Recently I had the chance to interview Olga Smirnova, product marketing manager at SEMRush, content products.
For those of you who don’t know, SEMRush is one of world’s top 3 SEO software products, used and recommended as the #1 choice by hundreds of digital marketing influencers.
Olga is a marketing professional with years of global experience in PR and content, and I am very grateful that she took the time to share her experiences and advice on employing content marketing to grow the SEMRush brand and sales to where they are today.
To begin, can you share some numbers/data that goes on to show how much the SEMRush blog has contributed to the success of SEMRush products?
The SEMrush blog is a very powerful marketing tool we use for different goals.
In relation to product marketing campaigns, it provides more than 25% of all traffic and registrations in our tools, and helps to build visibility for new products, and to engage with the community and experts.
What have been SEMRush’s top 3 channels/tactics for user acquisition? And what strategies did not work as expected?
In our product marketing campaigns the top 3 channels for acquisition so far are paid search (all our advertising campaigns), organic traffic (this is mostly an impact of our blog), and email marketing.
If I think about the channels that don’t always perform as we expect, then I would say the referral is something we always have to test, especially if we go to a new market with a new audience.
To make sure that our efforts will lead us to planned targets, we firstly have to test different platforms, blogs, media, and then come up with the most effective one.
What’s a typical day like and what key tasks do you perform as a product marketing manager @ SEMRush?
My number one key task is to ensure that we are ready for a product launch. That means I prepare a plan with all the details about audience, market, USP, killer features, message, and targets combined together in one doc.
Key task number two is to plan activities we are going to do for the launch and discuss them with everyone who is going to participate in the promo. And key task number three is to make sure everyone is following the plan and deadlines.
These three key tasks define my daily routine: before the launch a huge part of the day is spent on the planning and discussion of activities, content we have to create. During the launch it is usually project management that might take most of the day.
What are the biggest challenges you faced, or are facing, as a product marketing manager for SEMRush? And how have you been tackling them?
We are expanding into new markets right now. And this requires a lot of work to be done in terms of research and planning.
But the biggest challenge is to define the most effective channels for acquisition, and understand what message works best there for our audience.
My approach is constant testing. We never know what works best before we try it. That’s why we do it half and half: we use old channels that showed good results before, and half of our effort is put into testing new ones.
What do you like most about your role as a product marketing professional?
Getting insights into people’s problems/needs and figuring out how your product can help them to solve these.
Also, SEMrush is a very user-oriented company, so we really have the power to influence the product development to deliver the best value to our users.
How do you come up with post topics for the SEMRush blog, what’s the process and how long does it take from idea to publication?
First of all, we come up with a content idea. We decide what it should be about based on our marketing goals, what type it should be (article, ebook, video, etc.), and what target action is needed from the reader (register, leave email, subscribe etc.).
Based on this we come up with a topic that helps us to answer all those criteria. And of course we use our Topic Research for this. It depends on what type of content we have decided to create, but mostly it’s about a week for an article and three weeks for a long read.
What are some things that you do right after publishing a new blog post to make sure it kicks off with lots of traffic and exposure?
We promote our blog posts through our own channels (emails, social media accounts etc.), and through external channels (paid promo in media, ppc, co-marketing).
Apart from SEMRush, what other tools do you use and think are indispensable for an online marketing professional?
This is definitely Google Analytics. It provides you with the most essential information about the performance of different marketing activities. We also use Tableau for more in-depth analysis of product performance.
Other than marketing-related tools, what tools do you use to save time and get more done?
I use Trello for planning my daily and weekly tasks.
What factors have you found to be the most important when optimizing content for search engines, especially the ones that most SEOs overlook?
From my point of view, there are two factors – a very good understanding of your audience’s problems/needs, as well as what is already there about the topic on the Internet.
And the second factor is the ability to balance creativity and optimization, avoiding keyword stuffing and keeping readability and content length at a required level. I use tools like our SEO Writing Assistant to succeed with this second factor.
What SEO content writing and optimization practices aren’t important or don’t work anymore, yet are still widely believed by the SEO community?
It is definitely keyword stuffing, mentioned above. Google is getting smarter every day, and just using keywords in every third sentence won’t work. You have to care about the semantics.
What are your favorite books/courses on SEO/Marketing that you feel everyone should go through?
If you were to hire an SEO/Content Marketer, what are the top 3 skills you would look for?
Strong orientation to the business/marketing goals and an understanding of how content can help to reach these goals and each funnel stage. For this I would look at the analytical, writing and communication skills.
What’s next for SEMRush? Anything exciting that you’re working on lately and would like to share with us?
We always have a lot of updates to follow. Right now in the Content Products Department we are working on the new logic of our tools with a goal to create an integrated full-cycle platform for content professionals. Stay tuned!
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time, away from the computer?
I love nature, traveling and trying new food. That’s actually my plan for the weekend 🙂