E163: Erika Varangouli

Securing Budget for eCommerce SEO: Erika from SEMRush Shares All

Erika Varangouli black and white headshot

eCom@One Listen on Spotify

Podcast Overview

Need to boost your eCommerce brand’s visibility? Look no further! 

We have only gone and chatted to Erika Varangouli, Head of SEO Branding at SEM Rush, on this week’s podcast to find out the answer to this and more. 

It’s time to explore how to own the top Google search results, drive website traffic, and build trust signals. 

Tune it to level up your SEO game right now. 

eCom@One Presents:

Erika Varangouli

In this episode, Erika Varangouli, Head of SEO Branding at SEM Rush, joins Richard Hill on the eCom@One podcast to discuss building a brand with eCommerce SEO. Erika has over 15 years of writing and editing experience, from working at a media business to agencies, she is now responsible for growing the legacy of one the biggest SEO tools out there. 

Listen to this podcast episode to learn the right approach to your SEO strategy and AI. Erika shares her expertise on three key areas every eCommerce company must consider for success. She also discusses how to win the budget for SEO when money and resources are tight. Hint, it’s all about proving concepts through bite-size projects. 

Working at one of the most used SEO tools in the industry, Erika has an untold advantage that she shares with Richard. So tune in to find out how to get the most out of this revolutionary tool to skyrocket your online sales. 

Topics Covered

0:30 – Erika’s journey in eCommerce, from agency side to Head of SEO branding at SEMRush 

4:52 – Tools for marketing success

8:33 – Ad spend triples from 2019 to now

9:58 – Buying behaviour shift, mobile first and how to optimise for that

17:07 – Accessible AI tools transform SEO and marketing 

20:42 – Leveraging and using AI efficiently, don’t just copy-paste

24:43 – Importance of technical setup for website success

27:58 – Global commerce breeds mistrust amid online shopping

32:07 –  Optimising brand term visibility, trusted reviews, managing out-of-stock products

33:51 -The biggest most damaging Black Friday mistake brands make

38:20 – Collaborate and add value to build your brand

40:18 – Shifting keywords, layering content for SEO growth and optimising category pages 

42:01 – Book recommendation 

Richard Hill [00:00:04]:

Hi there. I'm Richard Hill, the host of eCom@One, and welcome to episode 163. In this episode, I speak with Erica Varanguli, Head of SEO Branding at Semrush. Now Semrush is a product and a tool with a suite of tools that we've used here at the agency for well over 10 years with multiple accounts and multiple users that use it pretty much every day. So, well, it's absolutely chuffed a bit to get Erica on the pod on talk all things SEO strategy. Erica's opinion on AI and the right way to approach it, there's a few things that might surprise you, and there might be a few things here that you're doing Very wrong. And then 3 things that every ecommerce company should be looking at in terms of their SEO. Very actionable insights here.

Richard Hill [00:00:47]:

And The big one, winning budget for SEO. Sometimes it can be challenging to go back to the owners, the shareholders, to win budget for SEO. So breaking that down and how you can take sort of bite sized projects to prove concepts, and then ideally then win additional budget. And, of course, so much more in this one. So if you enjoy this episode, hit the subscribe or follow button wherever you are listening to this podcast. You're always the first to know when a new episode is released. Now let's head over to this fantastic episode. Welcome to the podcast, Erica.

Richard Hill [00:01:17]:

How are you doing?

Erika Varangouli [00:01:18]:

I'm doing very well, Richard. Thank you for having me. It's it's great to be here.

Richard Hill [00:01:23]:

Well, no problem at all. I've been looking forward to this one. We've been huge fans of Semrush for, I think I'm trying to think how long we've had an account for. Oh, personally, in the agency, I think it's It's over 10 years. I got the shares when they, launched a couple of years ago, so I'm really looking forward to having a good chat with you and talk all things, Semrush. But before we do that, I think it'd be great for you to introduce yourself, how you got into the world of ecommerce, and how you, you know, got the role at Semrush as well.

Erika Varangouli [00:01:49]:

The role at Semrush was a funny thing because I had just started, a new role, like, a month or so, before in, in a start up, like a SaaS start up. And I got a call from from one of the recruiters. And for me, like, you know, up up until a point, you know, when I when I went into a new job, I was kinda, like, diving deep into it. But that went out and I was kinda, like, are you serious? You're from Samrish. I thought Someone was, being because because I've been known in my previous roles to be a huge advocate of Samra. So I was like, I could not believe Samra just rang me. So it was a bit of a, You know, fan moment. Like, oh my god.

Erika Varangouli [00:02:27]:

I cannot believe the the rock star. I've always loved to kind of point it at me at the gig. So, so, yeah, we we then started, like, talking, went through the the normal process, but but they approached me for a role at the time. And And I felt like this was this was too good to to just miss because I had just started something, which was which was great, by the way. But I was like, oh my god. I can't believe it's so much. So up until the point in my life, I started as a journalist. But then I I wanted to transition to online marketing.

Erika Varangouli [00:02:59]:

And and that also happened when I moved from from Greece to to the UK. So I thought that's a perfect opportunity for me to start fresh On all fronts. So I those were my 1st roles were all in marketing agencies. Right? So, we had a lot of, Like, ecommerce clients, smaller, bigger brands like retailers. Yep. You know, all the the spectrum. And and that's how I started Kind of getting that experience working in ecommerce and then obviously moving into morals, working with more. Yeah.

Erika Varangouli [00:03:32]:

And then Kim Samrosh, where I've been for the last 4 years. So yeah.

Richard Hill [00:03:36]:

I think it's great. I think it's always nice to have, guests on that have, You know, they've worked put, you know, agency side, client side, but then obviously now, sort of ahead of SEO branding at Semrush. So obviously seen quite a lot of different things and approaching your I believe you said there an an my notes tell me that you're approaching that 4 year, points, which is quite some time, isn't it? So well done, First Link. So do you do you feel that, have you what what else are you is on your sort of bucket list to achieve while whilst in the position as at Semrush.

Erika Varangouli [00:04:10]:

Oh, wow. How long do we have? For me, because this is also a a new role. Right? I'm, I've been in this role for, like, a month now. And it's a new role overall for Samrush as well. It wasn't a Yeah. A thing before. So so one of one of the the things that that I've always loved about Sam Rash, even before joining, right, was the the mission that that we're on. And that mission is to kind of democratize marketing, right, make it Accessible to to to business owners, to marketers of all levels of expertise.

Erika Varangouli [00:04:52]:

Right? Accessible means, you know, something that you can real get, you can really get value from, Also accessible financially, for example. Right? And that is a for me, that is, that is a strong mission. So so for example, how I work towards it or what goals I'm setting for myself. They're always connected to that. It's like, what am I doing that is making marketing, more accessible is making people more invested in it. They it makes them feel more confident when they are doing their marketing. Like, You know, a vast majority of businesses out there are small businesses, solopreneurs, right, people who are asked to be everything from sales to Customers support marketing to development. So so the idea of giving them the tools and the knowledge they need To do a good job and to see their businesses thrive, I think that for me is a whole kind of bucket.

Erika Varangouli [00:05:50]:

And then That kind of breaks down into smaller goals or initiatives on how do we empower people to do just that With what we create in terms of marketing, what we create in terms of tools and product, what our customer teams are doing. So it it goes forward.

Richard Hill [00:06:09]:

That's an interesting one, isn't it? Because I think, you know, marketing managers, you know, we're we're we're probably talking about there and and more specifically on this podcast, you know, ecommerce marketing managers. It's a tough Gig, isn't it? It's a tough role when you've gotta try and juggle the 20 different you know, whether that's running events to Google Analytics, GA 4. Oh, we we haven't upgraded, you know, 6 months ago or, you know, EAAT, the you know, the this goes on and on and on and on and on. But, obviously, you know, you guys you know, you've got I think is it 15 tools now? 50 do you do you call them tools? 15 different areas within the business, different sort of, Opportunities there to help build that

Erika Varangouli [00:06:48]:

There's over 50, actually. Is it? 50. And then we also have, like, the app center. Right. And in the apps there, we have dedicated apps to do specific things. Right? Because we understand that someone who may want to be, for example, creating videos or helping, their videos rank on YouTube. They might not be interested in, you know, ecommerce, for example, at the same time. So So we're building we're building tons.

Erika Varangouli [00:07:12]:

But in terms of the challenges you mentioned, I think ecommerce is is extremely hard. For me, That's a good thing, like, working into something that's very challenging, but it still remain, like, challenging. And and you see those challenges Being very different based on whether you are, like, a small, let's say, retailer versus, like, you're managing a huge ecommerce site. Right? And everyone has kind of like, a basis for the issues they need to address and what they need to build. But how How that scales, how you scale your approach and be efficient with that, it is something that as you grow, you need to be addressing Saying more and more and more. So so, yeah, definitely empathize with with a lot of with me.

Richard Hill [00:07:58]:

So, I mean, Believe it or not, there are still people out there that are maybe, that are maybe, like, need convincing about, in SEO when it comes to our ecommerce store. Now what would you say to those guys, you know, that they may be on the fence a little bit about investing in SEO? You know, we don't we don't see that Too Much Now because we're dealing with bigger and bigger merchants and clients within our agency behind the podcast. But believe it or not, there are Still people out there that are the naysayers of SEO. They're not bill they're not believers, you know, when it comes to ecommerce, but what would you say to those guys? How important is it to invest in an ecom strategy?

Erika Varangouli [00:08:33]:

I understand. And and when when I was starting, yes. When whenever I worked with with ecommerce clients, let's say, at the start of my career, over 10 years ago, by the way. It wasn't a wildly popular idea. Right? And at the time, I was also, like, a lot of content marketing. So that was even worse because SEO, to a degree, resonated with the technical side of things. Right? But But what I will say here, it's I see also, like, we we did we have done a few studies in the past couple of years about, like, ecommerce and the state of ecommerce and And, how people shop, for example, online. Right? And and what we've seen is that from 2019, 2020, so through COVID era up to now, The ad spend has tripled.

Erika Varangouli [00:09:19]:


Richard Hill [00:09:20]:

Yeah. Yeah.

Erika Varangouli [00:09:21]:

That is a that is a massive investment. Like, it has gone, it has tripled over time, But so has traffic. Traffic has all, tripled as well. Then if you if you break this down further, though, what she sees, for example, that Traffic. I think over 80% of it is is direct. Right? Direct is has to do with, like building your brand. And by building your brand, I don't mean like, okay, you're you're popular on social media. I mean, like, What does a brand entail? It's like what your customers or potential customers experience when they come on your side.

Erika Varangouli [00:09:58]:

Right? How often do they do they get To see you when they're searching for something. How how likely are they like, they're probably on their phones. Like, 70% of that traffic we saw is on mobile. So it went up for desktop during COVID, but then Yeah. Gradually, the last 1, 2 years, we we saw it coming back to Kind of like a normal that we were seeing before, which is, like, over 70% of it, I think, is is a mobile. What is your what is your connection with, like, the needs that people want to cover by searching to buy Sometimes. Right? Do you give them the information? Like, we show up all the time online. Right? What am I interested in when I want to buy? Because I was I was I was looking for a waterproof for my daughter.

Erika Varangouli [00:10:43]:

And for the life of me, I couldn't understand if it had, like, 3 layers. So will she be good to be married in the winter Or just Yeah. Right? I couldn't tell, like, up to what height Yeah. Where it so Yeah. Yeah. Information. Right? Or I can see more images other than 1 in some cases. Like, I can find Yeah.

Erika Varangouli [00:11:04]:

Product image. All of those things Time to SEO. So SEO is not just something you do so Google finds you. SEO is something you do so people find you. And and that has been, hopefully, a massive shift later years with all the developments from Google side as well. Because For many years, SEO was just, you know, something you do to to make your site rank. So Google might. But in reality, Google likes what people like.

Erika Varangouli [00:11:36]:

And and it's as simple as that. So SEO now is no longer just I I used to imagine technical SEO is more like I'm old enough to have watched all of X Files. I imagine none of our audience probably did. But I imagine that SEO is more like Mulder, you know, in a in an office hidden somewhere.

Richard Hill [00:11:54]:


Erika Varangouli [00:11:54]:

It's no longer that. So SEO fits into how you manage your brand, how you manage your your technical elements. Like, you know, you have to Well, for a good experience. You have to have the information. You have to be there when people are not ready to buy, but they're researching. Right? So if if you're only interest it's as if you're only interested, in an analogical world Only when someone walks through your door, but not be interested in whether they've ever heard of your shop before.

Richard Hill [00:12:22]:

Yeah. Yeah.

Erika Varangouli [00:12:23]:

So so then you're kind of like the accidental seller. Someone was Yeah. Happening to pass by. They saw the door. They they were kind of in the process of wanting to buy in the they stepped in. SEO is is more about When they start even thinking about things, when they're starting to research things, am I there? Can they see me? And that ties into 3 main areas. So, you know, the technical parts of it, the content side of it, and then the authority you built around that, which is, a whole topic around ecommerce and specifically what it means. But yeah.

Erika Varangouli [00:12:57]:

A huge a common argument is, like, if you're spending so much on ads, you could invest in Yeah. In your organic. Over time, this is This will keep giving. I'm not gonna use that argument. I'm gonna use the argument of, like, where where do you wanna be in terms of Whether people know you or not and one one that they think of when they're ready to buy.

Richard Hill [00:13:20]:

I think there's a lot of Lot of lot of a lot of a lot of snippets there, Erica. And I think, you know, that a lot of that completely resonates, you know, that I you know, we we the Example you gave of the sort of winter coat or a waterproof coat. You know, we we have several clients that sell a lot of outdoor, You know, whether that's coats, boots, you know, very high end and medium end and and a lot of outdoor camping and things like that. So where you're talking about those sort of informational searches. And if that information just isn't there, then you can't make an informed decision. You know? So if you're not, you know, you're in effect there what we're saying. If you've not invested in as an e as an ecom store, you've not invested in content marketing, so I'm making sure that experience It's giving the user you know, as you say, absolutely key. The user is looking.

Richard Hill [00:14:03]:

You were looking to understand how long it was, how big it is. You know, is it 2 layer, 3 year layer? Is it gonna be too hot in the summer? Then you think I've gotta buy another summer coat, and that's gonna cost this. So, you know, those sort of things. So it's understanding those user, journeys and the sort of questions. Obviously, that's doing the research with tools like Semrush, etcetera, to see And understand, those journeys and those search terms, but also the, you know, the wider groupings for that particular product. You know? Are you adding FAQs to those products about, you know, and doing that research and understanding what is out there. So, yeah, that's brilliant. So I think what we're saying is it's very important.

Richard Hill [00:14:40]:

You know? And I did like the fact, you know, if you're obviously you are spending let's take, you know, a random amount of money. If you're spending $20 a month on ads and you're not investing in SEO, You know, you guys need to have a little word with yourself, I think, is the is the reality because, you know, you can very easily, you know, take some of that budget and Move It Over. I just wanted to introduce you very quickly to our sponsors, Prisync. Now Prisync is a competitive price tracking and monitoring software that can dynamically change a product's prices on all sales channels. They work with brands such as Samsung, Sony, Suzuki to increase their online revenue. Now if you run Google Shopping, which I know a lot of you absolutely do, this software is absolutely key to accelerating profits. One of the reasons I recommend pricing To my clients is because you can find out your competitors' pricing and stock availability all in one simple to understand dashboard giving you a huge competitive advantage. Now if you have Any inquiries and questions about this software or you're ready to get cracking, we have worked out a very, very special deal for our listeners where you can get a free month's trial and then 25% off for the 1st 3 months.

Richard Hill [00:15:46]:

Head to econone.compricing and complete the inquiry form, and we will connect our listeners to the pricing team. Right. Let's head straight back to the episode. So chat GPT. Let's chat about that. We can't do we can't have a chat on SEO. I don't think at the moment to do well, AI specifically, really, but, you know, how would you say chat GPT is impacting sort of SEOs at the moment.

Erika Varangouli [00:16:12]:

It it goes beyond Charge Ept. Right? It it's a massive, like, like, AI now being widely kind of accessible as well. And and the impact is already massive. Right? We from having access to something that can massively, widen your your possibilities in terms of what's your output, how much can you create, How little knowledge you may have for something, but then you have, like, a powerful tool that can fill in those gaps for you. Mhmm. You're, You know, scaling exponentially, all of that is is now accessible to all of us. Like, AI is not a new thing. Right? AI has been part of search on on what we do For, I wanna say a decade, but but it's it has been around and has been powering a lot of things we see in Google as well, for for many years.

Erika Varangouli [00:17:07]:

The difference now is that, you know, we're given tools like Chargept, for example, that that make this accessible to us. It's no longer something running in the back end, an algorithm that that no one understands or, you know, a machine learning system that we have nothing to do with. Right now, it's kinda like you can ticket end use it in a 1,000 different ways. So the main kind of, like, use cases I see in SEO is is, like, using Caju PTO or Similar language learning models and, to to create content, right, and to put a lot of content out there, at scale. It's also to, do research, whether it has to do with, like, data analysis or it has to do with research to create content Or there's these are the main ones, but but my kind of, like, caution moment here is that it's great to use it. It's a powerful tool. I think if you're in marketing, not just in SEO, if you're in marketing, or online business in in some form. And you haven't incorporated AI into your processes.

Erika Varangouli [00:18:15]:

You have already fallen behind. Right? It's Because it is it is something that can help you scale or it can help you Create things that previously would cost you much more money or time, without that. But the caution is that You need to sort of be able to to to understand the limitations of tools like GPT. And To do that like, you do that because if you know that, for example, Chargept cannot give you, keywords for keyword research. Right? It says it can. You'll hear many people say, oh, I'm using it. You know, it's the the the Fear the the space is now all you know, here's my top prompts. Here's how I'm using it.

Erika Varangouli [00:19:04]:

Steal my, how I work with chat GPT. But the idea is that if you know what it can and cannot do, you can leverage the ones that actually will add value to your business. So my my word of caution here is, you know, understand the limitations of of what a, of what a a language model can do or what it cannot And that is understand know your gaps. Know what you wanna build with it. Once you understand what it can do well, right, Then it's a massive it it's it's it's a power that is given to you to essentially free up your most valuable asset, which is your experts, your teams, you know, their time to to stop taking, like, hours or days on end to do something that it can be done thereafter, But use them to review it. Don't just blindly trust what you see because it's Yeah. The right output.

Richard Hill [00:20:00]:

Yeah. I think that's a great sort of summary because I think, there's sort of 2 sides, isn't there? I think, like you say, you've got People that are not doing anything with it all know. We're not using the AI. We're not using ChatChi, which is it doesn't the output's poor and this down the other. But the reality is those that are leveraging AI and do and, obviously, there's not it's not it's not just GBT. There's obviously literally 100 Hundreds every month get launched that are based on on using different APIs from different sources, but ultimately, the ones that are testing, trying, you know, are getting leverage where they can produce, you know, several 1,000 word document. Obviously, that can be a blog, that can be a guide, that can be anything you can think of, whether a video or anything. That would take days and days to create.

Richard Hill [00:20:42]:

Now you can create, you know, in in maybe minutes or a or day or an hour or a day, you know, or a 5th of the time or whatever. But it's so what we're sort of saying, I think, is you've got to embrace it and leverage it, but at the same respect, you can't just let it go and do whatever And just copy, paste, and drop and use that content. You've gotta be editing, checking, and feeding it the right information in the 1st place. If you're just Like you say, just grabbing a few random keywords, checking them in there, and then tell her to write a blog post for a 1,000 words on this, you know, very basic prompt, And then copy and paste that, put you on the put that on the blog. That's a very, very, very, very poor example of how to use AI. Whereas if you read it

Erika Varangouli [00:21:21]:

I was gonna sorry for interrupt to you, Arisha. But I was gonna the the analogy I use is if you're baking a cake with a 5 year old, right, Would you just give them the ingredients, right, and say, okay. Now go bake a cake. And then whatever they brought to you, you would eat it as it is. You don't trust a 5 year old with the ingredients and an oven to do everything on their own. They have tons of creativity. They they are there to help. You can have tons of fun.

Erika Varangouli [00:21:51]:

You can you can speed up in some aspects because you have another pair of hands. But you also have to train it. You have to you have to be there to to help and to review what is being done.

Richard Hill [00:22:05]:


Erika Varangouli [00:22:05]:

So I would never trust my my 3 year old now, but you can never trust her and just give her, you know, some ingredients and say, now go bake it On your own. I'm doing something else in the meantime. But yeah. And and, also, we see the the the results of that because because we've we've gone a bit Crazy, I think, over the last year with how much content is put out there just through AI. Yeah. And and we see that. We see how it's also, like, Hard now of of what, search engines use as well. Right? We know SG.

Erika Varangouli [00:22:37]:

We know Bard. But it's We see a lot of volatility. We see a lot of, like, content. We have helpful content updates. You see websites that, you know, theoretically did a a great job of of creating a lot of content with AI. And then gradually, we're getting to that point where that is not working. And and we have to to think like, when you look into these examples, It's not really helpful content. So my question mark is if humans were involved and if they were relevant, then probably that wouldn't have been the case.

Erika Varangouli [00:23:11]:

But yeah. Just Yeah. Just my tip about with 5 year olds, you know.

Richard Hill [00:23:16]:

No. That's that's a really good analogy, isn't it? A really good you wouldn't you wouldn't just leave them to it, and I think that's, the reality of AI. You know? And and, obviously, with this, that's a very broad stroke because it's a double different AI. But if you just you know, a very simple Commander then taking the output and you're going, well, this AI is not very good. Well, it won't be because you don't spend time. Yeah. You might have spent 3 days creating a good bit of content before you expect be completely finished within one click. You know? So I think, you know, we could probably do a separate episode on AI, I think, because it's, you There's a lot there's a lot to cover there, but I think, you know, it's good good to touch on it.

Richard Hill [00:23:50]:

But, so for the guys that are listening, you know, they're obviously the majority of them are ecom store marketeers, owners. You know, what would would you say to those guys that they're gonna pause this episode after the next sort of 5 or 10 minutes and go and implement Sort of 3 specific ecom SEO strategies. You know? And if they if they happen to leverage Semrush tech, that's that's a bonus, I guess. But, What are 3 things that you see that obviously, you worked agency side for many, many years and obviously now at Semrush for coming up to 4 years. But what are some maybe 3 specifics that you see, that are gonna get the most wins for the clients that are listening now and the the listeners.

Erika Varangouli [00:24:29]:

Okay. Soon. Three things. Okay. So I will I will take it into, like, categories of things. Yeah. What is in ecommerce, We know. We see it all the time.

Erika Varangouli [00:24:43]:

Technical and and the technical, like, infrastructure and setup of your website is important. Right? So do not neglect that. The bigger your website like Aleda and Mark, Williams Cook and Aleda. So these have created, like, a really Simple but very efficient, very effective at demonstrating how in ecommerce and the bigger your website, the importance of fixing technical issues Is is paramount. Right? So Yep. You know and and theoretically simple things, but not simple at all, Especially the bigger you get, but does your website structure make sense? Do you have the right product categories? Right? Are they are they linking correctly? Is your navigation working properly? Like, your canonicals, you know, all of those things are technical, But they can make or break many things. Under another kind of, like, big part I'm sorry if I'm not making it easy. I wish I had an answer, like, you know, Do this and then it's fine.

Richard Hill [00:25:42]:

No. No. That's fine. No. I think that's fine because, like you mentioned, the technical side, most people don't even touch it. You know, that's that's, you know, and when you when you when you're When you're staring at a store that's, you know, a 1000 or 50,000 SKUs, you could spend months sorting out a technical. Well, we you know, a lot of time, whereas people might just go, let's rewrite the product Well, yeah, we maybe wanna do that on 5% of your SKUs, but the reality is if if your top 50 SKUs aren't getting indexed till the you know, or they're not getting crawled very often all the content that you're creating isn't actually getting indexed. There's there's a robust dot text issue that means that your blog's not getting indexed or the, you know, certain basic Side crawl issues that can usually be resolved quite quickly.

Richard Hill [00:26:20]:

You know, we've had we had a recent, client come to us that've been with not long, probably about three and a half months now. And I can't remember the exact amount, but you're looking at about a 180,000 SKUs, but about 20,000 SKUs were indexed. We'll fix that 1 issue and that one challenge. You know, it it either that's a, either that's a 10% lift in index pages. It's a model. It didn't correlate a 10% lift in sales, but it it will in time correlate to a large chunk of revenue. You know? But most people don't bother. Sorry.

Richard Hill [00:26:51]:

You carry on. So we did the technical bit.

Erika Varangouli [00:26:53]:

I I I'm listening because I've I've seen it as well, but I think it's it's not that it I'm late. Okay. Let's seek people who are on Shopify. Right? Shopify, by definition of the platform poses some specific technical challenges. Right? And I don't I don't expect that every, A business owner who has, you know, setting up their online shop will have to know how to address all these issues. But, you know, you can find really good technical support, Resolve these things. Make sure they're repeatable, scalable as well. Scalability is super important in ecommerce and part of that comes from from your technical setup.

Erika Varangouli [00:27:28]:

So it is important to take care of at all times. The I think the biggest part falls under, user experience. And there, you have to consider yeah. Sure. Some of it comes down to SEO. You know, how fast are your, pages? You know, do you have of images that do not load fast and then everything breaks. Right? Yeah. Or, like, what happens, like, if if a product is out of stock? Right? I've seen people from redirecting those pages to 404 those pages.

Erika Varangouli [00:27:58]:

And it's kinda like, okay, I came I came here to buy something. It's not it It's gonna be here in a in a day or it's gonna get Yeah. At some point. So and and then the issues we see, you know, with global commerce, There's there's a I I feel there's a a rising level of mistrust. Like, you see brands all the time, their ads On social media, on on Google, you know, selling apparently, like, seemingly great stuff. But what's the first thing you do? As you check, are they shipping to where you are? Can you return it? How long will it take to get there? Do you have to pay separately for delivery? Yeah. All of those trust signals are part of a wider user experience and the trust they build with you. So so I feel like this is a a huge asset If if you're doing a good job at building that, can they find what they need on those pages when they're looking for pro so, Can they work with your website on mobile? Like, that is Yeah.

Erika Varangouli [00:28:56]:

Higher amount, in ecommerce. Right? So That kind of user experience, if I look online, remember that it's not just what you have on your website. If I look your brand online and, like, check for reviews, what people say, What am I saying? Are you there? Are you answering those questions? So so it goes even beyond your own website. And and that is the 3rd bigger thing for me is It's how do you build your brand? How do you build how people perceive who you are, why they should trust you, why should they choose you? Pricing is always important, of course. But we know that, especially in particular, like, areas of ecommerce, People also tend to build loyalty, and that is built on on some premise. But, like, even if I take Amazon, right, the giant of it, Part of that trust is is the ease of the whole experience, how easy it is to find something.

Richard Hill [00:29:51]:


Erika Varangouli [00:29:52]:

Well, the trust that it will be delivered in the next hour if you need, and then you can return it easily. You know? So user experience is It's it's beyond just SEO. It's beyond just the content. Yeah. The overall experience you're offering and the brand you're building, the trust that people can place in you. I'm gonna steal a bit and say a 4th one because it's entirely out of marketing. But I I I see this also connecting to the to the experience. It's your index, your actual product index.

Erika Varangouli [00:30:27]:

Right? I feel like in, if we're talking about small, medium, you know, scaling, maybe, Part of of of why people search directly on some platforms for products has to do with with a with a vast range of of choices they're offered. Right? So if, you know, you have a small product index, if products are out of, out of stock And there's no way to keep them engaged. So I bring them back, alert them. Yep. Then people the message that goes there is, like, there's There's little value you can gain.

Richard Hill [00:31:03]:


Erika Varangouli [00:31:04]:

So if you're a niche maybe, niche or, you know, selling very specific types of products. Work on that index. And I feel that that relevance and that experience then rises and and that also moves the needle for your visibility.

Richard Hill [00:31:22]:

That's a lot of things, Erica. I think that's, I think 4 is Good for. So I try to I try to think of, like, out out of those things, I think there's a couple of actions there for our listeners now. If you were to go to Google and just search for your brand, you know, and look at that top ten listing and see what is coming up, obviously, your website's gonna come up, probably some of your sub Categris categories. You know? You're so some of your key social media pages should come up if you're running them, and if you're not, you should be. You know, that's a that's the brand. What's that, Emma, the brand? Is have you got any men you know, the the where are you mentioned? You know? And what does it say? You know, we'll see if it's not 100% ish positive, bar the odd review because you can't please everybody. But, you know, you know, then you need to own that space.

Richard Hill [00:32:07]:

So if you're not if you're not owning the top 10 of Google with your own brand term, That's not always possible depending on the niche you're in, but quite often it should be. You know, what can you do about that? You know? And that might be as simple as, do you know what? We don't have any third party review information. So, you know, working with a review company, you know, again, you know, reviews quite often gets it's surprising how many companies just don't use a, you know, a trusted review source or a trusted review platform, you know, tech stack, working on that. But then the other one, I think you mentioned well, you mentioned a lot of things, but the one that always just grates me, is when something goes out of stock on a website and then they delete the product off the website or and it's just like you've spent 3 years trying to rank that product from that category, and you've just removed it, and it's probably coming back in stock. You know? So it's like, you know, what to do when a product, Sounds like a film. What to do when a product goes out of stock.

Erika Varangouli [00:33:00]:

So I think

Richard Hill [00:33:00]:


Erika Varangouli [00:33:01]:

dissolving that ambiguity. Right? When you see us talk, do you know if it will be back? For me, it's implying that it will be back. Right? It doesn't say discontinued, for example. Right? So So it's resolving that ambiguity for users.

Richard Hill [00:33:16]:

Yeah. You know? And you're missing you know, if if somebody lands on that page, it is out of stock Just by a simple message to say, this will be in you know, that is tying into your purchase orders. This this will be in in on the 5th of the month, or this is out of stock. However, we have these similar products, and then they click, they're buying something else. But to to remove that URL, you know, that's an absolute that's like one of the top 5 SEO Sins, I think. You know, a bit like the Black Friday, but, you know, we're gonna be days away from Black Friday when this episode airs. And every year it comes around like Christmas, Black Friday, Black Friday. You know? And every year, like, oh, we need to launch a page on Black Friday.

Richard Hill [00:33:51]:

Well, no, you don't. You need to yes page that you used last year and build and build and build and build on that page, you know, and you've got a page that's got, in time, you know, 5, 10 years worth of authority in your in your niche. You're gonna I outrank all these guys that are starting afresh every year, updating, refreshing, updating, refreshing, you know, updating the date clearly, because obviously each year, the, you know, the the year changes and whatnot. But, again, that's, you know, quite an easy some easy sort of bits there. But, yeah, the, the UX piece, I think, obviously, ultimately, the tech piece and then that brand piece. You know, that's some quite, some nice nice tips there playing to go out. So you might wanna pause the episode, rewind, rewind back as my children say. Can you rewind back, or could you rewind forward? It's like, what's that about? Yeah.

Richard Hill [00:34:37]:

So thank you for that. So I think, budgets is a good one to talk about. So, you know, a lot of a lot of companies, a lot of changes in budget, a lot of different departments fighting for budget, You know? And, ultimately, our listeners sitting there as as marketing managers for ecom stores or owners of marketing of of ecom stores. Sorry. You know, what would you say to them about trying to grow their, SEO budget? What should they be thinking about, and why should they invest more in SEO?

Erika Varangouli [00:35:06]:

Mhmm. Okay. That's an interesting question because I don't think there is one approach. I can tell you, like, what my approaches have been in the past that I've Seem work. One is you have to know what is more valuable on your website. Right? Especially when we're talking about ecommerce, There is probably a good chunk of your website that is not producing the results, it needs to be producing, and then the biggest value comes from I'm not gonna say the 80/20 kind of principle, but in ecommerce, like, it it can easily be the case. So So what you do is is you know exactly where to look, you monitor, and then you make the ones that that have value Produce more value. You test.

Erika Varangouli [00:35:53]:

You you don't allow that to drop below a point. Of course, you monitor. But then you build on them. Like, you know, are are the ones that have the best conversion rates or they are the most searched, Right. The most popular categories or products, are they ranking well? Are they bringing in enough traffic? If not, I would work on them first because then The the actual value for a business, which is the revenue, for example, right, that can can be visible the moment you solve those issues. That then gets you buy in to work on the rest of it. Right? You cannot I think if especially if you're limited for resources, if you say I'm gonna work on Everything. Right? And and I'll see what works.

Erika Varangouli [00:36:36]:

That requires budget. You're not gonna get it from the start. And then you you somehow have to prove that All of it will produce results, which sometimes I admit. Like, I've admitted many times. Like, I don't know necessarily. So the more Kind of risky decisions is for later when you have the buy in. You start by what you know, will will have those results. Another one, that I'm using is that you if you have a hypothesis, right, you you test it first at small scale as a proof of concept.

Erika Varangouli [00:37:08]:


Richard Hill [00:37:08]:


Erika Varangouli [00:37:09]:

Ecommerce has a lot to do with conversions and optimizing, your pages. So you you run small scale tests To prove or disprove a hypothesis which helps you create that incremental change and impact Yep. With that, you can you can group under, okay. This is a smaller impact. So it worked. So now I can Yep.

Richard Hill [00:37:33]:

Now I'm scam.

Erika Varangouli [00:37:34]:


Richard Hill [00:37:35]:


Erika Varangouli [00:37:36]:

And the third thing, especially in ecommerce I don't want it to come across the wrong way, but especially in ecommerce, I see great opportunities for Partnerships and collaborations. Right? It's one problem to not have tons of budget. But trust me, having big budgets sometimes is a bigger problem. So you have to change your mindset a bit and think of, like, okay, for example, influencers. Right? You don't need those top influencers that that request tons of money. You you will probably be Doing a great job and have great results with, micro or even nano influencers who are very relevant to your audience. Right. And there Yeah.

Erika Varangouli [00:38:20]:

Tons of opportunities because they are also very invested in what they do. And they're experts, and they have great knowledge. There are potentially other brands that, you know, your offerings are complementary that you can collaborate together to produce something that You can get the word out and build that brand and that, you know, word-of-mouth around your brand. So I'll say, you know, don't be discouraged if the budgets are small. Start with what is important for the business. Right? Prove the value there, then test concepts, test and prove incremental impact so then you can scale. And the theory is like, look for opportunities outside your own brand and your own business because your audience is not just sitting around where you are. They're prob conversing, searching, interacting elsewhere.

Erika Varangouli [00:39:18]:

Where is that elsewhere, and what are the opportunities there? Because then your Front of mind when they are there and they see you collaborating there or

Richard Hill [00:39:26]:

pub Yeah. I love it. Thank you, Erica. That is brilliant. I think, particularly Poignant when you think about ecommerce store and testing. There's always, you know, usually a lot of categories, subcategories, products. So if you're taking a certain area that you've got, you know, stocking, good terms on, you're maybe ranking reasonably well already to shift a group of Key terms and phrases and, you know, in a in a category of products or subcategory of products and work on that category structure for 1, 2, 3 categories. Test budget.

Richard Hill [00:39:56]:

Test, you know, budget for content, budget for technical. And then you see us, lift in a certain category, subcategory. Category. That's exactly how we do it. It's like it's like I primed you with that question because that's exactly how we do it. That's exactly how we do and demonstrate, you know, potential forecast to a client. Look at 2, 3, 4 categories depending on budgets. You know? Look.

Richard Hill [00:40:18]:

Well, this is this is the average of the keywords if we can shift that average by x. And by to do that, we need to work on the category, layering it laying a layering it let it hard speak, Layering in that's the word. Layering in different content elements to the categories of categories, FAQ, that you know, I'm creating guides, buyers guides, maybe count content around video and YouTube and and so on and so on and so on. Linking to 3,000 word blog posts and so on and so on in a category environment. You prove that in a category that, you know, you can add in 3 months 10% to or, obviously, it depends on the size of the organization and There you are. That's quite a nice test. You know? And then, obviously, depending on the scale of the business, if we were to do x, y, zed over the next 6, It's 12, 18 months. You can build that hypothesis, that forecast with a bit more, sort of, reliability if you've done that 3 month test in the 1st place.

Richard Hill [00:41:10]:

So, yeah, Brilliant. I think it would be nice if you could share sort of some of the focuses for Semrush over the coming year. You know? Obviously, I know we'll I know we'll have a lot of listeners that use Semrush. You know? And I know, you know, literally half my well, not half my team, but quite a lot of my team You use the the different products and the we're in it daily. But in terms of, you know, what can you share for the in terms of where, as a company, you guys are focusing the next 12 months.

Erika Varangouli [00:41:39]:

Okay. So We are continuing to invest in across the platform. We are investing heavily in AI as well. How does that power our data, our tools? We're continue to do that. We have we I think we said it at the start, but, like, right now, there's over 50 tools probably in the platform, And there's there's more apps in the app center. So we're we're continuing to build apps to target and and to help with specific needs that people have. So, for example, something that may be relevant to our audience here is there's There's already I counted before this podcast, so I'm not gonna pretend I had this in front of you. Because, like, we have over 15 apps right now for ecommerce.

Erika Varangouli [00:42:28]:

Right. And and the investment in into, addressing specific needs with specific tools or specific ads will continue, I will continue to do that. So I I would put it into, like, continue to invest in in our data, and AI and then continue to invest in solving specific pinpoints or giving specific capabilities. I think that sounds more positive Through, apps in our app center.

Richard Hill [00:42:58]:

Exciting. Exciting. I'll be keeping an eye out. So thank you so much for coming on the show. I like to every episode with a book recommendation. Do you have a book to recommend to our listeners and viewers, Erica?

Erika Varangouli [00:43:09]:

I can tell you the one I'm reading now. Oh, no. I hope people find it as good as I am so far. So I'm I'm reading Perna Virgie's, high impact content marketing. So yeah. So it's, it's a book that's relatively like, New Year, it was out a few months ago, written by Perna, who obviously is is one of the biggest minds in in content marketing. And she's she's writing, some really good stuff about, like, what your partner needs to have to perform and and give some some great advice. So

Richard Hill [00:43:42]:


Erika Varangouli [00:43:43]:

Haven't finished it yet, but so far, I would recommend

Richard Hill [00:43:45]:

So far, so good. Right. We'll get that on the list. We'll add that to the the shopping list internally, and we'll we'll link that up in the show notes. Well, thank you so much, Erica, for coming on the show. For those that wanna find out more about yourself, more about Semrush, what's the best way to do that?

Erika Varangouli [00:43:59]:

Well, they can they can look us up on all social media platforms, pretty much on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook. They can look at our website, solsamrush.com, and they can shoot me a message. Mostly on LinkedIn, bizarrely, for an SEO. I'm told I should be on Twitter more. But Yeah. So, yeah, they can they can find me and Samraj On all those platforms.

Richard Hill [00:44:21]:

Fantastic. Well, thanks for coming on the show. I look forward to, having to catch up with you in probably 12 months, and we'll chat more on the new the new, tools that are coming out and the new developments on AI and ecom. Yep. Yes. Alright. Thank you very much.

Erika Varangouli [00:44:34]:

Thank you.

Richard Hill [00:44:42]:

Subscribe or follow button wherever you are listening to this podcast. You're always the first to know when a new episode is released. Have a fantastic day, and I'll see you on the next one.

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