Avinash Bikumalla

Head of Performance Marketing (SEO, SEM, FB Ads) at Apna

Avinash Bikumalla, dispersing SEO knowledge as a digital marketer

In marketing, SEO, before, was not seen as very relevant, but today most companies are hiring SEO experts because they know the SEO benefits and its ROI. Today, SEO has been adding value to the digital marketing aspect. Here is valuable insight on SEO tactics with Avinash Bikumalla - Head of Performance Marketing at Dezerv. He has been in the industry for more than 10 years and helped B2B & B2C websites scale organic traffic.

1. What has pulled you into digital marketing, and how has it been?

I graduated in 2009, as you rightly told but I got into digital marketing even before that. When I was in college, for the sake of pocket money, I used to write content and work for some US clients. I got into digital marketing to some extent. They used to tell me how to do keyword research and SEO. I got used to it even before my job started.

While I was working at Infosys, it was a time when the recession had started. I was on break for a very long time. And, I did not work on projects, so I thought I had to use my time in one way or another. I started learning other digital marketing courses, SCM, and affiliate marketing.

But another thing was because I was in Infosys, I also wanted to make sure that I had done engineering for four years; let me see if I can get a career in the engineering stream; if it doesn't work out, then ill go over there. After four years, I was not happy with what I was doing at Infosys. It was two things for me to do. At that time, android and development were booming in 2012, and there was a digital marketing domain. I thought, let me get into digital marketing as I know a few things. And, I bunged into digital marketing. I started my career in Bangalore in digital marketing. I worked in BankBazaar.

2. How was your experience as an SEO manager at BankBazaar?

BankBazaar has been trying to hire an SEO manager for the past two to seven months. They did not find anyone. I got a call from an agency saying there was an opening; do you want to try it? I created a ppt research document telling them about their site being affected by the Penguin penalty, and based on this, I got selected. The funny part of working with bank bazaar was that I was the first to work in SEO. So, I built a team of 10 people and got an ROI with high traffic. We got 6x of what we were doing in 10 months. And this gave me confidence that I could be in digital marketing. 

3. What all you guys did to increase the traffic by 6-fold?

One thing we did for the BankBazaar was that we created content based on the localization level. We used to sell personal home loans till then, all banks had generic home pages in India. But we started creating localized pages like home loans in Chennai and home loans in Bangalore, and that page was in vernacular content. It wasn't easy to convince my management team because we did not get proper content writers who could write in that language. The effort was worth it, and we got a good ROI.

At that time, we did not have a budget, so we hired a CA lady who was good at speaking. So, she created the video at her home, and that video was presented on the platform. It did get a decent view, like 10 to 20 thousand. And I think we are the only bankers who kept videos on our home loan pages. And that helped us get a lot of trust and leads.

4. Back then, in 2013 and the 2020s, what trends and changes have you observed in SEO?

One of the major differences between ten years back and now is the backlinks. When I say backlinks, those days it were purchased; they were not natural backlinks.

We used to create a lot of web-to-go properties and then create a backlink. But today, we realized that it doesn't work because Google uses less value to that kind of backlinks. It should be very natural. You should be a guest writer who adds value to the third-party website.

The second important thing is the content part. In those days, long forms of content used to rank well, but that is not the only thing today. Today, I think it is more of a user experience. One of the keywords is the 'IFSC' keyword; I call it, it has one line of content, and Google loves it. It is solving the user problem. You are sorted if you solve user demand.

5. How has your traffic generation story at Flipkart and Apna been?

I'll start with Flipkart because we did good research and content and ROI. At that time, we were competing with Amazon because Amazon was ranking on top. And we're like, how do we outrank them? As a team, we needed to do content marketing, but we could not write blogs as it wouldn't have worked for us. Nobody is going to read the blogs. Other websites, like MySmartPrice, etc., were already writing blogs. We planned to write a header content that we introduced to the entire system of India.

I'll give an example; when it comes to the laptop page of Flipkart, we know the intention. Do you want to go to a particular brand or model which is trending, or do you want to go for a price point or entertainment purposes? We know these are the keywords people search for. We created the header content with these headings. Laptops under 20000, 30000, and laptops for different purposes, etc. I used this header content tactically, and Google loved it. There was a time we grew 5x in Flipkart in those days; it was huge.

Usually, it was 80 million per month, but it went to 100 million organic visits per month.

At Apna, SEO is not the mainstay. Content plays a crucial role in SEO with the right kind of information. Apna is like a hyper-local company. People search for jobs at a particular locality, like jobs at Indra Nagar, etc., so if someone is searching 'swiggy jobs' in thane, we need to show the right kind of information. We created pages based on these local attributes. We provide the right information for the right keyword. We have tactically used the content to create the pages. These help us have good brand value for us. We did topple top job searches like Naukri for local job searches like jobs in Delhi etc. We did it with the frugal two-member team.

Our customer base is in Chennai, and they are ultra-rich people. They do not search for anything on the internet. They don't have time to search for all these rights. We thought we should provide something to these people so that they keep cooking with us. In our research, we found out that most people invest their money in stock or equity. We are experts in wealth management and finance; we should help these people. So, we started a free product called portfolio review services. We will see and say if your portfolio is doing good or bad. Since we get a lot of such queries, we wanted to automate this process using human intelligence. We mingle human interventions plus AI, which will tell you if your portfolio is doing well or not.   

6. What is your take on AI writing in general? Can it really replace human writing?

If you are looking for an elementary set of content, you have chatGPT and Jasper. If you want to rank your website based on that, I would say no. 

You need a lot of human understanding and emotions to generate the right set of content. ChatGPT can only give you data points and cannot give you analysis. 

For example, affiliate bloggers can use AI to write content and generate commission on clicks and purchases.

As an SEO person, it is to generate ideas. So, I use ChatGPT to understand the ideas and also understand how competitors are doing. If I am working at Apna and my competitor is Naukri, then I can search for what Naukri is doing and use it. As an SEO person, these AI tools are very important.

One thing I would say is that I like AI tools, but they will never be able to replace human content writers.

7. How do you see SEO in terms of generating leads?

The good thing about India is that SEO is evolving, and people value it. If you take four years back, not many companies were hiring SEOs. They did not believe in SEO because it is a long-term play. In SEO, you get sustainable results on a long-term basis. In the US, it is the reverse; they give importance to SEO because CPC is very high. One of the major channels of organic growth is SEO. The traffic you get from SEO has a higher amount of conversion rate.

I would give one suggestion to people, SEO is a natural process. SEO has three levels, first basic or new, second is intermediate level, and third professional. People who do product SEO, they do almost everything. Try to think about how you can automate things and make them unique and Google valued.

Get started with Pepper’s Content Marketing Platform.

Designed for winning teams.

Global Marketing Leaders 2023
Powered by

Global Marketing Leaders 2023 by Pepper Content is an exclusive curation of the brightest minds who have revolutionized the world of marketing. These visionaries have pushed the boundaries, disrupted the status quo, and transformed the way we approach content and marketing. Check out the full exhibit to be informed and inspired by the insights shared by these trailblazers.