Is Semrush reliable? The truth behind the statistics

Bijgewerkt: 29 July 2023

Many marketers, but also website owners, use the SEO tool Semrush. From keyword research to competitive analysis, it offers several possibilities. But the data must be reliable.

Semrush has become one of the most popular SEO tools over the years. The reports you get from this tool are definitely useful. But they are not completely reliable.

This is where Semrush gets its data from

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Semrush is often thought to be a standalone tool. Like, for example, Google, which itself measures and analyzes data. Semrush has its own algorithm with limited capabilities. Most of the data comes from external reports. It has partnerships with major search engines and social media platforms.

Semrush also works based on anticipation and assumption. Semrush’s crawlers crawl web pages and analyze them. This involves looking at rankings in search engines and the number of backlinks. We also look at the difference between organic and paid traffic, and engagement on social media.

Semrush anticipates based on this data. It calculates how much traffic a webpage should have when it ranks in a certain position in Google.

How reliable is Semrush?

Until the year 2022, Semrush worked quite accurately. Since that year, this has changed. With regard to popular searches and search volumes, the data is correct. This is also not that difficult, this kind of data is easy to request from Google. Even if you don’t have a partnership.

If you look at visitor numbers, Semrush is no longer as reliable as it used to be. The estimates made by this SEO tool are often far too low. But it can also have an outlier upwards. Let’s take an example.

The above website shows in Google Search Console that it attracts about 400 visitors from the organic search results. That is equivalent to 12,000 visitors per month. These visitors only come from Google, you have to add about 5% to also include organic traffic from other search engines. Then you end up with 420 visitors per day.

What does Semrush say? This tool estimates the number of visitors very differently.

You can see that Semrush estimates 9000 organic visitors per month for the same website. That’s about 300 a day.

Now you would think that 300 or 420 visitors per day is not a big difference. But it is, because you are talking about a difference of no less than 40%. With some websites I have seen differences of more than 50%.

In terms of visitor numbers, Semrush is not reliable. Why this is is unknown, perhaps the tool no longer works so closely with major search engines. But there is another reason why the data is no longer so reliable. This has to do with clickstream data.

What is Clickstream Data?

Clickstream data is data about user behavior on the Internet. When a person uses a browser, data is collected about every click they make. This includes visited websites and web pages, which search terms have been used, but also which links the user clicks on a web page.

For example, clickstream data comes from web analytics tools such as Google Analytics. But Semrush has no access to your Google Analytics account, unless you have set this up yourself. You will also see that websites that have linked Google Analytics and Search Console to Semrush show accurate data.

For websites that have not made this link, Semrush has to obtain Clickstream data in some other way. This can be done, for example, via a browser extension. A number of users are tracked via the browser extension. Subsequently, that number of users is central for all users. That is also the way statistics about television programs are calculated.

This way of measuring makes it a bit unreliable. Because when 90% of browser extension users are not interested in certain web pages, the same goes for everyone else. While in real life this is often very different.

ISP data

Semrush may also collect clickstream data from internet service providers (ISPs). These types of providers collect data about their customers’ online activity. This data is then sold to external companies.

Due to stricter laws, ISP data is no longer readily available. That may also explain why Semrush’s accuracy has declined.

Are the number of backlinks correct?

This SEO tool also gives you insight into the number of backlinks. Not only from your own website, but also from those of competitors. For example, you can see which important websites refer to your competitors. You may be able to do the same as your competitors and settle these backlinks as well.

For Semrush it is not that difficult to find the number of backlinks, and which domains point to each other. The link profile of a website is generally easy to estimate. But you should know that this estimate is not 100% reliable.

Search terms and search volumes

Some data in Semrush is quite accurate. For example when it comes to search terms and search volumes. Semrush retrieves this data from major search engines such as Google and Bing. This data is freely accessible to everyone.

Is Semrush free or do you have to pay?

Since this SEO tool has become less accurate lately, the question is whether you should use it. The nice thing about this tool is that you can use it 10 times daily for free. Although the data may differ, it is still a useful tool to determine and adjust your SEO strategy.

It gives you statistics about the traffic of competing websites, but also on which keywords they rank well. Keep in mind that the popular keywords may differ from reality.

If you want to make intensive use of this tool, you have to pay. The cost of Semrush is relatively high compared to other tools. If you have a limited budget, Semrush is not the first choice.

Use it to analyze competitors and for keyword research

You should not use Semrush to measure and analyze your own website. You have other tools for that such as Google Analytics, Search Console and the Bing webmaster program. The data you find in these tools is very reliable. Google and Bing show no errors. You do need to know how to interpret the data.

Do you want to analyze the website of competitors? Because you don’t have access to their analytics or webmaster programs, you have to fall back on an SEO tool. See what the estimates of competing websites are. For example:

  • Number of organic visitors
  • Paid traffic
  • Traffic from social media
  • Terms on which they rank
  • Search volumes of popular search terms
  • Direct competitors of your competitor
  • Back links

It is important to understand your competitors and how they compare to your website.

Semrush is also suitable for conducting search term research. The data you find in this tool is almost as reliable as when you use the Google tool.

Conclusion on the reliability

To summarize everything I can say that Semrush is unreliable in the following areas:

  • Number of organic visitors
  • On which search terms you or your competitors rank

And it is reliable about the following data:

  • Search volumes
  • Difficulty of search terms
  • Back links

Bianca schreef meer dan 50.000 artikelen voor het internet. "SEO is mijn missie, ik help anderen om hoger in Google te komen". Met zoveel geschreven onderwerpen, SEO- en marketingkennis is ze het startpunt voor elke (nieuwe) website. Een opdracht plaatsen of meer weten over de voordelige tarieven? Vraag vandaag nog de tarievenkaart aan.

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