How SEMRush capitalises on the point of highest intent for upsells

In a recent study looking at how Alex Hormozi has created an incredible business off the back of a single Amazon eBook, I mentioned something I called “the point of highest intent”.

In short, this is something I’ve been doing with my CTAs for years.

You’ll have seen it across multiple other brands and business sites.

Particularly with content upgrades.

Rather than popping them at any old point, you carefully select the area where intent to take the next step action will be highest.

For example, where your blog article mentions the key benefit of using X to get Y, that’s where you drop the CTA to get X.

Simple, right?

But highly effective.

Something I noticed recently was how SEMRush are optimising for the point of highest intent within their paid software tool.

Here’s a breakdown of how they’re using this approach to not only increase engagement across offers, but increase AoV, LTV, and of course profit and revenue.

What is SEMRush

SEMRush is – in my opinion – the best all in one marketing research tool on the market (check them out here if you’re not already using them).

You have the ability to do all kinds of basic marketing and audience research such as…

  • Analysing your competition’s organic efforts
  • Getting detailed keyword details
  • Looking at competitor’s paid search and display campaigns
  • Backlink audits and backlink outreach direct from the dashboard
  • Content audits

And so much more.

SEMRush has built itself up to be an all in one tool for the savvy digital marketer.

It doesn’t go as deep on everything as some other tools (Ahrefs is better for pure backlink analysis in my opinion), but as a catch-all, it’s the best on the market and does more than 80% of marketers would ever need.

SEMRush have a great freemium model (which aligns with the breakdown we did on freemium model best practices), and pricing starts at $119 / month.

Semrush pricing
Semrush’s basic pricing

This pricing has worked well for them.

Revenue is reported to be around the $124MM mark.

Here’s the interesting bit though.

SEMRush have built a secondary offer into their services which will not only increase revenue, but goes a step towards following in The Hustle’s footsteps of stacking different offers to future-proof the business.

We’ll look at SEMRush’s offer stack in a minute. But first, let’s look at the key point that enables this upsell – the point of highest intent.

The point of highest intent

I’ve talked frequently of Yes Ladders in these studies. And the importance of building small positive engagements before you hit the lead with the big sale question.

What I’ve not mentioned is how important it is to serve those CTAs at the right time WITHIN each step.

You need to make the ask at the point of highest intent.

The Yes Ladder will define the overall process. But the assets at each stage that build trust also need a similar level of attention.

Take, for example, a simple content marketing approach to lead generation and info product sales – much like the Content Mavericks model.

You first need to identify the overall journey. In the CM model, it looks something like this.

Yes ladder
The basic yes ladder for content marketing success

This kind of yes ladder is necessary for every offer funnel.

You could optimise the CTAs for the paid offer until you’re blue in the face and get no results if you’ve not taken the time to build trust through the article and upgrade.

But you need to optimise the ask at each stage to get the best results.

Let’s take a closer look at the article stage.

The question to get them to the next level is “do you want the templates to do this yourself”.

But where do you put that CTA within the article?

The old fashioned advice is at the end of the asset, right? You wait until they’ve absorbed your expertise and thus, they’ll be more likely to sign up.

But that doesn’t work.

Look at the scroll depth for any article (or asset that requires engagement) and you’ll see a huge dropoff right below the fold. Usually, around 50% of the people who click through won’t scroll at all.

A very low percentage read the entirety of content online.

You need to look at the asset – whatever it is – and look for the intersection of…

  • A reasonable amount of engagement
  • A high level of interest in taking the next step

Where these two intersect is the point of highest intent.

Intent will usually peak somewhere between the end of the first third and the halfway point, and again at the end.

The point of highest intent for conversions
The point of highest intent is the best place to add your CTAs

So what do you choose?

  1. The opening where there’s the highest number of readers?
  2. The midpoint where there are still some readers, and high intent?
  3. The end where the readers are most qualified as they’ve read everything, but are very few in number?

The answer is all 3 (but with the same action and next step).

Where to put CTAs
Add multiple CTAs at points of highest intent – all should lead to the same destination

I’ve run many tests on this in the past and I generally find that…

  1. The first CTA generates the highest number of actions
  2. The second CTA generates the best overlap of quality and quantity
  3. The final generates very few leads, but those it does usually go the distance

Here’s the thing.

The offer stacking, Yes Ladder, and point of highest intent have to work together to get the best results.

If even one is missing the approach doesn’t work as well as it could or should.

It’s a little different when it comes to a tool like SEMRush, but I believe they’ve found a great balance by approaching this almost as if it’s the stages of awareness.

Let’s get into how they’ve done it, first by looking at their offer stack.

SEMRush’s full offer stack

On the face of it, the offers SEMRush offers are all research and planning driven. The left-hand nav bar has everything you’d need to plan out a full marketing campaign.

SEMRush full services
SEMRush’s offer stack

But if you take a look along the top nav-bar, they have a couple of extra tools that focus on different – but complementary – offers.

SEMRush's full offer
SEMRush’s complementary services

Here’s a quick explanation of the services offered.

  1. Content marketplace – hire writers to write the content you identify as high potential with SEMRush
  2. ImpactHero – AI Tool to analyse and offer insights on your content marketing funnel
  3. Agency Partners – List of recommended agencies who use SEMRush to hel their clients
  4. Amazon Tools – Full tool for Amazon research and marketing optimisation
  5. Prowly – SEMRush powered PR tool
  6. SplitSignal – A/B testing specifically for SEO experiments
  7. Custom Reports – You can get specific analysis and reports created by SEMRush professionals

The above remind me of what was outlined in the Sam Oven’s study.

Go deep, not wide.

Sure, some of the above offers go a little wide, but from a high perspective, all of the offers are related to SEO.

If SEMRush itself is the entry-level tool, then all of the above offers (bar the agency program and Amazon-specific service) take your relationship, spend, and engagement with SEMRush to a deeper level.

Semrush stacks their offers for better marketing
SEMRush’s offers go deep on single needs

Each offer adds more value to the base value of SEMRush.

As mentioned before in the Sam Ovens’ piece, this is a very smart way of doing things.

Those who use the base level service are qualified for the deeper service. Sure, not everyone will convert, but you’ve taken a lot of the hard work out of growing those complementary services.

If someone uses SEMRush for SEO research, they’ll be a fit for content writing services. And they’ll already trust the brand.

This deep model is something I’m seeing more of, and I think it’s a really smart way of increasing order value and LTV.

The basic deep offer funnel

So offering services that offer deeper value on the same topic is the easiest way to qualify and persuade more of your current users to pay you more cash.

But how can you organise it.

Well, the one common I’ve noticed with all of the deep offers I’ve analysed is the basic funnel sees a simple sliding scale.

As the price increases, the action the client/customer needs to take to see results reduces.

Deep offer funnels
DIY -> DWY -> DFY 

If we’re to apply that to SEMRush – particularly their marketplace option, then it’s…

  • Free trial – Get a taste of what this tool can do
  • SEMRush user – We’ll help find the best potential marketing strategies
  • User of Marketplace service – We’ll create the content you’ve identified for you

From free, to $120 / month, to an additional $100+ per engagement.

As the fee increases, the need for the user to take action decreases.

This is what all of the deep product offers I’ve looked at have in common.

How SEMRush leverages the point of highest intent for deep product promotions

So going deep with your offers is the best way to increase the average order value and lifetime value of each and every customer.

But what is the optimal point for promoting the next level of service?

When we looked at Sam Ovens’ offer, there was a natural funnel around the point of highest intent built-in.

Once somebody completes the base offer they should have hit their first milestone. 6-figure income.

That then qualifies them for the next offer, and their intent to sign up to the next level service to get them to 7-figures will be at an all-time high.  So they join the mid-tier offer.

And the cycle repeats for the high-tier offer.

Simple, effective.

But with SEMRush there is no graduation.

No one “finishes” using the tool. Even if you get every piece of content to the #1 spot on Google, you still need the base offer of research.

The game simply changes from offence to defence and protecting your spot at the top.

So, what SEMRush have done is built their promotional links to the deep offers into the service at the points of highest intent.

This is where I think they’ve been really smart.

As mentioned above, SEMRush has a huge selection of tools and features.

And for the majority of them, you’re left alone to do your research and define your own strategy.  Take the keyword overview page as an example.

SEMRush marketing
Basic SEMRush dashboard for research stages f

Everything on the page is aimed at helping you get better results.

There are no distractions from the research data you’d need to analyse and make good decisions.

This is true for the majority of the features and readouts within SEMRush.

And it makes sense for this stage.

The people doing research aren’t yet ready to take action. They’re discovering the best course to take for their business.

It’s similar to the stages of awareness.

The people researching keywords and finding what kind of content they should produce are problem aware. They’re searching for the solution.

Semrush marketing within the tool
SEMRush’s tools help move people through the stages of awareness

Once they’ve identified the solution, they’re going to move on to creating it.

In the case of a SEMRush user, that’s going to be a piece of content around their ideal keywords.

One such page that would help them plan and create that solution is the content template page.

Navigate there and you’ll see the below.

SEMRUsh offers and marketing
SEMRush’s DFY offer is on end stage planning pages

At the very top is a small green button that says “Order content writing”.

Semrush marketing for the SaaS tool
Another SEMRush DFY offer on an end planning stage

This is an offer the DFY service you’ll find on SEMRush Marketplace.

They’ve worked with you (via the tool) to identify a potential solution to your problem, then they’re giving you the DFY service as a simple next step.

I agree that the button could be larger and the offer clearer, but the positioning within the tool is key.

But the point stands.

SEMRush are waiting until the user is at a point where the next level offer is valuable and relevant before offering the CTA.

They’re not spamming the user with it. Nor are they throwing it out at the most irrelevant times.

They’re waiting until the user is actively looking to create something, then saying “we can do it for you”.

And if you click the button, it leads you directly through to the most relevant page.

SEMrush marketplace marketing
SEMRush marketplace offers kick-off with article length

It might seem an obvious thing, but so many brands don’t do this.

A lot of brands link their deep offer to a sales page or home page that either…

  1. Isn’t completely relevant
  2. Requires a couple of clicks and redirects to get to the order page

They do the hard work of figuring out the point of highest intent, and then lose that momentum by making the user take to many action.

SEMRush don’t.

When the user’s intent for hiring help is highest, the next step on their Marketplace is the first step in hiring someone.

What does the journey look like from here?

How SEMRush convert users on the deep content writing offer

After you’ve clicked through and expressed a potential interest in using SEMRush Marketplace, you’re effectively put into a second funnel.

As mentioned above, it’s a seamless transition as you enter right where you left off from the tool.

Here’s the thing that I find interesting here though.

As soon as you’re on the page with the various article lengths, clicking on the order button opens a checkout.

They basically ask for payment up front, before you’ve even written the brief.

Semrush upsell marketing
SEMRush Marketplace requires payment up front

You get a 10% discount if you’re also paying for the monthly subscription of $40.

Once payment is confirmed, you’re sent through to the page where you create the brief.

Semrush marketplace content brief marketing
SEMRush marketplace’s content brief

This feels a little backward, but I can understand why they do this.

In short, it’s about securing that payment. I wonder if they trialled it the other way – having people write out the brief and then submit payment – and saw a big drop-off rate.

I also would imagine that asking for payment upfront has an effect of the quality of the brief.

With money already paid, you’re going to spend time writing out a brief that makes it easier for the writer.

Either way, it’s the other way around to many other brands, but I think it works.

There’s a nice touch here as well if you come through by clicking the “Order content writing” button from SEMRush.

They pre-populate a suggested keyword based on the research you were doing just prior.

Semrush marketing keyword research

I’d recommend including more than one here though.

Once you’ve filled out the brief and hit submit, you can walk away and let the content writer get to work.

It’s a really simple process.

What SEMRush has done well

As I’m rereading this I realise it might seem a little shallow compared to some of the other studies.

If you’re thinking this. Give me a minute to explain what I believe SEMRush ahs done well and you can learn from them.

This upsell model does appear simple in contrast to something like Adam Enfroy’s leveraged backlink model.

But the beauty is in its simplicity. There are actually a couple of really smart psychological approaches and revenue-generating ideas SEMRush have used here to create a simple, but highly effective upsell.

The first is something we covered in the GoPro study. A subscription and purchase model.

SEMRush approaches this from the opposite side to GoPro in that their base offer is a subscription.

On top of the subscription they offer individual upsells at a set price.

I like this because a single sale is often an easier sell than a subscription. Telling someone they can get X for $30 / month is – in my experience –  a harder sell than saying it’ll cost a flat, one-time purchase of $300.

Both would increase the LTV of any customer, but one is a little easier to stomach and so easier to achieve for the brand.

In addition, they’ve stacked these offers in a way that could future proof their company.

Let’s imagine for a second an extreme scenario where Google shuts down all of the various SEO research tools.

Overnight, SEMrush, Ahrefs, and all the rest are no longer useful as their crawl bots and data is taken from them.

SEMRush still has the content writing service (and other ancillary products) to fall back on and continue driving revenue.

The businesses all work to increase the value of one another, but they’re also individual enough to not need the other to work.

I could go into SEMRush marketplace and request content without having a SEMRush account.

Much like The Hustle, SEMRush could lose an offer or two and still have the audience and offer to continue driving cash.

And finally, their timing on the CTA for sales promos is perfect.

It would be almost too easy to plaster a banner at the top of the tool, saying “get expert content writing services now”.

But I’d imagine that a very small percentage of SEMRush’s users are ready to get writing on any given day.

By limiting the CTAs to the stages where the user is most likely to need the help, they’ll not only increase the chance of those users converting, but they’ll also not annoy the rest of the users who aren’t yet ready.

This, to me, is the key lesson from this study. Timing in marketing is far more important than most people give it credit for.

Shoot your shot too early and you risk annoying the prospect by being too forward.

Wait too long and you could lose them to a competing service.

SEMRush – by design or no – have managed to get their offers in the right place at the right time.

If you can understand the intent of your customers and where it’s highest, all you need do is give them that little nudge to take the action you need.

The Full SEMRush Growth Model

As mentioned above, this model looks incredibly simple.

However, the magic is on how SEMRush have timed their upsell offers to get the highest conversion rates.

When the whole upsell model is laid out, it looks like the below.  

Semrush marketing and growth
The SEMRush Upsell Growth Model
  1. Get people in on a free trial
  2. When they see the value, get the upgrade to a subscription
  3. Help them find what the best solution is through your research tools
  4. Help them plan out the best plan of action with more action oriented tools
  5. On those tools, offer a CTA that allows them to get the action done for them
  6. Link that offer directly to a short sales page to reduce friction

It’s simple, but highly effective because it relies on the user’s intent.

When intent is high, the struggle of getting the sale is lower.

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