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Podcast Episode 3: Content and Communication Strategy with Merove Heifetz

Listen now: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts

In This Episode You'll Learn:
  • How your business or non-profit should navigate social unrest [02:24]
  • How to authentically support your customers [03:59]
  • How to have more of an online presence [06:36]
  • Connecting your mission to events of today [07:02]
  • Reevaluating content strategy [12:53]
  • Messaging for non-profits versus for-profits [15:43]
  • Upcoming Google update and how brands should be preparing [17:58]
  • Ensuring your user experience complies with the update [23:28]

Transcript: 

Merove: So, you know, typically what I recommend is, especially during days, and even in, you know, an entire week of extreme uncertainty and unrest, depending on the brand, I've actually recommended silence in many cases. Because again, you don't want to put something out there that is tone deaf, and we're all struggling to understand truly on a day to day basis over the last few months of what's been happening.

[00:00:35] Max: What's up everybody. Welcome to the Growth Collective Podcast. I'm your host Max Ade.And today we have Merove Heifetz on the show. She's one of the incredible freelance marketers in our network. She's based in Chicago, Illinois. And she's worked at just about every type of company, and nonprofit imaginable fromFortune 500, all the way down to small startups and a wide range of different nonprofits.

[00:01:01] Perfect person to talk to today about how all of us need to be updating our communication and our content strategy, given everything that's happening in the world. She's also an SEO Wiz. And so we're going to dive into a recent update that Google just announced. Six months from now, there's going to be big changes on search.

[00:01:21] She's going to tell us what we need to do to prepare. Let's get into it.

[00:01:27] Merove!

[00:01:32] Merove: Max!

[00:01:33] Max: AmI saying your name correctly?

[00:01:35] Merove: Thank you for asking you are. I usually tell people, it sounds like the word Mirage, but with a V instead of the G. So thank you for asking.

[00:01:45] Max: There you go.

[00:01:47] Well, welcome to the show. Really excited to have you, you have such a diverse background of, of the types of companies and industries that you've worked in.

[00:01:57] And, one of them, which I think is extremely timely right now is nonprofits. Because, and I just want to start there because of all the things that have happened in the world in the last three months we had COVID hit , which impacted everybody. Mass unemployment. And then now we have in the wake of the George Floyd killing, we have massive social unrest, right?

[00:02:24] And so these two narratives have dominated the headlines and I wanted to get your thoughts. For the nonprofits out there. How should they be navigating this time?

[00:02:35] Merove: Yeah, really good questions. So, you know, nonprofits, obviously serve so many, different types of functions for society.

[00:02:46] Frequently they're jumping in to support communities and people, in areas where the government, might have some gaps, and, you know, commercial, types of companies may also have some gaps. And so, you know, typically they're really filling you know, services and information that yeah might not be provided otherwise.

[00:03:09] And so, you know, what I've been seeing in the nonprofit space is that more than ever, they are, being required to step up.And so, you know, with that, kind of mission and focus in mind you know, whatI've been seeing nonprofits do and what I've been advising, some of my nonprofits to do is really consider their mission and, you know, how does their mission authentically relate to what's happening in the world?

[00:03:38] Both from a COVID-19 perspective and, in terms of, you know, all of the racial injustice that we've been seeing. And so, you know, that answer is going to be different for every nonprofit. Again, you know, some provide very specific services, some provide really helpful information and some provide both.

[00:03:59] And so you know, once nonprofits really authentically determine how they can participate and support people during these challenging times you know, then that when they also have to evaluate, what do they need to shift, if anything, in order to meet these new needs.

[00:04:20] I've been seeing a lot of nonprofits really needing to shift, mostly in terms of technology because you know, a lot of them are used to serving people in person. And so they've had to really ramp up in terms of what they're offering on their websites, not only in terms of information, but what that user experience is like on their website.

[00:04:43] And then again, you know, now it's not enough to just have that information on their website. How can they actually reach out to the people that they're trying to connect with, in order to provide critical information and services? So, you know, it's, it's a multistep process for nonprofits, but what I've been sharing with my nonprofit clients is again, kind of start from that mission perspective and where, you know, they can authentically connect their mission with what needs exist in the world today.

[00:05:13] And then from there define any different needs that they might have to communicate, you know, they're new or, you know, altered types of approach and, and then take it from there. So it's been, you know, challenging and exciting depending on the nonprofit and what their situation has been.

[00:05:31] Because, you know, so many feel like this is what they've been created for in order to, to help people. So, you know, there's a lot of opportunity for nonprofits to really fulfill their missions during this time, but also challenges because for many it's uncharted territory.

[00:05:51] Max: Yeah.And it's, it's, you touched on two things there really, which is, you know, on the one hand you have specific causes that everyone is really fired up about in the short term. And so there's some, you know, there's some charities that if they're not on the surface, as related to those causes may not be getting as much donations. And then on this, in the latter is sort of the medium of, of how they normally do things you know, for example, here in Atlanta, each year we do a charity golf tournament for a nonprofit here. And we had to cancel that for this year and that's going to be a big blow to them. And so rethinking how they go about doing these things online, which is the problem for most businesses.

[00:06:36] But I, I get the sense that it might be particularly challenging for some of these nonprofits.

[00:06:43] Merove: It is, you know, especially for those, as you mentioned, that may not have missions that are directly tied to you know, the events that are occurring today. So for example, environmental conservation nonprofits are really struggling.

[00:07:02] However, you know, I would argue that especially for environmental nonprofits and certainly, you know, others that may be considered tangential or unrelated to the events of today. They're actually really very much related, for COVID-19 in particular. What we found is, everything is connected in terms of, health outcomes for individuals.

[00:07:27] And so if in, in Chicago, for example, we have apart of a neighborhood within Chicago called Little Village, that unfortunately for several years, for several different reasons, has been plagued with really severe levels of air pollution. And they have connected that air pollution with, the health of that local community.

[00:07:50] And, studies have shown that people who live in areas with severe air pollution experienced COVID-19, in a much more difficult way than people who may live in an environment that doesn't have that same level of air pollution. And, typically people of color, tend to live in communities like Little Village. And so all of these issues are interrelated in terms of, racial, injustice, environmental injustice, which impacts health outcomes. And so I think a lot of nonprofits are, are also able to better communicate during these times just how much things are interconnected.

[00:08:37] Max: And so I guess the challenge then for these nonprofits is figuring out how to make that connection when it's not on the surface, obvious to everybody.

[00:08:46] Merove: Exactly.And so, you know, one of the challenges that I've seen with some nonprofits is in the past anyway, you know, prior to COVID-19 in particular, you know, they share this kind of information about, you know, scientific studies that, you know, drive some of their work.

[00:09:04] But a lot of times I've seen, unfortunately nonprofits really struggle with how to translate scientific language in particular, in ways that people can understand and connect with and care about.And so that has impacted in the past their ability to fundraise. And so now, certainly for better and worse, COVID-19 does make certain issues again, more real and more understandable. And so for some nonprofits, there's certainly been a benefit in helping them to, better clarify their, the information they're trying to convey, which then positively impacts their fundraising.

[00:09:46] And so, I think that's, that's a key point for all nonprofits is to really ensure that people understand how their mission and work of the nonprofit really, has a connection to the people who they're trying to connect with and, and raise funds from an order to fulfill their missions.

[00:10:04] Max: And with these three, let's say three topics that are going to dominate the news cycles all year, first COVID, now Black Lives Matter and the that we have an election coming up in the fall.

[00:10:18] Merove: Yeah.

[00:10:18] Max: How high are the stakes for nonprofits this year? Do you think that we're going to see potentially this year more than ever people shifting in their normal giving patterns away from certain nonprofits to others or new people coming in?

[00:10:36] Merove: Yeah, so, you know, I think there certainly will be shifts.

[00:10:40] Unfortunately, a big part of it will be related to the economy and how that has dramatically changed since March. And so, overall, I think nonprofits generally have seen a decline in fundraising because of the concern about the economy. And obviously millions of people have lost their jobs.

[00:11:03] And so, whether people are hurting today or not necessarily hurting today, economically, but concerned about potentially hurting in the near future, that certainly will impact nonprofits. But, in light of the upcoming election, that's certainly, has an impact on specific nonprofits as well, depending again, upon their mission.

[00:11:27] So I think, it depends upon, again how these nonprofits are connecting with the people within their communities and the people they serve. And, there, the key is just to ensure that they're communicating very clearly about what their, budgets go go towards in order to make the world a better place for everyone.

[00:11:50] Max: To shift gears here a little bit, because I know that you work with a wide range of, of clients, not just nonprofits with all of these huge events happening this year, that again are, are sort of, dominating the conversation online.

[00:12:07] How it, you know, we're in a time where if, if you have just your evergreen content being produced, it almost comes across astone deaf. How are you helping your brands adjust to the time and stay relevant?

[00:12:23] Merove: So, the key, unfortunately right now is that there are so many unknowns that continue to pop up.

[00:12:33] And so, typically from a content perspective, the strategy and tactics are very methodical, in terms of, understanding your target audience, understanding, what they're interested in reading and connecting that with, what an organization, what their businesses are, what their mission is.

[00:12:53] And then literally planning out quarterly, even annually content strategy. That's not really possible today. And so a lot of, if not all, companies and organizations really hopefully have thrown out their content strategy, starting back in March and, have re-evaluated

[00:13:13] And so, typically what I recommend is, especially during days, and even, you know, an entire week of extreme uncertainty and unrest, depending on the brand, I've actually recommended silence in many cases. Because again, you don't want to put something out there that is tone deaf and, and we're all struggling to understand truly on a day to day basis over the last few months what's been happening. And so, certainly, you know, the first few days of, protests around the country and the world I actually advised several of my clients to pause entirely on any new content generation and posting until we all kind of understood what was happening and where , each of these brands place in the world was as a result of these changes.

[00:14:12] And then again, similar to , what we talked about earlier in terms of nonprofits, it applies to all brands determining based on the state of the world and the mission, or, you know, brand identity, of a company, connect the dots in terms of how can a brand authentically show up and connect the dots, in terms of who they are and, the message that they're trying to convey with what's happening in the world.

[00:14:43] And then really build a new content strategy from there. Unfortunately now is a time where brands really can't and shouldn't plan very far ahead for their content strategy, because things are moving so quickly.

[00:14:58] And changing so quickly and you know, who knows what's going to happen tomorrow. So I definitely don't recommend, creating a massive new annual content strategy, but really taking it almost week by week at this point.

[00:15:15] Max: How are you, are you seeing a difference in how the, the companies that you're working with, how let's say a nonprofit is approaching this stuff right now versus a startup or large brand.

[00:15:29] It is, it is inherently risky at the, at the moment to post something that's not really well thought out. But then you also see a lot of these brands posting things that as you alluded to aren't, don't feel genuine. Don't feel authentic.

[00:15:43] Merove: Right?So I, candidly, there is, in my view, there is no major difference between nonprofits and startups and for-profits . It honestly, in marketing in general, the terminology is certainly different. Budget ranges may certainly be different in some cases, not all. But the general approach in my view really is the same in terms of what's your brand value? What are you offering to the world? Who are you intending to offer that to specifically, and what is the best way to communicate that and reach and reach your target people?

[00:16:29] And so, you know, that's why I had suggested earlier in terms of, content strategy and in light of everything that's happening today, take a pause. The pause is really critical because, if people act too quickly, number one, without fully understanding what's happening in the world and absorbing that, and then number two, how their brand or mission relates to what's changed, they can make a real big error there, which, especially during these times, some brands , could potentially not recover from depending on how far down the wrong road they've traveled. So it's really, it is really critical for brands to take a pause and really consider what makes sense for them. Again, that's genuine and authentic because people can see through messages that, that just, are a token message that are not really genuine.

[00:17:30] Max: So you're an SEO Wiz you're well, you're really, you're a full stack marketer, but you, you go really deep in this area. And I know from our conversations previously that you just know a ton about this. I did see something pop up the other day on Twitter, about an upcoming Google update. It sounded like a big one sounded like as big as the famous Penguin update back in 2012.

[00:17:58] What can you tell us about that and how should brands be preparing?

[00:18:02] Merove: Yeah.So number one, Google very, very rarely will, give people a heads up that they are going to be releasing an algorithm update. They actually update their algorithm hundreds of times a year. And so, you know, a lot of those updates people rarely notice, but occasionally two to four times a year, there is something pretty big.

[00:18:27] And even in those cases, again, Google rarely actually announces it and, and let alone actually details, you know, what's going to happen in the updates. So when they do share this in advance, people have to listen. And typically when they share these updates, this far in advance, it means that there's actually probably going to be a fair amount of work that some websites are going to need to do in order to, basically be able to not be negatively impacted by this update.

[00:19:04] So the update that they announced, that will rollout in about six months time. Is focused on page experience. Candidly, this is something that I have already been focused on with my SEO clients and other clients for years. And so ultimately what, what it's focused on is ensuring that when a user is on your website, but particularly key web pages on your site, that may, you know, involve a transaction if it's an eCommerce site or some other type of interactivity, or even just , information, key information that needs to be conveyed.

[00:19:47] Google wants to ensure that users are having a positive user experience, on these key pages and truly your website overall.Because Google's ultimate goal is to serve the very best search results for whatever people are searching for. And so ultimately that's why they say they make all of these algorithm updates repeatedly is in order to serve the best results, for, whatever people are searching for.

[00:20:19] And so, you know, part of that really is beyond the information that people are looking for. Making it easy to access information and interact with it again, if it's an eCommerce situation or otherwise. And so, the types of things that really impact, page experience or user experience more broadly, number one, it can be looked at from a technical perspective.

[00:20:46] And so that includes things like, page speed or load time. So that, that is technical. However, that directly impacts users in that , I'm sure you've experienced if you're on a website and it's taking forever for information to load. You are very likely not going to wait a around and you're going to go and find that information elsewhere.

[00:21:10] And so page speed has, has been critical to SEO and it sounds like it will be even more critical going forward especially because mobile experience for users has been, even more elevated by Google and a positive mobile user experience also includes a fast, speed in terms of page, load time.

[00:21:34] So that's one area, that hopefully websites brands have already been looking at. But other things in terms of a page experience that, brands can be looking at, also includes, if there are competitors that you are competing against or, similar organizations that you're trying to, to again, compete with.

[00:21:58] Yeah. Look at their website, see what they're doing and most importantly, literally experience your own website. I've had so many clients that have spent very little time on their own website and, acting as a user, and you know, coming up with a specific task. So again, if it's an e-commerce brand, the task could be buy a pink shirt, and enter the website asa new user would, and see what their experiences yourself.  And, I always recommend that to my clients and when they do that themselves, they learn a lot. And so, that's pretty key is to not only look at your competitors sites, but really experience your own firsthand.

[00:22:46] There's a long list of other things, but, generally I typically recommend for clients to utilize tools like Hotjar orCrazy Egg. Those kinds of tools offer things like heat mapping and scroll mapping that can really, help you to understand what users are looking at and clicking on and how far they're scrolling on key pages. And that kind of data can also determine are there areas that people aren't seeing on key pages that we need to ensure that they see, or things that they should be clicking on that they're not, Et cetera.

[00:23:28] So a user experience in my view has always been inextricably linked with SEO. And there has certainly been debate about that, publicly, not in my view, but certainly I've seen people debate it. And nowGoogle is saying it is important and it will be even more important. And so now over the next six months, take time to really look at that, experience on your website and make those fixes because if you don't, you may really be negatively impacted in terms of organic traffic.

[00:24:02] Once they've released this algorithm update.

[00:24:05] Max: Super interesting because even, even today, there are certain searches where you'll go on on some of the top ranking terms and you'll see these very outdated websites, that have clearly been ranking there for a long time. They have good information perhaps, but, the mobile experiences isn't great. And, and the, the UX on the page isn't great.

[00:24:28] Merove: Right.

[00:24:29] Max: It'd be interesting to see if some of those are really relegated with this update.

[00:24:36] Merove: Yeah.You know, part of, part of, what Google also considers is a brand popularity.And so for better or for worse, there are some brands that are incredibly popular, but have poor user experience.

[00:24:54] And so this will be interesting to see, you know, brands that are popular, but with poor user experience, how they may be impacted in six months if they don't improve their UX.

[00:25:06] Max: Yeah.I wonder, I wonder if the the weight that Google is assigning to backlinks, for example, relative to experience a user experience, if that's going to change at all, it should be interesting to watch.

[00:25:19] Merove: Yeah.You know, it's hard because I typically look at, SEO in four main buckets. So content, the technical, set up, backlinks and user experience. Those four buckets are not weighted equally, and the weight could be very different for different websites. And again, that's, you know, Google's magic sauce, our secret sauce.

[00:25:48] And so, you know, I, it's interesting because I think backlinks are just so in terms of their weight are so different for every website. And part of that is the overall recipe of the, the state of everything else, again, in, in those other buckets. And of course the quality of the backlinks as well.

[00:26:09] So, yeah, it's going to be interesting to see how, how, visibility shifts for certain brands.

[00:26:17] Max: So just to kinda tie this together when, you know, I think the first half of our conversation, we talked a lot about what brands should be messaging externally and in some ways, we're talking about the content that you're creating for social in that case.

[00:26:32] Right. And, and your advice there was, hey pump the brakes, maybe on your content plan that you had at the beginning of the year with everything that's going on. And now we're talking about what to do for an SEO update that's happening in six months and that's really, it has a different focus.

[00:26:50] It's the content you're producing to rank on a, maybe less so for social, maybe the same content, maybe it isn't. And you're talking about, you know, kind of making sure your website structurally and the key pages have a good user experience. How do you, how do you view that a strategy if standing today, you know, amidst everything that's going on, do you, do you advise your clients to take a longterm view and focus more on that longer term SEO content than, than what they normally would have been pumping out?

[00:27:23] Merove: So it's really going to be brand specific, in terms of the recommendation there,SEO is always been a long game. And so, I, I don't really ever recommend pumping the brakes there. Pacing certainly could be adjusted. And of course, you know, there's the bigger picture of just what resources does does a brand have and, and what the priorities are at any given point.

[00:27:53] But generally I would say, say, pacing could potentially shift for SEO, but should never go away. And for social, you know, that's really the place where people look to for the most Up To Date information, given that, I think in one day last week or two weeks ago, whenever it was, we had the Space X launch.

[00:28:19] We have, we have like three to four things happen in that one day. Including, I don't remember if George Floyd, if that video came out that day as well, but it was literally like the launch of so many things that one day. And so in, in this kind of environment where a million things could happen in one day or one week.

[00:28:42] People do generally turn to social for the mostUp To Date information when compared to a website.

[00:28:51] Max: All right. Well, this has been a super fun conversation. Thank you so much for joining. Any last thoughts or, or, or things you want to leave us with?

[00:29:03]Merove: Well, you know, the key from my perspective has always been first starting with the bigger picture in mind, and then figuring out how that bigger picture plays out across multiple digital marketing channels and some, you know, again are more immediate types of channels and some require time and effort over the longterm.And so, balancing all of that out, is, is really critical. Both for, you know, short term and longterm planning across, across multiple channels.

[00:29:42] Max: Merove.Thank you so much.

[00:29:43] Merove: Thanks Max.

[00:29:44] Max: Have a great weekend.

[00:29:45] Merove: You too.

[00:29:50] Max: Thanks for taking the time to listen to today's episode. Just a reminder that you can work with Merove and hundreds of other incredible freelance marketers. Right now at GrowthCollective.com. We will actually hand match you with the right freelancers for your business. Today's episode was also edited and produced byDavid Reineke my wonderful brother-in-law.

[00:30:13] If you could give us a review or a like, or a subscribe on your favorite podcasts application, we'd love you for it. We'll see you next time.

Merove Heifetz
Founder of Acquisition Digital
Former Company
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Merove Heifetz
Founder of Acquisition Digital
Former company
About Author
Merove (sounds like Mer-AHV) is armed with an MBA and 20 years of cross-channel digital marketing experience serving venture-backed startups, Fortune 5+ companies, nonprofits, agencies and everything in between. Her industry experience is deep across ecommerce, B2B and nonprofits and has worked with clients like Walmart Grocery, Glossier, Penguin Random House, DCL Logistics, Make-A-Wish Foundation and many more. Through her experience she's found that regardless of industry, many of the same growth and SEO challenges and patterns exist, even between startups vs. corporate vs. nonprofit organizations.
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