How to use SEMRush Keyword Intent to Bid Against Competitor Traffic and Steal Conversions

Written by Sam

Having utilised the full extent of the SEMRush platform over the last six years, we’re always excited to see the latest updates and utilise them to our (clients) advantage. The latest round of updates came with “Keyword Intent” within the Organic Research Section. 

As an integrated digital brand ad marketing agency, we looked at how we could integrate keyword intent into our own campaigns. We are testing it in a few ways, but one of our favourite “quick solutions” was learning how to steal conversions and leads away from Organic traffic. 

Here’s how we’re doing it. 

  1. Step 1 – Use the “Keyword Gap” tool to find where your competitors are ranking better than you. 
  2. Step 2 – View “Untapped” keywords and filter keywords using intents “Commercial” & “Transactional”
  3. Step 3 – Sort by lowest CPC and Keyword Difficulty and pull together the phrases you will use in a campaign.
  4. Step 4 – Bid against non-branded competitor terms, with low CPC’s whilst you create content to build up your rankings in these categories.
  5. Step 5 – Monitor conversions and use the data to target better landing pages with an SEO focus.
  6. Step 6 – Reduce reliance on Paid as rankings grow on converting keywords, rinse and repeat. 

Step 1. Competitor Keyword Gap Analysis

We used the term “Refurbished iPhone” for this comparison. We then picked a number of domains from different positions in the rankings that we wanted to compare against. 

We chose:


*If any of you guys want a link, all you have to do is let us do an audit and hire us, we have some brilliant experience within the mobile phone market…#justsaying

As you can see from the chart, there are a number of similar terms the domains share, but the majority are dominated by one competitor. 

Now we need to set-up the report we want to use. 

Step 2. Filter keywords by the intents and position

In SEMRush, we are using the Keyword Gap tool. 

Then we need to do two things

  • Change the Positions for “All in the Top 10”
  • Select the Intent Filter and tick Commercial and Transactional, then apply.

This gives us two types of keyword Intent, which represent customers that are close to the buying stages of the sales cycle.


Commercial keywords indicate that the searcher is looking to investigate a brand or service in our case, its users that know the phone they want and are investigating their options around the model and refurbished versions. So in terms of our customer journey, this is a fantastic entry point and introduction of our brand. 

Examples of Commercial Phrases from “Refurbished Phone” Research


Keyword Search Volume CPC
iphone xr second hand 2,900 0.54
raylo reviews 2,900 1.77
rent a phone 1,600 1.45
best iphone battery life 590 0.62
iphone 11 pro max second hand 590 0.53
is raylo legit 480 2.17
sim free phone contract 480 0.88
ipad pro 2020 vs 2021 390 0.9
iphone 11 pro max used 390 0.53



Transactional keywords indicate that the searcher is looking to make a purchase of goods or services. These terms should result in more conversions than any other type of traffic. So from a Paid perspective exact match versions can support strong campaign growth for low cost per conversions.

Examples of Transactional Phrases from “Refurbished Phone” Research


Keyword Search Volume CPC
iphone 11 unlocked 1300 0.91
iphone 8 unlocked 1000 0.97
iphone 11 pro max pay monthly 320 1.21
iphone xs 128gb 320 0.5
cheapest place to buy iphone 170 0.66


Step 3. Find the cheap and easy wins

What makes this method so powerful against other forms of keyword research?

The research uses the strongest organic profiles  in any niche, alongside the SEMRush data, to identify phrases or exact match bidding terms that you might not have stumbled upon using the Google Keyword Ad Planner, or by simply performing research through the SEMRush Keyword Magic Tool. 

Not only that, but you are focused on terms that will drive sales. By utilising “phrase match” or “exact match” against these terms you can filter out a lot of campaign budget waste against broad match or even phrase match on more generic terms. 

Let’s compare some of the terms we found against some of the likely generic phrases that might be used to generate them. 

Generic Terms on Broad Match


Keyword Exact Match Search Volume Keyword Difficulty CPC Broad Match Variations Collective Search Volume
iphone 12 673,000 81 £0.88 6,500 2,700,000
iphone xr 301,000 79 £0.55 39,900 1,200,000
iphone 12 pro 201,000 63 £0.59 287 1,100,000
iphone 11 pro max 135,000 48 £0.62 5,000 338,000
samsung s21 ultra 74,000 62 £1.27 37 162,000


In this table we have:

  • The “Keyword” or Broad Match Phrase
  • Exact Match Search Volume – The monthly search volume for the Exact Match of the “keyword”
  • Keyword Difficulty – The keyword difficulty out of 100.
  • CPC – The average cost per click for the exact match phrase
  • Broad Match Variations – The number of phrases that could appear if this was set to Broad Match.
  • Collective Search Volume – The collective monthly search volume for all broad match phrases.

This would ultimately leave the bidding to the Google Adwords algorithm. If you have large reserves and a big budget then leaving keywords open and allowing the algorithm to find the best bidding strategy for your budget is an option. On tighter or controlled budgets this can destroy the campaign budget quickly.

Compare this against our new targeted phrases

iPhone 11


Keyword Search Volume Keyword Difficulty CPC Keyword Intents
iphone 11 unlocked 1,300 44 0.91 transactional
iphone 11 pro max second hand 590 33 0.53 commercial
iphone 11 pro max used 390 37 0.53 commercial
second hand iphone 11 pro max 390 33 0.58 commercial
iphone 11 pro max monthly payment 320 39 0.7 commercial
iphone 11 pro max pay monthly 320 42 1.21 transactional
second hand iphone 11 pro 320 29 0.55 commercial
used iphone 11 pro 320 30 0.66 commercial
used iphone 11 pro max 320 39 0.75 commercial


In this example, we ultimately end up with terms we can set to exact match and build bespoke adverts around. The competition levels are lower, the CPC’s are more achievable and we are more likely to generate conversions, whilst a lower budget will allow us to dominate the Ad Space. 

Step 4. Building & bidding

Build a list fitting to your budget of terms like this to bid on for the most possible ranking gains for the lowest possible cost. Of course you want to avoid any branded terms since people searching for “coca cola” don’t really want to find pepsi.

In this case, no, Pepsi is not ok!

Alongside this you want to create content to build your rankings for these keywords. You can use Pillar pages to direct more authority and encourage ranking diversity through to key service pages. 

Utilising the data from your paid accounts, you can see what converts and what drives the most leads.

When you have this as an understanding, you can create content on your site that reflects the conversions. The great thing about this is that if you’re smart about it you can create Pillar / Landing pages that encourage better conversion rates for your PPC, whilst also supporting your organic rankings. 

Step 5. Monitor & adapt

After making these changes you need to constantly monitor your analytics to see what’s working and what isn’t. If certain keywords aren’t working then stop spending on them and reroute those funds into the keywords that are working.

Find the pages on your website that are keeping people there for the longest amount of time and direct as much traffic there as possible. Check your goals / objectives, if you’re seeing high bounce rates, this may be an indication the conversion path isn’t resonating with the target phrases. 

Create more content around the topics that are generating you the most traffic. Even when you are on top of rankings it can’t hurt to secure your place even further so that it’s even harder for someone else to dethrone you.

Step 6. Reduce paid advertising reliance as organic traffic grows 

Across our campaigns, one of the most asked questions is at what point can we start reducing paid budgets in favour of organic? 

The answer is never as simple as switching off paid in favour of organic, but over time we work with clients to reduce their reliance on paid advertising, or at the very least reposition the budget into new target areas as the SEO builds. 

In reality, we find that around 80% of our clients continue to grow spend across both channels as they see a strategy that produces consistent growth and results. You can see more about our successful search strategies in our case studies.

SEO is an ongoing process so in reality you’ll be constantly looking to replicate these steps.

If you’re still unsure about anything here and need some advice on SEO for your website, feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] and we’d be happy to have a no obligation chat and see if we can help you out. Even if it’s just a bit of free advice!