Marcela Di Vivo is a digital marketing analyst and speaker for SEMrush. An industry veteran with nearly 20 years of digital marketing experience, she travels the world speaking about SEO, data driven marketing strategies, OMNI channel optimization, and the evolution of digital. Working with SEMrush has allowed her to combine her passion and expertise in forward-thinking marketing, analytics and disruptive technologies.



In This Episode

Marcela DeVivo has been in the marketing industry since before the age of Google and has seen many trends come and go. She developed a unique perspective on the future of marketing by keeping a close watch on disruptive technologies. In this episode, Marcela shares her advice on SEO, Facebook ads versus Google ads, and the importance of having a personal brand.

Topic Timeline:

1:18 Personal Branding and the Competitive Landscape

In hindsight, Marcela would have done things differently. Her advice is to build your brand first then work on the other businesses.

2:43 Create Your Mysticism and Build Your Foundation

Everyone has something of value to offer, even if they’re just getting into the game. Start building the foundation for your brand and, when you’re ready to take the leap, you’ll have an audience.

3:52 Get Clear on Your Goals Then Delve Deeper into Your Career

It’s never too late to pivot and start a new business if you focus, connect with people, attend events and give it your all.

4:51 The Sooner You Start the Better

The marketing space is competitive but the golden era is not behind us. There are new technologies being released all the time, and there are always opportunities if you’re paying attention.

5:38 Blockchain and Branding

Blockchain gives consumers the chance to own their identity and, if you are staying on top of the game, you could be the first to become an influencer on one of these new channels.

6:45 She Gets Things Done with Singular Focus

Marcela’s superpower is getting things done quickly and effectively. She has mastered the ability to hyperfocus. What might take someone multiple days to get done, she can accomplish in one day.

7:41 When Buying Ads, Look at Buying Stages

To determine which digital ad platform to use, Marcela recommends you look at which buying stage you’re in — awareness, consideration or decision.

9:07 Google Ads vs. Facebook Ads

Facebook can be more affordable if you’re just starting your business, and Google is ideal if you’re further down the sales funnel.

10:25 How to Maximize on Google Ads

If you have the budget to maximize on Google ads, create an alpha campaign using single keyword research and ad groups with hyper-focused keywords.

11:03 Blockchain Is Disrupting Industries

Companies are emerging with new technologies, but there will only be a few winners. Marcela believes the future of these technologies will be in blockchain.

13:07 The Two Qualities That Will Help You Succeed

Marcela has experimented across nations, languages and industries to see what works, and she found the more adaptable and versatile you are, the more likely you are to survive in the competitive marketing space.

14:11 Find the Gaps, Recognize Trends, and Jump on Opportunities

If you are willing to put in the time and effort, to be different and creative, there are opportunities for you.

I think it’s fundamental to put yourself first and foremost and start building the mysticism and the idea of who you are, find out what’s unique about you and, when the time comes, you’re ready to grow quickly.

– Marcela DeVivo

Show Transcript:

LR: Welcome to Modern Ontrapreneur. I’m Landon Ray and today we have Marcela DeVivo who is a digital marketing analyst and speaker for SEMrush. She is an industry veteran with nearly 20 years of digital marketing experience. She travels the world speaking about SEO, data driven marketing strategies, OMNI channel optimization and the evolution of digital. Working with SEMrush has allowed her to combine her passion and expertise in forward-thinking marketing, analytics and disruptive technologies. Thank you so much for being here.

MD: Thanks so much for having me. I’m very excited.

LR: Yeah, so tell me about SEMrush and what you’re doing there.

MD: So, I’m a digital marketing analyst and speaker at SEMrush. I started earlier this year and it’s a great role for me because I’ve been a marketer for 20 years and I started using SEMrush when they first came out 10 years ago and it’s a fantastic ability to use all these tools to improve digital marketing strategies from both PPC, organic, even social media.

LR: So SEMrush is a piece of software that does keyword analysis and tracking?

MD: Yeah, it’s competitive analysis, keyword analysis. It’s becoming a tool set that has also tools available for different types of digital marketing, both paid, organic, and social.

LR: You know, thinking about how the digital landscape today has evolved, you’ve watched the whole thing since basically the inception if you’ve been doing this…

MD: Before Google

LR: Yeah before Google. Exactly. You’ve got to agree that it’s getting more complicated out there.

MD: Absolutely.

LR: And, so if you could, normally I ask, if you could think back to give yourself some career advice, but 20 years ago, people didn’t have to deal with what they have to deal with today. So what advice would you give somebody starting out in digital marketing, somebody who was an entrepreneur who knew they had to figure out how to get customers, they understood that the internet is where everybody goes to find what they’re going to buy, what is the piece of advice you would give that will help smooth out the sort of learning process and get them over the hump so they can actually do that profitably?

MD: I think the biggest advice is to build your personal brand. I know when I started, I started launching businesses, so I created multiple businesses with different partners and then later I had clients and my focus was always in building these brands and clients or businesses, but I didn’t build my own brand enough. So, looking back now, I see the mistake because it should have been done backwards. I should have built my brand first and foremost and, from that, there I could have stemmed out all the initiatives, businesses, etc.

LR: But what are you saying when you’re starting out, you don’t have a business yet, you don’t have a career that you can sort of you know, reference, why would anybody care about your personal brand as a beginner?

MD: Initially we all have something to offer. We all have something of value, so when you’re starting out, you have your education and you can start laying the foundation. So at that point, you start building out your own personal site. I didn’t build my own personal site until maybe a year or two ago. After 20 years I didn’t need it. I was building brands and businesses. So you can build up your social media and you don’t have to tout yourself and your own skills in social media, but you can start building your audience and growing your own audience, not your businesses, but your own. And by the time you’ve got something truly unique to offer, whether it be 5 years, 10 years, however long it takes, you’ve already got a personal, the foundation of your own brand to jump off of. So I just think it’s fundamental to put yourself first and foremost and start building the mysticism and the idea of who you are, find out what’s unique about you and when the time comes, you’re ready to grow quickly.

LR: Yeah, interesting. So, just have an audience, post to social media, begin to have followers and just something that shows what you’re talking about your vacation pictures?

MD: I would say no, whatever industry you’re in, whatever you want to focus your career on, really delve deep and start getting into that niche and share and talk a lot, get to know people. Yeah, the biggest example for me is a friend in digital marketing, who started maybe five years ago, but her focus from the beginning was that, building her brand. And she started connecting, talking to people on Twitter, she just interrupted conversations, got to know people, showed up at events, really built her own brand, started speaking out of nowhere and today she is one of the best known marketers in the world, even though her background is she was a veterinarian, and she got into digital marketing from that and she just pivoted her brand and now is one of the best known marketers. So we can all do that.

LR: And do you think it’s going to be harder or easier to build an audience five years from now?

MD: I think it’ll be a lot harder. So the sooner you start, the better.

LR: Interesting.

MD: It’s just getting more and more competitive and more and more difficult.

LR: Yeah, yeah. Do you feel like the golden era is behind us, or do you think that the opportunity remains today?

MD: Fortunately the internet is too disruptive and there’s new technologies being released all the time. There’s a huge war on the brink of a new era, I believe, with blockchain coming out, so there’s going to be plenty of opportunities with new disruptive technologies for us to be known. So I do not believe that the golden era is behind us. I think we just have to always be on the lookout for the new disruptive technologies that are coming out that we can immediately participate in, and build our brand around.

LR: Yeah, and how do you think that the blockchain will relate to personal brands?

MD: It’s quite significant actually, there’s the blockchain itself. It’s simply a system, a distributed ledger. It’s ideally putting, removing trust, so when we think of Google and Facebook for example, they’re the medium, they’re the third party. So we give money to them and then they bring in the ad, you know. There’s this triangular relationship.

With blockchain, we as consumers can own our identity and we can pay directly to the advertisers, eliminating the third parties. There’s a lot of new tools and softwares and technologies that are being released on the blockchain, that when they come out, they are going to give us an opportunity to become known. The same way that the Twitter influencers, for example, those people were the first to jump in. They built their audience quickly. When there comes a new, you know, blockchain social media channel, whoever is on it first, that’s who is going to become an influencer.

LR: Got it. In those channels.

MD: In those channels, yeah.

LR: Yeah, understood. So what do you feel like your unique skill set is?

MD: Getting things done. Yep, I’ve learned over two decades in a very digital marketing is very busy, there’s so much to do all the time so, for me, my what I call my skills, my superpower, is getting things done, effectively and quickly. So I’ve learned to set goals for myself every day and I’m very productive. So by the end of the day I can do what it would take other people three, four, five days to do. Just from singular focus and just tight organization, I would say. But beyond that, in terms of in digital marketing, I come from an organic SEO background, so I have just tons and tons of knowledge on how to rank for Google and how to build the strategies, the analysis necessary to rank well quickly in Google.

LR: So this is kind of a throw away question given that you’re an SEO person, but I normally ask what is working to get customers in your business right now? Do you still feel, though, that search engine optimization is the best strategy? Is that the one you would invest in first if you were a new business?

MD: No.

LR: Okay

MD: No.

LR: What would you work on?

MD: I’d really switch things around, instead of looking at the channels, so I don’t look at SEO or Google ads, or Facebook or…. I look at it from the point of view of buying stages and buying journey. So, I look at awareness consideration decision. So, I look at what are the best channels at the awareness stage. If you’re a new business and you’re launching, Google organics takes time and it really does take a lot of effort to mature content, links, authority, so I think a quicker channel is Facebook. Facebook ads particularly, not so much organic, there’s just no more organic reach, but Facebook ads is a great way to get an audience.

LR: Awareness, yeah.

MD: Awareness and then you take those visitors and you can cookie them, and you start remarketing to them and from them you build lookalike audiences. From there you start getting them into your email list, and you send them emails, and then you start nurturing them so that when they’re ready to get to know your product, your service, then you’re top of mind.

LR: Yeah

MD: So, I think that organic really is more of a consideration channel.

LR: It’s more of a consideration channel…

MD: And obviously a decision. But it starts at consideration.

LR: Yeah, and it’s also challenging, right? It’s certainly challenging for a new business to get anywhere with organic. And how do you compare, when you think about the differences between paid search on Google and paid, you know, sponsored ads on Facebook? How do you think about the difference between those two channels?

MD: Well, they’ve become so similar, you know they kind of mirror each other. Google does now similar audiences as look alike audiences, so they’re very similar now, but I believe that Facebook can still be more inexpensive, but it is very much at the top of the funnel channel because people don’t go on Facebook to say, “What am I going to buy today?” They’re checking in on their friends; they’re looking at videos; they are entertaining themselves. So you really have to disrupt them and, you know, versus on Google ads, they’re looking for that. If they type in “bathing suit,” they’re possibly going to buy. So it’s further down the funnel. Unless you’re doing Google display and that’s, of course, similar to Facebook which is also disruptive.

LR: Yeah, so your recommendation for most small businesses is to start where it’s less expensive. You’re not going to get burned so fast because even Google paid ads are expensive and dangerous.

MD: Exactly.

LR: Yeah.

MD: Yeah.

LR: I think that jives with my experience also.

MD: Yeah, then there’s ways on Google ads where you can create very targeted campaigns, so we call these alpha campaigns, where you create single keyword ad groups and you really hyper focus on a very specific, small core set of keywords so you can use that or you can say, “Look, I’m going to set aside a budget to test” and you do what’s called a broad match modified, so you just like open it up and put a lot of budget into testing which keywords convert and then you pause and you take the converting keywords and you put them in alpha ad groups. So there’s ways of maximizing Google adwords, especially as a way of testing what works and what doesn’t work, so you can be a lot more strategic about your budget.

LR: Yeah, very interesting. So, what is the cutting edge for you? What are you learning about, what are you excited about?

MD: Blockchain

LR: Blockchain’s the thing.

MD: Yeah, definitely.

LR: And so you’re excited about that because you think there’s going to be a new Facebook coming out on the blockchain or is there something else about the blockchain that is exciting to you?

MD: I think they’re disrupting every industry. Every one.

LR: What about the fact that they haven’t disrupted any industries yet?

MD: They’ve disrupted crypto, well not crypto currency, that’s true! They’re on the brink of disrupting most industries. When before Google came out, we had Alta Vista, we had the Yahoo directory, we had DMOZ, we had Excite, right? So we had 10, and they were all fighting for market share and they all had a little bit of visibility but none had a lot and it was sort of the stage that we’re at now. They’re all kind of forming, but they’re all, you know, just in the formation stage. Then there’s going to be I believe a stage where there’s going to be all these companies or blockchain initiatives that are going to be vying for attention and then, of course, you will have a few winners that will emerge. But it’s early days. I think it’s 1999 in blockchain right now.

LR: Yeah, and when do you predict the first sort of break out use case will be for blockchain?

MD: I think we’re going to see that in, ah, there’s so many different initiatives.

LR: Social ID, voting, currency, payments…

MD: All of those are coming out. I think in payments.

LR: Payments

MD: Yeah

LR: Will be first?

MD: Yeah, I think so. Because there’s already a lot of different platforms for it and as with the growth of remote workers, the international workforce. I mean, I work with, my team across 12 countries. We have people in Russia; we have people in Italy. I mean literally, we are everywhere. So paying people is very difficult

LR: Is it?

MD: And we’re seeing more and more of that, so I think that the blockchain application of being able to remit payments across the world quickly and inexpensively will be the first.

LR: Yeah, well that would be nice. That would be nice. So when you think back on your career, you know, 10, 20 years from now whatever it might be, what do you hope your legacy will be? What would you like to be remembered for?

MD: I think for creating very diverse and multichannel digital strategies. I think the ability to be, ah, to think, to create strategies that transcend a specific channel or a specific brand is one thing I’ve been working on for two decades. So we’ve done so many different campaigns that just across nations, across languages, across even not just channels, but also industries. So, I think the ability to be versatile and just see that it doesn’t start and end with Google. I’ve seen it before, but there’s going to be a growth and the more adaptable we are, the more we’re going to be able to thrive, so I think my legacy is being able to perdure in an industry where many people have not lasted and doing so by being very creative and versatile.

LR: Yeah, yeah, awesome. And lastly, we call this thing Modern Ontraprenuer trying to get at what is unique about entrepreneurship in this moment. We’ve been at it, the both of us, for quite a long time now. What do you think it is that’s unique about being an entrepreneur today 2018, that may be different than 10 years ago or even five years ago?

MD: Yeah I think we can circle back around to what I was talking about personal branding. Even though it is getting harder and more competitive, I still believe there are opportunities for entrepreneurs to distinguish themselves quickly, using a lot of the different channels. I know with influencer marketing, for example, many of these influences have not been at it for a decade or two. They have been at it for a year or two, and they’ve been able to build out incredible brands.

So I think for those people who persevere and that are willing to put in the time and the effort and to differentiate themselves, it’s not just doing the same old tried and trusted things, but just willing to be creative and different, there still are opportunities. It is more competitive, it is more difficult, but there’s gaps. So being able to analyze and find those gaps and filling them creatively is what I believe is the biggest opportunity that we have right now.

The blockchain cryptocurrency space was that and has been that for the last year or two. It was a gap and many people came in and filled it quickly and fortunes have been made. Some fortunes have been lost as well, but that would have been unthinkable prior to the internet. And prior to what we have now. So whoever has the capacity to recognize trends and jump on them creatively, there’s so many opportunities.

LR: Yeah, beautiful.

MD: Yeah.

LR: Well, thank you so much for being here. This has been great to talk to you. I really appreciate it. Will you sign our wall?

MD: Awesome, thank you. Awesome, you too. Happy to.

Want more Modern Ontrapreneur Podcast?

Check out the previous episode featuring Matt Coffy of CustomerBloom.

About Elisha Lamar

Elisha Lamar is a Content Engagement Coordinator at Ontraport who loves to learn about all things marketing. Having lived in many beautiful places such as Montana, Colorado, and Oregon, she now calls Santa Barbara, California her home. When she isn’t writing for Ontraport, Elisha is exploring, hiking, and reading.