Natasha Burtenshaw-deVries

Digital Marketing, SEO and My Life as a 20-Something

How I’m Preparing For a Socially Distanced Summer Without Air Conditioning

No matter where you are in the world right now, summer 2020 is going to look a bit different for all of us. It’s also pretty safe to say there’s a lot on everyone’s minds from keeping ourselves and our communities healthy to navigating physical distancing guidelines and the rapidly changing economy.

One of the biggest changes in my life right now is that I am working from home full-time. It’s a strange existence given that I also live alone. Fortunately, I’m not a social butterfly so it’s not the worst thing in the world, but I am sorely missing the activities that make living alone bearable like sailing, soccer and orchestra.

Maybe I won’t be working from home all summer, but I certainly am for the foreseeable future and I’m planning as if I’m in this for the very long haul. That being said, I am getting really concerned about how I’m going to deal with working from home in an apartment without air conditioning, as well as the health and well being of others without air conditioning.

When heatwaves strike, we’re reminded to check on the elderly and other people vulnerable to the heat. How will we do that when we’re supposed to keep our distance for their safety? And how will we help them, and everyone else without air conditioning at home, survive the sweltering temperatures that are fast approaching?

I don’t have the answer to all of those questions, but as someone with no air conditioning, no backyard and no pool, here’s what I’m personally doing to prepare:

1. Hooking Up the Portable Air Conditioner

THANKS MOM! My portable air conditioner will forever be one of the best gifts my mother has ever bought for me. It will never replace central air conditioning, but I like to say that it at least takes the edge off of the heat and humidity.

Fans and open windows are alright for coping with dry heat, but when that Southern Ontario humidity arrives? With the way it sucks the energy out of you, good luck getting anything done during the day.

I have an 8,000 BTU Arctic King portable AC. It’s actually a 3-in-1 model, so I can run it as a regular old fan and it also has a dehumidifier. I keep it in the living room, as that’s where I spend the most time, but it can be easily moved as needed. Through a lot of trial and error, I have learned that if I position the AC and my two fans juuuust right, I can direct enough air into my bedroom to make it bearable for the night.

Unfortunately, between my neighbourhood and having a ground-level apartment, leaving my windows open at night just isn’t an option. It makes for some uncomfortable nights, but being able to direct some cool air from the living room really does help.

I really enjoy my portable air conditioner, but let’s face it, they’re not cheap. They’re certainly out of the reach of many lower-income people, who are more likely to live in housing without air conditioning or struggle to pay the electrical bills for it. I’m personally worried about finding the balance between keeping my apartment cool enough to be productive, without having to have the unit running all day and jacking up my electricity bills. I suspect this will take some trial and error, but I can only experiment so much without hurting my productivity.

2. Replenishing the Smoothie Cube Stash

I’m no vegan hipster, but I do like smoothies as a morning boost and to force myself to get some healthy stuff down. I made a big batch of smoothie cubes that have served me well throughout the pandemic so far, but it’s getting dangerously low. It’s definitely time to make another batch of them so I always have some on hand for a cool, refreshing and healthy breakfast or snack.

If you’re looking to give smoothie cubes a try, this article explains it well. In a nutshell, all you need to do is make a smoothie as you usually would, but add just enough liquid for it to blend properly. Divide the smoothie up into an ice cube tray, and freeze in your freezer. From there, I like to divide them into small plastic bags so I can simply take a bag from the freezer and toss them into my blender.

Once you’ve added the smoothie cubes to your blender, simply add liquid (I also like to add a banana, I love my smoothies extra frothy and banana-y!) and blend. It tastes just a tiny bit different from making it fresh, but trust me, it’s still delicious. With the added pandemic bonus of limiting your trips to the grocery store because smoothie cubes last far longer than fresh fruit.

Fun tip: If you want to switch up flavours, make single-flavour smoothie cubes so you can mix and match as you please! I personally have strawberry, mango and mixed berry ones and I mix them accordingly based on my mood.

3. Stocking Up On Popsicles

No, popsicles are not just for kids. There’s no better way to get through a hot and sticky afternoon than the refreshing cold and sugar boost that a popsicle brings.

If you’re concerned about sugar and chemicals, have no fear, there are a lot of great healthy popsicles out there both in the grocery store and recipes you can make online.

4. Fixing Up My Little Porch Into An Outdoor Space

While I don’t have a backyard, I do have a little porch that serves as the entrance to my apartment. I’ve never measured it, but it’s probably about 6′ x 6′. This is my second summer in this apartment and I’ve never used that space for anything more than storing my garbage can and recycling bin, but this year that’s got to change.

I’ve seriously thought about rigging up a hammock but uh, let’s just say the railing is definitely not strong enough for that. I’m currently trying to track down a chair I can sit in (it doesn’t need to be fancy but it needs to be somewhat comfy and apparently those are expensive!) as well as a few planters and possibly an outdoor rug and some sort of shade as it gets direct sunlight for quite a lot of the day.

Part of the reason I’ve never sat out there is that the porch is right next to the heavily trafficked sidewalk. I might have to put up with some overly friendly strangers striking up conversation, but I guess I’ll have to take that over being stuck inside a sweltering apartment.

If I can set it up well and the internet connection is strong enough, maybe I’ll be able to work outside sometimes. At the very least, might as well take advantage of the breeze outside of work hours!

5. Considering Asking For Some Flexibility In My Working Hours

If my boss is reading this…we might need to chat! This is not an option I want to consider given we all traditionally work set office hours, but it may be necessary.

Thinking back to last summer, there were summer days where it’s just impossible to get anything done during the hottest hours of the day. I am really worried about the same thing happening during the week now that I don’t have the nice air conditioned office to escape to (oh, I will never complain about it being too cold again!).

This is a last resort, but worst-case scenario, I might have to shift my working time to earlier in the morning and evenings. We’ll see how it goes. I don’t want to do this, but it might be necessary and could be a good option for those of you out there facing a similar situation.

6. Writing to My Elected Officials to Raise My Concerns

The more I think about this, the more concerned I get. Not so much for myself, but for the people with less financial resources than I have or who have health conditions that can be exacerbated by the heat. As debates rage about balancing access to public space with the need to maintain physical distancing, I worry how those of us who don’t have a cool house to retreat to will survive this summer.

I am especially worried about this because let’s face it, most politicians and public servants in decision-making roles probably aren’t concerned about this on a personal level. That means it’s up to us to encourage them to take action on it, so in the coming days I will be writing to my local representatives about this to ensure this is on their radar and being addressed.

What needs to be done? Ontario needs to continue its pause on Time of Use electricity pricing, so those of us staying home aren’t forced to pay for on-peak pricing through no fault of our own. We absolutely need to continue to find ways for people to safely access and enjoy public space, instead of threatening to shut it down because too many people are there, because we simply need a retreat from the confinement and heat of our homes.

We also need to explore ways of creating safe cooling centres for people to go to when needed, especially since places like malls and pools probably won’t be opening again for a while. Perhaps we can even get creative and make outdoor ones, anybody remember the “chill zone” at Canada’s Wonderland on hot days? What a relief that cool mist was!

We also need to make sure that seniors aren’t left out of this conversation. We need them to stay home for their safety, but we also need to help them keep cool. This could mean providing them with fans and portable or window air conditioning units, establishing formal systems of wellbeing check-ins and offering subsidies for higher home cooling costs.

This issue has been on my mind for the last week or so, I sent out a tweet about it and I decided I needed to expand. This is not the most polished or organized piece I’ve ever written, but I needed to get it out there because this conversation simply isn’t being had.

If you’re in the same situation as myself – no air conditioning, no backyard and no pool – then hopefully these tips can help you to prepare for the unique summer ahead. If not, please share with someone who may find them helpful or use your voice to help advocate for those of us who need it.

Hang in there everyone, this is going to be the summer we’ll never forget (and not in the good kind of way) but if we all do our parts, we’ll get through this together. Ça va bien aller mes amis. Ça va bien aller.

4 Challenges of Being a Young Woman in SEO

Oh, SEO. I love you so. As a complex field requiring a wide set of skills combined with the challenge of constantly changing search algorithms, being an SEO professional makes my heart sing. What’s terrifying to many makes me roll up my sleeves with a grin on my face.

Unfortunately, being a young woman in SEO comes with a few unique challenges beyond the usual ones Google throws at us. 

From technical expertise being pushed aside to added difficulties in communication and networking, here are some of the challenges I’ve experienced as a 20-something female SEO specialist and the impact they’ve had on my career so far.

Your Technical Skills Are Overlooked

Certainly not unique to SEO, the technical skills involved in the job are often overlooked for content-oriented ones. Believe it or not, I can do so much more than just copywriting and content creation.

When you think of a woman working in a marketing agency, what role do you envision them as? Probably a copywriter, doing social media, working on the accounts team or in an administrative role. 

When you picture someone creating a landing page, digging through code, mapping out site migrations and troubleshooting technical errors, who comes to mind? It’s probably a man, isn’t it?

The amount of technical skills required in an SEO role varies greatly depending on the specific position. That being said, it’s hard to get far in the industry without at least some technical knowledge and/or hands-on web skills. 

Despite what some people think, I am capable of so much more than blogging and writing. I may not be a developer, but it’s actually my combination of skills in both content and technical SEO that makes me so great at what I do (if I do say so myself!).

Content may be king, but if it’s built on a poor technical foundation then it can only go so far. It’s time we recognize the technical skills that women bring to the table so they can be used to their full extent. And it’s definitely time we stop mansplaining basic technical concepts to them because it’s just a waste of everybody’s time. 

Finally, let’s be real. Technical skills = $$$. When technical skills are overlooked in female SEO specialists, that means they make less money and may have fewer opportunities for promotions and future opportunities.

Lack of Visible Female Role Models

Try a few informational searches related to SEO or look up any content published by Google’s search team and you’ll realize what a male-dominated industry this is. Similar to the visibility of women in other STEM and male-dominated industries, it’s not surprising that SEO isn’t a career many women initially see for themselves because they don’t see themselves reflected in it.

There’s no doubt that there are many incredible female SEO professionals doing phenomenal things at all levels in the industry. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to SEO by an amazing female professor and I’m extremely grateful to have recently joined the Women in Tech SEO community. 

We’re out there. We just lack that visibility at many of the highest levels, events and companies. This is not the post to dig into the reasons why, but visibility can go a long way in bringing women into the SEO industry and helping them move up the ladder.

The Uncertainty of SEO Can Come Across as Incompetence

It’s a bit like how a man being assertive is interpreted as confidence, while a woman being assertive is seen as being too aggressive or unlikeable. 

Anybody in SEO knows the standard answer to a question is “It depends!”. Unfortunately, when we look at how language is interpreted in different ways depending on gender, this can really backfire against women. 

Hearing “It depends.” coming from a woman can be seen as incompetence or a lack of confidence in her response. The same response from a man can be interpreted as “Oh, well that’s just SEO!”. 

Communicating complex SEO ideas can be difficult on the best of days. It’s become exponentially more difficult thanks to changes from COVID-19, as the data we used to rely on can no longer be trusted and the future is so uncertain.

I’m not really sure what the answer to this one is other than it sucks. Especially because if we change our communication too much, it can easily be seen as overconfidence and arrogance. Unfortunately (as my father told me many times as a child and in adulthood, too) we can only control ourselves, we can’t control other people. 

Being Young Makes You Stick Out Even More

I’m only just starting to really branch out to get involved in the SEO as well as WordPress communities, but I’ve definitely noticed that I’m typically the youngest in the room. If there are other twenty-somethings in the room, they’re usually male. 

Part of this is probably the path that leads to becoming an SEO professional, it’s not something you really go to school for! I’m a bit of an anomaly in that I had the chance to take a formal course in it during my post-grad. Given that most people develop the skills over time and stumble into the specialization, it makes sense that there’s not a lot of young guns like me. 

That being said, what are we doing to ensure young people are discovering SEO? How are we mentoring them? What are we doing to ensure the SEO industry doesn’t continue to be male-dominated?

It can be hard to speak up when you’re one of the only women and also the same age as the children of many people in the room. It can be uncomfortable, bring out the imposter syndrome and make it more challenging to make connections while networking. 

Getting over the fear has always been worth it, whether it’s giving a talk in the front of a lecture hall or answering an SEO question in a meetup, but it can be a scary step to take when you feel like you’re doing it alone. 

I love being an SEO professional. It’s definitely top-3 in the extensive list of things I can’t help but nerd out about. I am so lucky to have fallen into this field and to have been given some amazing, early-career opportunities that are often hard to come by.

SEO is a challenging, exciting field and I am proud to be a professional within this dynamic industry. Despite that pride, embracing the role of being a female SEO professional has come with its challenges, particularly getting recognition for my technical capabilities. 

Despite the challenges, with communities like Women in Tech SEO providing amazing support and resources, along with other female SEO professionals and allies, I hope that the path for those coming up behind me will be a little bit easier as time goes one. This was a challenging and slightly scary piece to write, but I hope by being honest about experiences I can help bring these challenges out into the open to improve the experience for all SEO and marketing professionals.

Are you a young woman in SEO? What challenges have you faced in your career and how have you overcome them? Leave a comment or send me a tweet @natasha_bd, I’d love to hear!

7 Things I Learned in My First Year Working in Marketing

One day you’re setting up your new e-mail at your new desk, and the next thing you know a year has flown by. As the saying goes, time sure does fly.

2019 was once again, a year. It was supposed to be a relaxing, boring one. Boy, was it anything but. It brought different challenges than 2018, but challenges nonetheless.

The exact date when I started in marketing is somewhat debatable, is it when I started my blog years ago? Is it when I started doing volunteer communications work? Is it when I started my co-op placement? For the sake of clarity and a more appealing title, we’re going to work with the date that I started working full-time in the marketing industry right after finishing my post-graduate degree.

Specific dates and technicalities aside, I’ve come a long way in the past 365 days. Here are some of the top lessons I’ve learned in my first year working full-time at a marketing agency.

1. Fasten Your Seatbelt, Agency Life is Fast Paced

Enjoy the quiet times while they last, because they never last for long. Agency life can be tough for a lot of people, but I personally love it. My life in an agency is easier than most given that most of my work doesn’t revolve around strict deadlines, but it doesn’t mean my job is any less busy.

One of the favourite parts about my job, and marketing agency life in general, is the wide variety of clients I get to work on. Big and small, new and old, a wide variety of industries and at various stages of their campaigns, local campaigns and across North America…it’s never a dull moment.

Sometimes I do miss being able to immerse myself in everything about one company while working client-side. But overall, I love the diversity, range of topics and challenges that agency life brings.

My personal and professional life before I entered marketing helped me form the time management and organizational skills that are key to succeeding in an agency. In the job itself, two things that help me stay on track are scheduling out my time for each client per month (it’s not always realistic to follow this plan but it definitely helps!) and listing out my priorities for the next day before I leave the office in the evening.

2. WordPress Was One of the Best Skills I Ever Taught Myself

I was asked the other day when I first started using WordPress…it’s probably been 6 or 7 years now? I taught myself HTML about a decade before that as well. Now, I use it every single day.

I had the chance to go back to the college where I did my post-graduate program to talk to current students on two separate occasions this year. On both occasions I encouraged them to learn some basic web skills, specifically WordPress since it’s so widely used. I’m not sure I’d be where I am now without my largely self-taught web skills.

3. Never Stop Learning

Digital marketing is a fast-changing landscape, especially the search marketing world I specialize in. I may have walked across the convocation stage, but that was only the beginning.

It’s so important to stay up with marketing industry news and developments. The last thing you need is to fall behind on an algorithm update or not know about a new feature on one of your platforms and fall behind your competitors as a result.

4. You’ll Doubt Yourself

Did I choose the right career path? Should I have specialized so soon? Is this the right strategy? Is this the right working environment for me? Am I targeting the right keywords? Should the budget be higher? Should the budget be lower? Is this the right way to pitch this? Is my head still attached?

It’s okay. You’re doing great. You wouldn’t be where you are if people didn’t trust you and believe in you. Keep going. Don’t confuse confidence with arrogance, but keep kicking ass, because trust me, you are!

5. The Coursework You Never Thought You’d Use? Oh, You’ll Use It.

That lecture about the history of the internet and how the internet, domains and website hosting work? Mindblowing at the time, now I use it on a weekly basis.

That course where we learned how to build a database? Well, guess who’s building a database?

Pay attention, because sometimes the most surprising skills and bits of knowledge are the ones that can really come in handy in a moment of need.

6. Find What Works Best for You

This will come with time, and you’ll have to work within the restraints of your environment which can be a challenge. Little things can make a world of difference, but figuring out what you need to be productive and produce your best work is important.

Noise can be a challenge for me in the office, so headphones have become important. I don’t like wearing them, but the reality is that they’re key to me being able to focus. I’ve also become more in tune with the days when I need to remove myself from the main office space to get work done, especially for large chunks of writing, and what days/moods I can tolerate (or even enjoy!) the background noise.

This will surprise a lot of people, but managing my energy can be a challenge. I may come across as being quiet, but sitting still can be a difficult at times! On these days, I break out the balance cushion (which doubles as a great core workout), listen to music to help channel my energy, or work in the other room and sit in one of the chairs where I can make it bounce up and down without disturbing anybody else.

Writing out my list of priorities for the next day has also become important. Some days it’s not necessary, but as my workload increased and I took on more responsibility just a few months after starting, this became more important. Listing out my priorities the day before helps make sure I don’t let anything slip and means I’m not planning out my day first thing in the morning while I’m still waking up!

7. This is Only the Beginning

There are still times where I’m just in awe at everything that’s happened since I made the decision to pursue marketing professionally. It was a lot of hard work, made much more difficult by family health challenges that emerged at the same time I went back to school, but boy was the hard work worth it because I couldn’t be happier with how things have turned out.

For as much as I’ve learned in year one, I know I still have so much to learn and so much ahead of me. I have confidence in what I’ve learned and what I’m capable of, but know to stay humble and never stop learning and reflecting.

It was hard to sum up everything I’ve learned this past year into just seven points, but for anybody who’s getting ready to jump into marketing full-time or currently navigating the early months and years of your career, this post is for you. I’m so grateful to be where I am, and if you’re not feeling that way yet, have confidence in your abilities and hang in there because I know you’ll find your marketing bliss soon too.

From professors and co-workers to clients and of course, my family, it took a village to get me to where I am today. Here’s to year two, and beyond!

Have any questions about my experiences? Did you relate to this post? Leave a comment or tweet at me and let me know what you think!

WordCamp Niagara 2019 – My First WordCamp Talk

wordcamp niagara schedule

First WordCamp presentation complete! Thanks to all who came, and if you missed it, have no fear! You can check out my slides at the bottom of this post.

Come back to this post in a few days for a recap and reflection on the event, and I’ll see if I can get the slides up in a better format than just a PDF. Because this post 110% wasn’t done at 9 am right before the opening keynote…in my defence, my body is still on west coast time after spending the week in Kelowna, and I woke up far later than planned this morning!

Updated: Post-WordCamp Recap

Better late than never for my thoughts, right?!

My WordCamp Niagara 2019 experience started earlier than most at the speaker’s dinner the night before. Going alone to events with people I don’t know always leaves me wanting to back out right until I walk in the door (and even once I’m inside, to be honest), but I pushed aside my fears and ended up having a nice night!

Only a small but mighty group made it out, but it was great to meet some other speakers in advance while enjoying some delicious food! Certainly better than spending the evening alone in my AirBnB.

After the dinner, I returned to my cozy AirBnB to relax in the king-sized bed while doing some final revisions and review of my presentation.

AirBnB views. I wish I could have stayed there longer!

And then the real fun began! Doing this recap almost a month later, unfortunately, my memory isn’t as sharp as it could have been and I didn’t take any significant notes on the day. What I do remember is I was able to listen to some great talks on the WordPress community and self-care, building static websites, using Gutenberg and website security.

All of the presentations gave me some great takeaways for both professional and personal projects. It also helped me realize how much I’ve learned about WordPress in the past year which was a nice boost of confidence.

I was even convinced to finally suck it up and give Gutenberg a try, starting with redesigning my website’s home page and this very blog post.

I’ll be the first to admit that I probably didn’t get as much out of this WordCamp as I could have. I’m not always the greatest networker on the best of the days, but being a bit out sorts from being on the tail end of a cold and still readjusting to eastern time after returning from vacation out west less than 48 hours before didn’t help either!

I was also careful not to exhaust myself from socializing and having nothing left for my presentation, given I had the second last timeslot of the day. Not a concern for many but a delicate balance for myself! Although, now that I’ve gotten over that first presentation hurdle, I don’t think I’ll be as worried about this next time.

Aside from my own presentation, I was also part of the Women in WordPress panel. Huge imposter syndrome for this, I almost didn’t say yes when I asked because I didn’t think I had enough experience with WordPress, I hadn’t been in the industry long enough, I was too young, why would anybody want to hear what I had to say…

But nonetheless, I took my chair at the front of the room and had an absolute blast! It was great to hear the experiences of other women on the panel, I really enjoyed sharing my own and I was grateful for everybody who came to listen.

It was a very timely talk given I’ve been struggling with what feels like some gendered treatment in various areas of life lately, so it helped me sort out some of those feelings and figure out new ways to deal with different situations. It was also a nice reminder that I actually enjoy speaking in front of people, and should try to find opportunities to do it more often…

Finally, 3:30 rolled around and it was my time to shine! I never took a final count but I believe there were about 20-25 people in the room for my presentation which I was thrilled with. It was a bigger room than I had envisioned, and while it’s been a while since I’ve done something like this, I’m quite comfortable speaking in front of people so it didn’t phase me. I did, however, surprise myself by launching into SUPER FAST SPEAKER MODE! Whoops.

I blame that on a mix of adrenaline, nerves and honestly, not being as prepared as I could have been. I knew my subject well, obviously, but I hadn’t gone through the presentation itself as much as I would have liked. I did my best, work had been busy leading up to the conference and being on vacation during the week leading up to it didn’t help either. I made it through with no problems, but I will definitely put more focus on preparing even earlier and doing more run-throughs next time.

Once I finished my presentation at warp speed (in hindsight, a bit of a good thing because it might have gone over my time limit otherwise), there was a Q&A session. At first, I awkwardly stood there as nobody asked any questions, but just as I was about to give a final thank you, a hand went up and then the questions started flying!

I can’t recall all of the questions, but the discussion went everywhere from updating posts and social links to Google My Business and beyond. I loved sharing my thoughts and experiences, and I think I even learned a few things myself!

Overall, I would sum up my WordCamp experience as being really damn proud of myself. I put myself out there to submit a presentation, I put in the work to pull the presentation together and I gave not just my first WordCamp talk, but my first presentation as a marketing professional.

The last two years haven’t been easy for me and finding my path to marketing has been a long one, so to stand up in public and share my expertise was a bigger moment for me than anybody in the room probably realized.

WordCamp Niagara will always have a special place in my heart because of this, I’m already looking forward to future WordCamps and thinking about which one I might apply to speak at next!

In summary, I didn’t come into my presentation as prepared or as energetic as I would have liked to have been, but it was a success nonetheless. Thank you to all of the organizers, volunteers, speakers and attendees for such a fantastic day, for listening to my rambling and for all that you do for the WordPress community. See you at another WordCamp!

7 of the Best Free Online Resources to Learn About SEO

With SEO professionals in high demand and many marketing and communications people looking to at least understand and implement the basics, “How can I learn more about SEO?” is a question I’ve been asked a lot lately.

In my eyes, SEO is one of the coolest things in the world and I’ve been known to talk people’s ears off about it. For those of you who aren’t blessed (or tortured, sorry) with this opportunity, I’ve put together this list of some of my favourite, tried and tested online resources for learning about SEO and getting started in this wonderful, crazy part of the digital marketing industry.

My #1 Go To SEO Resource: Moz

Friday is the greatest day of the week. Not because it’s the end of the workweek, but because it means it’s time for a new Whiteboard Friday! I’m a reader so I’ll typically just read the transcription but for you visual and audio folk, every Whiteboard Friday includes a fantastic video sharing the latest tips, tricks and explainers on everything you need to know about SEO.

Whiteboard Friday is just one section of their excellent blog full of SEO resources, covering everything from local SEO and link building to technical SEO and crafting high-quality content. If you don’t choose to subscribe (highly recommended), this is definitely an SEO blog you need to be checking regularly.

Finally, Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO is a must-read. Divided into seven sections, the guide is an easy-to-understand yet comprehensive source of knowledge on everything you need to know about SEO from understanding how search engines work (absolutely critical for any aspiring SEO professionals) to conducting keyword research, a rundown of technical SEO and how to craft and implement an SEO strategy.

Search Engine Journal

A close second in my heart, this is the one e-newsletter I faithfully read every day. Search Engine Journal is a great resource not only for SEO, but paid search marketing, PPC and digital marketing in general.

Search Engine Journal is one of my most trusted resources to stay up-to-date on the constantly evolving world of SEO. From the latest algorithm updates (ugh) to new SERP features, I can always count on SEJ to keep me in the loop. Juggling multiple SEO and paid search campaigns doesn’t always leave much time for reading, so SEJ quickly shares what I absolutely need to know and alerts me to what I need to investigate in more depth.

In addition to industry news and updates, they also have a lot of fantastic guides and informational articles that are comprehensive yet quick and easy to understand. From beginners to seasoned pros, everybody can learn something about SEO from Search Engine Journal.

Search Engine Watch

Search Engine Watch is another excellent online publication to keep up with SEO and paid search knowledge and news. Similar to Search Engine Journal, they offer a great mix of the latest news and ongoing knowledge and tips to help you make the most of your SEO campaigns.

I don’t read Search Engine Watch as much as I used to due to time constraints and I find they don’t publish quite as much as SEJ, but it absolutely makes the list for those looking to learn about SEO.

Neil Patel

My man, Neil! Neil Patel’s blog is an excellent place for comprehensive, yet easy to digest videos and blogs containing excellent SEO tips and actionable advice.

If you have a question about SEO, Neil Patel has the answer. A notable shout out goes to his e-commerce SEO guide for helping me to quickly begin tackling that monster when the opportunity was unexpectedly presented.

Looking for tips on how to write the best titles and meta descriptions for your blog posts? Here’s your case study.

Google Webmaster Central Blog

Get your news straight from the horse’s mouth. If you do any work with SEO or websites you need to be following Google Webmaster Central.

While a lot of what they share is technically oriented and may only be relevant to developers or technical SEO specialists, if you’re not in the loop with Google then you could be missing out on key updates and knowledge that could have a serious negative impact on your site if you’re left behind.

Think With Google

While not an SEO-specific resource, Think With Google shares fabulous and timely marketing insights. When done well, SEO shouldn’t exist in a silo, so good marketing knowledge and insights are always relevant for SEO.

SEO is a whole world waiting to be discovered. SEO covers very specific goals and tactics, and it can also be seen as a very broad concept that can and should be integrated into all aspects of website development and content and digital marketing. It can be overwhelming to figure out where to start, but even implementing basic search engine optimization practices can generate huge results for your blog, website and business.

I love SEO and I feel so lucky to have ended up in this part of the digital marketing industry. I hope these resources serve as a useful starting point for you to learn about SEO and begin your journey down the fascinating, fast-paced, occasionally anxiety-inducing rabbit hole that is search engine optimization.

Are there any more resources you’d add to this list? Any burning questions about SEO you need answered? Leave a comment or connect with me online and let me know!

The Friday File: August 23rd, 2019 | SEO, Investing and Sailing Starts

Let’s not talk about how long it’s been since I published one of these, let alone anything to my blog, kay? It’s been a year. Here’s to a newfound focus on blogging and this website, and using The Friday File as a way to force myself to get back into that habit.

4 Tips to Successfully Optimize Terrible Websites (Lee Wilson, Search Engine Journal)

There’s no greater moment than when Search Engine Journal arrives to my inbox at approximately 1:03 pm every weekday! Taking over an existing site can be overwhelming, so planning and prioritizing are key.

Kelowna Fall Activities (Tourism Kelowna)

Hellooooo much needed vacation in October!

5 – Starting Strategies Episode Three – The Dinghy Start (Race to Win Sailing Podcast, YouTube)

Okay, I know, this is a video/podcast, I didn’t read it. Let’s not get caught up in technicalities. I’ve taken up sailing this year, and while I had no intention to when I first signed up, I’ve taken part in a few regattas! This past weekend was my third regatta, and my first taking the helm for two of the five races. Did we come dead last in every single race? Yes. Did I have an absolute blast and learn so much? Absolutely! I’ve been reading and watching so much lately, especially since my starts were epic fails. Hopefully next time I can at least come second last for a race or two!

Note: This video sure doesn’t accurately show the wonderful mix of thrilling and absolutely terrifying a regatta start can be.

Investing 101: Investing Basics for Beginners (Wealthsimple)

Help! I’m becoming an adult!

Not a ton of good reads to share this week, it’s been a busy one, but I’m determined to get back on board the blogging train for good! See you next week.

5 Quotes To Sum Up My Thoughts on 2018


Ohh 2018, what a year you were. I’ve been thinking for a while about whether or not I should do a more in-depth analysis of the year, but there’s a lot that happened that doesn’t belong on the internet. To be honest, if at the start of the year someone had told me everything that would happen? I would have told them to stop taking whatever drugs they’re on. Yeah, it’s been one of those years. So, sparing the personal details, here are some quotes that sum up this past year for me, what I’ve learned, and how I’ve changed and grown.

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my own ship.”

-Louisa May Alcott

“There is no progress or accomplishment without sacrifice.”

-Idowu Koyenikan

“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.”


“Cancer opens many doors. One of the most important is your heart.”

-Greg Anderson

“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”

-Cayla Mills

“I think you need to go through some stuff to really appreciate life and understand what it means to persevere, overcome and have faith. I think those tough times make you a stronger person.”

-Judith Hill

“You can do anything, but not everything.”

-David Allen

“Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.”

-Michael J. Fox

“When someone has cancer, the whole family and everyone who loves them does, too.”

-Terri Clark

“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”

-Albert Einstein

“The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.”

-Audrey Hepburn

“Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction can be the biggest step of your life.”

-Naeem Callaway

See ya later 2018, onwards to 2019! Do any of these quotes apply to your own 2018? Anything you’d like to share about your year? Let me know in the comments or tweet at me!

The Best Of…Social Enterprise Marketing Resources

Over the last few weeks we’ve talked about what a social enterprise is, why marketing a social business is a little bit different, best practices for marketing your social enterprise and a fabulous social business brand example. Hopefully, you’re feeling inspired with some tangible ideas to improve or get started on your social enterprise’s marketing.

Today, it’s time to hand out some awards for the best social enterprise resources out there. These tools and resources will help you achieve marketing success, and hopefully save you some time and money along the way. Happy marketing!

The academy (errr, I) would like to congratulate the winners in the following categories.


Best Resource To Learn about Social Enterprise Branding

Brand the Change book

Brand the Change


Without this book introducing me to this world, this post wouldn’t exist. Brand The Change by Anne Miltenburg is an excellent resource for marketers and social entrepreneurs, whether they are building a brand from scratch or looking to strengthen their existing brand. The book provides a helpful mix of actionable steps, real world examples and anecdotes and exercises to help you bring the book’s wisdom to life. The information is clearly presented in an easy-to-digest manner that doesn’t require a marketing or business degree to understand. I ordered it when the new edition first came out so it took a while to arrive from the Netherlands, but it was absolutely worth the wait!


Best Website for Social Entrepreneurship and Business Planning Resources

MaRS Social Enterprise Resource



As one of the world’s largest innovation hubs, MaRS has a wealth of online resources available about all aspects of social business from business planning to legal issues and everything in between. You can browse their extensive library of articles and videos or enroll in their Entrepreneurship 101 online course. For those in the Toronto area, you can take advantage of their workshops, events, funding or job board.


Best Online Courses – Marketing


HubSpot Academy to learn about marketing

HubSpot Academy


HubSpot is not a social business focused resource, but it is one of my go-to places to learn new marketing skills. They have a large collection of free articles, videos and courses about various aspects of marketing from social media marketing to inbound marketing. HubSpot also offers certifications so you can prove and display your newfound marketing knowledge. If you’re looking for a CRM or marketing stack for your social enterprise, HubSpot is one of the options you should consider.


Best Online Courses – Social Entrepreneurship

+Acumen Online Learning



With a mission “to provide anyone, anywhere the skills and community to drive social change” +Acumen offers free and paid online courses for social entrepreneurs and change makers. The courses are both on demand and scheduled on a wide range of topics including social entrepreneurship, human centered design, leadership, business planning, social finance and more! Having taken their Social Entrepreneurship 101 course, I can vouch for the quality of this online learning experience. If you want to learn more about social enterprise marketing and social business planning, +Acumen is the place to go.


Okay, enough learning! The tools below will help with your day-to-day marketing activities.


Best Social Media Management Tool

Hootsuite for social business social media management



Entrepreneurs often complain they don’t have enough time for marketing. With Hootsuite, you can make the time for marketing by managing your social media platforms in one place. Hootsuite also lets you schedule posts in advance (amongst many other awesome features!) to save time and plan out your social media messages in one sitting. If you want to learn how to use Hootsuite or improve your social media marketing, the Hootsuite Academy offers excellent free courses and certifications (for a fee) in these areas.


Best Tool For Easy Graphic Design

Graphic design for social entrepreneurs



Can I use Photoshop? Yes. Do I usually just go to Canva because it’s so easy to use? Also yes. Canva’s easy-to-use and free platform means you can create beautiful graphics for your social business without being or paying a graphic designer. You can make images in all different sizes with one of their templates or start from scratch. While Canva is free, they do have paid options if you want to take your creations up a level. If you want to learn a bit about design, you can use the free Canva Design School.


Best Content Management System for Your Website/Blog

Best CMS WordPress



Whether you use the easier or go full-in with, WordPress is my go to content management system, and not just because it’s a free, open source software! WordPress is extremely user friendly for all users from beginners to expert web developers, and offers many different theme, structure and hosting options to meet any social business’ needs. Need more proof of how awesome WordPress? Well, WordPress powers 32% of all sites on the internet, so they must be doing something right!

Well, this is it! As I wrap up my blog series on social enterprise marketing, I hope you are now equipped and confident with not just the knowledge, but the tools and resources you need to help your marketing and social business succeed. Social entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart; I wish you the best as you continue on your adventure and look forward to seeing the change your social business will create in our world.

Have you used any of these resources? Are there any good social enterprise marketing resources that I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments!

Social Enterprise Brand Feature: Who Gives A Crap

In my previous post, I talked about how social entrepreneurs can create strong social business brands and effective marketing campaigns. This week I’ll be highlighting a social enterprise who’s brand and marketing activities put all of my social enterprise marketing best practices into action. (DIdn’t read my last post? Don’t worry. Scroll to the bottom of this page for a checklist that will get you caught up!) Who Gives A Crap is a fantastic social enterprise with a unique, memorable brand and an important social mission. Keep reading to learn more about them, their work and their marketing!

Introducing Who Gives A Crap

Who Gives A Crap is a social enterprise that sells toilet paper. Yes, you read that right, toilet paper! When their founders learned that 2.3 billion people in the world (about 40% of the global population) don’t have access to a toilet, they were inspired to act. Who Gives A Crap sells toilet paper made from environmentally friendly products, with 50% of their profits donated to non-profits working to improve access to toilets, clean water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in developing countries.

Who Gives A Crap Toilet Paper

Their Brand

I fell in love with Who Gives A Crap’s branding the moment I saw it. The funny, attention grabbing name. The bright and eye-catching, yet simple colours and design. The humorous brand voice. This unique, colourful branding remains consistent across their website, product packaging and social media accounts so you always know what to expect. When I discovered Who Gives A Crap, I knew I had to include them in this article because they are such a memorable, unique brand.

Their Product and Packaging

As I mentioned above, Who Gives A Crap sells primarily toilet paper, but also other household products such as tissues and paper towels. They offer a high-quality product comparable to, if not better than traditional toilet paper brands (they were Australia’s #1 toilet paper, after winning the award for most satisfied customers in Canstar Blue’s 2017 toilet paper review!). As far as pricing goes, it wouldn’t beat the bargain brands but has a reasonable and competitive price point that makes it a strong contender when shopping for toilet paper. They even have a subscription service so you can get your toilet paper delivered to your doorstep.

Each toilet paper roll is individually wrapped in paper packaging with a colourful design. Their customers often share pictures of their toilet paper rolls on social media…I can’t say I’ve ever seen that for any other toilet paper brand! Beyond being eye-catching and insta-worthy, wrapping each roll individually in paper helps them avoid using plastic packaging (which we all know is bad for our earth).

Their Digital Marketing

Who Gives A Crap is not a social business who is afraid of marketing; they have an excellent website and use both social media and e-mail marketing. Who Gives A Crap does an effective job of balancing sharing and leveraging their social impact story with putting their product first in their marketing messages. Visitors to their website are certainly aware of the positive impact the product has beyond meeting their own needs. As they say themselves, “Good for the world, good for people, good for your bum.” But their value proposition is not centred on the social impact, it is simply an added bonus of the customer’s purchase.

Who Gives A Crap keeps their colourful and humorous brand consistent across all of their digital marketing platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts. They share both owned and curated content with a focus on being funny. They utilize lots of images and graphics that stick to their colourful brand, often using their own products and packaging in the posts themselves (sometimes with a dog thrown in!). In the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom they use paid social media ads that focus on driving conversions by advertising free shipping on most orders and sharing their subscription service.

Who Gives A Crap isn’t afraid to be funny! This humorous tone is consistent across all of their marketing channels.



While they may not make their model of change their unique selling point (remember, that’s good!), they do an excellent job of being transparent about their model of change, their business activities and their social impact. In clear and easy to understand language, they explain and provide proof of how much they donate to charity and what it’s for and how their product and packaging itself minimizes its impact on the environment. They also explain how the 50% of their profits that are not donated to charity are used to grow the business. In addition, Who Gives A Crap shares regular social impact reports that go into more detail about company activities and how they are creating a positive change in our world.

The Verdict

Overall, I definitely give a crap about Who Gives A Crap! Their colourful, humorous brand pulled me in and stuck in my mind. I really felt that while buying their toilet paper would support a great cause, there was no doubt in my mind that I would be getting a high-quality product that would meet my needs just as well (if not better) than anything I would find in a local store. What more can you ask for from your toilet paper?

This post was supposed to highlight multiple social enterprise brands, but Who Gives A Crap is such a great brand example that I just couldn’t stop writing about them. Their unique and consistent brand, excellent digital marketing strategies and transparent business practices and model of change are an A+ example of good social enterprise marketing that all social entrepreneurs should learn from . Keep up the great marketing Who Gives A Crap!

Social Enterprise Brand Marketing

Does your social enterprise use these marketing best practices? It’s never too late to get started!


6 Best Practices for Marketing Your Social Enterprise

This is the second post in a four-part series where I explore marketing and branding in the social enterprise industry. Don’t miss out on part one where I define social enterprise, week three where I feature an awesome social enterprise brand and week four where I wrap it up with some useful marketing resources.

You’re ready to make a change in the world, and you’ve created the social enterprise to do it. Now, how do you spread the word? Keep reading for 6 best practices you can easily implement to effectively market your social enterprise and create a sustainable, long-term business that will change the world.

1. Be a business-first; focus on your product or service

Let’s start with a little math; social enterprise – social = enterprise. Too many social impact businesses rely on pulling on heartstrings to make sales. This can be an effective short-term strategy but is rarely sustainable long-term.

Market yourself as a business first, and then use your social impact story to complement and amplify your marketing message. Do some market research, identify your target market and create a marketing strategy and implementation plan. Then, hold yourself accountable to make it a reality.

It’s important to ground your social business marketing strategy in the core principles of marketing. This means creating a high-quality product or service, identifying your target market, pricing it appropriately (if you have a higher price point than competitors, you need to justify it with more than just your social mission!) and using the best distribution and marketing channels to reach and sell to consumers.

2. Don’t just tell your social impact story. Showcase it!

It’s one thing to tell your story, it’s another thing to truly showcase it to the rest of the world. Combined with the business-first approach to marketing as discussed above, a powerful story can create magnetic marketing that draws in consumers to power your social enterprise for the long term.

How can you showcase your story in an effective way?

Visuals and Videos

In today’s digital and mobile world, visuals are a key part of modern marketing. Showcase both your product as well as the benefit of your social enterprise through pictures, videos and graphics. This will help consumers understand, connect with and hopefully support both your product and the positive change your business creates.

Not a graphic designer? With free, user-friendly tools like Canva you can be!


So, you claim to make an impact? Prove it!

Numbers help communicate your story and can also build your trust and credibility, all of which contribute to effective social enterprise marketing and building a sustainable operation.

social enterprise video marketing

The world is on their phones, watching videos. Will they be watching your social enterprise?

3. Be transparent

This is part of telling your story, but in social business marketing this deserves its own point. What is your impact? Do you use volunteers? What organizations do you donate money to, and how much? Who are your suppliers?

Being transparent builds credibility. A spectacular marketing campaign won’t get a response if nobody trusts you. Individuals increasingly demand transparency from socially responsible organizations. If you are transparent from the start you will build trust, and with time, a bigger audience and group of loyal customers.

You also need to be clear on what your model of change is. Consumers want to see that your profits really are creating a meaningful impact. If what you’re doing for the world and how you go about it isn’t clear, don’t expect consumers to open their wallets for you.

4. Utilize digital marketing – strategically

Digital marketing can be a very effective and cost-efficient marketing medium, but it can be easy to fall victim to the belief that a business needs to be present on every online platform.

The key to choosing the best digital marketing platforms is to think about your target audience. Who are they? Where do they spend their time? What type of content and topics are they interested in? Ask yourself these questions, and the platforms you need to be on should become crystal clear.

If there’s one digital marketing platform that you must have, it’s a high-quality website with your own domain. High-quality does not have to equal high-cost, thanks to many easy to use and free or low-cost templates and website builders.

You should also ensure that your website is optimized for SEO to improve its chances of being seen in search engines. While a website does not need to be a large expense, it is your social enterprise’s digital home. If you only have a small budget for marketing, SEO is where you should be spending it.

social enterprise

No matter the cause or budget, every social enterprise needs to have a website. Don’t forget SEO!

5. Build a consistent social enterprise brand

Branding does not have to be an extensive or expensive endeavour. But investing a small amount of time into developing your brand will go a long way.

Beyond the basic branding activities of choosing a name and creating a logo and colour scheme, the best thing to focus on is brand consistency. While your messages need to be tailored for each platform and its audience, you still need consistency, especially as most customers will encounter your messaging across multiple platforms and mediums.

To build a strong brand, keep your colours and logo consistent. Use similar and predictable tone and language. If there’s more than one person creating and managing external communications, you may want to make a style guide to keep everybody on the same page.

As your social business grows, building a strong brand is something you should dedicate more time and money to. Until you reach that point, consistency is the best thing you can do to develop a trustworthy and memorable brand.

6. Don’t be afraid to spend money on marketing

A misconception that seems to carry over from the charitable sector is that social impact organizations need to spend less on overhead costs, including marketing. Some people think that any money not spent directly creating social change is money wasted.

Similar to the saying ‘you need to spend money to make money’, you need to spend money to create change. To create social change, you need to leverage a marketing strategy to let the world know what you’re doing and how they can support your business and social mission.

For social entrepreneurs without a background in marketing, taking on the task of marketing a social business can be overwhelming. Even hiring a marketer or outsourcing it can be daunting if you’re not familiar with what your marketing needs are. Even for experienced marketers, social impact businesses still present a challenge in finding that optimal balance between product and story (often on a limited budget).

But in the end, social enterprise marketing doesn’t have to be as complicated as it may seem. By implementing these 6 best practices and making the most of our social enterprise marketing resources, you’ll be well on your way to running a successful social enterprise marketing campaign that will help generate long-term business, and social change, for years to come.

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