In early 2020, we finally sat down and made a real effort to clean up our SEO. After we migrated our website to Webflow (read about our decision why), our SEO improved greatly but it wasn't enough to help us rank for keywords related to our business.
We set up Google Analytics and Search Console for our website and watched our abysmal search traffic come in at fewer than 5000 impressions and 50 clicks a month. We were grinding on our core business by day and working hard to try and push out a blog a week that we thought startups would want to read.
The fact that our website had such poor SEO and wasn't ranking high on Google meant we were wasting a lot of time and effort pushing out content that no one would find. We had to do something to improve our SEO, but the issue was we didn't even know where to start.
Semrush Site Audits
We looked into different SEO tools and eventually settled on Semrush. Their free plan allows you to run site audits on up to 100 pages a month, which was enough for us to get started.
A Semrush site audit gives you a singular score they call a "Site Health," and gives you a comparison of your score to the scores of the top 10% of websites in your industry. Site health isn't something you should obsess about getting to 100%, but it's a good temperature check for how your site is performing overall.
What's even more useful is the "issues" tab. Semrush identifies a bunch of issues, grouped by severity into three categories, Errors, Warnings, and Notices. Errors are by far the most important issues to fix since they will identify critical issues that could be having a big impact on your SEO and rankings.
The biggest issues that were identified on our site were duplicate content pages, pages with broken internal links, and pages that returned 4XX status codes. Semrush made it really easy to act on these issues by identifying the specific pages that were at fault, and we were able to quickly turn our Semrush site health score from 40 to 82%.
The second best feature Semrush offers after its site audits is Competitive Research. This tool allows you to input the website of any competitor and see their organic search traffic, their paid search traffic, what keywords they rank for, and more.
Using their Keyword Gap tool, you can input up to 5 competitor sites and view the common and unique keywords they rank for. Using this list, you can create your own list of keywords that you want to rank for and stay ahead of your competitors.
Semrush takes this one step further with their Backlink Gap tool. Similar to Keyword Gap, you can input the sites of your competitors and Semrush will identify potential backlink opportunities. You can target these sites in your link-building campaigns to establish a better link authority.
Semrush Results and Paid Plans
Our efforts on improving our SEO ended up taking our site from the 3rd page of Google to sometimes ranking in the top Google "featured snippet" spot for certain keywords, thanks in no small part to Semrush's analytics and how easy they make it for us to act on issues.
We also saw a huge increase to our traffic, and in recent months have been seeing as much as 4000 clicks and 200,000 impressions a month. We now have several pages ranking in the top spot on Google, and our traffic is steadily climbing.
If you want to take your SEO one stop further, you can subscribe to their Pro plan, which allows you to increase your monthly page crawls from 100 to 100,000. View their full pricing plan comparison here. The Pro plan is pretty steep at $99.95 a month, but we honestly think it's worth it to upgrade for a few months.
We subscribed to the Pro plan in order to track more pages and get access to their paid tools. A couple months later, we downgraded back to the free plan since our site is fairly static and after the initial optimizations, we weren't getting enough out of the tool to justify the cost. If your site is dynamic and you're constantly pumping out new pages, the Pro plan might be worth it to keep around.
If your site has poor SEO or ranks low in Google Search but you don't know why, we recommend the free trial of SEMRush and seeing if you get any insights that are useful to you. If you know of a better SEO tool, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org!