Friday, March 24, 2023

In the world of digital marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) is an essential tool for businesses to attract and retain customers. SEO is a set of techniques that are used to improve the visibility of a website in search engine results pages (SERPs). While there are many factors that contribute to a successful SEO strategy, one of the most important, in my opinion, is content.

Content is the backbone of any successful SEO strategy. It is what search engines use to determine the relevance and usefulness of a website to users. The more relevant and useful your content is, the higher your website will rank in SERPs. This is why it is essential for businesses to create high-quality, informative, and engaging content that aligns with their target audience's needs and interests.

One of the most significant benefits of creating high-quality content is that it attracts and retains website visitors. People are always searching for information online, and if your website has the answers they are looking for, they are more likely to stay on your site longer and return in the future. This increased engagement can lead to more conversions, which ultimately results in more revenue for your business.

Moreover, search engines like Google prioritize high-quality content when determining search rankings. These search engines use sophisticated algorithms that evaluate websites based on a wide range of factors, including the quality and relevance of their content. By creating high-quality content that is optimized for search engines, you can improve your website's visibility and attract more organic traffic.
In addition to attracting organic traffic, high-quality content can also help businesses establish themselves as thought-leaders in their industry. In turn, this can have additional positive impacts in being involved in mainstream media such as tv, radio, podcast and print.

While I still believe Link Building to be an important part of the process, I also find it having several challenges that most businesses are not prepared to accept.

First, the definition of a link has changed over the years. Back when I got started in digital marketing in the early 2000's it was ok to keyword stuff words on your site, to do link exchanges with other sites and to "acquire" links that offered little to no benefit to the site.

Secondly, most primary keywords in most industries have been solidified by sites that have been at SEO a long time, government sites, educational sites and even directory sites. The opportunities are slim and require a lot of time to hopefully make it to page 1. Any link building strategy will take a long time, will be costly and will not come with any guarantee you'll reach your goal.

This is where the alternative of focusing on content can be a fruitful opportunity to focus on. Since Google is ranking the content of a page rather than a specific keyword we now have the ability to create detailed content that can focus on secondary, tertiary and related keywords to that "core" keyword we (probably) won't rank for. Meaning we can drive meaningful and quality traffic based on several keywords rather than one that may not even work out if the content doesn't align!

Now go a step further and take that content you've created and divvy it up into several social pieces of content. Not only are you building shareable content for social media, we also know that there are social cues when it comes to rankings.

In my opinion content will be the key factor moving forward when improving the SEO of your site and overall business.

About the Author: Patrick Herman is President of pH Dgital Marketing that offers paid ads, SEO and Social media services.  
Friday, March 24, 2023

For 25 yearsI worked as a print magazine editor specializing in association and regulator publications. For the last eight of those years, I was the managing editor of a regulator’s magazine that was mailed to 250,000 members.

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, we lost 30 percent of our advertisers that month as the world began to shut down. In November 2021, the magazine stopped publishing entirely and I found myself unemployed, along with two of my colleagues. The decision to shut down the magazine was not unexpected. The decline of print media had only accelerated during Covid-19, and our publication was no exception. 

I saw this as an opportunity to recalibrate, to try something different, something new. A friend had just launched a digital real estate platform called Wahi. The company was in its early stages and he was embarking on a large content project as part of a long-term Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy. He needed someone to manage the content and to come armed with a plan. 

I wanted to try something different, but I wasn’t sure I was the right person for the role. My first thought was, I know very little about real estate and even less about technology. Next, I thought, I know nothing about SEO, let alone online content. Print was all I knew -— or, at least, so I thought. I had a bad case of imposter syndrome. 

As I pondered the opportunity before me, I recalled the words of marketing guru Seth Godin: “If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.” At the time, I had failed to recognize how transferable the skills I had honed as a print magazine editor were to the digital world. Nine months later, I am amazed at how much I have learned from working with a diverse team of product leads, data scientists, software developers, SEO and digital marketing experts.

For anyone in publishing looking to make the leap from print to digital, here are some tips (based on my experience) for a successful transition: 

Seven Tips for a Successful Transition from Print to Digital Content.

Create a content plan. It’s essentially no different than an annual editorial calendar for a magazine. Whether it is print or digital, content is still king. 

If you don’t have SEO expertise, partner with an SEO expert to help optimize your website for greater search visibility. SEO is a marketing strategy that will help people find your website and increase brand awareness. A combination of strategies including publishing high-quality content (and lots of it -— see #3) and building backlinks from high-ranking websites will help boost your Google ranking. 

Get used to More is More (at least in the beginning). I used to think that writing for the web was all about short form. Well, in the world of SEO it can be the exact opposite — especially when you are a new domain and want to drive organic traffic to your website. Often it’s pages with longer form articles (think 1,500 - 5,000) that rank better on Google, which can help increase organic search visibility when keyword searches are conducted for that topic. So, be prepared for VOLUME.

Consider a multi-platform approach. People today digest content through many different platforms, so you need to meet them where they are. Consider social media, video, and other channels to broaden your reach. 

Invest in the right tools. Find a content management system that is flexible and allows you to do all the things you need it to do — publish content to multiple platforms, schedule content, track audience engagement and more. 

Measure it. There’s a classic adage used in business, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” This rings true for your digital content big time. Metrics are your best buds and can help paint a picture of how well your content is performing and what’s resonating — or not —  with your audience. 

Manage your expectations — particularly if the website is new. SEO is a long-term strategy that can build brand awareness and establish that brand as an authority on a particular topic. But it doesn’t happen overnight; it can take months to reach the top of page one for certain keywords. For several months now, Wahi has been continuously publishing over 50,000 words (approximately 25 articles) per month through our SEO-optimized Real Estate 101 articles, which provide homebuyers and sellers with valuable real estate advice.

We are now starting to see our efforts pay off. Traffic from organic searches is growing, the number of pages we are ranking for on Google is up, as are impressions and clicks. We still have a long way to go, but building a brand takes time and, more importantly, a diverse team that believes in the product and understands the goals. 

About the Author: Kristin Doucet is the former managing editor of Professionally Speaking magazine and is currently the director of content at Wahi, a real estate website for buyers and sellers. 
Tuesday, January 03, 2023
Content is everywhere, and content is king, they say. But what exactly makes a piece of content good or bad? How do you create content to suit a brand's needs? You see, the word content is pretty generic and applies to various mediums, whether it is print, video, or podcast form. 

Content is king by itself is a bit misleading because by adding a simple adjective could modify the meaning greatly;(good) content is king,or  (bad) content is king. It suddenly changes the meaning which is the issue with buzzwords.

Content can be found everywhere you turn, and in this digital age, even bad content finds an audience. But what is very important is tailored content, where the content really connects with the audience it is meant for and will be meaningful and valuable to them, not just a generic fluff piece.

Now apply this principle to branded content, and it becomes even more true. If the content is not suited perfectly to the audience, people will disconnect from the content, the brand, and the publisher. 

On YouTube, for example, too many times we see a generic VPN or mattress-in-a-box company pay for “branded content” but it is always nothing more than a glorified advert. Understandably, the wheel of the industry has to turn, we all have salaries, overhead and incidental to be paid, and some of these brands have limited budgets, so they have to find ways to keep up.

The recipe is fairly simple; combining the value proposition of the brand with what the publication offers. When the offering of the publication and the interest of the audience is combined, true integrated branded content is achieved. You need a strong and extensive understanding of the publication and the brand to get home runs. This is where it pays off to have creative people in your team, as engaging in brainstorming to generate these ideas will help you eventually get the winning idea.

There are a few basic questions that one must ask when coming up with content ideas for a brand. 

1. What does the brand offer?
Why are we here? What is our purpose? Does it resonate with our audience(s)? These are basic questions you need to ask to come up with great content ideas.

There is an old saying in advertising that says “You can’t sell a bad product”. This is the same here because sometimes the client or brand may not be the right fit and other solutions may be best. But on the flip side, if the offer is strong and there’s alignment, then it can lead to strong creative content ideas that can boost the brand image.

2. What is their goal? 
There’s always a motive that makes a company spend dollars on marketing. Do they want to increase app downloads? Do they need to raise their awareness of the product? Drive sales? Etc. Knowing this will help you narrow down your options and figure out what can or can’t be done, how it may be done, and so on. 
3. What is their brand tone?
Are they a fun brand or a more serious brand like pharmaceuticals? The kind of tone the brand adopts has a major effect on the type of branded content that would be created. This would help you pair various content ideas with the right team or the right product (show, site, paper…). This way you make sure that each one fits and would work perfectly for the brand. 

4. The most important of all… what is unique to the publisher? 
This is what is often forgotten, and most of the time it is because of a lack of time, creativity, or knowledge. It takes a bit of effort to sit down and ask the right questions to come up with the right idea. What makes this creative idea OURS, and what makes it so special, that nobody else can offer that? 

This is why it’s the most important because this is the creative team or publishers’ edge over everyone else. What connects the brand to your content? It could be as simple as a specific talent unique to that niche, or the ability to ignite an audience behavior that is unique to one provider.

When you answer all of these questions, you come up with a winning idea that would make your content stand out and make for an amazing branded content piece. Ultimately, throughout the years and in my experience from trying out various branded content methods, I realized as long as the content is good, the audience will not care if it is branded or not. Once they get value out of it, that's all what matters to them.

About the Author: Jean-Francois Berube
Quebec native Jean-Francois is an energetic and creative integrated media professional and experienced producer. Over the years, JF has cultivated creative branded entertainment innovations, with the CBC and Postmedia, and now with Valnet. His creative experience includes production and film content across both the U.S. and Canada with clients such as Ford, Lincoln, Budweiser, Mini, RBC Avion, Bioré, Honda, and many more brands.
Wednesday, December 07, 2022
Why do Brands take the easy way out when telling their stories?
Brands took to storytelling like the caveman to fire. Suddenly, every brand had to have a story. But then, how many articulate this ‘story’ convincingly? Life was simpler when you just paid someone to string a bunch of words that didn’t offend anyone and called it the brand mission and vision. 
But telling a story, whether it involves a brand or not, is not easy. For starters, youhave to tap into certain established human traits as part of the brand personality and stick to it. Or you’ll be changing the personality and plot lines every time there’s a shuffle in the C-suite. Afterall, stories and storytellers have been around for as long as there were people around fires. Today, people huddle around the cold light of screens that now fire our dreams and our dreads. And that’s where stories, branded or not, are told.
There are very few brands that have a clear storyline. Brands like Nike and Patagonia come to mind as ones that have mastered the art of telling their stories across all channels they’re present in, including their websites.
The website is the Anchor for all the content
Since websites are de rigueur for any business, leveraging them to tell a brand’s story is an obvious starting point. The best way to demonstrate a brand’s personality is to design the brand experience into the website. Since a brand’s website is owned-media, the brand owners have the full freedom to leverage this immensely valuable asset. Sadly, many brands take the easy way out and readily use available templates to build out their site. As you can imagine, with this decision, the brand experience or story is the first casualty.
A brand website is the starting point (if e-commerce is part of the customer journey) and the end point as well. If brand owners have a clear vision of the brand experience then designing the user experience around that is the best way to stay true to the brand story.
Today most agencies are more than capable of building such brand centric sites. That is, if the brand owners don’t start out by thinking they can do everything themselves.

Abut The Author: Zach Abraham

Zach has spent over 25 years in the advertising and marketing industry in a leadership position. Prior to starting Us Communications, he was Associate Creative Director at Anderson DDB responsible for all the Digital and DTC work produced by the agency. Zach has won several awards for creative excellence including the London International Advertising Award, The New York Festival and RSVP among others.

Friday, October 21, 2022
Podcasts allow listeners to choose when they listen to the recording, they can listen to you while walking, during a load of laundry or even by the pool. When they choose to listen to you, they are highly attentive and disconnected from their screens. Listening habits reveal that listening to a podcast is a personal choice. Listeners typically use headphones to do so. 

Unlike traditional radio, podcast listening is done alone and not in an open area, with family or with a partner. There is therefore direct contact with the listener, which gives an “intimate” dimension to the podcast and a special relationship with the audience.

Does the podcast format really serve the needs of your project?
In the early stages of your project ask yourself why you chose this format? How does the podcast format really serve your project? That’s a question that needs to be answered, because some topics are best covered on traditional radio and others are best covered in pictures or in writing.

What makes your idea eligible for the podcast format? 

These thoughts lead us to the main subject of this article, which is the intimate meeting the universal. Once you’ve determined beyond a shadow of a doubt that the podcast format best serves your purpose, you need to think about the universal resonance of the story being told. 
Who do you want to reach and why is your topic relevant to the intended audience?

I would go even further, how can people connect with your story? Why are people interested in it? It's perfectly normal, even essential, for a quest to start with you and be carried by someone, but there is a clear distinction to be made between a story that is about you (only) and one that is of public interest. 

In some cases, you will have to expose your most intimate thoughts and sometimes even those of your loved ones. Surely, you must be prepared to put your guts on the line and suffer the consequences.

What is intimate? It is a situation that you have experienced personally. 
You must have been there, it’s something that you live with, that you’ve experienced in your flesh and that connects you to your roots. Intimacy is something that you carry deep inside you and that links you to your origins and to your personality.

What is the intimate that is not universal?

It is a story that belongs to you and that cannot be shared, for lack of common bases. In other words, it is an experience that cannot be translated and only understood by the people who were present. What is the universal? It is precisely when there are common grounds that can be shared with others. The others can contribute to the reflection, which is not possible with an intimate history that is not universal. The universal contributes to a collective reflection. All listeners understand the implications. A universal intimate story allows us to see that we are not alone in this experience.

The universal is often political and sometimes even polarizing, but it also reminds us that society needs to share ideas and have proper discussions. Intimacy and universality are therefore inseparable in order to allow a true dialogue. A podcast series for the benefit of all lets an intimate view appear with a universal treatment that favors a collective reflection.

In conclusion, despite the intimate nature of the podcast format, the stories that are heard must leave the realm of individual intimacy. The direct and privileged relationship established with the listener allows for a dialogue based on universal common grounds and encourages individual reflection for the benefit of society as a whole. The direct format of the podcast gives it a societal impact that is both intimate and collective. Next time you have an idea for a podcast, think about what the story you want to tell says about all of us, as a society, not just as individuals.

About the Author: Anik Magany
Born in Boucherville to Haitian immigrant parents, Anik Magny studied communications at Concordia University. After graduating, she got her start as a digital reporter while writing about art and cultural diversity on the Quebec arts scene. After a one-year stint as a reporter with Canal Évasion, she went on to join the team at Zone 3, serving in a variety of roles before becoming host of the documentary series L’art érotique on ICI ARTV. Since 2019, Anik has focused on producing feature films and documentary series that promote diversity in all its forms and will make a difference to the collective consciousness of Quebecers. Her credits include collaborations with the National Film Board, Yzanakio, Catbird Productions and Terre Innue. In 2020, she developed a passion for audio art after working on Telling Our Twisted Histories a podcast produced for CBC. 

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This is a guest column for the COPA judges so they can share some of their wisdom with the industry. The COPA Judges are the who's who of the publishing industry in Canada.  COPA Judging Panel Link 
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