In the first semester of the 2021/2022 curriculum, I taught students in their 2nd year (the equivalent of Master 1) Digital Marketing. My focus for this class was to teach students about what digital marketing looks like in 2021 and key concepts they should have in mind when working on a website. It was an introduction course to Digital Marketing focused on websites and their performance. Topics related to social media were covered in another course of the curriculum.
The class was taught in French to 57 students, face to face in Strasbourg, and split in 5 sessions of 2 to 3 hours. The syllabus for this class was pretty ambitious, as I realised session after session. After getting some feedback from students, I’ll make sure to lighten some parts of the program so we can focus on the most important concepts.
Digital marketing class outline
|1||3 hours||1. Introduction|
2. Culture and digital transformation
3. The online consumer
|2||3 hours||4. Digital marketing strategy and instruments|
|3||3 hours||5. Visibility on search engines|
|4||2 hours||6. User experience and conversion rate optimisation|
|5||2 hours||7. Measuring and analysing data|
The DIGITAL marketing class in detail
Now, let’s go into detail about what we explored in each chapter and some of the activities we did in class and examples of what students created.
This section was pretty straight forward, I basically explained who I am, what I do and explained the functioning of the class.
I also needed to understand who my students were. I could have spent 30 minutes asking each one of the 57 students to present themselves, but that would have been extra boring. So I used a service called Slido to have an interactive set of questions they could answer and see the results live. Students just had to scan a QR code to access the polls.
For example, the first question was “Why did you choose to study Digital Marketing?”
If you don’t speak French, here are the main keywords that students came up with for this question:
- …and the notable “finance is boring” 😂
2. CUlture and digital transformation
In this chapter, I presented where French companies are at with their digital transformation. I think it’s pretty easy to think all companies nationwide are 100% digital, especially after the pandemic. But the reality is that we only see the companies that are already well advanced on their “digital” journey. The ones that are still in the process of becoming “digital” are not yet visible online to most people.
Then we went through the main business models for online businesses. From e-commerce to affiliation, from content creation to subscriptions. I also spent some time explaining cases of co-creation, specifically through examples of Katnipp and XXLScrunchie, a British stationery company and a Canadian accessories company. Both document their business journeys on YouTube and co-create their next collections with their communities.
As a rule of thumb, most of the examples and case studies I use in my classes are about small businesses. The vast majority of the French workforce work for small and medium-sized businesses, and I believe it brings more value to students to study businesses with relatable people behind them.
The last part of this chapter was dedicated to ethics on the web. I found it important to explain to students the impact of online activities on the environment, but also and especially the impact it has on our societies. Most students had never heard of micro-jobs and micro-tasks, the psychological difficulties experienced by Facebook moderators or the ways Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and Google’s Task Mate tend to exploit minorities with highly underpaid assignments.
3. The online consumer
This chapter focused on understanding how the online costumer journey differed from the traditional customer journey. But as we all know, humans are not rational beings and we are all prone to cognitive biases.
So I then explained what cognitive biases are, with a few examples of how they impact our day to day lives, and, of course, how they impact the online consumer. Understanding cognitive biases and more generally how our brains function when we browse, can heavily impact the way we conceive and optimise websites.
It might sound counterintuitive to talk about psychology and neurology in a digital marketing class. As a freelance digital marketing specialist, I think I do a better job at optimising websites now that I know about cognitive biases and how the brain works.
4. Digital marketing strategy and instruments
This chapter focuses on digital marketing strategy and the instruments of digital marketing.
I explained what a digital marketing strategy is through 2 concepts:
- Defining a company’s mission, its vision, its values and finally drafting an elevator pitch ;
- Using Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle by defining the what, the how and the why of a company, and then using this framework to create a pitch and define goals.
I also touched on the difference between owned, earned and paid media, the importance of having your own website, and not just relying on social media.
Class activity : What if you became a CEO?
Digital marketing strategy can be quite tricky to grasp as a concept. So I asked my students to form groups of 4/5 students, and assigned them randomly a company they would pretend to be CEO of.
The companies came from a list of fellow entrepreneurs that I appreciate, all small businesses. Students were then able to send their findings to these entrepreneurs and have the opportunity to actually help someone out. As a small business, its always highly valuable to get insights from an external point of view!
I asked students to follow these steps:
- Familiarise themselves with the companies they were assigned to
- Find their mission as a company
- Uncover their vision for the company
- Determine their company’s values
- Define their Golden Circle
- Use these elements to create and present their elevator pitch
- Define their digital marketing goals for the next 6 months
- Explain how their digital strategy would pan out for the next 6 months to meet their goals
Feedback from students on this activity was pretty positive. They were happy to work on relatable businesses and to go through the essential steps to create a digital marketing strategy by themselves.
As you can see, I chose to focus more on the internal motivations of an entrepreneur than on just defining goals. As an entrepreneur myself, I find that effective goals and strategies come from within, from a place of deep self reflection. This process also tends to avoid focusing on vanity metrics and unsustainable goals that solely come from comparing a business with another. It’s also applicable on a personal level, which I thought could be useful to students finding their path in life.
5. Visibility on search engines
This chapter is dedicated to Google Search and it algorithm. As an introduction, I re-used Slido and asked students to tell me in a few words what they know of Google.
Interestingly, their results were a good mix between Google products, and issues around data privacy.
For this chapter, the idea is to take students from a place where “Google is magic” to a place where they understand how the Google Search algorithm functions and where results for a query come from. Through this part, I touched on the following points:
- A brief history of Google
- The main Google Search updates
- The Search Engine Result Page (SERP)
- The position zero
- The Knowledge Graph
- The fold
- Search operators
- How the Google Search algorithm works
- Ranking factors of the crawler, the indexer and the ranker parts of the algorithm
This whole section of the digital marketing class is not about the small updates Google Search does every day or so, it’s about the long term vision of Google. Understanding where the algorithm comes from, what it’s been through and how the search landscape evolved through time helps us better understand where it’s going. That way, we avoid unsustainable FOMO*-induced decisions. *Fear Of Missing Out
Since I’m specialised in SEO, I primarily focused on Google Search, and only scratched the surface of Google Ads.
6. User experience and conversion rate optimisation
In this chapter, I started by explaining some additional concepts complementary to the online customer journey: the ZMOT (Zero Moment Of Truth) and the difference between inbound and outbound marketing.
Once those concepts were understood, I moved on to conversion rate optimisation, based on “Making Websites Win” by Dr Karl Blank and Ben Jesson. The conversion rate optimisation methodology they use is a sustainable way to improve websites based on data rather than pure intuition, taking advantage of the benefits of A/B testing, amongst other tools. I exposed to students the founding principles of this methodology:
- Design for function, not aesthetics
- Test, always test
- Make frequent, incremental changes rather than full websites redesigns
Class activity : The diagnostic, problem and solution methodology to optimise a website
To help students better understand how to optimise a website, I asked them to form groups of 4/5, and assigned each group the website of a small business.
For this class activity also, I asked students to work on the websites of small businesses, that could really make use of an external outlook on their business.
For the conversion rate optimisation activity, I asked students to follow these steps:
- Familiarise themselves with the website, go through the conversion funnel as a potential customer would. For this particular step, students had to find to goal of the website (or the most important goal of the website form a business standpoint) and where the conversion happened for this goal.
- Diagnostic: because the class activity could only last 1 hour, the diagnostic was the same for all websites. In this case, all websites were said to be receiving enough trafic, but the conversion rate was not satisfactory.
- Problem and solution: students had to identify problems that could prevent conversions, and offer potential solutions to each problem they found.
- Describe a couple of A/B tests the business could do.
Although this activity only lasted 1 hour, students came up with amazing ideas. They sent me some of them and I shared them to the entrepreneurs. You’ll find below a few screenshots of my students’ work. Keep in mind this was done under an hour by people who hadn’t heard about conversion rate optimisations before.
I found there’s a real sense of pride for students to get to know an entrepreneur through their work, and to come up with ideas and propositions that can actually make a difference to someone, maybe even to their whole family. In my opinion, this brings way more value and understanding than doing yet another essay on a huge brand that no one will read.
7. Measuring and analysing data
The final part of this digital marketing class was focused on demos of Google Analytics, Google Search Console and Google Tag Manager. The idea is for students to grasp the utility of each tool and get to know what they are about.
In an introduction class like this one, and given the ambitious program we had to get through, I don’t think there’s much point in teaching them all the ins and outs of these tools. Most of these students will specialise in Master 2 in digital marketing, and they’ll get the chance to handle these tools then. At least, leaving my class, they’ll know what these tools are about and why they are used for websites.
My overall experience teaching this class was very positive. It was my first class taught in person, and the first time I had so many students.
Students haven’t yet given their evaluation of the class, they should be able to give their feedback at the end of the semester. But I did get feedback from them live and by email. Here are a few testimonials I gathered.
If you would like more information on the classes I teach both online and in-person, get a copy of some slides for this class or simply enquire about teaching at your school, you can fill in my contact form and I’ll get back to you ASAP 🙂