digital marketing Tag Archives - General Assembly Blog

How to Cultivate Top Tech Talent: What Every Exec Needs to Know


Hiring Strategy Digital Skills Training

Our recommendation is simple: Companies need to invest in learning.

The following is an excerpt from 6 People Strategies for Successful Digital Transformation, an exclusive white paper from General Assembly. Download the full paper here.

The digital landscape is evolving at a rapid pace, and it’s essential for companies to harness wide-ranging technical expertise in order to stay ahead. Today’s marketers must be able to analyze massive amounts of data, IT workers must be able to design compelling mobile app experiences, and a “product” is no longer only a physical object but could be a website, a piece of content, or even a training curriculum.

General Assembly’s recommendation for keeping up is simple: Companies need to invest in learning. The Economist magazine recently issued a special report that highlighted the importance of “lifelong learning” as a habit that both skilled and unskilled workers must incorporate to keep pace with a rapidly developing economy. They profiled GA’s approach to tech education — including upskilling promising individuals and reskilling those with outdated competencies in data, web development, and design — as an effective way to ensure employees’ skills were kept up to date.

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What Does It Mean to Be a Good Digital Marketer? Defining Digital Marketing Competencies and Landscape

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In this digital age, employee roles and responsibilities are changing as quickly as industries are evolving. Most jobs available today don’t have higher education programs, standardized exams, or textbooks that definitively tell people which skills they need in order to land them. Without this industry standardization, employers also struggle; they don’t have clear boxes to tick when evaluating job seeker’s qualifications. How can companies get a better sense of which skills job candidates and employees need? How can job seekers become more savvy about developing and communicating their qualifications?

At General Assembly, we work every day to answer these two questions. We provide job seekers with the competencies they need to be successful in today’s workforce. We also help employers understand how to evolve with their industry and connect with skills and talent that will enable them to grow. But in order to provide guidance to employers and job seekers most effectively, we must have a clear definition of each field ourselves. As the job landscape changes and General Assembly grows, we constantly refine our offerings and frameworks to better unite our product and message.

Let’s look at the field of digital marketing, which has seen exponential change in the last few years.

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How to Break Into a Digital Marketing Career


Digital Marketing Career: How to Land a Job

With digital media surpassing TV as the largest channel for ad spending in 2016, digital marketers are more important than ever. Through clever concepts, smart storytelling, and a keen understanding of audience behavior through analytics, these data-driven brand specialists move business forward through strategic email, paid search, social media, and beyond.

Recent data from General Assembly’s Credentials division — which helps companies determine the capabilities of team members and potential hires through assessments and more — suggests that digital marketing is an open playing field for anyone who can acquire the skills needed to succeed.

But once you have the skills, how do you land the gig?

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Experience doesn’t matter: Industry veterans and aspiring talent are equally qualified to break into digital marketing


Digital Marketing Vs. Traditional Marketing Skills

All aboard! It’s never been a better time to embark on your digital marketing journey.

We all seek experience. Personally and professionally, experience captures what we’ve done and what we have the potential to do. In hiring, prior experience is used as a shortcut to qualify job-seekers for interviews, job offers, and higher compensation. This shortcut works well in steady fields where the practices of the industry rarely change. If someone has done it before, they can probably do it again.

But does this shortcut work in a field that is dramatically changing? Marketing is an occupation undergoing rapid change. Adults now spend six hours a day with digital media, compared to three hours a day in 2009. As consumers move social, professional, and personal interactions online, advertising has followed. 2016 was the first year that digital media overtook TV as the largest channel for ad spending. Successful digital campaigns now require proficiencies across a host of new platforms, and the question for veterans and aspiring marketers is: Does general experience in marketing still matter?

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Using Email Marketing To Develop Your Brand and Foster Relationships


Among all the digital marketing categories that exist today — SEOsocialcontent marketing, and influencer marketing, just to name a few — email marketing has remained effective throughout the years. According to the online advertising platform WordStream, email marketing in the U.S. generates a $44 ROI (return on investment) for every dollar spent. That alone should be enough to convince you that email marketing is a necessary strategy for your business.

Email marketing is such a valuable channel because it allows businesses to have a one-on-one conversation with their targets and customers. Marketers who focus on building a quality list of email subscribers know that when they are able to deliver valuable content over time, they are essentially building a rapport with consumers who explicitly want to hear from them. Email marketing allows you to develop your brand and foster a relationship with your customers.

Companies of all sizes have email marketing strategies in place. The mattress company Casper offers its site visitors a discount coupon for signing up for its mailing list. Nonprofits like the American Red Cross use email to encourage donors to continue giving.

Companies typically hire a specific person whose job is dedicated to strategizing and sending out email campaigns. Depending on the company, this can be one person who handles both strategy and execution, or the jobs can be split up across various individuals. On some occasions, these roles will be a blended position where a single person will manage the content calendarsocial media, and overall email marketing.

When it comes to planning an email marketing strategy, there are several steps you must take to get started.

Choose a reputable email provider.

First, think about how you will deliver emails to your audience. Most companies start by choosing a credible email marketing service provider. The are hundreds of providers to choose from, including MailChimp and Constant Contact, which have dominated the space for a while. Newcomers in the field, including Drip and Klaviyo, are focusing on segmenting and automation. Segmentation and automation have become a huge shift in the email marketing world, and more marketers are looking for providers that can personalize emails based on subscriber behavior as they move about the digital world.

Most important is choosing a provider that has a good sending reputation, meaning that the provider has strict rules about who gets to use its platforms. This essentially means no spammers allowed! You’ll find that many email providers will monitor your performance as a sender when you first join. It’s also important to choose a provider that’s easy to grasp and that you or your team will want to use.

Most providers have basic functions, such as creating campaigns, but you will want to choose a platform that also has advanced features like segmentation. When it comes to segmentation, your provider should offer the ability to tag and group your subscribers based on their behaviors and preferences. This can be as simple as tagging people who found you via Facebook, or purchased men’s shirts versus women’s shirts. Similarly, by segmenting subscribers based on how frequently they’d like to receive emails, you can avoid sending emails too often to those who prefer to hear from you less. This will help reduce unsubscribes in the long run.

Most email providers have analytics capabilities, but based on your business needs you will want to use one that carves out the data that helps tell the best picture for your organization. This will vary based on your business. At the very least, you should make sure your platform can report on open rates, click-through rates, and, if relevant, conversion (or purchase) rates. More on this below.

As far as design goes, most email providers come with pre-designed templates to get you started. These are basic drag-and-drop templates that allow you to place text, images, and call-to-action (CTA) buttons in your email. Email providers are keen to provide you with templates that are their highest performers when it comes to conversions, so it’s usually a good idea to start here. However, you may find that you need to add more customized elements to match your brand to your emails; in this case, you can hire an email designer/developer to create a customized HTML design to be used in place of the provided templates.

Grow your email address list.

Next, consider how you will grow your subscriber list. Most companies collect emails via their website, typically through a newsletter form or pop-up module. These are called subscriber opt-ins, or, in other words, a person is giving you permission to market to them via email.

Other creative strategies for growing your email list include using your blog posts as lead generators. Having a call to action that relates to the blog post and gives the reader an incentive to opt in is a strategy that many marketers use. Also, cloud-based companies have mastered the free-demo strategy, where users have to provide their contact information in order to set up a free demo of the tool.

Remember that the U.S. has CAN-SPAM laws in place that regulate how and on whom you can conduct marketing through email. For example, you must have a clear, easy way for subscribers to opt out of your list. You also must include a postal address at the footer of your email. If you are emailing outside of the United States, be sure to look at laws within each respective country, as they may differ.

Develop compelling email content.

One major part of email marketing is deciding what kind of content you will send to subscribers. A good email marketing program typically consists of a mix of promotional and informative content. Some marketers use their blog content strictly as a way to stay in touch with their audience. A common approach is to share summaries of blog posts that have recently been published on the website. Depending on your company, your subscribers’ interests in what they want to receive from you may vary. Most importantly, when it comes to content, you want to make sure you are sending quality, engaging content that fits with your brand message.

Determine the best frequency for email sends.

Frequency is always tricky when it comes to email marketing. There really is no rule that dictates how often you have to email your subscribers — it differs per company and depending on how people opted in to the email list in the first place. What’s most important is that you are delivering valuable content that your subscribers want to receive.

To ensure that you’re not over-emailing your list, you can create a subscriber management page through which subscribers can select how often they prefer to receive emails. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to group and send to your monthly email subscribers and your weekly email subscribers accordingly. This is usually a smart strategy, as most people don’t want to opt out or unsubscribe from your list, but would prefer to hear from you less frequently.

Analyze and optimize the results of your email campaigns.

As with any digital marketing tactic, you will need to continue testing and optimizing to ensure that you have an efficient email marketing system. Your consumers’ behavior can change over time, which is something out of a marketer’s control. The key is to keep your subscribers engaged and frequently ask them what they’d like to hear from you, which can be done by sending out a questionnaire or survey every once in a while. The last thing any marketer wants is a list that grows stale. By analyzing what’s working and what’s not, and optimizing for greater efficiency, you will begin to see the benefits that email marketing can bring to your business.

You can also link your emails to Google Analytics if you have this setup. Most providers have a direct connection to Google Analytics or you can simply create a unique UTM code. By doing this, you will then be able to understand what clicks to your website came directly from the link that you shared via email.

Measuring Success

When it comes to measuring the success of your email campaigns, you’ll want to look at metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates. High-percentage open rates mean that your audience is opening your emails. High click-through rates mean that your audience is clicking on your links. High conversion rates mean that your audience is purchasing your products or services from your email. What makes a good open, click, or conversion rate depends on various factors, such as your industry and type of business. However, there are plenty of sources that provide benchmarks to use as a starting point.

Email marketing can be a fun part of your overall digital marketing strategy. Develop a solid plan. Come up with content that keeps your audience engaged and enthused to receive your email. You will find that it’s, indeed, one of the most important digital marketing channels.

Email Marketing at General Assembly

In General Assembly’s part-time Digital Marketing course, on campus and online, students learn about email marketing and how it can be applied as a strategic vehicle to reach a target audience. Exercises include creating your email marketing strategy and developing a plan for growing your list and developing a relationship with your customers over time. Students have the opportunity to test out an email campaign as part of their final project, which is to present a digital marketing experiment on a real-life company.

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Meet Our Expert

Jennifer Miranda Nelson teaches the part-time Digital Marketing course at General Assembly’s Los Angeles campus. Jennifer founded her own email marketing consultant practice in 2016, through which she works on email marketing strategies for her clients. With over 15 years in the ad industry, she’s worked for nationally known brands including Tribune, The New York Times, Brit + Co., and Verve Mobile. Within these organizations she’s helped globally recognized companies such as IBM, Samsung, and Macy’s with their digital media marketing. Jennifer holds a B.A. in English from the University of Florida and an MBA in global marketing from Nova Southeastern University.

“It’s rare that you’ll find a company today that exists without a marketing team. Digital marketing is a unique skill set that will be in top demand consistently for the next several years, if not decades.”

– Jennifer Nelson, Digital Marketing Instructor, GA Los Angeles

Using Influencer Marketing to Connect Consumers With Your Brand


In a multichannel era in which people’s daily lives are increasingly spent devouring content through mobile devices, consumers are increasingly tired of interruptions from advertisements. Because they regularly install ad-blocker software, or skip past obvious ads, marketers have had to generate new ways to reach potential customers on these valuable digital platforms. Enter influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing is a method of promoting your brand or product through the medium of an influential individual — whether that is a digital celebrity like fashion and beauty vlogger Zoella, or an opinion leader in your industry, such as the editor of Vogue. It allows brands to reach their target audience through the voice and network of a person directly in the social news feeds they’re looking to for entertainment.

For example, Dolce & Gabbana filled the front row of its Spring 2017 fashion show with millennial influencers, which got them countless press features. Big and small niche influencers were the stars of H&M’s TV campaign that challenged what it means to be “ladylike.”

The rise of mobile advertising — in which the amount of time spent on mobile is disproportionate to the amount of money spent advertising there — has led marketers to specialize in social media-focused content and influencer marketing. According to a survey by the influencer marketing platform Linqia, 39% of marketers intend to increase their influencer marketing budgets in 2018, compared to only 5% who intend to reduce it.

These influencers have more sway than newsworthy celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence or Tom Cruise because they have a closer connection to their followers. In some demographics, such as Gen Zers, they’re at least as well known, if not more so. But marketers need to build those relationships early in the influencer’s career, before they’re mega-famous. That way they can foster a genuine business relationship that can result in reduced costs, better content, a lower cost per engagement, and a higher ROI. Then, you must continue to invest time and budget to ensure your pool of individuals is connected to your brand, both emotionally and via the relevance of their style and audience.

What Makes a Good Influencer?

Influencers fall into various categories, each with their own benefits and challenges:

Fans Already loyal and committed to spreading love for your brand. Tiny reach, and require campaigns/competitions to engage.
Key Opinion Leaders High level of trust, and good for B2B. They will not expect high fees. Need to build the relationship offline. Cannot be transactional.
Microinfluencers You can become their champion; build an early relationship. Smaller reach and time-consuming to manage.
Creators They create high-quality, unique content with minimal budget. Lower reach and complex negotiations.
Digital Celebrities Huge reach and highly efficient to contract. Engagements can appear sponsored, lessening the brand impact.
Celebrities Drive awareness, consideration, traffic, and high-authority links, too. Highly expensive contracts that require focus to activate effectively.

For our purposes here, we’ll be talking about digital influencers, a term that each brand must also qualify on its own terms. For example, the popular online cosmetics company Glossier famously considers every one of its customers to be an influencer, reflecting an open attitude that’s consistent across all of the brand’s marketing activities, and clearly shapes its influencer strategy.

The Rise of Influencer Marketing

In the last few years, brands are increasingly considering influencers to be more valuable than global celebrities who can gain them coverage in mainstream press to drive awareness, but don’t increase brand consideration as highly. This was evidenced by the game-changing New York Fashion Week show held by Tommy Hilfiger in Autumn/Winter 2016, during which a handpicked audience of more than 3,000 influential individuals experienced the “show” in a “Tommy Pier” carnival experience littered with Instagrammable moments that flooded attendees’ social feeds.

While influencer marketing content in Europe and the U.S. must be clearly identified as an advertisement through the use of #Ad or #Advert hashtags on Facebook or Instagram, or flags built into the platforms themselves, the influencer’s “authority” and character attributes (e.g., their behavior or artistic flair) are lent to the brand, providing rich product marketing that creates a deeper connection with the target audience than pure-play advertising.

At my creative agency This Here, we conduct regular analysis into the engagement rate on posts containing #Advertising tags, and repeatedly find that the hashtags’ inclusion does not affect performance, when compared to untagged posts. Consumers increasingly understand that a portion of the digital content they consume is sponsored; they understand that their favorite influencers need to draw an income from their work, and react negatively only if the brand in question is not a natural fit for the influencer.

How Influencer Marketing Works

If you think about it, there have always been influencers around us. Think of celebrities promoting brands and products. This hasn’t changed. What has changed, perhaps, is the type of people the world has decided to trust.

Today many of us look up to the individuals we follow on social media — people who resonate with us. And while a famous actress might give a beauty brand a massive reach, digital influencers serve a more targeted, engaging, and cost-effective way to reach specific demographics. Plus, the connection with their audience is so much more magical. ✨

As with any brand collaboration, marketers need to approach influencer marketing strategically and with both an analytical and creative mindset.

When it comes to finding the right brand-influencer match, the key challenge for marketers is finding influencers who:

  1. Reflect the brand’s values.
  2. Are followed by a demographic that’s desirable to the brand.
  3. Will be happy to be associated with the brand in question.

After finding this sweet spot, the influencer manager — if there’s not someone in this specific role, these duties could fall under social mediacontent, communications, or even paid media teams — provides the influencer with a clear and creative brief about the project. The brief details the actions the brand would like the influencer to carry out, and the deliverables, e.g., the number of posts, relevant copy or hashtags to use, and a posting schedule. That leads to a budgetary negotiation, influenced by the level of effort involved and, of course, the desirability of the influencer ad the brand in question.

A luxury brand like Gucci can often negotiate lower fees for its innovative campaigns like #TFWGucci (influencers are lining up to work on such briefs), but high street fashion brands, for example, need to work a lot harder. This is particularly true if the brand needs the support of influencers to drive a perception shift.

For example, the Spanish fashion brand Desigual needed to make a significant investment to inspire a global pool of influencers to get involved early in the process of the brand’s transformation in 2017 and 2018. The brand had huge awareness across Europe, but a poor reputation. As a result, the company revamped everything from its products to its retail stores, and decided that influencers were the perfect mouthpiece to communicate the change.

Finally, the influencer receives the product or experience and creates engaging content in their unique style to help the brand achieve widely varying objectives, from brand awareness or reputation, to directly attributable sales, and even SEO. Most agencies and brands track the performance of each post carefully, ensuring the response was positive, before working with the same influencer again.

Influencer Marketing at General Assembly

Though influencer marketing can be a marketer’s sole focus, anyone in the industry, especially those who focus on content, social media, and communications, could benefit from a deeper understanding of the field. In General Assembly’s Digital Marketing course, on campus and online, students gain insight into this growing sector while digging into content strategy and social media practices. Through selecting influencers for your class project and crafting an influencer strategy, you’ll get hands-on experience that you can use in real-world campaigns.

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Meet Our Expert

Jemima Garthwaite has nearly 10 years’ experience in the world of digital and social media marketing. She’s the founder of the data-fueled creative agency This Here, where she oversees strategic, creative, and analytical work, and has held roles as head of social media at Groupon and Poke London.

Jemima has taught at General Assembly for five years, first on our London campus, and more recently for GA’s corporate training programs. Jemima is also a judge at the Lovie Awards, was a Cannes Young Lions winner, made The Drum magazine’s 30 Under 30 list, and has been a guest on The Guardian’s Tech Weekly podcast.

“Influencer marketing all comes down to connection. It’s not about impressions — it’s about creativity, collaboration, and reciprocity. It’s about real influence and human relationships.”

Jemima Garthwaite, Digital Marketing Instructor, GA London

Performance Marketing: Using Consumer Data to Optimize Your Marketing


“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

This quote is attributed to John Wanamaker, a pioneer in marketing back in the early 20th century. These days, saying something along those lines at work is an easy way to get escorted to the exit door. Today, we have enormous amounts of consumer data that can be processed through platforms such as Google Analytics and Facebook Ad accounts. As a result, understanding the impact of our budgets is easier to measure. However, many companies still lack actionable insights regarding what they should do with the information available.

Performance marketing is the process digital marketers use to analyze consumer data, and optimize marketing efforts as it relates to their business goals. Often, performance marketing involves paying for a specific action, such as a click or conversion. However, it can also include paying for impressions, meaning you pay for someone to see your ad as opposed to them taking any further action, like clicking through to your site or making a purchase. From there, the goal would be to use these impressions as efficiently as possible, based on your desired outcome.

How Performance Marketing Works: A Facebook Campaign Study

To see performance marketing in action, let’s look at a paid Facebook marketing campaign. We’ll first need to start with a goal, such as volume of goods sold, and then determine how we can most efficiently achieve this objective. We do this by identifying key performance indicators (KPIs). These are measurable values, such as order volume or cost per order, that immediately demonstrate how effectively a company is achieving its desired outcome.

Let’s say we have volume goal of selling 1,000 units, and our advertising budget is $2,000. KPIs help us understand how much our cost per order (CPO) can be. In this case, we’ll define cost as our advertising budget.

Our CPO is the cost divided by number of orders: $2,000/1,000. That means our target CPO is $2. If we spend more than $2 per order, we’ll fall short of our volume goal.

We’d then identify which segments are achieving a CPO at or below $2. Segmentation is the process of dividing your audience based on various attributes such as age, gender, or location. However, we can also create segments based on the specific ad someone viewed, or the device they used to view it.

The chart below provides an example of how performance can vary by segment.

Segment Ad Cost Cost Per Order Orders
 A $500 $1.25 400
 B $250 $1.75 143
 C $750 $3.00 250
 D $500 $3.50 143
 Total/Average $2000 $2.14 936

After identifying the best-performing segments, we can begin to optimize, which involves spending as much ad budget and/or effort as possible on the most successful segments. To be effective, optimization requires timely reporting and adjustments.

In the example above, the best-performing segment is A, because it has the lowest cost per order. If possible, we would put all our budget in this segment. However, this isn’t always feasible due to various constraints, such as the number of people in each segment. We’ll then have to invest in the next-best-performing segment until we reach our volume goal.

The chart below shows how the budget could have been optimized. I’ve capped the ad cost at $750 per segment to reflect constraints in audience size. Meaning, there is a finite amount of money we could spend in each segment.

Segment Ad Cost Cost Per Order Orders
 A $750 $1.25 600
 B $750 $1.75 429
 C $500 $3.00 167
 D $0 $3.50 0
 Total/Average $2000 $1.67 1195

As you’ll notice, we’ve now achieved our goal of selling 1,000 units, with the same advertising budget.

There are many third-party platforms, such as the Adobe Marketing Cloud, that leverage algorithms to assist with this process. Facebook also introduced its own optimization tool, automated rules, within its Ad Manager platform. These automated rules are used to continually monitor your campaign KPIs and execute your desired actions based on the performance thresholds you’ve identified.

For example, let’s say your cost per order is $3 for a particular ad — $1 more than your target. These rules can automatically stop running the ad, and/or send you an email notification. This is certainly a game-changer for companies that aren’t quite ready to invest in automation technology without proof of concept.

Today, many digital marketing campaigns are evaluated on performance marketing tactics rather than just reach and frequency. Along with Facebook, campaigns can be run on Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and more, managed through their native platforms or through third-party vendors like Marin and Kenshoo.

The Objective-First Framework

In General Assembly’s digital marketing programs, we focus on performance marketing by leveraging the Objective-First Framework.


GA’s Objective-First Framework, used to define and document digital marketing campaign strategy.

This framework is a lean marketing plan used to define and document campaign strategy. Students first start with an objective and the associated KPIs. Next, they design their tactics, which is how they’ll present their business value in a way that addresses a customer need or desire. They then move on to launching campaigns and measuring the outcomes. Proper measurement is an absolute must for performance marketing, as we can’t optimize what we can’t measure. After reviewing their KPIs, students make adjustments — optimizations — and further refine their strategy.

This is an ongoing process, and there will always be new approaches to explore. “Test and learn” is a phrase familiar to all performance marketers, but it’s also important for companies to create a culture of innovation so they can be free to test. I typically recommend setting aside 20% of your total budget for testing, which shouldn’t be earmarked for any critical outcomes. However, it should still be evaluated based on your existing goals and KPIs.

If your test works, keep it up, and increase the amount of budget and effort toward that approach. If it fails, stop. At least you learned something, and you know what part of your advertising spend was wasted. You’re already better off than John Wanamaker.

Performance Marketing at General Assembly

In General Assembly’s part-time Digital Marketing course, on campus or online, students learn performance marketing by creating, distributing and optimizing their own digital marketing campaigns. These campaigns are served on platforms such as Google AdWords, Facebook, Instagram, MailChimp, and LinkedIn. Additionally, we supply training in data and industry benchmarks for students to practice the budgeting and optimization process before launching their real-world campaigns.

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“GA instructors are still active in their field, which is extremely important since digital marketing changes so quickly. You want to learn from someone who can tell you about their day, not just a user guide they read.”

– Terry Rice, Digital Marketing Instructor, GA New York

Search Engine Optimization Strategies for Better Page Rankings


A good business website allows customers to learn about a company’s services, purchase its products, and sign up for more information: all key elements for growing a successful enterprise. However, creating a functional website is only half the battle — once you’ve built your site, you need to get it in front of people who will benefit from your product. This is where SEO can make or break your organization.

SEO stands for search engine optimization and, in a nutshell, it refers to how you optimize your website so that it appears on a search engine results page (SERP), like Google, when a user enters specific keywords. The World Wide Web is a messy mass of roads through which it’s virtually impossible to find your destination without search engines. As of 2017, 88% of consumers conduct online research before making a purchase either online or in-store, and studies show that the average user only looks at the top five results when they search for a key term. Given this, it’s worth taking the time to learn how you can use SEO to make sure your website ranks well on SERPs.

Improve Your Site’s SEO With These Tips

Rest assured: If you’ve created a website that’s not ranking well on SERPs, there are measures you can take to get your hard work in front of customers. Here are a few of the most effective ways you can ensure your website has strong SEO.

Research relevant keywords.

SEO is not only about driving more traffic to your website; it’s about attracting the kind of visitors that ultimately become customers. Knowing who your audience should be, and how to write content that’s relevant to them, is an important piece of the SEO puzzle.

Keyword research is your compass for finding which words and phrases will reach your audience. Use free tools like Google AdWords’ Keyword Planner and Google Trends to see which keywords you should target. This is also a good way to discover topics trending in your industry or topic area. For example, let’s say you’re trying to optimize this article. The first keywords you would think of are probably “SEO” and “SEO guide” because these describe the main topic of the article.

When you enter these keywords into the Google Adwords keyword suggestion tool, you may see some frequently searched variations of your keywords that you hadn’t thought of, like “SEO marketing”, “SEO optimization”, and “search engine marketing”.

Focus on long-tail vs. short-tail keywords.

When your site is just starting out, showing up on the first page of Google is nearly impossible. Industry leaders that have been producing content for years dominate all of the top keywords and results. For example, it’s going to be tough to outrank long-standing industry websites like Moz, Search Engine Land, and Neil Patel with the key term “SEO”.

Researching and creating content for relevant long-tail keywords is a great strategy for developing SEO. A short-tail keyword includes one or two words, while long-tail keywords are longer, more specific, and less competitive keywords or phrases. Think about it: If a user  searches the word “bed” (a very broad short-tail keyword), it’s unlikely they’re ready to click through to a sale. However, if a user searches for “French style oak bed”, they know exactly what they’re looking for and are probably closer to the point of purchase. Although you get less traffic from long-tail keywords, the traffic you do drive will be more focused, more committed, and more likely to convert.

Understand how to incorporate keywords.

Once you’ve identified your keywords, you can now tackle your on-page optimization. Be sure to place keywords in your:

  • Title tag: The name of the page that appears both in the browser tab and in the Google search results.
  • Meta description: A snippet of up to about 155 characters that summarizes a page’s content, entered either as HTML code or in a designated field in your site’s content management system.
  • Header (h1 tag): A tag used to indicate the main heading on a page.
  • Subheaders (h2, h3, and h4 tags): Tags used for the creation of headings less important than an h1, which have a top-down hierarchy from <h2> to <h6>.
  • First 100 words: The introduction to your page.
  • Image alt tags: An HTML tag that should be used with any image on your site to describe what’s in the image.

Develop an external linking strategy.

Links to your website from other sites are stamps of approval, especially if your site is linked from authority sites in your industry. If you wanted an authority site to optimize this article, for example, you’d want the article to be picked up and shared by sites like Moz or Search Engine Land. Keep in mind that not all links are created equal, so building a handful of quality links is better than a bunch of spammy links. If a website with low domain authority and no relation to your field links to you, it’s not very useful (e.g., a random hotel linking to this SEO article.)

A few quick and clever ways you can encourage links back to your site and build authority include:

  • Citations: A citation is simply a mention of your business on a third-party website — typically a local business or industry directory, or an event or reviews site. Look for quality, trustworthy directories and listing sites in your city.
  • Creating and sharing valuable content: Sites that create and deliver relevant and engaging content to their users get better rankings. Fresh, regular content improves your traffic and increases the time people spend on your site, two important metrics that tell Google you’re a trusted, relevant, and authoritative website.
  • Guest posting: One great way to get external links is by writing posts or articles for other websites. Think about topics in which you’d like to be known as an expert (relevant to your own website/industry), and reach out to like-minded businesses or blogs that could benefit from a guest post feature. Make sure you include a link back to your own website to reap the SEO benefits.

Technical Requirements for SEO

A strong SEO strategy depends on your website speed, security, and site foundation. Without this technical foundation Google won’t trust you no matter how much content you incorporate. Here are three essentials for developing your site foundation:

  • Site speed: Users are impatient. If your website takes more than three seconds to load then your customers are out of there. A good SEO strategy covers all the ways you can optimize your code and images to make sure your pages load quickly on all devices.
  • Site security: Starting July 2018, Google will mark non-HTTPS websites as insecure in its Chrome browser. Chrome accounts for approximately 58% of the global browser market across mobile and desktop, so you may lose web traffic due to security concerns if your site is not HTTPS.
  • Mobile friendliness: Since we do just about everything from our phones these days, Google looks for sites that can be easily read, clicked, and navigated to across all devices.

How to Optimize Your SEO Strategy

If you’re not measuring your progress, it’s hard to know what’s working and what’s not. SEO success is measured by increasing your page ranking for specific keywords and driving up your overall domain authority. Although every business is unique and every website has different metrics that matter, Google Analytics will allow you to track and report the success of your SEO efforts. You can gather all the data you need to measure the impact of SEO on a page, including:

  • Volume of organic traffic: Organic traffic is comprised of users who find your site through unpaid search results. If organic traffic to your site increases, it means your site is ranking on SERPs and being found by users.
  • Bounce rate: The percentage of users who organically come to your page and quickly click away. A high bounce rate indicates you’re driving the wrong kind of traffic.
  • Conversions: A conversion occurs when a user successfully completes a desired action. The desired action could be clicking on an email, entering their phone number into a webform, and more. In order to track conversions, you need to create goals to track the site visitors from organic searches who are becoming actual customers.
  • Behavior: The duration of a person’s visit to your site, number of pages they visited, and time they spent on each page.
  • Keywords for which you’re ranking: Understand which queries caused your site to appear in search results.

Learning SEO at General Assembly

Whether you want to pursue a career as a digital marketer or just dip your toes into the world of online marketing, SEO is a natural place to start. In GA’s part-time Digital Marketing courses, on campus and online, learn how to conduct technical audits, practice on-page optimization, and utilize more strategies to help improve site rankings. You’ll learn the art of keyword research and practice writing SEO-friendly copy that engages your audience and  increases your site’s ranking. Most importantly, you’ll walk away knowing you’re up to date with best practices and armed with the latest tools and tactics to confidently implement SEO the right way.

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Meet Our Expert

Catherine Toms is a lead instructor for GA’s Digital Marketing course in Melbourne, Australia, and co-founder of Smithfield Digital, a company specializing in-house digital marketing and custom training. With over 20 years digital marketing experience in Australia and the UK, Catherine has worked with hundreds of companies from big global brands to creative startups to find their direction, organize their approach, and implement the right digital marketing strategies for the biggest impact.

“The digital marketing industry is rapidly evolving with new tech and opportunities. With the right training and skills you can move quickly through the ranks, go freelance, launch your own business, or even work remotely.”

Catherine Toms, Digital Marketing Instructor, General Assembly Melbourne

Branding: 6 Ways to Classify Your Image to Build Authentic Connection


When Instagram updated its logo in 2016, did you notice? Did it change the way you thought of the app? If so, you wouldn’t be alone — the company’s transition from a tiny toy camera to a bold, gradient icon generated heated debates from social media all the way to Forbes.

The reactions surprised Instagram’s team. The company had just spent the first quarter of 2016 rolling out a controversial new feed algorithm, something that actually changed the way the app functioned, and it caused some minor outcry, but nothing that threatened to permanently affect the app’s user base. But when the new logo went live that May, the pitchforks came out. Users took to Twitter to express their feelings of abandonment, leading some to question whether they actually enjoyed using the product at all.

Instagram New Logo

Brands as Consumer Connections

A brand is much more than a name and a logo — it’s the emotional and cognitive connection a company or product has with the rest of the world. As Entrepreneur writer John Williams says, “Your brand is your promise to your customer.”

Before May of 2016, Instagram’s promise to its users was surprisingly tied to that little toy camera: The app took simple photos with classic filters, appealing to users who were nostalgic for a more analog time (whether they lived through it or not). Its new logo, on the other hand, seemed like a reversal of what made Instagram cool to begin with. It was an attempt to be modern, hip, and current — the exact opposite of the long-extinct cameras it emulated. It raised the question: How did Instagram picture itself, and why did that differ so greatly from how the rest of us did?

6 Ways to Classify a Brand

Jean-Noël Kapferer, brand expert and author of the book Strategic Brand Management, poses a simple question to steer this conversation: “If your brand was a person, who would you compare them with?”

Kapferer’s Brand Identity Prism highlights six categories that work equally well for classifying a brand, as well as a person:

  1. Physique: What does the brand look like? Is it strong and bulky, or maybe sleek and agile?
  2. Personality: What attitudes and characteristics does your brand have? Does it have a sense of humor, or can you count on it to always respond seriously?
  3. Relationship: How does your brand mingle among consumers, and other brands? Would it win homecoming king, or is it a dark horse in terms of popularity?
  4. Culture: What core beliefs comprise your brand? Does it believe in giving back to certain communities or causes? Are there cultural touch points strongly tied to its identity, like specific types of music or fashion?
  5. Reflection: How would the people who know your brand describe it? Is it trustworthy and honest, or maybe vapid and superficial?
  6. Self-image: What does your brand see when it looks in the mirror? And, most importantly, is it the same thing the rest of us see?

If we were to apply this treatment to Instagram, what kind of person would it produce? Before May of 2016, you might have come up with something like a twee hipster nerd — at least, that’s the way it was personified in this 2013 video by Cracked.

Finding Brand Authenticity

What Instagram failed to recognize was that, while it had every right to change the appearance of its brand, its perception had already been determined and heavily rooted by the public. The new logo felt incongruent with the current perception, making it feel forced and fake. It’s reminiscent of Garth Brooks’ attempt to create an alternate rocker persona, “Chris Gaines,” in the late ’90s. His brooding, soul-patched, fictional counterpart was such a departure from Brooks’ rugged cowboy look that his fans were embarrassed — even if the same style worked perfectly for a musician like Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. In both cases, it came down to what fans had come to expect.

Consumers are gifted at smelling inauthenticity. As a result, when a brand decides it’s time to pivot, that movement must come from a genuine place, answering to an equally genuine opportunity. These opportunities can’t be invented, only discovered. There are a number of tools available for this. For instance, a user experience (UX) researcher might perform a competitive analysis to find gaps in competing products that they can fill. This exactly what Old Spice did in 2010, and the results produced one of the most memorable ad campaigns of the decade.

At the time, Old Spice was struggling to keep its head above water in the competitive field of men’s deodorant and body wash. Axe Body Spray had completely captured the 18-24-year-old market with trendy, youthful packaging and a series of raunchy commercials that suggested women would be magnetically drawn to anyone wearing its scent. Old Spice, once the gold standard of male grooming, had become the brand associated with your grandfather. Even the introduction of more youthful scents and washes did little to move it into the present. That is, until the now-infamous “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” ad campaign created by the Portland-based agency Wieden+Kennedy.

As it turns out, Axe was ignoring a very large portion of its market: women. Old Spice found that in many households, women were the true power-brokers of what men smelled like. While Axe held a youthful image that managed to be masculine without reminding consumers of their older family members, the brand also embodied the aspects of masculinity most problematic to their female demographic. To these consumers, a deodorant that promised to send dozens of scantily clad models after your husband couldn’t be further from a value proposition.

Old Spice managed to capture the positive perceptions of masculinity held by both men and women, all thanks to one man: Isaiah Mustafa. The handsome, muscular actor spends the entire 30-second spot speaking directly to women, while exemplifying the strong confidence that young male viewers aspired to. If Axe made Old Spice look like an old man, the new Old Spice made Axe look like an immature little boy. What follows is one of the most interesting branding faceoffs of the decade — one that competed not just for deodorant sales, but for which of two distinct ideals would become the modern definition of masculinity.

Branding at General Assembly

Branding isn’t a science; it’s an art that requires both a wide collection of tools and a discerning perspective to effectively steer. At General Assembly, in our part-time Digital Marketing course and full-time User Experience Design Immersive program, we explore these nuances using case studies and skills like user research, competitive analysis, and visual design. You can also learn branding fundamentals through short-form, expert-led workshops and events across our global campuses. We believe in a holistic approach to our work, inviting students to collaborate with seasoned designers and marketers to better understand their role in the success of their clients. We look at the stumbling blocks other companies have faced in order to better avoid them, as well as the successes that fuel the kind of work we love to do.

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Meet Our Expert

Nick Anderson is a Denver-based developer, designer, and writer. He’s created digital solutions for Bacardi, Angry Birds, and dozens of other brands in more than eight years of working for various agencies and startups. Currently, he teaches the full-time Web Development Immersive at General Assembly’s Denver campus. His go-to karaoke song is “I Wish” by Skee-lo.

“Digital technology makes it easy for people with ideas to establish themselves or their business as a brand. There’s high demand for those who can take someone’s vision, and create a strategy to propel it into success.”

– Nick Anderson, Web Development Immersive Instructor, GA Denver

Developing Your Social Media Marketing Campaign for Success


When you hear the term digital marketing, a few examples may come to mind. Perhaps you can remember a viral campaign on Facebook, sponsored ad on Instagram, or popular YouTube personality acting as a spokesperson for a certain product. These are all common forms of social media marketing — which most of us see every day.

In recent years, social media platforms have emerged as a popular — and essential — channel for digital marketers to reach their target audiences. With 2.46 billion people worldwide using social networks today, according to the statistics site Statista, this is a huge online audience that marketers can’t ignore.

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have developed many advanced features that allow marketers to target different user segments based on their demographics, geographic locations, languages, interests, online behaviors, and more. Ad formats may include sponsored posts and various types of banner and video ads.

With so many platforms, though, it can be overwhelming to determine which ones to utilize, and how best to leverage a particular platform’s features to reach specific segments of users.

Before carrying out a social media marketing campaign, you must first ask yourself the following three questions:

1. What is the objective of your campaign?

Marketers launch campaigns for various reasons, including building brand awareness, generating sales, strengthening customer relationships, or acquiring new customers. By answering this question, you’ll know what KPIs (key performance indicators) to set and who you want to target. For example, if you want to acquire new customers, your target audience would be people who fit into your customer profiles, or personas, but are not yet your customers. Your KPIs could be the number of new potential customer email addresses you want to collect, and how many new buying customers you want to acquire through the campaign.

2. Which social media platforms does your target audience use?

Find out about the demographics, geographic coverage (i.e., where the platform’s users are based), user interests, and behaviors for each social media platform you’re considering using. This will help you track down and reach out to the target audience that you have defined based on your campaign objectives.

3. What is the mindset and intention of users on different social networks?

On a professional network such as LinkedIn, users want to display their professional competency, improve themselves professionally, and connect with business associates or authoritative people within certain industries. On personal networks like Facebook and Instagram, users look to display their lifestyle and beliefs, entertain themselves, and connect with family and friends.

Therefore, a user may be more receptive to a software promotion ad on LinkedIn than on Facebook. Similarly, a leisure travel ad might perform better on Instagram than LinkedIn. So, reach out to your audience where they are “tuned in” to your message.

In conclusion, choosing the appropriate social media platform — where your target audience is present, plus, tuned in with the right mindset to receive your type of marketing message — is already half the battle in creating a successful social media campaign.

Managing Your Social Media Marketing Assets

Once you’re on a social media platform, there are three types of marketing assets you’ll manage and leverage:

  • Owned: Company-created content, e.g., the company’s Facebook page, Instagram account, Twitter feed, or YouTube channel.
  • Paid: Sponsored ad placements, including video ads, promoted Facebook events, or Instagram photo carousels.
  • Earned: Content published about your company that’s distributed or created by your fans or users, such as tweets, Facebook reviews, or Instagram photos of your product.

Marketers need to create a well-thought-out content calendar and publish high-quality, engaging, and relevant content on the owned social channels. The paid campaigns should amplify the messages on the owned channels, driving more users to the company’s owned assets. Well-managed owned and paid assets will help grow positive and high-quality earned assets generated by fans or users, and over time lead to increased cost-effectiveness and success of your social media campaigns.

Social Media Marketing at General Assembly

As part of General Assembly’s part-time Digital Marketing course, on campus or online, we look at emerging trends in social media marketing, including the market positioning, user base, and user profiles of various social media platforms. We also explore the pros and cons of collaboration with social media creators on content marketing and affiliate marketing. Students also learn about the various targeting capabilities and advertising formats offered by each platform, and have a chance to create sample social media campaigns for selected companies or a company of their choice.

Students complete class with an understanding of the social media landscape, trends, and ecosystem, so they can:

  • Integrate social media marketing as part of an overall marketing strategy.
  • Effectively evaluate and select the appropriate social media platforms for different campaign types.
  • Execute and measure the success of various social media marketing campaigns.
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Meet Our Expert

Frances Chiu has over 17 years’ experience in IT and the internet industry. She has worked for leading companies including Apple, Yahoo!, eBay, and AT&T, and held Asia Pacific senior management roles in product management, marketing and PR, and channel management. Frances is currently an instructor at General Assembly in Hong Kong and a lecturer at Hong Kong University’s School of Professional & Continuing Education. She also runs her own management-consulting company, Solitude Productions Limited.

Frances was born in Hong Kong and lived in Sweden for 13 years. She holds a Master of Science degree in industrial engineering and management from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden.

“In recent years, companies have started to realize the importance of digital marketing, as their target customers are spending more and more time online. Therefore, the demand for digital marketing skills has grown rapidly.”

Frances Chiu, Digital Marketing Instructor, General Assembly Hong Kong