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How to Use SEMrush for Paid Search

Considering the purchase of SEMrush to turbo charge your paid search programs? Learn how you can use SEMrush to streamline the creation of new campaigns and improve the quality of your search ads.

SEMrush is used by over 4 million marketers to improve the effectiveness of their paid and organic search campaigns. Marketers use SEMrush to learn from competitors' campaigns, find the most profitable keywords to target, and build more effective Google search ads.

SEMrush's paid search tools support different steps of the campaign creation process. Below, we'll walk through the creation of a paid search campaign and detail how to use SEMrush for paid search.

Table of Contents

How Does SEMrush Improve Paid Search Campaigns?

SEMrush's tools streamline the process of launching a new paid search campaign and provide intelligence that makes campaigns more successful. Marketers use SEMrush tools throughout the process of launching a new campaign.

Process StepSEMrush ToolHow it Improves Paid Search Campaigns
Foundational ResearchCompetitive IntelligenceSee the keywords & ads that your competitors are using to get traffic.
Research KeywordsKeyword Magic Tool, Keyword Gap ToolIdentify more high-value keywords that work for your website.
Organize Keywords Into GroupsPPC Keyword ToolQuickly organize your keyword list into campaigns and ad groups.
Build Search AdsAd BuilderUse templates to build search ads that you can upload into Google.
Set CPC BidsPPC Keyword ToolSee the market prices for each keyword to set your initial bids.

What Types of Paid Search Campaigns Does SEMrush Help?

SEMrush has tools to improve the effectiveness of three different types of ad campaigns:

  • Search Ad Campaigns
  • Display Ad Campaigns
  • Product Listing Ads (PLAs)

In this guide, we'll focus on how SEMrush can help you or your team execute paid search campaigns. Many of the same tools and processes can be used for display and product listing ad campaigns. For example, SEMrush's Display Advertising and PLA Research tools can be used to research your competitors' display & PLA marketing tactics.

How to Use SEMrush for Paid Search

Launching a new paid search campaign requires keyword research, the creation of ad groups, building search ads, and setting bids. SEMrush has created a tool that helps marketers with each step in the process.

Research Your Competitors' Online Marketing Tactics

The first step in launching a paid search campaign is foundational research. Understanding the marketing tactics that your competitors are using is an ideal way to gather this information.

With SEMrush's competitive research tools, you can discover:

  • The keywords your competitors are bidding on
  • How long they've been bidding on each keyword
  • The ads they are using for every keyword
  • How much they are spending on each search ad

The Advertising Research report visually displays any company's search ads. With one click, you can see all the keywords that each ad is running against.

SEMrush Advertising Research Report

Research Keywords to Target

Once you've done your foundational research to identify the different types of keywords you want to target, it's time to find the specific keywords that will work best. Your goal is to find keywords that have a high volume of searches and a low cost-per-click (CPC). SEMrush has two tools that greatly simplify this process.

Traditional Keyword Research

SEMrush's Keyword Magic Tool is likely its most used feature. You enter a root keyword into the search bar, and SEMrush returns hundreds of related search terms along with valuable information including search volume and an estimated CPC.

SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool

You can save the keywords you want to target and load them into SEMrush's PPC Keyword tool. In the next step, we'll show you how to organize these keywords into groups that are eventually loaded into Google Ads.

Competitor Gap Analysis

You can also discover promising keywords using SEMrush's Keyword Gap tool. This tool allows you to find keywords that your competitors rank well for, but you do not. This is an efficient and productive way to identify new keywords that you should target.

SEMrush Keyword Gap

Read our SEMrush review for more detail on how to do keyword research using SEMrush.

Organize Your Target Keywords Into Ad Groups

Once you've identified your target keywords, the next step is organizing them into groups. SEMrush's PPC Keyword tool allows you to import keywords and organize them at the campaign and ad group level. You can also create negative keywords and assign a specific match type to keywords (broad, phrase or exact).

SEMrush PPC Keyword Tool

Once your keywords are grouped, you can export the full list and upload them into Google Ads. You can also import existing Google campaigns and modify your keywords using this SEMrush tool.

Build Search Ads

After your keyword groups are set, the next step is creating your search ads. The SEMrush Ad Builder allows you to create search ads from existing templates and assign them to the campaigns you saved from the PPC Keyword tool. The editor includes all major ad components including callouts, site links, and structured snippets.

While creating your ads, SEMrush displays the ads that your competitors use for the same keywords. This competitive intelligence streamlines the ad creation process and results in higher quality ads for your search campaigns.

SEMrush Ad Builder

Similar to your keyword list, these ads can be exported via CSV for easy upload into Google Ads. SEMrush also allows you to export ads into a PPC Map that provides a visual representation of your ad structure.

Set CPC Bids

Once your keywords and ads are uploaded into Google Ads, the last piece of data you'll need is your CPC bids. This is the dollar amount you are willing to pay for a click on each search ad.

There are several reports in SEMrush that share the current CPC for any keyword. The PPC Keyword tool includes an up-to-date column with this information that you can use to confidently place your starting bids and launch your campaign.


Launching new paid search campaigns involves many steps and can be overwhelming without the right support. Fortunately, SEMrush has created a suite of tools that streamline the process for marketers. The intelligence provided by SEMrush empowers marketers to find more profitable keywords and build more effective search ads.

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Bruce Hogan

Bruce Hogan is Co-founder & CEO of SoftwarePundit. He leads the team's research and publishes content about software products and trends. Bruce has experience investing at multi-billion dollar private equity firms, leading teams at venture-backed technology companies, and launching new businesses. You can connect with Bruce on LinkedIn.

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