Our special guest for episode 389 and episode 391 of the award-winning EDGE of the Web podcast was Fernando Angulo, Head of Communications at SEMRush. Host Erin Sparks spoke with Fernando about how this global SEO company managed through the pandemic, the world data trends it saw during 2020, and what the SEMRush platform does for SEO and digital marketing. Here’s what we learned:
SEMRush: SEO Automation at its Best
SEMrush is an all-in-one platform designed for marketing teams to improve digital presence and is known to be the leading product in SEO automation. EDGE show sponsor Site Strategics is a SEMRush shop, literally connecting to the platform on an hourly basis. Not only that, but they’re extremely effective at marketing their own platform and brand, as well as constantly pushing out valuable information to marketers. Their remarketing ad campaigns are amazingly effective. Here are some striking statistics about SEMRush:
- 1,000 working for the company
- 7,000,000+ users worldwide
- 18 billion known keywords in the platform
- 4 trillion known backlinks
The backlinks figure is important because those are good backlinks, meaning they’ve vetted out any bad or toxic backlinks. And then there are the highly effective marketing efforts of the company, such as Global Marketing Day 2019, a 24-hour online conference with live broadcasting from studios in San Francisco, New York, London, and Sydney, thus covering all time zones, and of course, Fernando speaking at 50+ top conferences every year.
Pandemic Impacts on Employees and Customers
From the employee perspective, when the first lockdowns happened, there was a huge spike in productivity among SEMRush workers, but it was being driven by people not knowing how to cope with being shut-in at home and so they just kept working, sometimes as much as 12-15 hours a day while also experiencing the stresses of being cooped up with their family or whoever else they live with. It quickly became apparent they needed support from psychologists to help people better manage their working life during the shutdowns, and so the company did that and it really did make a difference in the lives of many employees who were at risk of burnout. It helped people articulate what was really important to them both work-wise and life-wise each day and prioritize from there.
As a company, SEMRush also went over and above in expressing their appreciation of the employees and would do all kinds of gestures like care packages, food deliveries, and so on to get people to take a break, enjoy a meal with their family, and so on. The point was to make sure they were continuing to maintain healthy relationships with their loved ones rather than just focusing on work. And both leaders and managers throughout the company were encouraged to be actively telling their direct reports to stop working so much and do other things. There were company-sponsored online cooking seminars and all sorts of other supportive things.
SEMRush Focuses on Education
From the user perspective, Fernando pointed out that SEMRush is a very product-centric company, meaning it’s highly driven by user feedback in terms of making adjustments to what the platform does and the various tools it offers. What was crazy with the pandemic was how all the newcomers who were planning on making the digital transformation over the course of the next five years suddenly all wanted to do it in about three months! Trying to deal with all the very basic questions newcomers have when it becomes a tsunami of 100,000 users a day all wanting to know what to do and how to do it was a bit much.
What SEMRush had to do was actively push many of those new users into educational channels they needed in terms of getting a website up and running if they didn’t have one or learning some SEO basics through SEMRush Academy. For the newcomers, it was all about supporting them with the fundamentals to get up and running, not high-level material at all. In other cases, it was supporting businesses that already had an online presence but had to pivot their branding because of shifts in their customers’ needs. For example, one lawyer who was all about meeting the demand for wills and testaments found those requests plummeting but divorce requests were spiking, so he had to quickly shift all his branding and SEO to align with that change in consumer demand. There were literally thousands and thousands of stories like that in 2020.
SEMRush is also reaching out to marketing professors in universities around the world to help them get more up-to-speed on digital marketing so they can more effectively develop and teach online digital marketing courses. And it’s specifically about integrating strategies for content marketing, SEO, social media marketing, PPC and other paid to advertise, and so on. There are something like 30,000 institutions of higher education around the world, and SEMRush is trying to work with as many of them as possible—so far about 10%. This focus on education also applies internally to SEMRush where education is constant and includes monthly tests as well.
What SEMRush is doing in this regard is critically important to the digital marketing industry as a whole because there are no platform-agnostic certifications or anything like that to bring consistent standards to how people are educated about digital marketing. This would be so important for agencies who need to hire digital marketers and have some level of confidence that they’ve received a decent education. It’s time to move beyond platform-specific certifications.
Global Data Trends in 2020
Fernando published an important blog article in December called Semrush World Data Trends: 2020 Year in Review. While many want to look forward and don’t want to look back at 2020, these data trends are important in order to better understand how everything changed on a dime in 2020. From the pandemic to racial unrest, natural disasters, the presidential election, and more, there was just a lot happening in 2020, and the infographic in this article lays it all out very nicely. It’s very useful for people to see this data from a global perspective instead of just inside their own country.
Some might be surprised to see the most-searched Google query worldwide was George Floyd, and that’s because the rest of the world wanted to know what it was all about. And fully 20% of the trending keyword searches in 2020 were related to Black Lives Matter. The most trending news topics included coronavirus, the US elections, Brexit, Black Lives Matter, and the Beirut explosion. It’s also very powerful when we get to see so much of this breaking news because there are so many devices out there now that can record and upload to the internet and instantly share across the entire planet.
Thanks to the pandemic and so many people working from home, all the top fashion item searches had to do with gloves, sweatpants, pajamas, joggers, and slippers. Those fashion trends are certainly going to be unique to 2020, we hope. All the professional clothing companies must have taken a huge hit, although people still needed shirts and ties, but not pants! Netflix was the top streaming service, outshining others with 671% higher average monthly searches. Amazon was the most visited e-commerce site with an increase of 24% in website traffic year-over-year.
The infographic is a fantastic summary, and below that, the article highlights the most curious findings, and then below that, you can click on various links to see the actual data from which the article was written.
Fernando emphasized the reason it’s important to look back on 2020 from this data perspective is in order to allow it to inform how you set strategies for 2021 based on trends. You have to be informed about where people are putting their attention in order to stay relevant. But you also have to use this data wisely in order to not take advantage of trends in immoral ways, not capitalizing on fear and suffering.
A Deep Dive into SEMRush as a Digital Marketing Tool
There are so many tools and platforms out there, and each one tends have to things it does well and things it doesn’t do well, which is why many digital marketers end up using so many different tools. SEMRush is a tool that has withstood the test of time as a tool that helps digital marketers really level up and grow into greater skills and effectiveness. Fernando positions the various tools into three broad layers:
- Market Research: Users don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on market research if they use the just use the traffic analytics tool to build their own report. This will show you what other sites are doing that get them their traffic. You can build an industry market matrix showing the leaders, the newcomers, the established players, the niche players, and the game-changers. This is important because you have to be able to see what’s currently happening in your industry.
- Competitor Analysis: The next layer of tools are more powerful in comparing your efforts relative those of your competitors. This will reveal what you’re missing in terms of keywords as you compare your domain to another domain and see where there’s overlap and where there’s divergence. This tool, because it’s so visual, is a great aid to agencies as they meet with prospective clients who aren’t SEO-savvy because they can literally see what they’re missing relative to their competitors. And then it helps inform building a strategy. This competitor analysis also includes PPC since it’s about bidding on keywords in Google Ads, so there are budgetary issues to be clarified and you’ll be able to see what you’d have to spend to beat your competitors. This layer is also where you can track user demand trends for various keywords in order to be as relevant as possible to what people are currently paying attention to as well as what form it should take, such as content marketing or social media marketing and so on. This can further shaped with their keyword manager tool that helps identify what you need to take full advantage of the different SERP features. You might need a video, or an image, or something else that will help you get into certain SERP features like a carousel of images and so on.
- Projects: This third layer of tools is where you touch at an even more granular layer what you need to be working on. The powerful tool here is position tracking for keywords because you’ll see exactly where you’re at and if you don’t like where you’re at then you have work to do on the content that will get you there.
But the three must-use tools when starting out are the SEO Audit, the Content Audit, and the Bad Link Audit. These give you the baseline of what’s going on what needs to be fixed. Just those three tools will give you plenty of things to work on over the course of several months or years depending on the size of your project.
New things SEMRush is doing includes Sellerly, a new e-commerce set of tools focused on helping Amazon sellers optimize their Amazon business. SEMRush also acquire a PR SaaS company called Prowly because getting those PR links is pure gold for SEO, and this platform helps you connect with PR professionals and journalists to get your story out there beyond your company’s own channels. These kinds of initiatives are being rolled out because of SEMRush user input and what they say they want and need. SEMRush will always be user-driven.
If you want to upskill your SEO game for free, check out SEMRush Academy!
Connect with Fernando Angulo and SEMRush
Twitter: @Fernando1Angulo (https://twitter.com/Fernando1Angulo)
SEMRush Twitter: @Semrush (https://twitter.com/Semrush)
SEMRush Website: https://www.semrush.com
SEMRush Facebook: @Semrush (https://www.facebook.com/Semrush)
SEMRush LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/semrush/
Your Digital Marketing ROI Revealed
If you’ve ever wished you just had a clear starting point for understanding your digital marketing ROI, you can get the baseline you seek with a Site Strategics report examining your SEO, content, social media, and PPC. Visit https://edgeofthewebradio.com/roi to get 30% off a comprehensive review of your digital assets!