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What Is Affinity Marketing?

Affinity marketing, also known as co-branded marketing, means that two organizations join forces. It has the potential to elevate awareness, exposure and the overall stature of both brands. In some cases, the two parties might launch one product or service together. This arrangement is known as “co-branding” and can be an effective way to reach current or new audiences in different or new ways.

Affinity Marketing Best Practices

Choose the Right Partner

Company leaders should consider whether the other business owners share similar values, customers, or offer products that align.

Ensure the Partnership Serves Both Interests

The best arrangement is fair to both partners. If either feels like the other is benefiting more or not contributing, it’s not going to be sustainable.

 Define Roles

As is the case with any business endeavor,  it’s important that both partners grasp and agree to the outlined roles and responsibilities for the sake of clarity and curbing potential conflict. Two entrepreneurs who might want to plan and execute a trade show event, for example, must discuss who’ll pay for the display and any marketing material. 

Examples of Affinity Marketing

Sometimes it's easier to understand a concept when you see examples. Here are several examples of affinity marketing.

Affinity marketing involves creating partnerships or collaborations between brands with similar target audiences but non-competing products or services. These partnerships aim to leverage the existing customer base of one brand to benefit the other. Here are three examples of affinity marketing:

Starbucks and Spotify

Starbucks, a global coffeehouse chain, partnered with Spotify, a music streaming service, to enhance the in-store experience for customers. The company's rewards program members were given the opportunity to influence the music played in Starbucks stores and create personalized playlists on Spotify. This collaboration allowed both brands to tap into each other's customer bases, as coffee enthusiasts could discover new music, and music lovers could explore Starbucks offerings.

Uber and Spotify

Uber, a ride-sharing service, collaborated with Spotify to offer passengers the ability to control the music during their rides. Riders who connected their Spotify accounts to the Uber app could play their favorite music from the moment they stepped into an Uber. This partnership enhanced the overall customer experience for both services, making the ride more personalized and enjoyable for passengers while promoting Spotify to a broader audience through the Uber platform.

American Express and Airbnb

American Express, a financial services company, teamed up with Airbnb, a platform for short-term home rentals. The partnership allowed American Express cardholders to link their cards to their Airbnb accounts, providing them with special offers and discounts. This collaboration was designed to encourage American Express customers to use Airbnb for their travel accommodations while providing Airbnb with exposure to a segment of financially affluent travelers.

Affinity Marketing - Beneficial to Brands

These examples illustrate how affinity marketing can be mutually beneficial for brands by allowing them to reach new customers, enhance their offerings, and create unique experiences that resonate with their shared target audience. Affinity marketing relies on the principle that the customers of one brand are likely to have an interest in the products or services of the partnered brand, creating a win-win situation for both parties involved.

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The Challenges with SEO and Google E-A-T

SEO and Google E-A-T: does it reward only the loudest voice in the room?

Last week (November 21), Ann Smarty published a Substack newsletter entitled SEO and Topical Authority, in which she assessed the trends in SEO and Google E-A-T and its potential reaction to the expected onslaught of AI-generated content in the next few years or months.

In her piece, Ann suggests that the "loudest voice in the room" will be the ones dominating the SERPS. It won't be enough to produce expert-optimized content. It won't be enough to interact on social media. No, those who dominate the SERPs will be those Google deems expert according to their nebulous and infamous "E-A-T" formula: expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness.

The Problems with SEO and Google E-A-T Formula

The problem with the E-A-T formula is that it's never been clear exactly how a computer is supposed to assess this. For example, does it deem my dual master's degrees in direct marketing and writing a proven example of content creation and marketing expertise? It should, but it probably doesn't. How about my 30 years of experience leading marketing teams in various industries? It doesn't even register that.

Instead, as Ann points out using screenshots from recent searches, search engines seem to register the ‘loudest’ voice in the rooms – the ones dominating the conversations across platforms.

You know the ones…

  • The consultant who slaps their face on every ad or social post
  • The consultant who brands themselves a guru of this or that
  • The consultant who aggressively pursues paid and unpaid advertising
  • The consultant who flies across the country to speak at conferences
  • The consultants with book contracts

Let's be clear: doing all those things is fine if they feel right to you and are congruent with your brand. And therein lies the rub. Not all of us like to be loud. Some of us, myself included, would prefer to let our thoughts shine rather than our personalities. It's not that we don't have personalities – we do. But for some of us, being the loudest voice in the room isn't our thing.

How Can You Convince Google of Your Expertise and Authority?

The question is how each of us can help Google understand our topical authority. (I use Google as an example of search because it remains the dominant player in the industry). The answer, I believe, is in personal branding.

If you are unfamiliar with personal branding, now is an excellent time to begin understanding it. It is crafting, managing, and refining your online reputation to ensure consistent recognition of your expertise.

I think that Google's algorithm relies heavily upon consistent signals over time. It's the "over time" part that people forget. In the short run, anyone can pump out consistent content on almost any topic. But it is the years of speaking, teaching, writing, and sharing information on one angle, one topic, that will eventually help your personal brand stand out.

I look forward to Ann's subsequent reflection on this topic. What are your thoughts on this? Is Google giving too much attention to vanity metrics in their E-A-T formula? Or can you, as a marketer, work with this and use it to your advantage?


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What Is Brand Marketing?

What is brand marketing?

Brand marketing is a strategy that focuses on promoting and building awareness of a brand to create a positive perception among target audiences. The goal is to establish a strong and distinctive brand identity that sets a product or company apart from competitors. Brand marketing goes beyond just advertising products or services; it encompasses the overall image, values, and personality of a brand.

The Elements of Brand Marketing

There are many things that go into a brand's overall design. Brand recognition is based on the repetition of brand elements. Some brand marketing elements include the following.

Logo and Visual Identity

The design elements associated with a brand, including its logo, color palette, and visual style, play a crucial role in brand marketing. For example, the golden arches of McDonald's or the swoosh of Nike are instantly recognizable symbols.

Advertising Campaigns

Brands often create advertising campaigns to showcase their products or services in a way that aligns with their brand identity. For instance, Coca-Cola's holiday-themed advertisements featuring the polar bears have become synonymous with the brand during the festive season.

Content Marketing

Hey, this is what Seven Oaks Consulting does - content marketing! Brands create and distribute valuable and relevant content to attract and engage their target audience. This can include blog posts, videos, social media posts, and more. Red Bull, for instance, is known for its content marketing through extreme sports events and sponsorships.

Social Media Presence

Brands use social media platforms to connect with their audience, share updates, and humanize their brand. Wendy's Twitter account, known for its humorous and witty responses, is an example of effective social media branding.

Sponsorships and Partnerships

Associating with events, causes, or other brands can help build positive associations. For example, Nike's partnerships with athletes like Michael Jordan have significantly contributed to its brand image.

Customer Experience

The way customers experience a brand, from product quality to customer service, contributes to brand perception. Apple, for instance, is known for its sleek and user-friendly products, contributing to its brand image of innovation and quality.

Public Relations

Managing the public perception of a brand through media relations, crisis management, and community engagement is a key aspect of brand marketing. When a company responds effectively to a crisis, it can positively impact its brand image.

Influencer Marketing

Brands collaborate with influencers to promote their products or services to a wider audience. For example, fashion brands often partner with influencers to showcase and endorse their products.

Overall, successful brand marketing is about creating a consistent and positive image that resonates with the target audience, fosters trust, and encourages brand loyalty.

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New Doesn't Always Mean Improved in Marketing

New Doesn’t Always Mean Improved

In marketing, have you ever seen a company offer something new? It’s a standard ploy to get customers to switch to their product or keep buying. Most people, myself included, assume that “new” means “improved” - that I will get something more or better for my money. That isn’t necessarily the case. 

  • New can mean the company has added a new ingredient to its formula. It may not mean the product is better. 
  • New can also mean that the company has changed its packaging and added different sizes to its product line. 
  • New may mean the product is now available in different colors or sizes. 
  • New can also mean a product is now offered in new scents. 

You get what I mean. 

The word “new” can mean a company has made cosmetic changes to its product. The essential parts or integrity of the product remain the same. This would lead savvy customers to ask themselves, “What is really new about it?” 

To be transparent with your customers, be straight with them. Avoid using the word “new” in your marketing until you have something really new and improved to share with them. 

They will thank you by trusting your brand and continuing to buy from you. Happy customers are more likely to recommend your brand to their family members and friends online and in person. Your marketing efforts will be more successful as a result. 


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The Four Ps of Marketing: Pillars of a Successful Marketing Strategy

What Are the Four Ps of Marketing?

When I was in university studying for my Masters in Direct and Digital Marketing, our general marketing course began with the fundamentals: the four Ps of marketing. Although others have said over the years that there are three, five, or any number of Ps, the four Ps remain the foundation of all marketing. Therefore, it's vital that anyone in the marketing role understands the four Ps of marketing and how the interplay shapes marketing strategies.

So, what are the four Ps?

  • Product
  • Price
  • Place
  • Promotion

Let’s dive into the significance of each of the Four Ps and understand how their interplay contributes to the success of your marketing strategy.

Product: The Heart of Your Offering

At the heart of business and marketing lies the product. It's not merely about having a product; it's about having one that resonates with customer needs and distinguishes itself in the market. Continuous product development and innovation take center stage, emphasizing the place of products in the marketing mix.

Price: Finding the Right Balance

Determining the optimal price significantly influences how a product is perceived. Prices must be aligned with customer expectations, market averages, and the costs of goods sold. Using pricing as part of a marketing strategy is truly an art that must be refined over time. Prices can undoubtedly influence perception, as can many aspects of marketing. It can be used as a leverage point, a selling point, a competitive point, and more.

Place: Reaching Your Target Audience

Place among the Four Ps of marketing refers to where you market your products and to whom. That's your target audience, and I've written a lot about target audiences over the years. It also refers to the marketing channels you choose to reach your target audience. The goal of "place" in the marketing mix is to find the right combination of channels and tactics to reach your target audience effectively.

Promotion: Building Awareness and Desire

Promotion extends beyond mere advertising; it's a multifaceted approach that includes public relations, social media, and content marketing. Understanding the target audience is vital, so tailor promotional efforts effectively. Integrated marketing communications (IMC), too, remains an integral part of the promotional mix, ensuring that all messages, no matter what channel is used, remain consistent and appealing to the target audience.

The Marketing Mix: Examples of How the Four Ps Are Used

Companies use the four Ps differently. Some products or companies emphasize one or the other.

Tiffany: Emphasis on Product and Promotion

Tiffany, the famous Manhattan jewelry store, uses product and promotion heavily in their marketing, with price as another factor. Place for this venerable upscale brand is essential, but their emphasis is on the products (diamond jewelry), pricing (high), and promotions (exclusive and branded with the trademarked blue color.)

Dollar General: Emphasis on Place and Price

Dollar General, the ubiquitous variety store found in every small town in America, leverages price and place heavily in its marketing mix. Price is obvious; it's even in the store name! Everything is inexpensive and priced at a round number -  $1, $5, etc. The company has gone on the record about its strategic use of place, building stores in underserved rural communities throughout America to ensure access to basic groceries and household items for all. The company rarely sponsors promotions. The stores feature commodity products found in most variety stores and supermarkets. It heavily uses price and place as its marketing focus.

Use the Four Ps of Marketing to Your Advantage

By understanding and effectively managing the Four Ps of marketing, professionals can create a strategic marketing mix that resonates with their target audience and positions their products or services for long-term success in an ever-changing business landscape.

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What Is SEO?

SEO refers to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It is the practice used to optimize a website’s content, technical configuration, and link popularity. SEO is used to make a  website’s pages easy to find and relevant for Internet users. Websites that search engines rank highest in terms of relevant content and link popularity appear higher in their rankings. 

SEO Strategies Benefit Online Users

Website owners use SEO strategies that benefit the Internet user’s online experience and their page rankings by posting content that meets their user’s needs. These SEO strategies include the following:

  • Using relevant keywords in titles, content, meta descriptions, and headlines
  • Writing descriptive URLs with keywords
  • Splitting up text with headings and subheadings to indicate the page’s meaning

Search engines help users find the information, images, and videos they seek online. Thanks to search engines, anyone can find the latest products and what the store across the street is selling, make restaurant reservations, or book a vacation getaway. 

Business owners benefit from online search engines too. The search engines drive online traffic (site visitors) to their website. 

Google and SEO Rankings

Experts often mention Google in the same sentence as SEO rankings. Google generates approximately 80% of all search engine traffic in the United States. If a website owner can get their site to the first page of listings on Google for a particular keyword or phrase, it will likely mean more website traffic. 

SEO is about understanding what your target audience wants and the technical aspects of configuring a website. It’s a continuous process to produce content that will rank well with search engines.


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What Is Competitive Intelligence?

Competitive intelligence (also called corporate intelligence) is the practice of gathering information on your competition and your target market to gain an edge when making business decisions. It includes tracking brand positioning, social media presence, product levels, pricing, and recent job listings. Data sources like purchase history, user demographics, and site activity are helpful when used properly. These pieces form a picture of your competitors’ strategies. 

How to Use Competitive Intelligence

Your business can use competitive intelligence in multiple ways, including the following:

Improving Your Understanding of the Market

Competitive intelligence increases your understanding of your customer base; it will either confirm your assumptions or reveal something new. Analyze your competitors’ products and messages to confirm their target markets and the problems they are trying to solve for their customers. Compare this information with your company’s value statement to reveal any weak areas.

Helping You Set Criteria for Measuring Social Media Numbers

Your competition’s social media performance can help you determine how you measure your company’s numbers. Use their data to guide your strategy.

If you see your competitors spending a lot of time engaging on a social media platform without getting positive results, you have an opportunity to learn from their mistakes.

Competitive Intelligence Helps You Make Better Business Decisions

All employees can benefit from when you conduct competitive research. Sales representative can adjust their quotes for customers based on your competitors’ claims. Your marketing team can plan their messages with the competitors’ campaign in mind. Competitive intelligence helps your team make better decisions.



Has Google's Latest Algorithm Update Impacted Site Traffic?

Has Google's latest algorithm update impacted site traffic for you? Are you seeing your once-great traffic tank or your articles with no traffic suddenly zooming up in the SERPs?

Google's Latest Algorithm Update and Its Impact on Site Traffic

I've noticed a big shift in Google's algorithm since August. I own several sites, including this one, and provide content marketing support to numerous content entrepreneurs who own multiple sites.

Across the board, we've seen some sites suddenly surge in popularity with Google; traffic has more than doubled on one of my websites, for example, during a time of the year when it normally decreases abruptly (it's a gardening website and traffic generally peaks in April in accordance with planting schedules in the USA.)

On the other hand, sites that generally had strong traffic suddenly saw their posts sink a few positions or more in the SERPs. That may not sound like much, but it can result in drastic decreases in website visitors – and, with decreased site visitors, a decrease in monetization. In other words, those sites are making less money for their owners.

Ann Smarty, in her weekly  newsletter, explained it brilliantly. I won't go into the details, but I do urge you to head over to Ann’s newsletter and read it for yourself.

Four Google Updates Since August 2023

Essentially, Google performed not one but FOUR updates since August 22, 2023:

  1. Core Update – August 22, 2023
  2. Helpful Content Update – September 2023
  3. Spam Update – Early October 2023
  4. Core Update (again!) – Mid-October 2023


What Is a Google Core Update?

This is a general algorithm update performed by Google to improve search results. As always, Google's goal is to improve the accuracy and relevancy of search engine results. Core Updates do not target specific websites or types of content.


What Is a Google Helpful Content Update?

The Helpful Content updates is the big one, in my opinion, impacting many bloggers. These updates DO target specific sites or content, downgrading those Google's algorithm deems "unhelpful" to the searcher and upgrading those it deems "helpful." This latest update is impacting mostly sites that did heavy keyword phrase tailoring to improve search engine rank without regard or with secondary regard to the helpfulness of the information.


What Is a Google Spam Update?

The Google Spam Update downgrades thin content (i.e., does not go into depth or detail on the searched topic) or is overly promotional. It also targets websites that are created merely to sell products through search opportunities – keyword stuffed sites filled with affiliate links or sales links.

What's Going on With Google and Your Content?

Now, given that Google had rolled out so many updates in just a few short weeks, what the heck is going on?

That's what's going on. AI is EVERYWHERE in content. It's not only being used to generate spammy content (i.e., the 'thin' content marked for downgrade in a Google Spam update), it is also being used to generate books, blog posts, websites, and anything else.

Google doesn't like AI generated content (probably because it has yet to crack the code on how to monetize it for its own gain). Therefore, sites that use it, or sites that sound like they use it, maybe at risk.

Unfortunately, that means a lot of sites that did nothing wrong are seeing their content sink a bit in the rankings. My site is often written in the first person, with original images showing my husband or myself performing a gardening task; this is one reason why the traffic has suddenly surged for us. The site offers actual people doing real things, and there is no way that an AI bot generated this content. Google is rewarding this and the work we did over the past year on UI/UX and search intent, an ongoing project for that website.

Recovering From Google Updates

If your website was impacted negatively by these Google updates, a few words of wisdom from someone who has been running a content business for over 16 years. “This too shall pass.”

I have seen it all, from the content mills keyword stuffing articles in the early days to this latest update, and you know what works? QUALITY CONTENT.

SEO Writing Tactics That Work for Long-Term Results

  • Write for search intent, not keywords. What does the person searching want to know or do related to a particular keyword phrase? Make sure your content addresses it.
  • Avoid overly promotional content or spam stuff.
  • Disclose affiliate relationships, ads, and sponsored posts.
  • Offer a fresh, unique perspective. If you're copying someone else, you won't do well in the long term.
  • Revise and refresh your posts. Don’t let them get stale.
  • Use your photos if you can, especially for how-to posts.
  • Write for people first, search engines second.
  • Ensure you always use your authorial voice. Google wants expertise, authority, and trust, not just any random stuff.

What’s your opinion? How has your content fared during these updates? If Google's latest algorithm update impact site traffic for you and you want to get more traffic, contact Seven Oaks Consulting. We can help.  Share a comment or write to me at jeanne@sevenoaksconsulting.com, and let's strategize how we can fix it if your content's rank has tanked.



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Why Is Content Marketing Important for Technology Companies?

Why is content marketing important for technology companies? The unique nature of the industry lends itself well to marketing through the sharing of information, which is essentially the main purpose of content marketing. Here's why tech companies should consider using content marketing as a tactical channel

Why Content Marketing Is Important for Technology Companies

1. Simplify Complex Information

Many technology companies offer complex solutions. Decision makers don’t need to know what’s under the hood, but they do need to know how your product solves their business challenge. Focus your content marketing efforts on the purpose behind your platform; solve their problems and simplify complex information about your system so that you empower buyers with useful information.

2. Establish Trust

Businesses invest a considerable amount of money into their technology purchases. Before meeting with a vendor, the vendor must establish a level of trust with business leaders. Content marketing plays an important role in this process. Case studies establish a technology vendor as an expert problem solver; white papers and thought leadership articles position them as the go-to resource on a particular topic.


3. Nurture the Buyer’s Journey

The buyer's journey in the technology sector can be time-consuming and research-intensive. Content marketing gently propels potential customers at every stage of this journey, from awareness to consideration and decision-making. Content tailored to each stage helps meet the consumer where they are in a low-pressure environment.

4. Address Pain Points

Technology products and services are designed to solve specific challenges. Content marketing allows tech companies to present real-world scenarios and how their products or solutions make tasks or workflow easier.


5. Attract Organic Website Traffic

Content marketing improves a search engine visibility in a cluttered market. Using relevant keywords can boost website ranking and organic traffic, making the business more top of mind.


Content Marketing for Technology Companies Offers Many Benefits, Few Drawbacks

Content marketing important for technology companies offers so many benefits for technology companies - thought leadership, trust building, awareness, presales information, and organic search engine optimization. There are a few drawbacks, however. Great content takes time to research and create. It takes time to rank and time to draw the right traffic to your virtual doorstep. However, once your ‘content marketing engine’ is revved, the results can be incredible.

The Best Content Marketing Agency for Technology Companies

Seven Oaks Consulting is a B2B content marketing agency that specializes in creating thought leadership for technology companies and general content marketing for technology companies. We recently generated several highly qualified (and lucrative) leads for our technology clients but it took time and steady, consistent effort to do so. There are some companies who promise you fast results, but in our experience, the best technology content marketing happens over time. It grows and builds a positive cycle of brand awareness, thought leadership, search engine traffic, and finally, highly qualified leads. If this is something you’d like help with please contact us.

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What Is Readability Score in SEO?

Readability Score

A readability score indicates how easy or difficult a text is to read. A passage that makes perfect sense to someone with a university-level education will be too complicated for someone in the fifth grade to interpret.


Flesch-Reading Ease

Readability scores are based on the Fleischman-Kincaid Ease. This test rates texts and gives them a score of 1-100, with 100 being the highest score. A score of 70-80 is equivalent to a grade 8 reading level. It should be relatively easy for an adult to read.


Rudolph Flesch, a consultant with the Associated Press, developed these methods for improving newspapers’ readability. Currently, researchers, marketers, writers, and many others use the Flesch Reading Ease. They use it to determine how easy or difficult a text is for a reader to understand.


Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level

The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level is a commonly used readability formula that also assesses the grade level of a piece of writing. It was developed for use by the United States Navy, which worked with Flesch Reading Ease to find a more accessible version for the Navy’s technical manuals.


Today, the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level is used for multiple applications. A Flesch-Kincaid readability score level 6 means that a text is at a grade 6 reading level. To understand it, someone needs to have achieved this reading level.


Texts geared toward the general public should be written at a readability score of about 8. A typical 13-year-old would readily understand this level.


SEO and Readability Score

Readability score matters when writing online content. If it is too difficult to read, visitors click away. It’s crucial to present interesting content that hits the right readability score level to keep site visitors interested in exploring your website further.


Posting content at about a grade 8 level also increases the likelihood that readers will want to share your content. You have a better chance of having an article or a blog post going viral online and attracting much attention from internet users.

Better Writing Starts with Seven Oaks Consulting

Seven Oaks Consulting offers search engine optimized writing services that include readability assessment. We work with business to business companies and offer SEO services, writing of all sales, marketing and online content, and content marketing strategy, planning, and services. Contact us or call 434-574-6253 for a free consultation.