Building A Career In Digital Marketing

I was asked to speak tonight at the Goodman School of Business at Brock University about how to succeed in business. It does not feel like long ago that I was a student at Brock attending a similar talk, with business professionals telling us how they built their career and what we would need to do to succeed after graduation.

I remember feeling overwhelmed at the time thinking of the long road ahead to find a career that inspired and fulfilled me. I remember that I wanted it to just start now! I now reflect on how lucky I was to have carved out a career that truly excites me and inspires me every day, and what I might tell this group tonight about my story that will help them.

I was asked to outline what I do (sometimes still figuring that out), and how it was that I got this point with my business.

Digital marketing has evolved since I graduated University in 1998, in fact, “digital” was not even part of the marketing mix according to my textbooks. All of my training in marketing online has been on the job, and real world trial and error. Online usage has exploded over the past decade, and access to WIFI and mobile devices have completely changed consumer buying behaviour.

I wonder now how the world will change over the next decade for the group I am speaking to tonight?

My experience in building websites and marketing online began when I was hired as a Marketing assistant for the Marriott Fallsview Hotel in Niagara Falls, Ontario. I worked for the ownership group, and became the Director of Marketing Communications over an 8-year time period. I was empowered throughout my time there to try new things, and so I did.

Hotel chains did not want us developing our own websites, and at the time hotels were relying heavily on the brands and the intermediaries to sell rooms online for them. Direct to consumer digital marketing through tactics such as paid search and organic search engine distribution was so new and foreign, and quite frankly there was no place to get formal training.

My experience in digital marketing began in understanding search engines, and how to ensure that a website could be found by target consumers. Equally important was to understand how a website would lead to online conversions as consumer usage of the internet, as a means to research and buy online.

Marketers must now understand concepts such as; Social media marketing, mobile marketing, web analytics and measurement, consumer user behaviour – as well as search engine optimization, and web usability in researching and buying online.

The marketing mix has never been as complicated and more fragmented.

We have always been known for our focus on education and training for marketers both senior and junior, who need to understand this new and complex media mix. Our conference, Online Revealed now in its 8th year, has become the leading conference in the Canadian tourism industry for travel and tourism professionals to learn about digital marketing trends and best practices bringing together industry professionals from leading Canadian hotels, hotel groups, destinations, attractions and other travel suppliers, along with experts from industry giants such as Facebook, Google, Tripadvisor and Expedia to bring marketing professionals hands on knowledge and training.

How did I get here?

Throughout my career I have continuously learned about my industry, engaged in debate and conversation with my colleagues, attended conferences, and read about digital marketing and people doing innovative things. Today we have access to learning all around us with social media channels like LinkedIn and Twitter, and Blogs written by real people with real experiences.

The key is to understand consumers, keep a few steps ahead of consumer trends, understand why they buy, and most importantly what makes them buy. That is one thing that has never changed for marketers.

In addition, learn from the experiences of others. This is key.

What is also key is people. Especially in this age of texting, emailing and social media. I am one of the most digitally connected person there is, and yet I still pick up the phone, go to lunch, and travel to visit clients and colleagues. Face to face communication and relationships are more important than ever.

I think that I might focus my advice tonight around a few things in particular that have helped me get here.

1. Hard work and commitment.

Sounds passé, but the hard work and commitment continues throughout your career.

2. Relationships are key.

It is all about the people you work with and do business with.

3. Continuous learning.

You are never really done learning, and if you think you are, then you are wrong. Read, talk to colleagues, attend seminars and talks that inspire you. It is not all about degrees, diplomas or certifications (although these don’t hurt either), it’s about a commitment to continued learning.

and finally….

It’s not about finding “the next big thing” it’s about finding “your thing.”

5 Best Tools For SEO Content Writing

Without a doubt, SEO content writing is an essential part of your marketing strategy. If not, you need to get started as soon as possible.

As google has declared they want to show the most relevant to their users, you must pay attention to the quality of the content on your website.

But producing articles for online consumption may not come easily for everyone. Furthermore, there is a chance that a brilliant idea may not become as appreciated by the audience as the writer had hoped to.

You may write and publish the most excellent content, but if no one sees your post, they’re not much use for it. Luckily, there are some tools that amateur writers can use to create SEO-friendly articles and develop their content marketing without the need for grueling writing lessons.

Portent’s Content Idea Generator – Title or Headline Generator

Even the most artistic people can get stuck in front of a white page. Sometimes, thinking about catchy titles and headlines becomes difficult. If you have no idea how to word your title, you can use a headline generator.

Portent’s Content Idea Generator can generate simple topics for you. All it needs is a few terms from you. You can also update the search results as frequently as you can until you find the perfect title for your next idea.

Grammarly – Spelling and Grammar Check

If you are not a natural-born writer, Grammarly is the next best tool you should get. It is probably the best spelling and grammar checker in the internet today. Aside from its special features of spelling error detection, it also corrects your grammar. Grammarly also provides alternative words that you can use to make your articles more readable for your audience.

The only issue here is that it not all features are free. Although you can still use it without shelling out some cash, the monthly premium payments are definitely worth it, especially if you are serious about your content marketing strategies.

Keyword Density Checker – Reveals Repeated Keywords

When it comes to article writing for SEO, there are some key points you need to follow. One of them is avoiding the use of excessive keywords in your text. Search engines like Google react negatively to articles with too many rehashed keywords, as this violates the rules they have imposed. Once detected, they consider them as spammy.

To avoid receiving sanctions, make sure to use keywords sparingly. Place them naturally within the content and remember that less is more. Keyword Density Tool can scan your page to check how many times you have used your keywords. Using this will save you the time wasted in trying to spot them on your own.

Copyscape – Plagiarism Checker

Duplicate content and plagiarism are bad for your rankings. Ones detected by the search engines bots, your stats and authority can dramatically drop and go back to zero in a snap of a finger. On top of this, it will be difficult for websites to get back on their feet if this happens.

Copyscape is a great tool to prevent a duplicate content from being published. By entering your site’s URL or the article itself, you can immediately see if your work is an original piece. It will also let you know which lines or phrases you need to edit to come up with a content free of plagiarism. The site may look outdated, but it remains to be one of the go-to tools of many webmasters today.

Read-Able – Assesses Content Readability

Connecting with your audience is important. Therefore, it is critical that you understand what they can and cannot understand. If your target market is teens, you should avoid sounding too formal. A fun and lively tone is better suited for this audience.

Using Read-Able will help you achieve this target. It can assess your content and offer you a readability number. This number tells you which age group your content identifies with and what writing style is best suited for your audience.

Content writing requires both skills and knowledge.

If you want to reach the highest SEO results and land a spot on the first page of the search engine results, you need to work hard to produce quality articles. Write your post, proofread and edit. After reading it again, run your article on the tools listed above and see how they can improve the overall quality of your work.

Social Media Strategist vs Social Media Enthusiast

Social Media Strategist
I am an enthusiast of many things. Although I can appreciate a fine wine, and perhaps even describe the ‘nose’ of a good chardonnay – I dare say that I could lead a wine tasting session, or describe the process of oak aging or barrel fermenting.

I would say however that I am both an “enthusiast” and a “strategist” of Social Media. (and perhaps an evangelist and even a connoisseur of a good tweet).

Social media is as most would agree the new ‘medium’ in digital marketing. There are many out there trying to decipher how to…how much…and where to start in creating a social media “strategy” to attract a target consumer to engage and transact.

There lies the difference between a social media ‘Enthusiast” and a social media “Strategist” – it’s in the strategy (not just in the enthusiasm!) Wow – so that’s not rocket science!

Allow me to explain.

We must begin with what constitutes a good Social Media strategy.

1. Develop a good plan.

Sounds simple enough right? Start with who you are trying to reach and what social media channels they are likely frequenting. Decide what you are trying to achieve (ie. traffic back to a website, building an email database, an increase in brand awareness etc), chose the correct channels to populate (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Flickr or all of the above), populate with content and build a community of followers.

Once you have decided on what social channels to include in your campaign, develop a plan to build a community – with an editorial or content strategy to support your goals.

For example: If you are primarily going to use viral video’s with the goal of driving traffic to a transaction – make sure that the YouTube channel you create has many points of reference and links back to your website.

Make sure that you have optimized your video’s properly to be found in search engines – and have populated other places with the video (like your website and Facebook page) and that you have added social media sharing tools to encourage more pass along distribution.

Also – ensure that all of your campaign elements are integrated and talk to each other.

2. Ensure that you have enough of a budget…

…and resources (time, expertise, dollars) to not only plan, but execute the strategy.

This is the tricky part. How do I know what resources I will need after the campaign ‘shelf life’ is up?

Social Media channels like a Twitter account for example typically do not exist in isolation. Typically, a Tweeter is representing a brand voice, or has a Blog associated with it – or a transactional website in which to drive traffic to.

If you are going to engage in social media marketing, you should plan for it to be part of your long term marketing strategy.

3. Measure and assign key performance measurables

Use social monitoring tools (there are many) as well as website tracking tools like Google Analytics to see how the campaign has impacted your campaign goals. Is Facebook now a top referrer of traffic to your website after launching an aggressive Facebook brand page?

How has the time and resources spent on Twitter affected the traffic increases in traffic to your company Blog?

4. Learn and Continue Building

This is a key point as many social media ‘enthusiasts’ may not pay enough attention to the fact that the foundation built in the beginning stages has a big impact on future social media successes. An isolated brand Twitter page with no integration into any other parts of a company’s marketing mix – no matter how many followers it has – will not result in long term success.

In addition, those who live in the social communities such as Facebook, Twiiter and beyond expect transparency, commitment, and for you to add value to the social media ecosystem.

A one off viral video campaign will most likely not work to create any spectacular results without a long-term plan about how to leverage the traffic it has generated, or to engage that audience enough to act.

Social media enthusiasts are passionate about what social media can do – and they make excellent community manager’s and community developers. Just because an enthusiast has a large list of followers on Twitter does not necessarily mean that they can map out a good long-term strategy and help guide the set up and execution of a successful social media marketing campaign.

Always engage with a true Social Media Strategist – one that has proven case studies and speaks to the points above if you are looking for a long term or even short term results…it will pay off in achieving brand ‘mavens’ and not just ‘followers’ who you may never see again.

If you are a connoisseur of a good discussion about social media marketing…I invite you to RT (Re-Tweet) this blog post and share your idea’s of what it takes to be a true strategist.

Advertising is Based on Happiness

happy clients
You have settled into 2018 and gearing up to implement the marketing plan you completed in 2017. But hold on! The Internet has changed again!

This is a fast paced digital world we live in – but perhaps we need to take a queue from Don Draper, our favorite MadMen Ad exec when he says “Advertising is based on one thing: Happiness.”

Why is this relevant now in the age of an exploding online medium?

Let’s just take a breath, re-group and bring it back to basics. There is content coming at us fast and furious – whether its Mobile Apps and Tablet Marketing, or Viral Video’s, or Facebook, Twitter – and what about YouTube and Foursquare? How do we really make consumers happy now? Is it still as simple as delivering on a promise and providing a product or service that makes your customers happy?

If so – how do we engage with consumers who are changing their online user behavior as quickly as Facebook changes its profile layouts? I have had numerous conversations with clients who are second-guessing where they allocated their marketing dollars because of the following:

  • FEAR of missing the next big thing.
  • RESOURCES – both financial and human.
  • CONFUSION about what tactics to focus on as the online world shifts again – and again – and again.

My advice? Bring it Back to Basics:

1. Know Your Customer (and make them Happy)

  • Check your website analytics for top referral traffic and focus on building on them and building more target referral traffic.
  • Use a social media monitoring tool like Radian 6 , Revinate or free tools like Google Alerts, Twitter Advanced Search or others to listen to your customers and understand how to make them happy.
  • Allocate time and resources to understand changes in how your target audiences are researching and transacting online. Read and educate yourself about digital marketing tactics that work.
  • Most importantly, if you’re taking the time to ‘listen’ to your customer’s online behavior – be sure you act on that information. Simply monitoring the conversation without adjusting your strategy will not help you understand how your consumer wants to receive your messages now and in the future.
  • 2. Keep Your Eye on the Prize. Understand Your Objectives

    • Are you looking to increase sales? To build a new audience? Launch a new brand? Increase brand engagement?
    • With all of the new tactics available to marketers today, it is more important than ever to set specific and measurable objectives for campaigns. (It makes me nostalgic for the Mad Men days really)

    3. Stick With What Works

  • If you have already developed an active Twitter following and you’re seeing ROI (in sales and or website traffic etc) keep going!
  • Roll it out across your other brands, build a team of Tweeters to help in building and engaging your audience further – think about what would take a successful campaign to the next level.
  • If Google AdWords campaigns worked well last year to drive targeted traffic during need times, or to sell specific packages or products – build on it and do it again with a new twist, or put more dollars towards it perhaps instead of a tactic that did not perform as well.

4. Don’t Forget About Search

  • Although Facebook has surpassed Google in user time spent online, the World Wide Web is a complex Ecosystem that is constantly growing and changing.
  • Focus on making sure you have a strong web presence across all online channels that help to guide your consumers to transact.
  • Ensure you have taken care of the basics like search engine optimization, good creative and content, Google Places optimization, a good mobile version of your website etc. and then you can focus on other channels to build your traffic.

5. Integrate. Integrate. Integrate.

  • Make sure you integrate your campaigns online and offline.
  • Your brand’s digital footprint should have a consistent tone, creative brand message, and should always drive your target consumers to transact.
  • A Facebook page with 2,000 followers is only successful if it allows you to drive transactions and build engaged followers. Consider a contest through a customized tab, or a strong call to action or offer for your Facebook community only.

6. Measure + Measure + Measure and then Adjust

  • Measure against successes from 2017. Make sure you have defined Key Measurables in place (such as increases in unique visitors, increases in time on site and pages visited or increased sales.)
  • Did you launch a new Blog that has increased traffic by 20%? How do you grow it from here or how do you encourage more transactions on the website as a result of the Blog traffic?
  • Have your efforts on LinkedIn increased leads to your sales department?
  • What can you do to ensure you grow these successful marketing channels?
  • Do the tactics outlined in your Marketing Plan work to build on what you have already started? (Perhaps you have allocated budget to building a linkedIn Company page or display advertising campaign to further grow and engage your base of followers, or you have allocated more resources to Blog more frequently.)

Keep it simple – stick to the tactics that will help you achieve your objectives and don’t worry about all the noise.

It can get overwhelming to look at all the marketing tools and tactics that are available to us today. If you execute marketing programs efficiently, with the proper focus on measurement of ROI, (very do-able in the age of digital marketing) you may have the confidence and extra resources to be able to adjust and try new things.

To take a lesson from Mad Man, Don Draper – Budget + target demographic + medium = time for a scotch. Just make them Happy!

5 Unexpected Ways On-Page Optimization Will Boost Your Traffic

writing contentMost beginners in search engine optimization choose to focus more on on-page SEO, and this step makes complete sense.

After all, it is the aspect that the webmaster has full control over. It is an opportunity to make the website look more attractive not just for Google but for the visitors to the site as well.

As much as on-page optimization is about making Web pages look good, many aspects of these techniques remain invisible to users. This is because some optimization happens solely at the coding level. However, just because some steps are invisible to the naked eye, does not mean they are all for nothing.

Here are some of the on-page optimization techniques that can boost your traffic in unexpected ways.

Writing Quality Content

Keep in mind that although using relevant keywords is a driving force to your traffic, a well-crafted content plays a major role in SEO. Even if you use the most relevant and searched keywords and key phrases, your efforts will not reap the rewards if you use weak content.

Content always comes first. It must be original, unpublished elsewhere, and thoroughly researched. Publishing long articles are proven to rank better compared to shorter posts. Apart from this, the frequency of posting also plays a role in boosting your rankings in the search results.

Remember, a site with quality and useful content can perform competently without SEO. A site with poor content will not survive even if you use SEO. But a site with great content becomes more exceptional with SEO.

Use of Headings

Learning the basic codes in HTML will be extremely helpful here. However, most dashboards today uses advanced editors, which make it extremely helpful for the non-tech savvies to post their content. Make sure to use the header tags (H1, H2, H3) as spider bots crawl these. Using these tags guide the bots in ranking the importance of each section of the text within your document.

Use of Title Tags

Title tags have been utilized for more than a decade, but it remains one of the potent techniques every blogger or webmaster must take advantage of. Though many experts do not focus on title tags as much as they used to anymore, they are still an integral part of any post. And the title of a page is a leading signal for google to determine the topicality of a page.

Title tags help search spiders index and categorize your web pages. To efficiently take advantage of this feature, you should assign title tags that are directly related to the content. It is also essential to make them readable as they show up in multiple listings online.

Use of Alt-Texts

A post or content is not complete unless you add an image or any media to it because this is how Google indexes images and other media-related posts. While Google and other search engines are good at reading texts, they are less proficient in understanding media and other graphical content.

If you are a site that loves to post pictures, videos, podcasts, or infographics, you can make Google understand what your post is all about with the use of alt-texts. To do so, you must always include an alt-text tag on every image or graphic content you have. Do not forget to add the name and an accurate description of it.

Internal Links

The use of internal links has three purposes. First, it is a way to let Google know about your other pages. Second, it is a way to inform Google which page on your site is the most important. Third, it is a way to prolong the spent time of the user on your site.

Google scans every page in the web to analyze whether it will be a useful piece of information or not. Search engines check website pages and read everything on it. If there is a link found, Google checks that out too and assess whether the page passes their standards or not. This is one way of telling search engines to check the other pages on your site.

Every site has pages more important than the others and using internal links is an opportunity for you to pinpoint these relevant pages to Google for them to index as well, so make sure to use internal links wisely.

The use of internal links is also helpful for your users, especially when you introduce jargons, topics or subjects that they are unfamiliar with. By inserting an internal link, you provide resources for your users. They are provided with the information they need, and you increase your site engagement.

For new bloggers and website owners, SEO can be a daunting step. However, if equipped with the right knowledge, optimizing web pages will become a breeze. Since there are also countless questionable articles about SEO on the internet, it is crucial to follow the authorities in this niche. If not, you can always hire a trusted SEO firm to do all the work for you.