Check out your online competition with

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Earlier this week, I talked about how checking out your competition online can be a good way to get some ideas and identify opportunities for establishing your small business online. I briefly mentioned that there are a number of online tools available to help you do just that, and today I want to talk about one in particular:

What does SEMRush do?
SEMRush provides information about keywords that drive traffic to websites through Google's organic search or through Google AdWords. It integrates this information with data about search volume and click-through-rates to estimate what percentage of a site's traffic comes through various keywords. All together, SEMRush gives you a rough idea about where your competitors' traffic comes from through Google, and some information about their AdWords advertising. While the data isn't perfect, it can be a great way to get some ideas about how to improve your own sites advertising and SEO.

Finding your competition
One of the things I found most useful from SEMRush was it's listing of "competitors" to a particular site, based on the common keywords targeted by both sites. As such, if you perform a search of your own site, you get a list of other sites that show up for the same keywords as yours, either through organic search or through  AdWords. Obviously, this can only tell you about sites using keywords that you already match for, but even if your site is still small, you can get some good information.

For Less Annoying CRM, the organic results tend to be quite different from the paid results, but both make a lot of sense in that context. The organic competition comes from places that talk about software, while the paid competition comes from other CRM products.

Exploring competitors' ads
SEMRush does a really nice job of letting you get a handle on how other sites are using Google AdWords. When you're just getting started on your own AdWords campaign, getting a sense of what others are doing is extremely valuable. SEMRush shows you the keywords that a site buys ads against, as well as the specific ads they use. It also shows estimates of a number of relevant stats, such as the cost of running the ads and the search volume from each ad.

Keyword research
In addition to the domain-focused research, as shown above, SEMRush also provides some tools for keyword research. Instead of searching for a particular website, you can look up a particular keyword and see which sites rank highly for that keyword and various other stats. You'll also be able to see related keywords that might be worth considering. The keyword tools aren't that different from what you can get through other sites (such as Google's keyword tool), but it does a decent job of integrating the information.

Limitations and price
While SEMRush definitely provides some cool information, it has some limitations that are worth mentioning. All of their data is derived from Google's listings and other publicly available information about average search volume and click-through-rates. They don't actually have any direct information about individual sites' traffic, so many of their numbers are relative, and all of them are estimates. That said, they can still provide a useful guide. The other thing worth pointing out is the price of the service. SEMRush is free for 10 queries per day and 10 results per query. If you want to do more than some casual research, you'll need to sign up for a monthly plan, starting around $50 per month. I haven't tried out the paid service yet, so I can't speak to the value of it, but at the very least, the free options are definitely worth taking advantage of.

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