MTM#32: How SEMrush Grew to 6 Million Users Through Community Marketing with Fernando Angulo

« More Insights

Welcome back to my podcast More than Marketing. We’re chatting virtually because we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. And today, our guest is the Head of International Partnerships at SEMrush, Fernando Angulo. He has been with SEMrush for nine years since the beginning of the company’s marketing efforts. One of the most recognized faces of the brand, Fernando speaks at over 150 conferences worldwide every year.

We discuss how conferences have changed because of the pandemic, why community influencer marketing has worked for SEMrush, how search engines perform differently based on the language, why SEO teams need a robust SEO tool, and more.


– [Man] So in SEMrush we can find all the information that is public all over the world. With more than 20 billion keywords with a couple of clicks.

– Hey, welcome back to More than Marketing. I’m your host, Arsham Mirshah We are remote as we are still in the middle of a pandemic. And today I have the head of communications from SEMrush, SEM, rush. I think you guys call it SEMrush search engine, marketing, rush, whatever right? And Fernando Agula, approximately

– Angulo

– I’m sorry, Fernando Angulo Yeah, you you’ve been at SEMrush for nine years coming in September. And you know, I, my understanding is you manage a team of really awesome team that’s doing a lot of different channels, like influencer, as you know, as well as the PR and all the marketing channels that you would imagine roll up to you which is impressive. As well, you speak, right? Like however many conferences a year. I’m very interested to see how that’s changing given the pandemic, but very nice to have you today. One thing I want to know. Fernando that I find very impressive is when I was doing research on you, I find that you’re writing articles in different languages. So like I’m, my parents are from Iran, so I speak Farsi, but I cannot articulate, you know, B2B.

– Oh, really?

– Yeah, but I can’t articulate, you know, B2B, digital marketing strategies in Farsi. You see what I’m saying, like I can’t, especially I can’t write about him in Farsi. So the fact that I see you doing that in Spanish, it looked like is very cool very impressive.

– Well, it is thank you for having me here today was important for this one. And of course my mother tongue or my main language is Spanish, but the last 20 years I was living in Russia. So I was studying, I was getting married I had kids in Russia. So basically my main language move to be Russian right? But for the last two years, I moved to Prague right now I’m living in the Czech Republic. I’m going to study and Czech every, every day. So I speak kind of of Czech as well today. And yes, people love digital marketing in every single language. And when I’m traveling, doing this conferences, I see that, okay, there are many, many interesting results for every single language and it’s really different to see how the Google bot, how Fred, for example, which is this artificial intelligence algorithm is identifying the intent in different languages. Right? For example, in check is completely difficult Norweigan it’s crazy in Russian it’s kind of not there yet but it’s really easy to be having a beautiful result in English. The edge is because a Norwegian, for example, or Czech people they have so many different words for expressing one simple thing for example, open the door. You can say it like in 10 different times or right. And how a board, how an algorithm is going to be identifying that. Well, it’s kind of amazing. You have this lit with a little knowledge about some of the languages, it’s really great. What, as you were mentioning, no travel is in the last four months I was doing, and this is something that I want to share with you of course, I was doing basically three different countries per week, since 2018. So yes, he was like 150 a series, 150 conference per year for me. The last four months I don’t know how, how has it for, for you, if you were attending a flying events, but for me, it was kind of 85% of my time right now that changed a lot of course, because everything is online. The number of conferences is it’s increased because they’re all online. Right, right. Again, I can not wait the moment when I’m going to be in an offline conference or a networking environment. And I have, I don’t know I really need to hug someone from the industry.

– Someone needs a hug. Fernando needs to give a hug, someone needs a Fernando hug. That’s good, man. Yeah, so I, you know, I imagine a lot of conferences were just canceled outright, but then a lot of, you know, smaller organizations probably started. I mean, that’s what I see at least they started, you know, a quote unquote conference or virtual event or whatever. So are you, I imagine you’re just as busy as ever with, It’s not like they were all canceled and you have nothing to do. It’s that they just moved online.

– Yeah. I bought it.

– Smart, is it to handle, right?

– Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, definitely you don’t have to travel. You know, the travel is a lot of time and, and, you know, stress and money really also that goes into that. So, and that’s all been, that’s all shifted. But the need, I think the need for, you know, you go to conferences and events to, to hear what the latest and greatest is to hear, you know, what the bleeding edge is and to get inspired and motivated right into, you know, make this, make, get input into how you’re going to make decisions to shift your marketing strategy. I think the need for that, that inspiration and that information is at an all time high, given that there’s so much changing in the world today very quickly obviously we’re always changing, but the rate of change with this pandemic is like what we’ve never seen before. So, you know, are you, do you, would you agree with that, that, you know, people are hungry for the information still or demand is there, or.

– let me add something, there is this search query that was really popular a couple of years ago. There is how to open a business on an online business, How to sell, it was really popular. You can check that Google trends, you see that okay. 70% because it goes from one to 100, right. But in different places of the world, if you take it that globally, Oh, I got how to sell online. It went crazy in March, in, in May, in June So you can see that people searching for that everywhere is really, really interesting how that’s, how the change is increasing, how to become an influencer. Also, so people were trying to say, okay, there is this Instagram platform, there is TikTok platform. So everybody went out and created their TikTok profiles to become an influencer. Right. People are changing a lot the way they are, they consuming content. And of course how they’re going to be, how this is going to be continuing. That’s the big question.

– Yeah, how it’s going to be continuing is definitely the big question, you know, will we go back? What does that change when we go back? You know, I think there’s going to be a permanent change. I’m just looking on Google trends now, how did I become an influencer? Yeah. It’s a steady rise. Worldwide steady rise. And then a peak in the week of April 26 was the peak evidently, so that’s wild. And what I really find kind of cool with like SEMrush is that you guys have so much data, you know, we’re talking offline, you said you all hit 6 million, 6 million users recently.

– 6 Million users. Yeah. We could go, Oh, it’s fantastic. Actually the first 100,000, it took us like four years to reach that. And the first the first million users, it was like, cause say six years, then three, three million, then four million Last year we had, we reach 5or 5 million. And only in three months it was one more million. So yes, basically it’s just growing and growing.

– That’s amazing, you know, we’re, we we’re mechanics as an agency, we have an agency account there. We without all of our clients that come on, we suggest to them that they get their own account just in case, like we’re not in the picture, you know, down the line that they retain the data with the access and all that. So we’ve been sending you clients as well and users as well. So there’s that we’ll keep up the good work we promise. It will look, you know, the tool is really, you know, this isn’t to promote SEMrush, but the tool is, is, you know, world-class right. Like, I mean, it’s, it’s like if you’re a car mechanic, you know, you’re not, you don’t just use a wrench to fix everything, right? You use specialized tools and SEMrush is that when it comes to digital, online marketing.

– Yes, you need power tools. So if you want to have your online disability, your online store, blog, whatever the problem is that you want to have, you need to use a tool, right? And if you can just have one single login and one single password to work with your then marketing social media, not to, and to have different accounts and different tools. That’s one way that we think that it should be one tool will help you with one platform, with different tools, with everything.

– SEMrush a platform in that platform. You have a lot of different tools, so, you know, if I don’t know if this is a good analogy is like, you know, if I go to Home Depot or Lowe’s or Hardware store, and I say, hey let me buy the, I want to do a lawn maintenance, right? So they will give you the, there are brands out there, Like Black and Decker or Robey or whatever. And they’ll say, okay, you’re going to buy these seven tools. And they’re all part of one platform. They all use the same battery pack, they all use the same, whatever, you know? And so that’s what you guys are for digital marketing. I’m really, what’s really cool for me is like, you guys have so much data data that A, you’re collecting yourselves, but also users are, are, are, you know, pointing you in the direction of, and giving you, I’m really interested to know like, okay, you SEMrush has seen this hockey stick growth. Like what’s leading to that? Like how, how, how, how, how is it that it was four years for a hundred thousand? And I mean, some of it is brand recognition and, and what have you, but what is really working for SEMrush? And I’m asking because you guys are a B2B software. Right, and I, and at the end of the day.

– Essentially yes, but in a sense we are B2B and B2C, because any and as you mentioned, a couple of minutes to go, if you go to a magazine, you want to buy the set of tools. But most of the people they’re just going to be using one because they are starting, right. They don’t need the rest of the tools. So for those some profile answers or bloggers or social media professionals, they don’t need to use everything. But if they’re going to be escalate in their internal processes, they’re going to be growing up at some point, they will need to use all the tools. So we are basically, if they’re going to be growing, they’re going to be B2C, B2B as well.

– Sure. Yeah. So I’m really interested in like what you guys are seeing working, like, is it the influencer marketing? Is it, you know, just paid search? I mean, I know it’s not that, but what are you seeing, working for SEMrush and then, well, let’s start there.

– Yeah. Yep. And that’s a good question because we have communities. Begin and when, when I started working and SEMrush, we had a really good community. And of course the digital marketing industry is really big people who are, who are doing SEO. For example, they are really friendly national culture, right? Oh, you’re doing SEO, okay, let’s fix some, some beers. Let’s interchange, links, right? So they’re, they’re really friendly. This is a great community. But when we started creating different products and purposes, we saw that, okay, there’s this, this SEO community that has nothing to do with the PPC community. PPC communities, other type of people, or for example, the conversion rate optimization optimization committee. This has completely entirely different community. The social media community is another content. So we wanted to evolve into a content marketing platform because, okay, you are doing SEO. You need to have content, right. And you need to increase those processes. So for doing that, we just aligned with our goals in our user’s needs. So we have these meetings, we have these interviews with users, every single, I can say every single month. And we have our power users as well. Our super elite influencers who are giving us a lot of their knowledge of course we are invite lot of feedback, yes. But of course we are inviting them to these private events in a different country with a lot of mosquitoes, tequilas with a lot of knowledge as well. We are inviting people, like, for example, Avinash Kaushik

– Yeah., he’s my idol I love that guy.

– Fantastic so you might just give them feedback for splash and having a high, but only for 40 people, a workshop three hours with Avinash.

– You call him an influencer. So like, I would say influencer marketing lives under kind of community marketing. Is that fair?

– That’s definitely. because if…can go with a pace with the pay, the strategy or just with the, with the relationship is strategy non-paid based.

– Right, right, right. No, I think that’s really, I think, okay. So what I heard there is is the community is community marketing.

– It is what really is helping SEMrush, you know? Yeah, I can see that.

– I mean, look, I see your ads on Facebook and they’re good ads.

– That’s right, so I mean, that doesn’t hurt. Okay. I’m sure the SEO and the content marketing strategy is working too, but, but then the day to day, but also, but I know you have a big component in the community, in the community marketing play community and influencer marketing.

– Yeap, so that’s interest. So I think, you know, actually that, that could, and I mean, is it fair to me to ask, like you guys pay, I imagine you paid some of these, like I know you have an affiliate program. Right. So, but.

– Oh, affiliate program the big yeah.

– Yeah. But then you pay some of these influencers to, to spend time with you, to post for you, right? Just like other brands.

– Yeah, but that’s a, that’s a completely different strategy here. They are rewarded because they are promoting our services in their own platforms. We are not asking to do to the other. We are giving them the tools so they can use banners. They can use our research or information. But basically the, the influencer program is kind of different because you are working, let’s say for a company called these names, right. Or book in your, a B corporation. So, but people in that company are using different tools, to identify who are those people? And we say, okay, these guys are for a big brand. They are corporate and they are using our tools. Let’s ask him why and how they’re using it. So for those people who are working with different internal teams around the globe, and I can say, we’re working with, for example, where we’re working with a helipad card, a Phillips, and we are learning from them, from those corporates, what are the tools that they need in order to improve, escalate their own internal processes? And we say, okay, we can build this internally to try how your team is going to use because in your team, you have, I don’t know, 15,000 people, maybe that’s some it’s going to, for the rest of the community. We have at least 100 different experiments by month. So we, we are running lots of experiments, yes, yes. We have, we are crazy about the experiments. Most of them have, of course they failed because yes, there are experiments, right? Some of them, their stay and they’re really, really great. So that’s why–

– What are the scope of these experiment, they just like UI changes, copy changes. Or are they like brand new features or are they still.

– Oh yes, there are brand new features. Of course you can actually, you can see all of the, of those wishlist experiments in SEMrush, we have this, tool that is called a User Voice

– Yeah. Yeah, User Voice, yeah I know User Voice–forum

– Right, yeah

– Both people are both in there and someone from our product team they’re to see, okay. People are interested in this one. Hey guys, I’m going to be adding this to my backlog of tasks and I need some better testers who are in this group. Okay. I have 500 people who voted here share with me your emails. They have these better testing group with one of our product owners and they are developing the tools with the community. That is fantastic.

– Yeah. That’s suggested it, right? But I like this idea of, I love the idea of community. I do agree, obviously I’m in the SEO, I’m in the digital marketing community. Right. So, so yes, we are great people. I would agree with that. Right. But, but I also, I’m wondering like how this might translate to someone else. Like, I don’t know, say you are a, you know, you do cybersecurity consulting, right. Like, I don’t know if that community is as, as vibrant or as sharing as we are. So I’m trying to think, like what would be a strategy for them to leverage, influence or to leverage community, you know, relationship marketing, you know what I mean? Like a B2B, that’s a consulting firm, for example, or, I mean, there’s other softwares too, but they’re more enterprise for instance and they’re not, you know, their sales cycles maybe longer than an SEMrush.

– Yeah. Yeah. The, the pipeline for those services, those products, I believe it’s longer. But for example, for the, for this community, the cyber security or the hackers community, if you want to say that as well, we have another type of offers because yes, we have 6 million users. Right. That means that in terms of security, we need to be aligned with the latest, latest updates in insecurity. And we have this price, I don’t remember the name of that is Hunter, bug hunters. Yes, yes.

– Yeah, yeah, yeah.

– It’s for bug hunting and I believe we have around, I don’t remember how much money we offer a lot of money so hacker can go enter…

– That’s cool

– Ye, yes. So every single month where we’re paying them for just check where, where entry points somewhere that we are weak.

– That’s a really cool content idea. Just thinking, like, if you’re, if you’re a, you know, security consulting shop. A good content idea would be to go to companies like SEMrush or any company that, that any SAS or any software that is doing bug hunting and, and, you know, and work with them to, you know, get ideas or get, get content from them and say, Hey,you know, this bug hunting really worked for this thing. We identify this thing has already been patched so we can talk about it. Right? And now that’s our security company talks about it. That’d be really interesting content to follow. Like I would want to follow that. And then when I have security need, I know who I’m going to go to. So people who were talking, giving me the interest in content. So I think that’s really cool. And like with Avinash Kaushik, like you guys are definitely leveraging his community, but what he gets out of it as he gets to also leverage your community, right? Like when, when, when you bring him in to talk or when you bring him into, you know, give you ideas or to be a tool. So I, I really liked this idea of Fernando. I want to tell you about something. One of our clients did recently and yeah, just, you might appreciate it is they came to us and said, hey, we’re, we’re going to do a virtual event. Okay, but we need you to help us market it. And we said, okay, tell us about it. So they tell us about it. And one of the things we learned is the speakers were like, you know, chief information security officer at Microsoft, or Google, or insert a big name here. And we’re like, okay, look like we can go and buy ads on LinkedIn to, to get to your target audience. We’ll do that that’s fine. But what we really should do is get these speakers to really be promoting this because they have the audience that you want. Right? And so that’s where the majority. And so we did that. We put a plan in place on giving them the tools, the content, you know, the script and to do that. And that’s what really drove our, our virtual event. Registration.

– Smart. Yeah. That’s very smart.

– It’s like leveraging other people’s marketing, OPM, other people’s marketing, right. Other people’s network or whatever. And they’re happy to do it, they’re already there. They’re already paying them to speak. Like what I mean? Right. Like why not?

– Yeah. Why not? This is a bit of digital marketing or affiliate marketing. Of course you can ask all the questions you can ask for everything, of course, what is legal and moral, moral and ethical correct. And, and you can measure that as well. You can have all the results in the firsthand. And of course, when you are doing this for a few years, you can say, Oh my God, maybe I can try this. Or no, I will not do this because I have this experiment and it’s failed. I need to change that because you don’t want to repeat the failure. Right. You want to repeat this class?

– Yeah, yeah. You know this, I agree with that. As a, in, in digital, you can measure everything. And so you get feedback a lot faster, right? So you, you know, the scientific method is, is, you know, you make an observation, then you make a hypothesis, then you test it and you check the results. That happens a lot faster in digital because you can measure it and you can experiment a lot faster, which is really cool. And the data, the data, the basic, the data comes in a lot faster as opposed to like offline or some traditional thing, or, you know whatever and data speaking of the data you were telling me something that’s really cool. You SEMrush is now, I don’t know if this is a strategy is just something you guys are doing cause you have the data, but you’re going to media. tell me about the media outlets.

– Oh yeah. This is about the strategy that SEMrush take being a data provider. So when, yeah, so when all this story with the fake news started coming and the big media outlets suffering, for lack of lack of trust, we decided to say, okay, so when you are giving your opinion on something, and you’re saying words like, I believe, I think, or in my opinion and you don’t have any data to support that you’re fake news, right? So for helping the big media outlets, and of course having some brand awareness, just put our logo on that data. We had a group of data scientists who are working with data from more than 800 million domains and 20 billion keywords all over the world. Of course we have the sources of traffic and we’re using different data points to say, okay, how many people change the they behavior after the tweaker, Twitter hacking situation with the Bitcoin as cam last week. So people check in only a bit comprise, for example, how many the change or how, what is the correlation between the old price with the latest Trump tweet, for example? So what is the sentiment around that? So we see a big stock market Platform’s going down with the price of oil. So people are going to the search engine in this case Google to find answers to their questions, so to their needs. And we can measure that saying, okay, people are looking for this sports sport for the last three months. So what are the sports that people are expecting more to see first, right? We did that for, for Canada last, last, last week for, for a radio and imagine, okay, Canada, right? You have hockey. Okay. In the first place is not Stannis. People are respect him for that because there is one, one guy or one girl, I don’t remember who is the main one. And it’s so it’s so nice to see him playing. And most of the people are where he’s going to be playing. Yeah.

– Oh, it seems like that’s like, that’s cool. That’s like business intelligence, you know, like keyword research, keyword research is sometimes, you know, it it’s like the, you know, you’re talking about content marketing, being the thread that connects like a lot of digital marketing or all of it. I think keyword research is another one of those threads. If you’re an SEO or PPC, you’re doing keyword research. if you’re a content marketer and you’re doing keyword research, you should be doing keyword research. I asked another thread that, that, that ties all that ties does your working together. And that’s what you’re talking about here is, is, you know, it’s not keyword research. It’s, it’s a big data behind keyword research and the fluctuations there in, I think that’s really cool. And then, and then parlaying that into helping media outlets build trust. Right? Yeah. That’s very unique.

– Let me give you an example. A couple of years ago, we were helping British media outlets with the just to make the situation, not that serious, but we found out that when the awards Brexit went out with some of the politic figures in the UK, people were searching about first, what is the European Union? So they were not even aware that they were union that so were going away from what, what is the European union serves the UK. So people were trying to learn more about their right. Yes so fierce can

– Instead of writing about or talking about Brexit, like you can do that. Everyone was doing that, but yeah. but there’s an opportunity over here to talk about what is the European union? When was it formed? What’s the idea behind it? what does it mean for you and then yeah, sure. Yeah, talking about the other side or, or yeah, just informing to begin with. Yeah.

– Yeah, that’s cool. Or another example in, for example, in Australia, they were trying to make, I believe that that law has fast marijuana legal, for example, so all the people are respecting that day when I’m not so sure of that but we’re expecting to that day to sell marijuana related products. So for vegetarians, for vegans, for in candies. So they were searching for those products, one a meal or something related. So people are really, really interested in interest in and imagine new products based on that, because it was.

– Right. Yeah. So you can see that’s cool. It’s like product research.

– Yeah, this is a new market TCC BJ.

– The like, obviously the oil is probably popular, but like milk. Like you, you brought it up, right. It’s like, if you see that, you’re like, wow. Like there was, there was some demand for that. This is what I’m talking about. Like that’s, it’s, it’s not just data to like write the next article it’s data that can influence your entire business strategy or product strategy. Right? That’s that’s really, that’s really cool. It’s business intelligence is what it’s called. And, and I don’t, I mean, I don’t know, like, I don’t know exactly how business intelligence has done if there is like a, you know, standard for, but, but we’re talking about here is that the marketing, the marketing department or the, our community has access to data that can inform business intelligence. I can, that can be parlayed into business intelligence That’s what we’re talking about here. That’s what SEMrush is doing.

– Yeah. It’s actually where we’re often in that data. And as you mentioned, yes, there are different standards for doing business intelligence. In the end you can go with business intelligence is that moment that you are not doing any espionage, that you’re not doing any industrial espionage, and you’re not going to hack in. You can find everything that is public information, everything that everybody can find that is difficult to gather everything, all the information in one single document. So in SEMrush we can find all the information that is public all over the world with more than 20 billion keywords for example, with a couple of clicks, that’s basic business intelligence that you can do.

– And Fernando, that is why we as an agency are a subscriber or a, a customer of some Russia we make, you know, have our clients sign up. That there’s your reason right there. And then, and then thank you also for your time. I got to cut it off just for time purposes. But thanks for the inspiration around influencer marketing, community and relationship marketing. I think that there’s a, I don’t even look it’s growing. There’s no question that that’s growing. I think the term influencer marketing like is new within the last, I mean, it’s not new because even back in like whatever, 80s 60s ,70s whatever, you would see product placement in movies, you see a, Coca-Cola Canon a movie. That’s a, that’s a form of, that’s a form of relationship marketing. But now with technology with the different social platforms, with just a kind of globalization, it’s just, it’s easier than ever for someone to get into that. And to be an influencer, but more so to, to get access to communities that would be a purchaser of your product or service, you know, through other people’s networks.

– Yeah. Totally agree. I’m in the middle of that, of course is trust. If you trust the influencer, you’re going to be following his suggestion, his recommendations, his way of living, or if you’re following a brand as well, we have Apple people out there actually are Apple or Android.

– I’m Apple,

– I’m Android.

– We can still be friends I guess

– We can still be friends, yeah.

– My wife is Android and we’re still married after however many years, seven years, whatever it is, but it works. It works I think it works.

– What is it physical? I don’t remember. What is that location in Apple messages?

– iMessage.

– iMessage, Oh my God, yes you are not…

– that’s the reason I want her to just rely message literally. That’s the only reason I did get her to switch from a windows to a Mac recently, so that was that’s progress Fernando progress.

– Oh yeah, yep I believe that. Yeah.

– Hey man, thank you so much for your time. I really enjoyed this. I think the audience will as well, you know, influencer marketing, some cool strategies, some different ways of thinking than just like the normal, you know, publish your blog and your social media. It’s like, no, like there’s people out there use use them. And then the other pieces is data and, and different places like look to your marketing department for business intelligence. I think that’s two key takeaways that are, that are really powerful and can hopefully, you know, help someone or some companies out there to, to change your strategies for the better.

– Fantastic, thank you very much–

– I obviously endorse it and not, you know, not affiliate either so there you go. Thank you, Fernando. Take care be safe out there and we’ll, I’ll talk to you again soon.

Fernando Angulo

Fernando AnguloHead of International Partnerships at SEMrush

Arsham Mirshah

Arsham MirshahCEO & Co-Founder

Podcasts Info:
News + Business

Most newsletters suck...

So while we technically have to call this a daily newsletter so people know what it is, it's anything but.

You won't find any 'industry standards' or 'guru best practices' here - only the real stuff that actually moves the needle.