Digital Marketing Foundations: Part 6 of Social Media Marketing Series

This is the final in the social media marketing series that I’ve done as part of a course I’m in at NAIT.

To see the others click HERE.

Introduction

Since being in a social media marketing class, I’ve learned that digital marketing is complex, more so than I thought, but also an essential part of making any business a success in the digital era. Unfortunately, for many of us, it’s also overwhelming. Where do we begin? How much time is going to take? It’s often at this point that many people either give up on digital marketing or hire outside help. However, it is possible to create a plan that is doable. In Brad Batesole’s (2021) LinkedIn Learning series, Becoming a Digital Marketing Specialist, we will learn how it’s done.

What is digital marketing?

Digital marketing is any marketing that you do online through Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and even Tic Toc. Any platform on which you’re able to post, you can use as a means for marketing your business. It takes a bit of trial and error to figure out which platform and message is right for specific customers, but that’s what I’ve learned is an integral part of this process: trial and error. In fact, digital marketing looks a lot like science and experiments. You plan (hypothesis), try it out (experiment) and then evaluate the success or failure (Batesole, 2021). The data we collect on how well we do is the information we need to improve our strategy.

Getting Started

The other day, I had a conversation with a friend who has a podcast. He shared that he didn’t know where to start with digital marketing. To which I proceeded to download all that I had learned about social media marketing over the last couple of months. I think I heard his brain break over the phone. I had completely overwhelmed him!

He’s not alone. We all do this (or have someone else do it for us) all the time. What many people do when they get overwhelmed is quit. However, Batesole (2021) says to just start SOMEWHERE. You don’t have to do it all and you don’t have to do it perfectly, just do it. He also reminds us that the process is not going to be instantaneous. It’s going to be incremental and methodical but if you keep at it, aiming to learn as you go, success will happen.

Digital Marketing Framework

There are three types of media to understand in digital marketing:

  • Paid
  • Owned
  • Earned (Batesole, 2021)

Paid

Paid media is everything you pay for online. This could include sponsored ads and affiliate marketing.

Owned

Owned media is your website or blog.

Earned

This type of media encompasses all those organic mentions and shares that others do of your content.

(Garman, 2021)

The overall benefit of digital marketing is the ability to personalize your approach. Since you’re using the various platforms, there may the temptation to mass produce a post and duplicate across all channels. Batesole (2021) discourages that approach. Instead, tailor each ad to the specific platform and to your ideal customer.

The Marketing Funnel

If you’ve done any research about marketing, you’ve likely come across the marketing funnel. You know, the inverted triangle? But did you know that the reason it’s inverted is to signify that you won’t capture every customer that enters the funnel? Here is the lesson again: drop perfectionism. Not everyone you engage with will buy what you have to sell. That shouldn’t stop you from trying.

The funnel is divided into four sections: awareness, interest, desire, and action.

Awareness

At the top of the funnel is the awareness stage. It is here that the customer first becomes aware of your brand, but keep in mind, that they’re also becoming aware of your competitor’s brand, too (Batesole, 2021).

Interest

The customer is interested in what you have to offer and starts to look deeper by doing some research or asking around about yours and your competitors’ product or service.

Desire

In the desire phase, the customer has decided to make a purchase; they just may not have decided on purchasing from you.

Action

The customer purchases…or does not. It may be from you…or not. Either way, the customer has decided.

The funnel is described as having a top, middle, and bottom (Batesole, 2021). A digital marketer should focus their energy on each part of the funnel depending on what their goals are at any given time. At the top, your goal is about making people aware of the solution you have to offer. Focusing on the middle is about nurturing your prospect through the funnel. Frankly, this sounds a little salesy to me, but I like to think of it as nurturing relationships and building trust. The bottom of the funnel is about converting those decision-making customers to purchase from you.

Customer Journey

Keep in mind that while the funnel implies a straight line from beginning to end, but it’s not really that simple (Batesole, 2021). Marketers must understand their customer’s journey. What attracts the customer to your product or service? What are their motivations? What are their objectives? Each question you ask, should correspond with a different stage of the funnel. It may help to use a spreadsheet or some other kind of diagramming methodology to create a map of the customer’s journey.

Digital Marketing First Steps

Developing a Strategy

Since you can’t sell to everyone, you need to understand your product and your customer so that you can match them up.

I liken developing a marketing strategy to getting ready to paint your house. You can’t start by rolling the paint on the walls. You must start by preparing the walls, taping the trim, choosing the right colour paint, protecting the furniture, and priming. It seems slow and ineffectual, but it is essential to having your walls look the best they can and to not wasting your time and money. This is the same with marketing. There’s a lot of prep work that may not feel like marketing (research, planning, data collection, etc.) but it is all necessary to make the most of your marketing efforts (Batesole, 2021).

The steps involved are:

  1. Creating a value proposition
    1. Don’t focus on how your product is better; focus on how the outcome is better
  2. Identifying the target market
    1. Create customer segments using demographics (age, gender, geographic location), psychographics (interests, attitudes, and beliefs) and needs.
  3. Create your customer persona
    1. Should fit on a single page and generate a specific picture of your ideal customer
  4. Establish goals
    1. Create S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound)
    1. Determine OKRs (Objectives and Key Results)
  • Develop KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
    • Allows you to measure the performance of your activities
  • Draft a one-page marketing plan
    • Use a Lean Canvas

Digital Marketing Key Concepts

Persuasive

According to Batesole (2021), there is an important question which we need to ask ourselves as we are building a marketing plan:

What information would help me more persuasive?

With this question in mind, we can allow our curiosity to lead the way to more questions and exploration.

The next questions Batesole suggests are:

How will I obtain this information?

How do I use this information to my benefit?

Data Driven

Data drives almost everything in business these days and digital marketing is no different. Before I began learning about the process, I mistakenly thought that the number of Likes and Follows were the most important metrics to follow – or rather the only metrics. I’ve learned so much on this journey that it kind of makes my brain swim. Data is essential; both collecting and analyzing it will help with decision-making and planning because it helps us understand more thoroughly what our customer is doing (Batesole, 2021). You can always dig deeper and find more patterns.

Online Analytics

All our movements are tracked online through Cookies. It helps to monitor and collect information about our strategies and actions. Google analytics is a critical tool for analytics.

Customer Needs Gap

The Customer Needs Gap is essential for the businessperson to understand. All customers have expectations and desires. The difference between what the customers wants, needs, or expects and what services are being offered is the Customer Needs Gap.

Batesole (2021) recommends these steps:

Digital Marketing Hub and Spokes

Hub and spokes refers to Batesole’s (2021) metaphor a digital marketing framework to think about, plan, and manage all the copy and content you post online. The centre (or hub) is your owned content – like your blog.  The spokes are the channel to which you will post your content. Keep in mind to not have too many spokes because each one requires time and energy to manage (Batesole, 2021).

Choosing the right channel for your spokes takes consideration so that you choose the ones that work best for your brand.

The Power of Messaging

Batesole (2021) says that the best messaging is always simple and consistent. He suggest reviewing your current messaging to evaluate the current messaging being used. You can do this by sending out  a survey to your team with these questions:

  1. What is it that we do?
  2. What is the problem we are solving?
  3. How are we different from our competitors?
  4. Why should customers buy from us, or why did you buy from us?

As I read these questions, I can see how they could potentially uncover any confusion or miscommunication about your brand with your team.

Next, Batesole (2021) outlines some messaging best practices:

  1. Tell a good story
  2. Appeal to emotion
  3. Be consistent
  4. Be clear
  5. Be obvious

Prioritize Marketing Channels

As previously mentioned, we should not attempt to be on every marketing channel. Not only is it impractical but not every channel suits our brand. Therefore, you need to prioritize. How do you do that? Batesole (2021) has an acronym for us: ICE.

Impact

Confidence

Ease

He (2021) recommends a chart to determine with confidence with platform to use:

Score each section between 1 and 10 and total them up at the end. For the analytical types, you will love this. I can also how it wouldn’t appeal to some people.

Digital Marketing with Your Website

Your website is an essential tool for marketing your products or services. Since it’s the most valuable part of your strategy evaluate it using the questions below (Batesole, 2021):

  1. Is your site mobile friendly? Or even mobile first?
  2. Does it load properly on all browsers?
  3. Does it answer all of the questions my customers may have?
  4. Does it represent my brand throughout?
  5. It your site up to date?
  6. How does it compare to your competitor?

As you work through and modify your website be sure to focus on writing stellar copy. Remember, it should be simple and concise. Next, curate powerful landing pages that are designed to convert. It’s here that your previous work in deeply understanding your customer will pay off. It would be difficult to create landing pages designed to convert if you don’t know anything about your customer.

Digital Marketing with SEO

SEO is all about ranking. You want your website to be ranked high because it’ll mean that your content has been determined that you are relevant and popular with your audience (Batesole, 2021). Your website needs to be findable by people. How do people find you? Through searches through key words. Ensure that your copy and meta descriptions are meaningful and relevant to your brand.

SEO is complex and has multiple layers. To learn more, check out my previous blog post: SEO Foundations.

Digital Marketing with Paid Channels

Click Advertising

Even though it would be ideal if organic reach was enough to market our businesses. Unfortunately, it is not (Batesole, 2021). The fact is that we have to “pay to play.” Batesole (2021) says that most of the paid advertising works on an auction format, meaning it’s a kind of bidding model. The good news about this is that you get to determine how much you will pay.

Display Advertising

These are paid displays (much like a flyer) that are posted around the web. The locations are chosen to reach your target audience and can be effective. However, there is no way to know if you’re reaching an audience that is at the decision point of their customer journey (Batesole, 2021).

Video Advertising

These are the ads that show up in videos on You Tube. Personally, I despise those so much as a viewer that I don’t know that I could bring myself to use this option.

Social Media Marketing

You can pay to boost your posts or invest in sponsored ads.

CLV – Customer Lifetime Value

This number is arrived at through a formula that uses average purchases per customer, average markup, and average number of years of customer retention (Batesole, 2021). There are several things you can do with this data. For example, increasing average transactions values and determining a budget for future advertising. Once you know the financial value of a customer, you can decide how much you’re willing to spend on keeping them.

When Do You Pay?

How much you decided to spend will depend on your goals. Yes, back to those pesky goals (see how important that initial priming work continues to be?). You may wish to overspend on your budget, for instance, if you have calculated the pay-off is worth it. Perhaps if you’re near the beginning of your customer journey or if it means the difference between converting not converting.

To find out more, check out my previous post: Advertising on Facebook.

Creating an Ad

Most of the social media platforms require you to categorize and group your campaigns. It makes the most sense to do it this way, so take advantage. As always, keep your customer persona at the forefront of your mind. In addition, think about you. What makes you unique? What set you apart from the competition? Next, include your call to action in the description of the ad (Batesole, 2021). For example, “Buy Now.”

The last part is experimentation. Try an approach and then see how it works, then try again.

Digital Marketing with Social Media Marketing

One of the great things about social media marketing is the ability for connection and communication with your customers…in real time (Batesole, 2021). Each time your customer interacts with your marketing and posts, it increases your credibility. Also, remember those goals you made? They will come in here.

Consumers have a nose for being sold to. They don’t like, especially when it’s nonstop (Batesole, 2021). In fact, it’s the quickest way to get unfollowed. So, instead, focus on entertaining and educating. Especially, if the topic is meaningful to them.

You also can’t just post; you also need to follow and interact with your customers. This increases your validity and relevancy. Below , is an interesting image of the various platforms categorized by the use for which they are popular.

Followers

Posting on social media is pointless if you don’t have followers. Consider using hashtags and @names to grow your follower. You may even want to engage the help of an influencer (Batesole, 2021).

Digital Marketing with Email

Interestingly, Batesole (2021) says that email marketing is still relevant and useful. There must be a strategic plan to implement a good email marketing campaign. You’ll want to go back to segmenting your customers so that you can tailer your email campaigns.

Getting New Members

The first step, as always, is to identify your goals. Now, we’ve already done that haven’t we? Well, we might have but it’s important to continually review them because as your business needs change, so will your goals. The next step is to match those goals with your customer segments.

You will also want to refer to your marketing funnel and design your emails to encourage the receivers of your email to continue through the funnel (Batesole, 2021).

Email Fatigue

Customers get tired of receiving your email (Batesole, 2021). This could happen for several reasons, one of them being too many emails. Since customers know that emails campaigns are automated you will need to ensure that the emails are personalized enough so that they don’t just feel like a number. As you learn more personal details about your customers, you can create templates with these options built into them and ready to go for your segmented customers.

Measure Success

Measuring the success of your email campaigns is essential to improving them and there are several metrics that are available (Batesole, 2021).

Open Rate

This tell you how many customers have opened your email (Batesole, 2021). It could tell you effective your title or subject line are in terms of engagement.

Click Through Rate

This tells you how many customers are clicking through to your website. It could tell you how effective your Call to Action is.

Conversion Rate

These people clicked through but also completed the sale.

Digital Marketing with Video

Batesole (2021) says that video marketing is a must. These are those annoying videos in the middle of YouTube programming. As mentioned earlier, I find these particularly annoying, but many do see success with them. I must admit that I purchased a pair of sunglasses based on such annoying video.

Analytical Skills

Data drives pretty much everything we do these days (Batesole, 2021). By understanding your goals and your customer, it can help you identify which metrics you need to monitor. Below are the business areas you should focus on and consider using at least one metric per business area.

Reports

Creating visualizations and reports so that your stakeholders can make decisions on future campaigns and budgets will support your overall goal and impact your success (Batesole, 2021).

Additional Marketing Channels

Influencer Marketing

Influencers have become increasingly important to marketing campaigns. They are unique because they have made a connection with their audience and built authentic relationships with them. It’s why they are popular and can be regarded as an influencer. Interacting and engaging an influencer is essential (Batesole, 2021).

The important aspects to remember about influencer marketing are:

  • Social proof
    • Influencers have leverage and have gained trust. If they are using a product or service, it’s likely their followers will do so, too.
  • Affordable
  • Cut through the noise
    • Influencers have been proven to cut through email fatigue since people want value (Batesole, 2021).

Automation

Since we’re in the age of truly surfing through the internet, hopping, and popping from one platform to the other in a matter of, sometimes, minutes, the only way to keep up and jump on those magical moments of opportunity, it’s time to automate (Batesole, 2021).

Sequencing and triggers are the foundation for automated marketing.

Sequencing is the order of emails that get automatically sent and the triggers prompt those emails to get sent.

Trends to Watch

There are two ways to get customers: push or pull marketing.

Push marketing is all the things you do build awareness of your brand…without the engagement (Batesole, 2021). While pull marketing invited your customers in to a connected, two-way conversation. According to Batesole (2021), the goal is interactivity.

Artificial intelligence is, as we know, the wave of the future…and NOW. Chat bot, for example, are more than just those message that automatically pop up when you open a website. They are sophisticated, automated, conversation machines that can be used to collect data, lead your customer to specific departments, and even prompt a sale (Batesole, 2021).

Conclusion

This is just the beginning of your digital marketing journey. If you’re interested in learning more, I encourage you to check out all of the wonderful courses over at LinkedIn Learning. There is a plethora of information there that will help you fulfill your marketing goals.

References

Batesole, B. (2021, January 14). Becoming a Digital Marketing Specialist. Retrieved from LinkedIn Learning: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/digital-marketing-foundations/what-is-digital-marketing?contextUrn=urn%3Ali%3AlyndaLearningPath%3A56d7a3f83dd559b764b88a8f&u=2109516

Blue Corona. (2019, July 13). The Modern Digital Marketing Funnel: Explained. Retrieved from Blue Corona: https://www.bluecorona.com/blog/new-digital-marketing-funnel-strategies/

Garman, E. (2021). Discover the Difference Between Earned, Owned & Paid Media. Retrieved from Titan Growth: https://www.titangrowth.com/what-is-earned-owned-paid-media-the-difference-explained/

Follow Up to My Near Miss ($3000 Fraud)

I’m sharing this story again because it’s important to spread the word.
And I have a slight follow-up…

As I wrote about in my previous post, it was the employees at Save-on Foods (a grocery store) who saved me. It took THREE of them to get me to stop and not purchase $3000 in gift cards because I was so certain on my mission (and confident that *I* would never get caught by fraud).

When the first two clerks kept saying “this sounds like fraud,” I promptly sluffed them off. I had my card laid on the counter to pay! The manager is the one that finally woke me up when he asked, “Have you actually spoken to your boss?” Yikes.

Here’s the follow up:
Today, I was at a different Save-on location and told my story to the clerk who was serving me. She was so happy for me and when I said it was the Save-on people who made all the difference, she told me a different version of the same story…
The other day a gentleman came in to buy cards and wouldn’t listen to her when she tried to warn him. He was so certain and, his case, he actually purchased the cards. The clerk said to me: a lot of people just don’t want to hear us when we try to warn them.

BTW, there’s no returning gift cards.

We’ve gotten so comfortable communicating via email and text that some of us (as in me) think of it the same as talking to someone. And it’s not!

Why don’t we (as in me) listen to the grocery clerks who are trying to help us?! Is it arrogance?

Some of us (yep, me again) don’t even listen to ourselves.

I had a little voice inside saying, “hmmm, this seems weird,” but I so quickly talked myself out of paying attention and came up with some kind of reason to not listen. How many other times in my life have I done that? A lot, I suspect.

AND, in an effort to be gracious to me, this person (the fraudster) attempted to take advantage of my kindness. I wanted to help my boss. Which I will continue to do. I’ll just be more cognizant of how I go about doing that in the future. 🙂

I’ll try to never get taken in by fraud again.
LOLOL

I say that knowing I’m still not immune. So, while I can’t guarantee I won’t fall for some scheme again, I will venture to listen to myself.

Knowing I will likely not listen again.

But perfection is not the goal here.
Connection is.

I Was Almost Defrauded $3000…and it’s the Best Thing That Happened to Me

I was almost defrauded out of $3000.
ALMOST.
That’s an essential part of the story so that you know, first of all, all is okay. The next, and probably the most important part, is that there are some really really great people out there. What happened to me two days ago PROVES to me that there is more good than bad around us.

A couple of days ago, an email came through my work address seemingly from my boss (spoiler: it wasn’t). The email asked for my urgent help since she was in a conference. I responded…of course!

She asked for my cel number. (Weird, I thought. She has it already. But oh well. Maybe she’s on a different phone.) And I give it.

The text came through immediately. She needed a bunch of gift cards in the next 30 minutes and could I go get them. Since I’m new at my job and eager to please, I hastily said YES and jumped up from my desk, whisking off to purchase the much needed cards.

In my mind, I’m planning my route and decided to go to Save-On Foods (a grocery store on the way to my boss’s office). On the way to the store, I listen to a podcast which happens to be about slowing down and paying attention in your life. (Ya. We need to do that more, I think to myself.)
I proceed to the store with haste.

Once I’m at the store, I briskly walk to the gift cards. As I start counting out the cards, THAT’s when it hits me that this is gonna be three grand! Yikes! I better warn my husband – right after I texted my “boss” confirming that I was going to be reimbursed the same day.

There’s not enough cards here. So I ask a clerk if they have more somewhere. She immediately asked if this was a fraudulant purchase. WHAT?! No, I say.
She says: well an elderly lady was defrauded last week.
I respond: oh well. THIS is for work. (In other words, I’m way too smart to be taken in by fraud.)

I take the cards to the customer service counter and the cashier says: arrrre youuuuuuu suuuuuuuure? This seems like fraud. We see it all the time.
And I say: Well it isn’t; it’s for my work. (Boy these people are freaking out, I think. My boss and I are going to have a laugh about this later.)
I laid my card on the counter to pay.

Then the manager comes over.
He says: Um. Are you sure this is legit?
I say: Look. This is for my work. (I’m feeling impatient now.)
And he says: did you actually talk to your boss?
And I say: Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

So, I phone my boss (just to prove them wrong) and when she answers, her voice is all casual and I think…fuck.
Hey, I say: did you send me to get gift cards?
She responds: ummm no.
And the house of mirrors came crashing around me and the truth was standing there in a sleazy dress. I. Could. Not. Believe. IT!!!!!

I thanked the store people profusely and all but ran to my car feeling like a complete idiot. I felt like I could throw up and the self abuse came crashing in:
How could I have been so stupid? What if I had gone through with it? OMG. What will my husband say? The store people must think I’m a moron. My boss will regret hiring such an idiot. And on. And on.
And on. I wanted to run away and hide and never come out.

I drove home and called a friend who, thankfully, pulled me back from the metaphorical cliff of self-condemnation.
And I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

Fast forward to today…I attend Tom Compton’s weekly group inquiry/meditation. He guided us through exploring the belief “This is serious.”

For those who don’t know, Tom faciliates a process called The Work of Byron Katie which is a method where we question stressful thoughts using four simple questions:
1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
3. How do you react when you believe that thought?
4. Who would you be without that thought?

So, naturally, when it comes to being NEARLY defrauded out of $3000, that’s pretty serious, right?
I thought so, too.

What I learned is that it definitely sucks. It was even kind of scary. However, with the belief of “this is serious” on top of it, I also felt really shitty about myself. I’m hearing in my childhood memory one of my parents (or some other adult figure) say: what were you thinking Debbie?! This is serious. SMARTEN UP!

With the belief “this is serious”, I’ve got to be on alert. I have to warn everyone. I’ve even got to feel a little ashamed. I tell the story to others in a really serious tone of voice. I feel traumatized even.

Wow, heh?

Without the belief? I feel so much lighter. I feel relief. I have room to really feel grateful for all the people looking out for me. The podcast I was listening to, the grocery store employees, my friend…and my boss. Who was SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO sweet, by the way. So many things and people to be grateful for. I now know what to look for in fraudulant emails and it didn’t cost me a dime. I’ve learned to slow down and, maybe, even listen to myself. If I can, that is.

During the Tom class, I texted the fraudster (yes, I still have their number). I told the person that I was originally really angry and humilated but now feel grateful for the experience.
They responded: lol Be happy.
I replied: You too. (After I first said to myself, WTF! This was serious!)

Tom played this song for us at the end of our session. It’s a great reminder!

Lashing Out When Our Feelings Get Hurt

Someone says or does something and, in response, we feel hurt. Sometimes that hurt mascarades as anger, righteousness, or resentment but it’s hurt just the same.

But instead of owning our feelings, we push them down and out. Away from us at the one who perpetrated this hurt onto us.

Why?

Because it’s so damn painful. Those hurt feelings are confusing. We don’t even want to feel this way so owning them is kind of like giving in.
And, after all, it’s the other person’s fault. They should be the ones suffering, not us.

So, we do the thing that we think will stop this hurt. We lash out. We yell or give them the cold shoulder. Or, in the digital world, we write a passive agressive post online about them hoping that they will feel an ounce of the pain we feel. They deserve it, after all.

This all comes from our own unmet needs. Most likely from childhood.
Ya, it’s the old inner child gambit.

It’s okay if you don’t believe it. There’s a way you can test it out. The next time you feel that hurt, anger, or resentment, ask yourself:

How do you feel..right now?

Inevitably, you will notice you feel young. Real young. Because that is where all of our hurt comes from. Every single time we’re hurt or angry, it’s a hurt or anger that was never resolved from childhood.

Again…it’s okay if you don’t believe me. Test it out for yourself. And then what?

That pain is an opportunity to meet the need that was never met. It’s the opportunity to listen to yourself in a way that you’ve never been listened to before. It’s your chance to be forgiven…completely. It’s your time to be there for the little precious one in you that was abondoned, overlooked, unaccepted, shamed, belittled, and abused.

It’s your time to be loved.

Reclaiming our Power as Patrons of the News

Journalists have been enslaved by a system obsessed with selling stories, which creates journalists who become enslaved by seeking stories that sell. Trust in the news is waning, but I do not believe the fault starts and ends with journalists. News media is a business, and to stay afloat, stories must sell; if journalists do not toe the line, they get fired, as seen in the case of the firing of Emily Wilder from the Associated Press (Bastani, 2021, 1:31). The perception of the news as trustworthy is changing – for the worse. However, the degradation of trust is not only justified but is not a new phenomenon, despite the intention behind the concept of a “free press.” It is worth considering that if journalists are enslaved, who is perpetrating slavery?

Various techniques used by media agencies to manipulate the public are plentiful, and with digital advancements, they are becoming more sophisticated. As the consumers of news, we need to educate ourselves on the tactics, like those laid out in the article by Andrea Bellemere (Bellemere, 2019). We need to realize that our points of view are commodities that politicians and corporations abuse for their agendas. We must protect them with critical thinking for our sake and for that of society.

There are many examples of false and misleading news stories learned to be funded by corporations. Barbara McLintock (2004) relays a tale of deception, funded bias training, and blatant corruption practices on behalf of the tobacco industry.  In this example, after Philip Morris, a tobacco mogul, financially contributed to a school for journalism, he began what can only be called bias-training of impressionable journalists with seminars about second-hand smoke (para. 12).  It is not surprising that graduates of this school later wrote articles supporting the tobacco industry.

The idea of news media agencies as objective fact-tellers is a deep line of disinformation. It is so deep that we have taken it on as a kind of ethos, just like those families who believed in the veracity of Alternative Math (Ideaman, 2017).  As far back as the 1800ss, the news portrayed Indigenous peoples negatively using misleading content (Lisk, 2020, para. 8). Due, in part to the lie of objectivity, we blindly believed the typecasts like the “drunken Indian” (para. 8).  It was part of a vast conspiratorial movement perpetrated on society to engender stereotypes and hatred towards an entire race of people, making statues like the Indian Act possible.

Maybe journalists are scapegoats for the failure in news integrity. Yes, they play their part since they create the content, but it is a deeper problem that, as critical thinkers, we must scrutinize.  We must ask ourselves who is behind the agenda for the content. However, we also must look in the mirror. After all, if journalists are at fault for writing misinformation, what part does the consumer play? It would be all too easy to claim innocence, but we must own that we have far too long taken a back seat to our news consumption.  It is time to break the shackles of enslavement and reclaim our power as intelligent patrons of the news.

References

Bastani , A. (2021, June 7). Why The media can’t tell the truth on israel & palestine | The bastani Factor. Retrieved from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNGf6vv_qaY

Bellemere, A. (2019). The real ‘fake news’: how to spot misinformation and disinformation online. CBC News.

Ideaman. (2017, September 19). Alternative math | Short film. Retrieved from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zh3Yz3PiXZw

Lisk, S. (2020, September 3). Rewriting journalism: How Canadian media reinforces Indigenous stereotypes. Retrieved from TVO: https://www.tvo.org/article/rewriting-journalism-how-canadian-media-reinforces-indigenous-stereotypes

McLintock, B. (2004). Cancerous journalism. The Tyee, 4.

Love is the Power – The Work as Meditation

Go to Tom’s website to find information on this and other
events being offered.

Using exercises, sacred poetry, music, movement and group dynamics woven together to support us in honouring, seeing clearly, and stepping out of old paradigms that no longer serve us in loving Life as it unfolds.

Through The Work as meditation we can begin to bring everything within ourselves, heaven and hell, dark and light, into the “light” of conscious awareness and finally begin to meet it all with love and understanding.

These retreats are ideal for beginners as well as more advanced practitioners in The Work.

Discover for yourself how this Work can awaken an unconditionally kind and loving presence within you.

Dates
October 14-17, 2021

Schedule
Thursday: 7-9 pm
Friday & Saturday: 9:30 am – 6:00 pm
Sunday: 9:30am – 5:00 pm

Cost:
Early Bird until Sep 1st: $425 CAD

New participant rate: $450 CAD
Repeater rate: $400 CAD

Address given upon registration.
Limited seating.

Register Now
• 
Send the fee above to Debbie here: paypal.me/DebbieBridge73
and
• ​Send her an email to confirm that you’ve registered through payment: debbiebridge73@gmail.com

Cancellation policy
Due to limited seating and Tom flying in: full refunds (less a $50 processing fee per participant) will be offered before September 15 if you have to cancel. No refunds after unless we are able to fill your spot in which case your tuition will be refunded, less a $50 processing fee per participant. If you do not send advance notice of your cancellation, if you do not attend, or if you leave the workshop early, your payment is non-refundable and non-transferable.

Questions?
​Contact Debbie for more information at debbiebridge73@gmail.com

Testimony

I have been attending Tom’s workshops for the last 10 years and no facilitator has impacted me more than Tom. Probably the most important learning for me was to realize that most of my stressful thoughts and beliefs are not actually true. They are stories I am telling myself to try and make sense of the world and to prevent me from feeling deep pain. In Tom’s workshops I have learned to question my beliefs and the judgements that come along with them. I realize that I am looking at life – big or small things – through my core beliefs around “right or wrong” and “good or bad”, rather than looking at reality and recognizing that things simply “are” – independent of what I think of them.

Besides using the tools of The Work by Byron Katie, Tom shares music and readings to underline his messages. This Rumi poem has become my favorite:
“Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing lies a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.”

I am on the long journey to that field, on the journey to Love. When I asked Tom how to live without the concept of “right or wrong” guiding me, he suggested to tap into my heart, and to let Love guide me. I had no idea how to do that, or what that even means, until I remembered how I approached life when I was a young boy. I let my heart guide me to discover the things I loved to do, like building my Fort and climbing on top of things.

I am grateful that I continue to feel more peaceful and more loving and accepting of myself, others and of all the crazy things that happen in the world. Tom has been a major influence along the way: experiencing his honest, loving approach to help me identify and deal with my stories and beliefs, watching him work with others and their life stories, hearing about his own journey and the work he has put in to living his life fully and with joy.

Glen

No ‘Period’ is a Complete Sentence

No photo description available.

No is enough. It’s enough of an answer. For you AND for me. And I don’t need a good reason to say it.

Even if someone asks me why I’m saying no, no can be enough. I don’t need to justify my no to anyone.

Not.
Even.
To.
Me!

If an answer of no becomes apparent to me, I can let that be enough. I don’t need an excuse. I don’t need to find the right words. I don’t even need you to understand. I can trust the no. I can trust me.

Content Marketing ROI: Case Study

I am a facilitator at Parents Empowering Parents (PEP) Society, a non-profit organization that provides programming for families with children (youth or adult) struggling with addiction. I’m kind of a jack-of-all-trades with PEP. I facilitate group meetings, perform HR processes, create webinars and material for social media marketing efforts. Since we’ve been fully online during the pandemic, we struggle with:

•          attendance to our meetings and webinars and

•          awareness of the organization.

I will apply the steps learned in this LinkedIn Learning video series to PEP by exploring:

In addition, I will apply concepts gleaned from a blog post by Erin Gilday, which explicitly describes marketing rules for parents of young adults with addiction (Gilday, 2018). The Website was an exciting find in my research.

1.    PEP Stakeholders

PEP is a small non-profit organization, but there are still many stakeholders to consider.

Stakeholders with Authority:

  • Board of directors
  • Executive Director

Stakeholders impacted by the success of a content marketing strategy are:

  • the facilitators
  • the participants who attend the meetings
  • the communities affected by healthier families
  • the workplaces of the families
  • HR person (if more families attend, we may have to hire more facilitators)

Stakeholders who contribute are:

  • Executive Director (she oversees posting and keeping the Website up to date)
  • Me (I’m in charge of creating marketing materials)

2.    Identify Goals

Goal: Awareness

  • Increased awareness of our programming
  • Reaching more families who need our services
  • Community organizations becoming aware of us so that they can provide referrals
  • Reaching potential donors or sponsors

Goal: Engagement

  • Reactions and sharing of our social media content

Goal: Lead Generation

  • An increase of people signing up for our email list
  • An increase of those asking about our webinars
  • An increase of people who search for help, landing on our Website

Goal: “Sales”

  • An increase of participants attending a PEP meeting for the first time
  • An increase of people attending our free webinars
  • An increase in donations and grants

Goal: Retention

  • Retaining current participants through reminders of the need for family recovery
  • Getting recommended by current attendees

Goal: Cross “Selling”

  • For those who attended a free webinar to participate in a meeting
  • An increase of calls to our support line

1.    Primary Goal with the most significant impact: Brand Awareness

We all know someone who is dealing with addiction or a substance use issue. But, unfortunately, there are many families suffering who do not know there is help available. Addiction is a family disease, and, as such, families need support and recovery. Therefore, sadly, the demand and the need are present. However, if they do know, they are not aware of PEP. The more people who know and understand the impacts on families, and are aware that help like PEP exists, the more people we can help.

2.    Metrics aligned with our primary goal: Brand Awareness

  • The volume of searches for our service
  • Traffic to our Website
  • Number of impressions on our posts
  • Press mentions
  • Brand mentions online from other trusted organizations/people

Content Development

Considering the steps Wilson (2020) underlines as essential to keep in mind, I will apply these to PEP’s increasing awareness.

  1. Target Clients
  2. Content types
  3. Resources
  4. Content that will support organizational objectives

PEP’s Clients

The clients who attend PEP meetings are families who are often in a traumatized state. They are at their wit’s end; all they want is to save their children from the devastating outcomes of addiction.

They would most resonate with messages of hope and a knowledge that they are not alone; support and camaraderie are available.

Gilday (2018) points that those who are addicted may also land on our Website through a search. They could direct traffic to their families.

Gilday (2018) says that marketing to parents of those suffering from addiction is like marketing to parents of college students (para.10). They ask similar questions such as “how do you keep them safe?”

Content Types

  1. Our Website: pepsociety.ca
  2. Email Marketing
  3. Lead Magnets
  4. Gilday (2018) suggests creating Lead magnets. These are free pieces of content that they can get in exchange for their contact information. Examples that we could use are:

Resources

  • The primary resource for any campaign we create will be the Executive Director and me.
  • The Board of Directors includes families and concerned community members; we could ask them to contribute content
  • The other facilitators may feel called to write content
  • Financial resources will come in the form of grants and sponsorship
  • The time available is limited

Content that will support goals

Lead Magnets

  • Free eBooks
  • Infographics
  • Gilday (2018) suggests setting up a landing page dedicated to one Lead magnet
    • The 4 Cs of Family Recovery would be ideal: I can’t control, I can’t cure it, I didn’t cause it, but I can change.

Website content

  • According to Gilday (2018), providing a separate page specifically for parents makes it simple for them to find the information they need.
  • Ensure we answer the question, “how do you keep them safe” on our Website

Email Marketing

  • Speak directly to parents in the marketing campaigns addressing specific pain points about their children
  • Choose the right time
  • Use first names in the subject line
  • Send two emails per month, according to Gilday (2018)

More to apply

There is, of course, much more that I could apply. However, the information in this video series excites me and has given me much to consider. Therefore, I’ve set up a meeting with my Executive Director to brainstorm applying the skills in this series.

References

Bishop, A. (2017, January 6). Choosing an attribution model: when, not which. Retrieved from Search Engine Land: https://searchengineland.com/choosing-attribution-model-not-266909

Brenner, M. (2020, February 24). How to develop an effective content marketing strategy. Retrieved from Marketing Insider Group: https://marketinginsidergroup.com/content-marketing/develop-content-marketing-strategy-not-plan/

Gilday, E. (2018, May 14). 5 rules for marketing addiction treatment to parents of young adults with sud. Retrieved from Little Light Copywriting: https://www.littlelightcopywriting.com/blog/5-rules-for-marketing-addiction-treatment-to-parents-of-young-adults-with-sud

How to pick the right analytics attribution model when there’s no right answer. (2021). Retrieved from Neil Patel: https://neilpatel.com/blog/best-analytics-attribution-model/

The modern digital marketing funnel: explained. (2019, July 31). Retrieved from Blue Corona: Measurable marketing solutions: https://www.bluecorona.com/blog/new-digital-marketing-funnel-strategies/

Wilson, V. (2020, November 4). Content marketing: roi. retrieved from linkedin learning: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/content-marketing-roi/why-calculate-roi-of-content-marketing?u=2109516

Content Marketing ROI: Part 5 of Social Media Marketing Series

Content Marketing: ROI

As we’ve learned through this Social Media Marketing series, creating a content marketing strategy has several considerations. It also, frankly, takes a lot of time, energy, and effort. Therefore, it makes sense that you would want to measure and track your results, not only for yourself but your stakeholders. In the LinkedIn Learning video by Velera Wilson, “Content Marketing: ROI,” we will learn about the importance of tracking ROI (Return on Investment) and how to do it using an actionable plan (Wilson, 2020).

Establishing Content Marketing Goals

Wilson points out that it’s not enough to get buy-in for your content marketing strategy from your immediate department or team. You need to check in with other groups (or stakeholders) in your company. Meeting content marketing goals, especially in the long run, requires that they understand the plan, the goals, and the process so that they fully support your efforts.

Stakeholders? What’s that?

You are a stakeholder of any project in which you participate, but there are many others. Stakeholders are anyone who benefits from your project. These could include your team members, boss, other departments, clients, and even your competitors. It could also be the bank with which you have your business loan or your suppliers.

Engaging Stakeholders

To proceed with your strategy, Wilson (2020) says you need to develop a plan to engage the stakeholders, ensuring you get the support you need for success.

Identify Stakeholders

It would be a worthwhile exercise to sit down and write out all your stakeholders. There are more than you might think, so this will be a bit of a brainstorming activity. According to Wilson (2020), there are three main types of stakeholders to consider:

  1. Those with authority
    These are the people who sign off on the plan and approve the budget.
  2. Those Impacted
    Your marketing efforts will directly impact these people. Think of the sales team, the HR team, or even the receptionist. When you kick butt with content marketing, you will likely get an influx of business. So it’s a good idea to prepare everyone.
  3. Those who contribute
    Now that you’ve come up with a superb strategy, someone needs to put it into action, which would be this group of people.

Define Content Marketing Goals

Collaborating with stakeholders can often be challenging, says Wilson (2020), which makes sense. When multiples of people care about a project, there will likely be many ideas regarding achieving its success. So while you may believe you’ve got the plan fully figured out and are eager to get started, it’s worth your while to spend the time having a meeting of the minds with your stakeholder team. They might even have ideas you haven’t considered.

Wilson (2020) outlines some questions to consider:

  1. What are the goals the company hopes to achieve? For example, brand awareness.
  2. What are the gaps? For example, lack of web traffic.
  3. What are the opportunities? For example, an increase in sales.
  4. How can content marketing solve these issues?

Evaluate Ideal Content Marketing Goals

Wilson (2020) describes multiple goals that you may consider when devising a content marketing strategy.

Wilson (2020) emphasizes this question when considering which goal to pursue:

  1. Brand awareness: Recognition of your brand and company
  2. Engagement: An interactive relationship with the content and clicks or shares.
  3. Lead generation: Genuine customer interest and inquiries
  4. Sales
  5. Retention and loyalty of customer base
  6. Upselling/Cross-Selling

Which goal(s) will offer the most significant impact on your business?

After the groundwork of identifying goals and evaluating which ones will impact the success of your business, Wilson proposes that coming into agreement with your stakeholders will be a natural outcome.

Measuring Success Using Metrics

Metrics are measurements used for tracking performance; each goal will have specific metrics with which to align. Unfortunately, aside from sales, which have a defined numerical measurement, many content marketing goals are challenging to gauge…unless you understand how. Wilson (2020) suggests that the secret to measuring success is in understanding which metrics to use and aligning them to your organizational goals. 

For example, with brand awareness as a focus, you might use website traffic metrics or the number of views on your video. If you decide to focus on engagement, you might observe the number of Likes or Comments on your posts.  With regards to Lead Generation, you may track the number of email subscriptions.

Each goal has metrics that indicate how well your content marketing is doing.

Benchmarking

It’s not enough to look at the metrics; we need to analyze them. Part of that analysis includes benchmarking or, in other words, comparing our results against our past efforts and the efforts of other companies (Wilson, 2020). Observing our past campaigns, our competitors’ content and successes, and marketing strategy reports are three methods we can use to perform benchmarking, according to Wilson.

Timeframes

Like any goal or strategy, defining time frames for action steps and performance reviews is an essential step (Wilson, 2020). Time frames help keep stakeholders in the loop, reinforcing the alignment of the goals with metrics.

We’ve learned that creating a content calendar is essential for consistent posting and scheduling campaigns through Facebook Business Manager to direct our advertising efforts efficiently. In addition, measuring performance within a constrained timeframe that matches our content marketing efforts and schedule helps you determine what isn’t working.

How to Calculate Content Marketing ROI

The ultimate goal is to generate sales for our organization or project. It’s exciting to see click-throughs and money coming into our bank accounts, but how do we know we’re earning revenue? We do this by measuring the ROI (Return on Investment). How much money do we have after we’ve considered any funds invested (Wilson, 2020)? Stakeholders will be very interested in ROI so that they can decide whether to continue to authorize the strategy and sponsor our efforts or fund future promotions. It also helps them determine what financial contribution our content marketing plan is making to the company (Wilson, 2020).

Calculating ROI

  1. How much money did you spend?
  2. What is your net profit? (Sales-Cost)

ROI Calculation

Estimate ROI Using a Business Example

If we are going to sell our stakeholders on our plan, we need to show them that we can achieve our goals, and they will want to see some numbers as proof (Wilson, 2020). Using data from a past campaign, you can estimate:

  1. Cost
  2. Conversion Rate
  3. Revenue

Estimate Cost

We need to list out all the costs involved with our marketing strategy. For example, how much will our paid ads cost? Are we hiring a copywriter or web designer?  Record and total all costs involved; if you don’t know them, you can contact companies for quotes.

Estimate Conversion Rates

Remember that conversion is when people who interacted with your social media marketing become paying customers. Leads generated are when a potential customer responds by, for example, entering their contact information, filling in a request for more information, or signing up for a newsletter.

When you use the number of leads you generated from a previous campaign along with how many sales you generated, you can calculate your estimated conversation rates.

Estimate Revenue

Once you have the estimated cost and conversion rate, you can calculate revenue.

Creating Content to Drive Results

Wilson (2020) asserts that content must apply directly to the customers you’re trying to reach, which makes good sense, but how do you do it? You must develop content with your target customer in mind. Your customer guides every decision! While many say that content is king, I would posit that the customer is king.

Developing Content

Developing content which will get you the results you’re looking for involves a few factors:

  1. Target Customer
  2. Content types
  3. Resources
  4. Content that will support organizational objectives

1.     Target Customer

As always, you need to start with considering your target customer.

  • Who is the target customer?
  • What kind of content and media would most resonate with them?

2.     Content types

Focusing on the customer, perhaps even picturing a target customer persona, will help direct your content strategy. Imagine your ideal customer: would they respond to video or white papers filled with data and evidence (Wilson, 2020)? Teenagers, for example, are more likely to respond to videos. In contrast, lawyers may be interested in white papers. Wilson explains that you’ll know what content to create once you know WHO you’re trying to reach.

1.     What resources do you have available?

Once you’ve decided what to create, you must identify the resources you have available. For example:

  • What is your budget?
  • How much time do you have at your disposal?
  • Who is willing or qualified to do it?
  • Content that will support organizational objectives

According to Wilson (2020), content should also support your goals, reiterating how important it is to set them.

Wilson reminds us that while “content is king,” it is not one size fits all. Instead, we must first consider our target customer, our available resources, and our business goals. Then we can determine the content we want to create.

Buyers Journey

Wilson (2020) explains that it’s the job of the content creator to move their customers through the buyer’s journey, which has four stages as depicted here:

Following is a detailed description of each stage, as explained by Wilson.

Awareness

Buyer: It occurs to them that they have a problem and have begun seeking a solution.

Content creator: Helps the buyer further understand their problem and offers possible solutions using light content that is easy to consume.
Examples include short videos and posts, which have memes.

Consideration

Buyer: They begin to deepen their research into possible solutions. They’ve become aware of your brand as well as your competition’s brand. They’re at a crossroads, deciding which path to take, and they must consider all their options first.

Content Creator: Educate buyers using more detailed information and content, helping them see that you should choose to solve their problem.
Examples include webinars and white papers.

Decision

Buyer: They are about to take the path towards your product and check into some final decision determiners, such as reading reviews or returning to your Website a few times.

Content Creator: Provide details on your product/service.
Examples include demos, free trials, and product description pages.

Purchase

Buyer: Completes the acquisition.
Content Creator: Celebrates and evaluates success for future reference.

Modern Online Buyers Journey

I found a post by Blue Corona that takes the traditional buyer’s journey and literally twists into a circle (The Modern Digital Marketing Funnel, 2019).

According to the post, the buyer’s journey is more like a cycle of twists and turns than a funnel (The Modern Digital Marketing Funnel, 2019, para. 8). In the examples they include, buyers cycle around and around in the consideration, research, and discovery loop many times before landing on the purchase phase. In the online world, this makes sense. There is simply more information available at our fingertips. When I think of my own buyers’ cycle, I may stay in the loop for a long time and even appreciate, at times, those ads that follow me around offering me more information to help me decide.

Distribution Channels

Of course, the first thing we must consider is our target customer. We need to think about where they hang out online, making data an essential aspect of this step (Wilson, 2020). Google Analytics will help determine the online habits of your customer.

  1. Which online platforms does your customer visit?
  2. What content has the best results on those platforms?
  3. How will the content reach them?
    Paid distribution such as Facebook ads
    Shared distribution when someone shares your posts
    Owned distribution through your newsletters and websites

Attribution Models

According to Wilson (2020), attribution refers to crediting the level of influence or effectiveness of the content that drives a buyer to decide to purchase. The models allow you to understand and give credit to the content that delivered on your goals. Choosing from one of the four models ahead of time will help analyze the results of your campaigns.

Four Models:

  1. First touch: assumes the first content your buyer encountered is the most important
  2. Last touch: assumes the final content your buyer encountered is the most important
  3. Linear: assumes equal value to all content the buyer encounters
  4. Time Delay: assumes the content which is closest to the conversion is the most important

Not Which Model, When

After learning about the attribution models, I wondered how to decide which model to use. I came upon a blog post by Amy Bishop (2017). She says that since one model can’t reveal all the answers you’re looking for, it’s not which model to use. It’s when to use it (Bishop, 2017, paras. 1-3). For example, if you want to know “which channels generated new prospects,” the First Touch model would your best choice (para. 15). Bishop’s method of the “not which, when” deciding process ensures that we’re not missing important information and becoming biased in our assessments.

Overview Case Example

As described in a post by Michael Brenner (2020), this process can become very detailed, who outlines a customer-driven content creation strategy in the image below. First, the customer persona is identified, including needs, personality type, motivators, media preferences (content types), and more. The more you can get into your customers’ heads, the more you can create content appealing to them.

Reporting Campaign Performance

The content distribution methods used by you and your organization will determine the tools you will use to track performance. Just a few examples are:

Useful vs. Relevant Metrics

There are useful metrics, such as page views, which indicate an aspect of your marketing efforts. However, Wilson (2020) posits that relevant metrics take useful metrics a step further because they link the overall effectiveness to your organizational goals. Examples of relevant metrics are conversion rates and leads. The way I think of it is useful metrics show me what’s happened in my campaign, while relevant metrics show what happened NEXT.

Adjusting Campaign Variables

A big takeaway for me during this series is that content marketing requires constant monitoring and adjusting. It’s more than creating an excellent post and sitting back to see what happens.

Once we’ve set up tracking and have insights into our marketing efforts, we will likely need to adjust.

  • First, determine what is and is not working.
  • Second, what could be improved?

Wilson (2020) lays out four variables that we can change if we determine an issue.

Authors Conclusion

The whole point of creating content campaigns is to drive results that meet our organizational goals (Wilson, 2020). We need to observe and evaluate effectiveness over time so that we’re able to adjust for what is not working and how we could make improvements. Equally important is learning what works well to duplicate our efforts, cutting down on time and expense.

Wilson suggests staying up to date in this ever-evolving online landscape by utilizing these resources:

  • Content Marketing Institute (CMI)
  • LinkedIn Learning

My Conclusion: Personal Case Study

Click here to read this content in action.

References

Bishop, A. (2017, January 6). Choosing an attribution model: when, not which. Retrieved from Search Engine Land: https://searchengineland.com/choosing-attribution-model-not-266909

Brenner, M. (2020, February 24). How to develop an effective content marketing strategy. Retrieved from Marketing Insider Group: https://marketinginsidergroup.com/content-marketing/develop-content-marketing-strategy-not-plan/

Gilday, E. (2018, May 14). 5 rules for marketing addiction treatment to parents of young adults with sud. Retrieved from Little Light Copywriting: https://www.littlelightcopywriting.com/blog/5-rules-for-marketing-addiction-treatment-to-parents-of-young-adults-with-sud

How to pick the right analytics attribution model when there’s no right answer. (2021). Retrieved from Neil Patel: https://neilpatel.com/blog/best-analytics-attribution-model/

The modern digital marketing funnel: explained. (2019, July 31). Retrieved from Blue Corona: Measurable marketing solutions: https://www.bluecorona.com/blog/new-digital-marketing-funnel-strategies/

Wilson, V. (2020, November 4). Content marketing: roi. retrieved from linkedin learning: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/content-marketing-roi/why-calculate-roi-of-content-marketing?u=2109516

SEO Foundations: Part 4 of Social Media Marketing Series

When I think of searching for stuff on the internet, I think of the effort it takes to develop the right word or phrase to get me the results I want to answer my question. The question could be, “Who has the best Indian food in Edmonton?” Or it could be, “Where are the best campgrounds in Alberta?” Or it could even be, “Is Sam Heughan married”? (That’s an Outlander TV series reference for those who might not know.)

If you’re like me, you’ve spent too much time to count going in circles, refining search results, changing the wording, and trying again only to end in frustration.  Searching but not location quite the right website to answer my question is a dismal disappointment. However, I never knew the websites are also trying to find me.

In today’s online marketing and research world, we all must understand and use keywords effectively. It’s as if we all are roaming around a darkened forest, sweeping our flashlights back and forth, calling out “Marco,” and we’re yearning to hear the right “Polo” in response. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is like tailoring our website to call out “Polo” to that lost soul looking for us in the forest. To continue with the metaphor, SEO makes our website shine brightly so that the searcher barely needs any effort to locate us. We want to be the brightest, loudest website in the forest.

The following is a summary of LinkedIn Learning’s SEO Foundations course by David Booth. I recommend LinkedIn Learning’s videos. Super informative and digestible.

Overview of SEO

David Booth (2020) says the point of Search Engine Optimization is to improve search engine results so that your website sees increased traffic.

SEO, done well, actually focuses on “organic results” – meaning people are searching for something and your website shows up as a result, or as an answer to their search.

Even if you’re not trying to sell something directly, you could benefit from learning about search engine optimization. For example, you may be running a non-profit or you simply want to share your thoughts about life. Wouldn’t you want the most amount of people to find you as possible?

Our goal with SEO is to become attractive to Google, according to Booth (2020). We want Google to RANK us higher, thereby making it more likely that we’ll show up in the search results.

Valdo Pavlik (2021) says in his blog post about SEOs that since Google currently dominates the internet world, instead of SEOs we could name them Google Optimization (para. 3).

Relevance and Authority

Relevance

Booth (2020) says search engines want to return the most relevant results. There’s that weird personification. It’s kind of creepy thinking of search engines wanting to show me results on my searches. That said, it’s also handy because when I’m searching ‘Sam Heughan,’ I get websites about Sam Heughan. Alternatively, if I have a fan site about Sam Heughan, my website shows up in someone else’s search results.

How does it work?

The SEO collects all kinds of information on our website. It indexes it and then uses an algorithm (that allusive, mysterious and powerful tool we’re not supposed to look too closely at) to return the most relevant and reliable results to the search word or phrase (Booth, 2020). Cousin Algorithm is sneaky that way.

Another factor to relevance is that while SEOs want to return the most relevant information, they don’t want to leave anyone out who might be even a little bit relevant.  That means when I enter a search for Sam Heughan, I will also get results for Outlander, Scotland, Kilts, and Whisky because they are related to him.

Authority

Authority is about trust.

For example, someone might put in the keywords, Sam Heughan, but end up posting about knitting on their website. They used those keywords to attract visitors to their site, which seems like a clever idea. However, like bees to honey, visitors get drawn in, but when they see knitting instead of sexy Sam, they feel duped. In response, they might leave a nasty review resulting in the website losing trust.

On the other hand, if someone visits a website and finds all the juicy details of Sam Heughan they could ever desire, they declare their trust by linking to that site. Like I’m doing with this one: https://heughligans.com/

(CRESTOSINA, 2021)

The critical thing to understand, aside from my assurance that I’m not as crazy as I sound about Sam Heughan, is that we earn authority and relevance over time. The more a website proves itself to post relevant, reliable, and trustworthy information, the more trust points it deserves, and the higher up in the SE rankings it will climb (Booth, 2020).

Search Engine Result Pages

There are many kinds of search engine results. As the internet and market change in what gets posted, so do the results that might appear. Videos, news stories, images, and social media links are some examples.

Booth (2020) explains that there are two types to be aware of: paid listings and organic listings. Paid listings are what they sound like: paid advertisements. Google, for example, allows advertisers to bid on prime spots. Organic listings are the kind found by searchers naturally. Results will generally show ten organic results, called “blue links.” Within these blue links are specific information such as a headline, description, and visible URL. It’s this information that will be learning to customize (Booth, 2020).

Setting SEO Expectations

As mentioned, earning and gaining valuable ‘trust votes’ from other sources linking to our website takes time and effort. We must curate relevant and exciting content, post useful ‘links,’ and keep on top of managing technical issues. Not only does it take time for us to develop our websites in this manner, but it also takes time for these changes to show up in the search engine results (Booth, 2020).

Moreover, we need to keep humans in mind. After all, it’s not just about appeasing Cousin Algorithm and the internet Gods. Behind all of the techno mumbo jumbo are human beings looking for what we have to offer. Therefore, everything we learned about personas and demographics is still relevant here.

How SEO Affects Your Business

Everyone has heard the term “Google it.” When we say that we will “Google something,” we mean we’re searching something up. According to Booth (2020), searching marks the beginning of pretty much everything we do online. Since we all have Google machines (smartphones) in our pockets, we’re searching in real-time several times a day.

As business owners, we can measure these search results through our analytics and measure the effectiveness of our search engine efforts at any given time and make necessary adjustments (Booth, 2020).

Keywords: The Foundation of SEO

Keywords can be the ice cream to our apple pie or the thorn in our shoe. When you find the right keywords, they’re sweet and go down smoothly with little effort. However, when you can’t find the right ones, you’re lead on a random chase in a prickly desert land of never-ending useless search results. The good news is that all of those random searches aren’t going to waste. They’re providing all kinds of information.  Those search words reveal what our customers are looking for and the words they are using to look. The critical information we need is volume, relevance, and competition. Booth (2020) uses the keyword, car, as an example.

(Booth, 2020)

The word, car, certainly has a high volume of searches, but “blue Toyota” will return more relevant results. Since there is so much to learn from keywords, it makes sense that we would need a strategic plan to develop our goals, know what we’re looking for, and ultimately make sound decisions on the information we collect (Booth, 2020).

Research Keywords

Marketing is really about understanding our potential customers. How do they think? What are they looking for when they Google something? Knowing our customers is the essence of researching and cultivating a list of potent keywords for our websites (Booth, 2020). Booth lays out how to create a “seed list” with a couple of steps:

Step 1: Brainstorming

  • Make a list of the products and services, listing as many specific words as possible
  • Attempt to write the words from the customer’s perspective
  • Use Google Search Console, Google Trends and AnswerThePublic

Step 2: Search Volume

  • Using the list of words we generated, we need to learn the demand for those words.
  • Long-tail keywords have more descriptive words but tend to have higher conversion rates.
  • Have patience and think about this step as exploration and a path to understanding our customers.

Keyword Attributes

Booth (2020) says we need to be concerned with volume, relevancy, and competition when curating our list of keywords. Pavlik (2021) refers to these as the “Keyword Tripod Rule.”

Relevance

Booth (2020) says there is one question to keep in mind regarding relevance: does the keyword reflect the nature of the products and services we’re offering? We want people to find us. Therefore, it makes sense that the keywords we employ should be relevant to our offering.

Volume

We can think of volume as the popularity of our keywords (Pavlik, 2021). While newer websites won’t rank as high in popularity, we can improve this over time. Using keywords that garner a high volume of searches will help with that endeavour.

Competition (Keyword Difficulty)

It’s not enough to use the right keywords. When someone searches for something using one of our chosen words, we want our website to come up first. Coming first in the results means ranking first in Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) (Pavlik, 2021). These words, however, have competitors in the form of higher-ranking websites. These websites have earned higher status in the form of relevance and authority.

Knowing the keyword difficulty helps us focus on words within our ranking, especially when we first start.

Keyword Distribution

Booth (2020) explains that it’s essential we assign the right keywords to the correct pages of our website. Planning your website using an Excel sheet to list every single page will help us optimize the keywords to use. It organizes the keywords, but it can also help manage the workflow for our teams.

Keyword Evaluation

Evaluation is often not given the time it needs. Like most projects, we’re most excited about setting it up and reaping the rewards. In contrast, maintenance is that boring part that we would prefer to hand off to someone else. Whether we do it or someone else does, evaluating our results is a crucial step that we shouldn’t ignore.  It will tell us if we’re on the right track and when (not if) things change informing us that it’s time to adjust our strategy. Booth (2020) stresses that SEO is an ongoing project requiring constant learning, researching, and adapting.

Content Optimization: How Search Engines and People View Web Pages

Crafting premium content that includes highly relevant and valuable subject matter will attract SEOs to our websites. While this may sound like a lot of work, I find it encouraging. It means that talent, originality, and hard work are still the way to achieve success. One can be the best at identifying keywords, but what is the point of attracting people to your website if there is nothing of value to keep them there?

Optimizing Site Structure

To return to the metaphor of the dark forest, a website that lacks cohesive structure is like walking through a forest filled with random paths with no signs to guide the way.  Now imagine you’re walking in the woods. You come upon a park ranger, and you ask them for directions to the waterfall. Instead of giving you clear instructions, they stand there scratching their head for a while. Then they proceed to provide you with a dizzying array of directions that you can’t possibly follow. The SEO is like the park ranger. Without any signage, how can the SEO direct people where to go on your website?

Optimizing Textual Page Elements

URL, Meta Title Tag, and Header

The URL (the address of our website) should be short, easy to understand, relevant to our website, and SEO-friendly. Once we’ve established the URL, we want to make it easy for people to find specific content. We can do that by writing concise and relevant tags and headers (Booth, 2020).

Content

While we still need to keep in mind search engines when creating content, we must still keep the humans in mind. Search engines are mimicking and serving people, after all. (Booth, 2020).

Image Metadata

Since SEOs can’t detect images yet, we need to write descriptions that will map keywords to our pictures, which will increase optimization (Booth, 2020).

Optimizing Nontext Components of a Webpage

As mentioned, SEOs do not recognize images, but we can help them by adding keyword text next to and around logos or other images we may use on our websites. The more we can optimize our websites with keywords in strategic elements can help SEOs find us. They light us up brightly in the dark forest.

HTML (HyperText Mark-up Language)

HTML outlines how everything on our website will look which includes the text font and colour, size of content, images, and so on. With HTML, browsers can understand what they’re looking for and translate it to something attractive for us to look at and consume. The code looks like gobbledygook to a lot of us. To others, it makes complete sense because they understand the language (Booth, 2020).

Conicals tags, URLs, redirects, microformats, and Google Search Console include many technical and behind-the-scenes ways of ensuring that you are optimizing your website for search engines. Much of this content swam way above my head; it is a whole new language to me.

One thing it did teach me, however, is it’s not so mysterious why some websites get more traffic than others.

I’ve had a website and blog for many years and have, at times, felt frustrated with how to get more traffic. I thought it just came down to posting consistently and commenting on other people’s blogs. Boy, was I wrong! There is SO much more to it than that. So, while this technical information is above my understanding, for now, I know where to find it when the time is right.

Long-Term Content Planning

Creating a strategy that includes knowing your potential customers well, curating keywords that will attract them to your site, and creating content that will provide value to them are the keys to SEO success (Booth, 2020).

While the amount of content is not the most important part, quality is; therefore, spending time developing the meat of the information is crucial so are things like grammar and punctuation.

Goals and Objectives

We can not escape goals and objectives. It doesn’t seem to matter what subject we study, they mention them somewhere, and SEO is no different. What do we want these keywords to achieve for us? When customers finally come to our website, what do we want them to do once they’re there? Questions like these about our customers need to be addressed and understood by everyone on our team (Booth, 2020).

Online Integrity

Don’t overlook your online reputation. As more of us enter the foray of social media marketing and SEO, we mustn’t sacrifice our integrity to get a few more clicks. As we have witnessed in today’s rampant “cancel culture,” we can lose all of our hard work with a few online missteps. Open and frank discussion around this, along with an online behavior policy, can go a long way to safeguard our reputations (Booth, 2020).

Different Types of Content

At first, we may think of context as the written word, but there are many other examples. One such instance that Booth (2020) describes is sharing presentations. He recommends Slide Share. A website to upload slide decks and share online. This one is exciting to me because I love creating PowerPoint slides.

My Take Away – Conclusion

As I mentioned, I was intrigued by the Slide Share website. So, I decided to upload a lesson I created for a group for which I facilitate. The topic is mini boundaries. Please enjoy this presentation, and if you’re inclined, I would be interested in your feedback.

Presentation link: https://www.slideshare.net/DebbieBridge/mini-boundaries

This version doesn’t have audio, but I will add it to the presentation when I do this again. I will also take the time to research keywords to include in both the description and the tags.

References

Booth, D. (2020, November 16). SEO Foundations. Retrieved from LinkedIn Learning: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/seo-foundations/leveraging-the-power-of-search-to-accomplish-your-business-goals?u=2109516

Crestosina, A. (2021). SEO Basics: A complete guide to the 3 factors in search rankings. Retrieved from Orbit Media Studios: https://www.orbitmedia.com/blog/dont-forget-the-seo-basics/

Do You Love Sam Heughan? (2021). Retrieved from Heughan’s Heughligans: https://heughligans.com/

Home. (2021). Retrieved from SlideShare: https://www.slideshare.net/

Pavlik, V. (2021, May 19). The Complete SEO Guide for Beginners. Retrieved from Mangools/Blog: https://mangools.com/blog/learn-seo/#part1