SEMRush vs Serpstat | Let me help you make a choice


June, 2020

We all started somewhere. We had to. My SEO journey began with the free Mozbar extension on Chrome, Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google My Business and any other piece of software that I could use for free. It was then a huge moment for me to make a foray into the world of paid software to invest in Serpstat back in 2017.

I knew that Moz, ahref’s, and SEMrush were the frontrunners but their lowest tier price tags were just too high for my budget. Plus, nothing like financial adversity to bring out the best in my emerging skills. So, years back I bought Serpstat’s lowest tier package and started with the ability to have a maximum of ten projects – more than enough for the 4-5 clients I had at the time. So much has changed since then but I will never forget those days tinkering around with their various tools.  Here are some thoughts on the timeline since then…

A huge part of SEO is being able to track rankings, and that is why I needed to get paid software. There is a huge amount you can do without paid software but there comes a point where without it, you can’t really do an honest job for your clients. Thankfully, most SEO software comes with a host of other handy features, and this was to be the case with Serpstat. While I desperately needed to do site audits and track keywords on a monthly basis, there were a host of tools I found beneficial that increased my knowledge and my value-add to the client. In fact, to this day I haven’t even used a bunch of them!

Setting up projects was quite simple, adding the keywords a breeze, and then to do reports I actually forked out some more money and bought Reportz, which allowed me to make all the numbers look far more undeerstandable. The irony was: clients hated the wealth of data and visualisations, so I gave up on that, and to this day I keep intending to move towards Google Data Studio… but time and again most of them just want to have a very simplistic, macro-perspective, and that usually means measuring 5-10 metrics, max! Nothing a simple mail can’t do.

Some SEO Contrast

  1. Expensive software is unavoidable to perform complex SEO tasks that would take months to do manually.
  2. Avoid expensive software to report all of that; rather use a simple e-mail, and some data on Google Sheets.

Do you want this or that? Clients often don’t really know themselves, so make decisions for them.

There came a point though when I started having more than ten clients, and the more recent additions were paying 3-4 times more per month than the older ones. I needed software that could do even more for me than Serpstat could offer, and I knew my choices were between the “Big Three” – Moz, Aherfs, and SEMRush. All of them have a trial of sorts, and I used Moz first – having already been acquainted with its free version – then trialled SEMRush’s free trial month, and funnily enough, because the entry point was $7 for a week with Ahrefs, I never even bothered to trial ahrefs! In retrospect, I may have ended up using them had they offered a free “sneak peek” type of option. Apparently they have the most extensive database (not sure this is true now, but it was then) but the other free trial options were too enticing.

Why did I go with SEMRush? Well, mainly because visually it appealled to me the most. I knew for certain all of these guys would know their stuff and offer all the tools I needed. Site audits, backlink checks, spam checks, rank tracking, integrations with who knows how many other tools but I think one must choose what fits your personality and “digital intuition”. It’s a huge reason why I’ve found it hard to leave the iPhone addiction – I really want to but I find the way iOS works to be so be intuitive and sensical that I’d find it frustrating going elsewhere – and certainly never Samsung. Also, when I saw you could send tasks to Trello (of which I find to be great) I was convinced. Price wise, it’s all much of a muchness, though much more pricey than Serpstat’s entry-level price. I think I paid $50 to get started with them, and SEMRush’s minimum was $99/month! Quite a difference once a few months have gone by, but, I have not looked back…

“All the SEO tools will be better in some aspects and no tool has it all but find the one that works for you.” (Plato)

So looking back now do I wish I’d just gone for SEMrush from the beginning? Not at all!

Serpstat taught me valuable things and to be honest, there are one or two things they do that are done much better than SEMRush (and probably the others too) but thankfully, when you’ve bought the software, you own it for life! So I find myself going back from time to time and testing a few things. The same goes for free tools and random new tools that come on the market. I’ve tested Answer the public, love Screaming Frog, enjoy using Search Operators, and think the real gold lies in getting to the place where you are coding up your own scripts to perform custom tasks for your clients, or pet projects.

Each mode and method will have its own benefits and Serpstat’s suited me at a certain time and for a few key tasks. They also have unique keywords, sites, and links in their database, and so I often triangulate my metrics/data for a site using them, along with SEMRush and Moz. I’ve thankfully gotten to a place where as a business I can afford all three and the extra insight allows me to deliver a better service to clients. But, if you are new to the game and needing a cheaper solution, then they are a viable option, along with a host of new, pretty affordable players in the market.

My main advice though is to be thoughtful when you go about working with any software, and continually thinking “Is there an avenue to pursue that no-one else is thinking of, or a more efficient way of going about things?” Sometimes you don’t need any tools at all but just a creative mind for coming up with world-class content that can go viral, and you are highly unlikely ever going to get a computer to give you that. If you are considering venturing into the SEO world though, know this: you will – without a doubt – need to get a handle on a whole hosts of tools, it is just picking which order to trial and pay for each one that is the challenge.