will learn what keywords have undergone the most changes.


Hijack Their High-Volume Keywords

The second step after you know how your competitors are doing is to look closely at how your and their keywords are different. For example, you can take a look at the keywords that are unique for your competitor. Maybe you missed them when writing your content. SEMrush can help you identify them.

The Keyword Gap report shows you keywords that only your competitor has.


After you have your list, you can apply a few advanced filters. Find where they are ranking in low positions in the SERPs for relevant keywords and aim for beating those rankings with your content. If they are stuck on the 2nd page you can always aim for the 1st and gain more visibility in the SERPs.


Research Your Common Keywords

The third step is to research the words that both you and your competitor have in common. You can also find these in the Keywords Gap report.


Now, by applying advanced filters, find the keywords that your competitor ranks higher for than you and make a list of those. These are keywords that need your attention right now.


Export Your Keywords

It is important to follow the positions of the keywords you choose. To do that, you can add as many of the picked words to the Export Manager as you want. Later on, upload the exported .csv or .xls document to the Position Tracking instrument to track how their positions are changing.


Get More Specific

In order to learn what types of content prove most successful in organic results and to get a better understanding of your future content strategy go to the Pages report. It will show you the percentage of traffic that a specific URL of your competitor's domain gets and the number of keywords on the page.


If you really love keyword research, you can dive even deeper into the date to help improve your content drastically. To learn some tricks about conducting deeper keyword research, read our recent article on how to do it using the SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool.

Backlink Competitor Analysis

Studying your backlink competitors helps you gather new ideas for your own link building strategy. Take a careful look at your competitors’ profiles and make a list of domains on which they have already placed their high-quality backlinks.

Gather Your Backlink Competitors

Just like with keywords, you have to make a list of your competitors before analyzing each of them. The SEMrush backlink Competitors report shows you all you rival domains, along with their Сompetition level. The higher their percentage of common backlinks from the whole domain’s backlink profile, the higher your Сompetition level will be. This report also shows you their total number of backlinks and referring domains.


Obviously, the higher a competitor’s competition level is, the more relevant they are for further analysis. But don’t only focus on this number. Another important characteristic is the backlink/domain ratio. It can show you whether your competitor makes emphasis on building high-quality organic links, or if they resort to gray methods.

Find High-Quality Referring Domains

In the long run, you have to follow what your competitors are doing in order to get new ideas for your own link-building strategy.

It is important, as you know, to not only get as many links as possible but also to make sure their sources are diverse. So, choosing one from the competitor list, go to the Referring Domains report and get a list of domains that link to this specific competitor.

By sorting these domains out by trust score, you can make a list of domains you most probably want to contact to improve your backlink profile. Just make sure they are relevant for your sphere.


Also, make sure that all these backlinks do not come from the same domain; you would not want to get penalized by Google.

Analyze Drastic Changes

To avoid missing any shifts in your competitor’s backlink positions check the Backlinks report. It will show you all recent changes in their backlink profiles. If you see a “New” spike, check it out. One possibility is that your competitor got a new partnership, uploaded new content that went viral, or just bought a bunch of links.

By checking “Lost” spikes you can find a whole list of domains to contact and place your links on.


Dig Deeper

The Indexed Pages report will let you know which URLs on a competing domain are most popular for linking. Studying the URLs with the most backlinks and linking domains can help you understand how to make your content as attractive to the external sources. For example, has your competitor found a new popular content format? Or do they know what type of content is often referred to in their niche? Find out!


Fill In the Gaps

There are always some domains that have a lot of backlinks to your competitor but not to you. To create a full list, use the Backlink Gap report. Besides the domain comparison, it provides the comparison by specific URLs in case you need to compare pages with similar content.

In this report, filter your competitor’s referring domains and make a list of trusted sites on which your links could be placed safely.


Learn more about building your backlink profile with SEMrush in our most recent post.


Now that you have discovered a plethora of information about your competitors’ actions, you are ready to begin your journey to a new SEO quest.

Have any tips for competitor analysis? Share them with us in the comments!

Like this post? Follow us on Feedly and read more interesting posts:

SEMrush connoisseur. Trying to merge natural geekery with nurtured professionalism.
How SEMrush helps:
Share this post


2000 symbols remain
Jordan Glogau
The article got me thinking about other functionality the would be helpful:

SEMRush provides a lot of competitors but many of them aren't relevant. What happen is the competitive bubble charts tend to bring up these major players, but they aren't really in the niche I am pursuing. They smaller competitors I pick by hand don't show in the bubble charts. How do I limit or suppress the ones I don't want to as part of the competitive set?

Along the same line major retailers like Amazon, Newegg, etc. are in their own class. How could SEMRush categorize or suppress these players when dealing with ecommerce issues/competitors?
Daria Manshina
Jordan Glogau
Hi Jordan,
Thanks for another great question! At the moment, in our Domain Analytics we consider both, number of common keywords for the domains, and the whole scope of keywords that the chosen domains are ranking for. Thus, all the giants in the industry that are not directly competing with smaller businesses should be excluded from the list.
Also, in our Backlink Analytics you can find rivals that compete with you for the same referring domains. We are using the same logic here: we consider common backlinks and the whole backlink profile. So you can find your most relevant rivals here.
By the way, you came up with the question just in time, since we are testing a new algorithm for our Domain Analytics. So it would be awesome if you could send us your domain. Then we can check your case.
Another tip for you here if you want to make a list of your competitors for the particular scope of keywords in specific location. You can get the most accurate results in our Competitors Discovery report in Position Tracking tool (you can blacklist all big brands here and just work with your actual rivals).
Daniel John
When it comes to content building, One is expected to write a high-quality content, Why do we always have to start linking to high traffic site and secondly.
Linking a word to a site, Does it rank you or the person you are referring to?
Daria Manshina
Daniel John
Thanks for the comment, Daniel!
If linking to high quality domains positively affects your rankings is a very good question indeed. We would love to know the answer ourselves. Google started using RankBrain algorithm for measuring pagerank, and nobody actually knows how it works. But from what we can see on the web and hear from our users, “follow” links affect both pages.
Daniel John
Daria Manshina
No problem. I myself also wish to know
Jordan Glogau
Very thoughtful, but a lot of the csv exporting that is done to other SEMRush functions shouldn't have to be exported at all. They should be passed to reports like Position Tracking and there should be a column that notes where the keywords came from and including notation about dates and reason. A combination of time saving and an audit trail.
Daria Manshina
Jordan Glogau
Thanks a lot, Jordan!
Have you tried our Export Manager? We have a special tool that allows you to store all the good keyword ideas from Domain Analytics. You can find the “Add to Export Manager” button on the top left of the table. Very soon we’ll add an option to send these words directly to the Position tracking, so yes, thank you for the valid point!
As for your idea of marking specific places in the instrument where you found the words, it is actually worth considering. We’ll send it over to the Product Owners team.