Internet Marketing Through Seventh-Grade Eyes

Search Engine Journal put up a delightful article on digital marketing. The author went to a seventh-grade language arts class to explain what he does for a living, so the students could see that what they’re learning in class now will apply later in life. Just as interesting as what he taught, though, was what he learned from the students.

You can read the full piece, written by Glen Gabe, and the thoughtful comments on it. The article almost made me wish I was back in seventh grade at a similar presentation. Back then, though, computers were just starting to be used in the home – never mind the Internet.

In any case, these students wanted to know how they could use the skills they learned in their language arts class on the job. As Gabe noted, “almost every aspect of digital marketing involves writing, including blogging, SEM, content creation for SEO, video marketing, social media marketing, etc.” The students apparently learned a lot from his 25-slide presentation, but he also learned a lot from the questions he asked them.

He started by asking them how many use Google, and how many use Bing or Yahoo. Every student used Google to search, but none of them used Bing or Yahoo. Also, none of them realized that Google makes 96 percent of its income from ad revenue; likewise, they couldn’t tell the difference between sponsored results (ads) and organic results. Once Gabe pointed it out to them, though, “this question got the students thinking about why and how certain listings ranked highly.”

The real kicker came about a week later, when Gabe received a package with thank-you notes from the students. The notes showed that they’d really thought about his presentation, and it had an impact. The students understood how Google’s algorithms, and Panda and Penguin updates, exacerbated the need to produce high-quality content online.

But that’s not all they learned. Gabe’s explanation of paid vs. organic search really sunk in; many of those students will look at the top listings a little more skeptically. One noted that he “learned how we should be careful about what we post online, whether that’s pictures or writing, because it will be there forever,” and he wasn’t the only one. These kids will hopefully have less to worry about when it comes time to get into college or get a job, because they won’t make the kinds of mistakes about what they post that others have made.

A number of the students also took to heart some of the things Gabe said about blogging. One was impressed that you could become very popular from writing a blog. Another thought it was great that “you could find a problem, blog about it, and then people could find that to solve their own problem. That’s a very good thing. Without bloggers, companies wouldn’t recognize problems with their products.”

It looks like the future of digital marketing may be in good hands – even frightfully good hands, if a comment on the article from Josh Braaten is any indication. “I loved the insights and am excited (and even a little nervous) about how savvy the next crop of professionals will be,” he wrote. “I have a 16-year-old niece who is convinced she wants to be a content marketer, so I made her my intern. The level of quality she put into her first two articles rivaled many of the seasoned pros I work with.”

So what does all this mean? Well, online marketing will be around for some time to come – and probably, so will Google’s dominance. Google’s ad revenue is in no danger. But, perhaps most encouraging, a class of seventh-graders can grasp some of the most important SEO and SEM concepts; hopefully, so can your clients. That would allow for a truer, closer partnership. Good luck! 

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