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$5 million in ARR in 3 years – How agency leveraged Semrush to grow its efficiency, customer base, and revenue

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“Using Semrush has allowed Tuff to expand our client base and grow business by offering data-driven, targeted solutions that showcase our expertise and address the specific requirements of potential clients.”
Derek Coleman, SEO Team Lead, Tuff Growth

Business Challenge: Pitching the optimal growth solution to partners

In April 2020, as a small four-person marketing agency with just one SEO marketing manager, Tuff faced two main problems: 

  1. For existing clients: they needed a way to streamline SEO processes
  2. For prospective clients: they needed a way to accurately analyze the search landscape to pitch their SEO services.

They only had one significant SEO client at the time and didn’t have the proper processes in place to scale up. Three years later, Tuff has grown to a team of 35 with four SEO marketing managers and over $5 million in ARR. They were able to scale from just one SEO client to more than 15 by extensively utilizing Semrush’s features. Here’s how they did it.

Solution: Semrush for foundational research and partnership proposals

1. Analyzing Organic and Paid Traffic

Semrush’s Domain Overview is a great tool for getting a quick overview of a website’s organic and paid traffic. This is how Tuff gains an understanding of a potential client's current SEO status:

With the majority of Tuff’s clients coming through inbound leads, the agency is also constantly monitoring their own organic traffic and keyword rankings in Semrush to make sure they keep their inbound pipeline full.

A prospect’s domain profile showing growing traffic trend as seen in the Semrush Domain Overview tool

When pitching to prospective clients, Tuff can use the data obtained from Semrush to develop customized proposals that address the specific needs of each client.

In a scenario where organic traffic is increasing, Tuff can leverage the insights provided by Semrush to identify the factors contributing to this growth:

  • Is their traffic coming from branded or non-branded search?
  • Which regions is the traffic coming from?
  • Are they investing in paid search? 
  • Have they recently acquired many new backlinks? If so, from which domains and to which pages? Etc.

 By understanding the reasons behind the growth, Tuff can refine their strategies.

A prospect’s domain profile showing decreasing traffic trend as seen in the Semrush Domain Overview tool

If organic traffic is decreasing, Tuff can use Semrush to pinpoint potential issues that may be causing this decline using the domain data and an express Semrush Site Audit

Once the issues are identified, Tuff can address them in the proposal and devise an action plan to restore the client's organic traffic performance. 

A prospect’s domain profile showing stagnant traffic trend as seen in the Semrush Domain Overview tool

When organic traffic appears stagnant, Tuff can rely on Semrush to analyze the client's SEO landscape and identify opportunities for improvement. This may involve:

  • finding new keyword opportunities
  • optimizing existing content
  • expanding their backlink strategy, etc. 

By uncovering these areas of potential growth, Tuff can help their clients break through plateaus and achieve increased organic traffic.

On the paid side of things, Tuff can utilize Semrush’s Advertising tools to examine a prospective client's:

A prospect’s Google Ads keyword profile as seen in the Semrush Advertising Research tool

This insight allows Tuff to better understand which organic keywords hold the most significance for the client, enabling the development of targeted SEO strategies that align with their priorities.

2. Competitive Analysis

Semrush offers a robust suite of competitive analysis tools for both organic and paid search. 

Domain traffic comparison as seen in the Semrush Traffic Analytics

Tuff can harness the power of Semrush's competitive analysis tools to investigate a prospective client's competitors, assessing:

This helps Tuff identify opportunities for improvement and differentiation for their prospect. 

Additionally, Tuff can conduct a Keyword Gap analysis using Semrush to discover content gaps, providing valuable insights that can be used to develop a customized SEO and paid search strategy that effectively targets the prospective client's market niche.

Domain comparison in the Semrush Keyword Gap tool

3. Site Audit

Before pitching to a prospective client on technical SEO, Tuff runs a technical SEO audit on the client’s website. This allows them to uncover critical issues and gain insights that will ultimately decide if they pitch technical SEO services and what expectations they will set for the client.

Semrush Site Audit overview page

If technical SEO issues are found to be the primary cause of subpar organic traffic performance, Tuff uses the list of errors and warnings to devise an improvement plan. This might include: 

  • fixing broken links
  • optimizing page load speed
  • enhancing mobile responsiveness, etc. 

4. Backlink Audit

Before pitching to a prospective client on backlink services, Tuff runs a Backlink Audit and does extensive research. If link building appears to be a significant factor in the prospective client's organic traffic performance, Tuff can develop a tailored link-building strategy. This may involve:

  • identifying high-quality backlink opportunities
  • creating shareable content
  • implementing outreach campaigns to boost the client's backlink profile
Semrush Backlink Audit overview page

Key Takeaways

Semrush data helped Tuff to achieve a 75% success rate on partnership proposals. Using the tool, they:

  • Analyze prospective clients' organic and paid search performance, providing valuable insights to create customized partnership proposals that cater to each client's unique needs, increasing the likelihood of winning new clients and fostering successful partnerships;
  • Identify opportunities for improvement and differentiation, allowing them to develop tailored SEO and paid search strategies that target their clients' market niches effectively;
  • Pinpoint and resolve technical SEO issues, enhancing the overall performance and search rankings of their clients' websites.
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