Last week, we sat down with a few members from the SEMrush team. In a nutshell, SEMrush is today the world’s leading provider of competitive intelligence and keyword research for professional digital marketing campaigns, with versatile, affordable plans. And yes – we use and love their software.
We talked to Tara, Michael Stricker, Michael Isaac, and Tyler in our Q&A session. (Bios of the team members are at the end of this post.) We asked them how SEMrush came to be, common marketing problems to be faced today, SEO insights for website owners, among other things. It was a great session, with a lot of useful knowledge shared from their team – read, enjoy, and share!
Tell us a little about how SEMrush was started (what’s your founding story)?
Michael Stricker: “It was a dark and stormy night…” – Oleg and partners are the only ones who can answer this… they concocted something to aid their SEO data-gathering, and their peers were so taken with the result that they offered to pay for it… and the rest is history.
Tyler: Oleg and Dmitry were tech guys working for a marketing firm with the task of creating “cool tools” (as Oleg puts it) for their company to run more efficiently. The point wasn’t profit; just create something cool and useful for the industry. They got so into it that they spun off the tools to create SEOQuake then SEMrush.
Tara: Please see this for quotes directly from Oleg.
What kind of daily problems does SEMrush answer for online marketers?
Michael Stricker: Questions arise regarding what keywords your market is using most frequently. SEMrush enables astute marketers to get inside their prospect’s heads for a minute. The fact that it also affords an X-ray into what is working best for one’s online competitors is the icing on the cake. Add to that keywords, ads, clicks and spend for AdWords and you’ve got a chocolate layer cake. Sweeten that with Google Shopping data regarding keywords and prices and you’ve got a tray of high-converting cupcakes on top. Now, consider mobile search terms, visibility tracking and then specify local search down to the city and state, and you’ve got a tiered wedding cake for SEOs married to the data. Roll out the SEO Audit to help find and fix link errors and such that can trap search spiders and prevent your site from being fully indexed and you’ve got confections fit for a Technical SEO. Do that in 28 countries worldwide and Bing U.S. and you’ve given the world a slice of the pie.
Michael Isaac: When people use SEMrush, they are constantly looking for answers. “What will be my next keywords?”, “Who should I be looking at the closest as a competitor?”, “What are the next errors I should fix on my site?”. We help our users find out all of this information every time they log in. We can tell them who is ranking for the same keywords they are, what issues we find with their site through our Site Audit tool, what keywords they should target next through their SEO and multiple other reports that can contribute to their overall success. We have users that are logging in every day fully utilizing the data we have in our database to improve themselves and find new information that will grow their online marketing efforts.
Tyler: Prospecting clients with overview report and site audit. Which keywords to optimize for and which to stay away from. Who’s linking to me, what kind of links, and which links I should no-follow. Who’s spending what and how much in ads? Tracking and reporting SEO/PPC progress.
Tara: While we market SEMrush as a competitive intelligence tool, there are many other things it can do for digital marketers. As a content manager and writer, I appreciate the insight SEMrush offers in editorial direction. I can use it to see which topics we’ve covered thoroughly or where we need more content. SEMrush allows me to combine instinct and data to produce informative content our readers enjoy. You’re not just competing with others, you’re competing with what you’ve already done on your own website.
How would SEMrush benefit a typical marketer looking to analyze or boost their SEO rankings?
Michael Stricker: Market insight comes with crowd-sourced data about what it is that web users are actually searching for, and the words and phrasing they use indicates just where they are on the “path to purchase”. Competitive insight gleaned from understanding your keyword strengths (unique, well-performing content and keywords), weaknesses (gap analysis), opportunities (popular keywords unique to competitors), and threats (keywords that are very competitively shared by commercial foes) all feeds into a holistic picture of what works and what does not, so that experimentation and attendant risk is minimized and positive SEO results can be accelerated and maintained. Knowing when to avoid pursuit of steeply-competitive keywords can preserve working capital for small or new domains. Gaining knowledge of competitors who invoke your brand to gain traffic for themselves is like a suit of golden armor. Forewarned is forearmed.
Michael Isaac: Typical marketers are always looking for ways to improve their SEO and watch their competition closely. We believe here at SEMrush that we have came up with the perfect tool to conduct this research. We have tools that will provide insight on possible keywords you are looking to target or have been keeping an eye on. We offer multiple tools and reports that will assist you with tracking your competition and adding their SEO/PPC campaigns to determine where they have been struggling the most.
Tyler: How wouldn’t they? Unless they feel like wasting a million hours manually crawling SERP results then they need SEMrush. They probably won’t need every feature, but life without a tool like SEMrush is like setting yourself up for failure– as a digital marketing.
Tara: One of my favorite features about SEMrush is the position tracker report. I have my personal website set up in SEMrush and the tool sends me e-mails to let me know how I’m doing. I don’t have very much time to devote to analyzing my own website, and SEMrush automatically sends me reports to let me know what’s going on and how my site is doing against others in the same niche. While I log into the tool for deeper analysis and updates, I often use this to guide my website’s content strategy without having to log into the tool. It’s a blessing for a busy editor.
How have you seen the SEO landscape change since SEMrush was started?
Michael Stricker: Do you mean the stampede of arctic animals? Or, the blind, headlong rush of iterative marketers looking for the ‘next trick’? The emergence of Content Marketing and Inbound Marketing. The level of triggered communications that makes marketing automation possible. The incredible data-gathering such as heat-mapping and analytics that sparked a renaissance in Conversion Rate Optimization. The rise of the consumer to equal voice and footing with brands, and the new reliance on Online Reputation Management and Social Customer Relations. The double-digit increases in AdWords budgets, and Google’s revenues. The way that free PLA Ads became a paid advertising channel and the new balance as budgets shift to increased investments in Google Shopping. The dominance of Mobile SEO and smartphone use. The prevalence of App use on smartphones, so much so that Google Now must overlay search results into Apps to gain face time with mobile users. The rise of AI and machine learning in use by Google to improve search results. The improvement of location by IP, cell tower, triangulation, GPS, and now, in-store beacons that informs personal results.
Tyler: The PPC environment is way more competitive– Campaigns are running much leaner and opportunities dry up faster than they use to because so many people are using competitive tools like SEMrush.
Tara: I’m still relatively new to using SEMrush, but as a content writer well aware of the affect Google Panda had on the industry, SEMrush is now an important tool in content strategy, allowing me to make the most out of those long tail keywords (most of which are also evergreen) for a long-term content strategy.
We love SEMrush’s Twitter chat, #semrushchat! Tell us a little about how you started and grew that.
Tara: Olga Andrienko began #semrushchat in October of 2014. It’s grown from there! Olga will go into more detail about the success of the chat on the SEMrush blog over the month of September. When I first started at SEMrush half a year ago, #semrushchat was one of the easiest ways for me to connect with the digital marketing community right away. It’s one of the best networking opportunities I’ve experienced – all from the comfort of my desk.
What’s one good SEO tip for achieving better rankings you’d give to a typical website owner?
Michael Stricker: Learn what your market is looking for, how they’re asking for it, and at what step along the ‘buyer journey that they are signaling intent by using certain phrases. Work on every step of the ‘funnel’, but pay special attention to the terms of ‘transactional’ or commercial intent. If I had time to say two tips, the second would be, Learn from competitors so you can do what works, with less expense, and risk.
Michael Isaac: The best way to achieve better rankings would be to analyze your competition. What are they doing that you are not? By reviewing who is ranking within the top position and reviewing their landing pages, descriptions and titles being used, you can then structure your content to be more relevant to the keywords you are targeting and leap over your competition.
Tyler: Have a well thought out URL structure before committing to a website.
Tara: Many people start blogs and websites to establish themselves as experts. Whether you have a website or not, you need to take some time actually living in your community (Facebook and LinkedIn groups, Twitter chats, meetups, other networking events) to really grasp it. This can inform your instincts about industry trends, while SEMrush can help you sure up your content strategy around what you already know. Also, know where to go for help and don’t be afraid to ask for it. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses within digital marketing. People often ask me for content and editorial advice, but I always review in-depth data analyses from SEMrush with helpful members of our marketing, sales, and customer success teams. Sometimes they find a story or trend that I’ve missed.
For someone just starting out in SEO, what are some best tips?
Michael Stricker: Brands must do R.P.S. — Real People Stuff. Affiliate marketers who can afford to shed burned-out domain names as they get penalized by Google, be it manually or algorithmically, may be able to afford to rely on iterative techniques like mass link-building or blog networks or link wheels, but brands that must preserve their equity cannot take that risk. The more Google knows about users, their interests and the context of their searches, the harder it will be to fake relevance. So, be prepared to learn as much as possible about search queries, market segments, affinities and interests, buyer and prospect personas. Then, apply that information to put the right message in front of the right person at the right time. Until search becomes predictive and passively delivers great stuff to humans, you still have a chance to influence search outcomes.
Tyler: Learn, learn, learn, then apply, then learn some more, then post on twitter.
Tara: 1) Participate in Twitter chats. It’s the most friendly and accessible way to learn. I recommend: #semrushchat, #cochat, #inboundhour, #scottsbizchat (especially for small e-commerce sites), and #LinkedInChat for general networking. 2) Find your niche and own it! It’ll evolve and change over time, and that’s okay. 3) Blog as you learn. Answer your own questions in blog posts so your audience can see your growth. It’s an extra reward for your research. Give credit to those who help you or provide useful information. 4) Make sure your message is clear. I recommend checking out Don Purdum’s blog and podcast for more information on how to do that. 5) If you’re starting out at an agency or other business involved in SEO, you should be able to learn something every day. If you’re just fetching coffee and not being offered the opportunity to learn, move on – there are plenty of other organizations that will take an interest in your personal success and personal brand. (SEMrush is hiring, by the way!)
We love SEMrush and it’s impressive capabilities! Thanks for being here for our Q&A chat.
Who Is Michael Stricker?
Michael Stricker markets the leading research tool for Competitive Intelligence as U.S. Marketing Director of SEMrush. The hundreds of digital marketing campaigns he has constructed and consulted deliver millions of impressions to enterprise web-based businesses. Decades of agency experience enable his actionable strategies, creative concepts, scalable processes and do-able tactics to achieve business goals. Michael has spoken at ClickZ Live (formerly SES), Etail, HERO Conference and SMX East, and contributes to blogs such as CIO.com, B2Community, SEMrush.com.
Who Is Michael Isaac?
Mike Isaac is the Customer Success Content Manager at SEMrush.
Who Is Tyler Wilson?
Tyler Wilson is a sales executive at SEMrush. A recent graduate from Temple University’s Fox School of Business, Tyler came to SEMrush in January 2015 with two years of digital marketing experience– interning for DMi Partners and SEOM interactive.
Who Is Tara M. Clapper?
Tara M. Clapper is Technical Editor (blog editor) at SEMrush and Senior Editor at The Geek Initiative, a website celebrating women in geek culture. The author of thousands of blogs and hundreds of small business websites, Tara enjoys blogging about SEO copywriting, content management, corporate culture, personal branding, networking and LinkedIn. She has over a decade of experience in digital publishing.