The realm of digital is becoming even more of a mystery to those out of the loop as the industry rapidly evolves. As more details make it a more daunting proposition to even those involved in the industry, the undeniable fact is that it is slowly taking over our entire lives. Therefore it is important to have the right people around you and the proper advice, but it always helps to know more than just the facts.
Back in 2015, it was predicted that there would be 350 million fewer women than men online by 2018. A study in 2018 showed that, unfortunately, the gap continues to grow, with four times more men than women in Europe with ICT related studies. Luckily, we managed to catch up with seven women who are killing it in the digital world right now.
Today, we bring to you insights from seven content marketing experts working on the ever-growing content element of digital marketing who are happy to share their knowledge and life lessons. So, whether you are just starting out, working in digital yourself, or want to know whether your current team are doing the right job, read on to find out from the women delving into the depths of digital marketing so you don’t have to.
Meet the Content Marketing Experts
Maddy Osman: A fervent contributor to digital marketing topics and owner of The Blogsmith. Maddy connects WordPress brands with relevant prospects from search.
Meera Kothand: An email marketing strategist, Amazon bestselling author, and owner of Meera Kothand. Meera simplifies email marketing so that you can create a tribe that’s addicted to your zone of genius (even if email scares you senseless).
Laura MacPherson: A brand strategist, copywriter and owner of Ideally. Laura helps tech & software companies blast past marketing plateaus to attract and convert more ideal customers.
Asavari Sharma: Asavari began working as a journalist, before taking her writing skills for a ‘digital spin’ at Invictus Solutions.
Lorraine Reguly: In 2013, Lorraine began blogging with no prior experience and instead used the resources available to her online to learn and gain experience. Lorraine works wizardry with words and her online business, Wording Well.
Allison Chaney: An experienced speaker, trainer and digital marketing expert. Allison is the Chief Digital Training Officer at Boot Camp Digital.
Claire Carradice: With almost a decade of experience in online marketing, Claire provides global & local online marketing services with her business, First Steps Online Marketing.
How did you start in digital?
Due to the expansive nature of the industry, very few people begin purely in digital marketing when starting out in this field – they usually specialise in a related area and evolve within. We asked out guests how they got started and here is what they had to say:
I was doing SEO before it was even called SEO.
Maddy: I taught myself to design websites at age 11 and what I once considered as a “nerd hobby” has influenced every career move I’ve made since working as a web designer for a university-run marketing agency in college. Though I’m more interested in content than design nowadays, I still write a lot of technology/digital-focused articles, especially in the WordPress space!
Meera: I was in marketing and communications in my corporate job. I’ve always had a keen interest in it and wanted to share my thoughts on the topic. My business started with a simple blog, sharing ideas on the topic and then it grew from there.
Laura: I worked as a marketing manager at a couple of different companies, which gave me broad experience in setting up and running effective campaigns.
Asavari: I studied to be a journalist but during one of my internships I realised that it wasn’t for me. I always loved to write so when I found out that a New Delhi-based digital agency was looking for a writer, I decided to take my chances and give my career a “digital” spin. Five years and a couple of gigs later, I can say I have learnt a lot and I don’t see myself doing anything else. Of course, being creative is a big requirement in this industry, but you get to manage other aspects of marketing (like data analytics, branding, etc) as well. The versatility of the job is what makes everything interesting, worthwhile. I always love a good challenge at work.
Lorraine: I started blogging in January 2013. I opened my business 13 months later, in February 2014. I was a brand-new blogger with NO experience, so I read everything I could from others who were in the industry. As a result, I became an expert quickly!
Allison: My very first opportunity in digital was when I was working for a local radio station and they had a website. I had other non-digital responsibilities, but they saw that I was technically savvy so they asked me to figure out how to get the website ranked in search engines. But my first “real” job in digital was in the late ’90s for a company who built websites for industrial and manufacturing companies. When I got hired they said “we build websites and they need to rank in search engines. Figure it out.” So I did. I was doing SEO before it was even called SEO.
Claire: I started online marketing eight years ago, by doing a course about affiliate marketing. I had a background in public relations, customer experience and traditional marketing and branding. I think my previous experience is what gives me an edge over many other online marketers.
What is the biggest change you have seen since working in content marketing?
One of the most overwhelming conclusions from all involved is that you can never get comfortable in this field, the moment you do the more likely you are to miss out on the opportunities and knowledge that keep you at the top. Opportunities for keyword rankings are becoming rarer as the market becomes more saturated. If you’re struggling with rankings, be sure to check out our guide to conducting an effective competitor keyword research.
One of the keys to success is differentiation.
Maddy: There are so many new tools that people can use to help them be effective. There are also so many case studies of best practices (and online courses) that people can use to get off on the right foot if they’re just getting started. Unfortunately, there are also fewer opportunities to rank for relevant keywords, as the low hanging fruits have already been scooped up! This basically means that you have to work harder to create the best possible content for a given topic and provide value before trying to sell.
Meera: How customer’s buying decisions and awareness levels have evolved. People are more wary about how and where they get their information from and how they evaluate their buying decisions. They are also more wary of certain content formats like webinars and video series and how it helps them or otherwise. The marketer is dealing with a more mature customer who is attuned with different types of content formats.
Laura: Marketing changes so quickly. One of the keys to success is differentiation. Once everyone starts using a tactic, it becomes less effective.
Asavari: Content marketing is finally being considered as important as Operations or Sales or any other function in an organisation. I think people are slowly realising that you can’t do much for your business if your content is not marketed smartly. While the traditional forms of marketing remain as important as ever, it’s content marketing that’s finally being given priority over and above anything else. And I think that is the biggest change I have seen since working in content marketing.
Lorraine: The biggest change is constantly trying to figure out what ranks best on Google. Now, with voice search, people are changing things up again!
Allison: Social media. I worked in digital before social media platforms existed in the way they do today. Social media has given us a window into our audience’s mind. It’s an amazing tool for listening to our audience to understand the type of content that is interesting to them. Before that, we were doing a lot of guessing and old school market research to discover what types of content our audience wanted to see.
Claire: Many people claim to be online marketing gurus, but are not. They may think they are, but they don’t really know what they are doing. Many people act as coaches or implement services for small business owners but are not effective at it.
What do you wish you had known when you began your role?
Be confident and be different. Simple terms but our contributors are quick to acknowledge that they are harder to put in to practice than it seems and can be more beneficial than you think.
Don’t compare someone’s middle with your beginning.
Maddy: I decided to go freelance full-time a few years back and I feel like I was fairly prepared for that transition in terms of a solid content marketing foundation. That said, I wish that prior to taking the leap, I’d have spent more time building my personal brand — like writing guest posts for high-authority industry blogs! That would’ve really helped me to confidently charge a higher rate when I first started.
Meera: Don’t compare someone’s middle with your beginning.
Laura: It’s ok to experiment! And it’s ok to be different. Too often companies look at what their competitors are doing and simply copy their strategies. What companies should do instead is look at their audience and come up with creative ways to communicate with them.
Asavari: That content marketing would be huge in a few years’ time! I started working five years ago and one of my initial jobs was with an eCommerce startup. While the use of social media or online forums for customer relationship management was on point, the structure in which the marketing team worked was highly disorganised. I wish I was more aware of how we were all working. That would have helped me learn the ropes of the game faster. But given the structure of the organisation, this was a little difficult to achieve.
Allison: I wish I would have had the foresight to know how powerful a personal brand would be. With social media today, having a strong personal brand can elevate an individual as well as a company. It’s incredible what a difference a strong personal brand can make, and I only wish I would have started building that up much earlier.
Claire: Actually, I don’t wish I had known anything different to what I already knew, because not having an understanding of online marketing, helps me to relate to clients who do not have the knowledge, and not knowing drove me to find out things I probably would not have found out had I been handed the information on a platter.
Please share an experience (positive or negative) which has shaped how you work.
We all aware that it is often the worst experiences that teach us the most and that a book and facts can only get us so far. Putting these into practice and developing our own styles and approaches comes from real-world implementation. Whether it is dreadful clients, dodgy brands, payment problems, or taking the wrong advice, our contributors’ experiences can help you.
I never begin a project without a thorough understanding of the target audience
Maddy: I’m often told that my personal brand is “no bullshit”. I’ve had few truly awful clients but my experiences dealing with their BS has definitely shaped how I approach new client relationships. I’m much more cognisant of red flags during initial conversations and also much more fervent about getting the scope of work in writing (as a signed contract) and getting payment (at least a deposit) upfront.
Laura: A mistake I made early on was failing to research the audience thoroughly. I wrote a sales page for a market segment that wasn’t really experiencing the pain point that I focused on. The campaign flopped. Now, I never begin a project without a thorough understanding of the target audience.
Asavari: I am a horrible multitasker, and working in content marketing means you have got to be able to carry out different jobs simultaneously. I like to see myself as uni-focal. One thing that I have learned professionally is that the more you try to juggle it all, the worse it is. So I always manage work, one assignment at a time. This exercise has not only reduced the errors in my work but also helped me finish my tasks on time and swiftly. I learn quickly, I produce results faster only because my attention is on one thing. This is a productivity hack that does wonders for me at work!
Lorraine: I have always been honest in whatever it is that I write, and my honesty has been rewarded in various ways, including high rankings on Google and tons of support from my fans/followers. As a result, I will ALWAYS tell it like it is, even if the truth hurts!
Allison: Don’t believe the hype. When an algorithm update is made, or a change is announced in a social network, everyone freaks out and starts heading for the hills. But in many cases, the news is just hyped up nonsense. I’ve learned to take everything with a grain of salt, and to investigate and test things myself rather than blindly believing some blog post and freaking out.
Claire: It’s the negative experiences which have had the greatest positive impacts on how I work because they were the ultimate teachers. For example, when I first started my business, I put all my eggs in two baskets, and all at once I lost both baskets and my business went tumbling down. It taught me a valuable business lesson: never rely on 2 – 3 clients for your income, but rather focus on higher paying clients, and a few of them, so that if one ditches, it only accounts for a small portion of your income, and you will not be financially devastated.
What do you think will be a defining sector/change in digital marketing over the next 5 years? Why?
Although this is an almost impossible question, what with the unpredictability of the industry and how quickly it evolves, the knowledge and insight from those that have seen its development is always a good starting point.
Meera: Targeting abilities of ads will improve even further as several platforms will move increasingly towards pay to play.
Laura: I think there will be an increased focus on the target audience. Any given tactic may work incredibly well with certain segments, but not at all with others. As audiences become more and more inundated with messages and content, they can get picky about what they pay attention to.
Claire: The way we take in content; the types of content. People are inundated with the written word and are becoming more and more lazy to read, so I believe we are going to turn more and more to video and apps to make it easy for content to be consumed.
Lorraine: Videos will play a bigger part than they ever have. Be warned! So start creating those videos now.
Maddy: It would be fair to say that I resent how much control Google has over search marketing and content discovery. I want to say that they have the user’s best interests in mind, but after removing ‘Don’t be evil’ from their code of conduct, I’m starting to think they’re more focused on their bottom line. Regardless, at this point, my opinion doesn’t matter. You can either get in line with Google or forget ranking in relevant search. Since the algorithm changes on a frequent basis, I’ll be striving to stay ahead so that the work I do for my clients successfully ranks regardless! What I’m trying to say is that in the next 5 years, search will definitely change and SEO experts will need to keep up and stay nimble.
Allison: I think businesses are going to have to get serious about investing actual dollars in quality work. A $500 website is garbage. A $10/hour position is insulting. But if you invest wisely and are efficient, you can get a huge ROI. Smart businesses are starting to realise this and invest, and are getting results.
What is a top tip for others looking to succeed in content marketing?
It is very easy to get caught up in writing content solely to be beneficial to Google and to forget that consumers are the first point of contact. They are what decide its worth to Google.
Write for the human but optimise for the search engine.
Maddy: Write for the human but optimise for the search engine. You CAN do both, but you have to be purposeful in your approach.
Meera: Ensure you have content for various stages of your customer’s journey. Many businesses neglect middle of funnel content which could be detrimental in building a solid relationship with your customers.
Just like you, the readers of your content are individuals and do not want to be treated like just a number. As covered above, there are plenty of tools and platforms available to research properly.
Laura: Conduct one-on-one interviews to learn valuable psychographic information about your target audience. That’s my silver bullet to creating content and messages that convert.
A tip under the umbrella of those above, but well made by Allison and Claire, is to remain focused on the fact that you never know it all. The best never stop learning.
Allison: Get expert training and stay on top of the changes. You can’t afford to fall behind and you can’t afford to apply out of date best practices.
Claire: Be teachable. Be determined. Content marketing is not simple, it is complex. And if anyone tells you any different, I would not listen to them. If you want to succeed with content online, you have to be ready to learn a lot and continually, making mistakes and being OK with that because you know it’s teaching you to be great someday.
If that isn’t a great note to end on, I don’t know what is!