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How To Optimize for Search in 2023



How To Optimize for Search in 2023

Don’t expect Google to take a sabbatical this year.

Do expect SEO to be more nuanced than ever in 2023.

My best advice? Track your SEO key performance indicators (KPIs) more often to identify positive or negative trends in your organic results.

But don’t worry about every shift in search rankings because they fluctuate. Pages that drop could quickly rebound a month later, even if the fall happened because of one of Google’s frequent algorithm tweaks.

Instead, focus your SEO strategy on producing as much useful and original content as possible.

I stop short of saying “quality” content because that’s subjective. Google doesn’t give a good explanation in its guidelines championing quality content. Does “quality” refer to exceptional writing, the depth of content on a page, the design of a page, or other factors?

If you provide relevant, original content that answers searchers’ questions and addresses their concerns, you’ll be fine. Though companies may offer similar products and services, you still can create content that offers fresh insights, and perspectives only your brand can share (i.e., case studies, in-depth FAQs, etc.).

Of course, any website can suffer when Google algorithm updates lead its rankings to take a hit. That most likely happens when websites fall short of Google’s guidelines about avoiding hidden text, keyword stuffing, and other spammy practices. The helpful content update in August 2022 focused on the worst offenders.

TIP: This Search Engine Land article explores Google’s crackdown on websites that try to get around its spam policies. And make sure to read the October 2022 updated webmaster guidelines, now called Google Search Essentials.

Expect #SEO to be more nuanced than ever in 2023, says @MikeOnlineCoach via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

SEO rankings can drop even when you follow the rules

Unfortunately, websites can lose favor with Google even if they don’t intentionally violate any search guidelines. Some of my clients suddenly have seen a massive drop in many rankings even though the SEO elements on affected pages hadn’t changed.

No one knows the precise weight Google places on each ranking factor, from HTML headers to image optimization. In November, the search giant published a roundup document of its ranking systems (what’s in effect and what’s part of search history) that offers some insight.

You also could find several potential solutions to a drop in rankings in my article, How the Right SEO Plan Can Revive Website Rankings and Traffic.

Another potential boost to your rankings comes from Google’s introduction of continuous scrolling in December. Desktop searchers in the United States can now read up to six search result “pages” before a searcher has to click “more results.” Google rolled out this feature for searches on mobile devices in 2021.

It will be interesting to see whether searchers scroll past the traditional first 10 results. You may see 11th through 20th ranking results get extra clicks. Let’s hope so.

As you start the new year, try these eight tips to keep your SEO thriving.

1. Review your SEO KPIs

Rankings and organic search traffic data are relative. Consider adding critical metrics like leads, sales, and PDF downloads as key performance indicators. Even if a few pages aren’t at the very top of search engine results pages (SERPs), any reasonable ranking may prompt better conversion numbers.

If you monitor the competition, look across the industry’s content landscape. You may be tempted to evaluate only known business competitors. But think about your content competitors, too.

Any website ranking better than your site for your targeted keywords can be a digital marketing rival. Study the content of any website that takes a higher spot in the SERPs. What are they doing that you’re not?

Study any #Content that takes a higher #SERP spot than yours. What does it have that yours doesn’t? @MikeOnlineCoach via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

2. Track your presence in SERPs

Pay attention to your changing SERPs. I call them shapeshifters. They don’t change right before your eyes, but they vary significantly from keyword to keyword.

It’s not uncommon for SERPs to appear differently for the exact keyword phrase from one day to the next. It happens when Google decides what snippets to show – everything from featured snippets to People Also Ask to videos to the Local Pack could appear.

Monitor whether your organic result falls below one or more of the snippet features on a SERP. In other words, your No. 4 ranking may not appear in the same position on the page when those prominent features push it lower.

You can get some insights from RankRanger, which charts trends in its Google SERP Features tool. The chart below shows how often each element appeared in Google SERPs between November 24 and December 22.

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Click to enlarge.

Here’s how it breaks down:

  • People Also Ask appeared most often (in response to between 40 and 67% of queries)
  • Local Pack appeared in response to about 44% of queries (with one dip down to 31%)
  • Ads appeared on about 33% of SERPs, with a spike to 44% on December 10.
  • FAQ/ How-To Snippets typically appeared in about 22% of SERPS (with a drop to about 12% from December 6 to December 15).
  • Featured Snippets appeared on about 13% of SERPs (with one leap to 20% on December 19).
  • Knowledge Panel appears on about 10% of SERPs.
  • Things To Know only appears on 1 to 2% of SERPs.

3. Understand that backlinks may diminish in importance

I’m still a fan of pursuing backlinks for referral traffic and their potential influence on rankings. But backlinks’ impact on the Google algorithm could change, according to Google Search Advocate John Mueller.

In an interview on a 2022 Search Off the Record podcast, he said, “But my guess is over time, it won’t be such a big factor as sometimes it is today.”

Does that mean you should put the brakes on link-building? No.

Google may dial down its importance, but the referral traffic is still valuable. You never know how your next customer might discover your site.

4. Monitor page load speed

You shouldn’t overlook page load speed as an SEO factor. Google wants searchers to find what they need as quickly as possible.

Improve your website page load times to offer a great user experience. (Actually, don’t neglect any Core Web Vitals.)

But, remember: Websites that are deficient in some areas still rank well. Sometimes they have an edge because of a keyword in the domain name (yes, the words in a domain name still matter) or are packed with educational content visitors crave.

5. Don’t give up on page titles

Page titles (sometimes called SEO titles or title tags) describe a page.

I’m old enough to remember page titles from 1998 littered with keywords like: “Ball Bearings, Spherical Roller Bearings, Deep Groove Ball Bearings,” or “Jewelry | Fine Jewelry | Online Jewelry Shop.”

Fortunately, content marketers can create catchier page titles that pair keywords with a message. For example, Good Housekeeping has nailed title tags like this: “75 Best Gifts for Grandma 2022 – Thoughtful Grandma Gift Ideas.”

I don’t love using the same word twice in a page title, but it works here. As the table below shows, the URL ranks in the No. 1 position for “gifts for grandma,” “grandma gifts,” “gifts for grandma christmas,” “christmas gift for grandma,” “best gifts for grandma,” and “grandma gift ideas.”

1672807505 701 How To Optimize for Search in 2023

Maybe the title’s inclusion of the word “thoughtful” isn’t critical for an SEO strategy, but it sells the page. And I doubt Google will penalize page titles that contain a few less valuable words.

Don’t ignore page titles in your SEO strategy. They still matter, says @MikeOnlineCoach via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Of course, the addition of non-SEO-focused adjectives like “thoughtful” do make a title longer. Some people argue that page titles shouldn’t exceed 60 characters. But that character count estimate is based on having the full title appear in search results –Google doesn’t cite any character limit for page titles.

I explore title tags in this CMI piece: Write Each SEO Page Title With Google Changes in Mind. And Search Engine Land has a good article about title tag length: What should the title tag length be in 2023?

Of course, titles don’t necessarily matter as much as they once did. Google’s sophisticated machine learning helps websites rank for keywords that aren’t in the title. (In the Good Housekeeping example, the word “Christmas” doesn’t appear in the title, but the content ranks well for keyword phrases that include the holiday.)

Also, in the last two years, Google increasingly hasn’t displayed page titles on the ranking pages. Instead, it usually replaces them with the header (H1 tag) on the page (typically, the page headline).

For now, keep optimizing page titles because Google still considers them in its ranking criteria.

6. Explore new-to-you tools

You probably know (or at least have heard of) popular platforms like Ahrefs, BrightEdge, Conductor, Moz, and Semrush. I recently scoped out a few additional ones to consider:

Suggest Machine

This free service provides long-tail keyword possibilities. While you should still use other tools, you can quickly discover phrases you haven’t considered. It lets you input up to 10 keywords or topics and pick the preferred language and country before returning suggestions and potential search questions.

1672807505 605 How To Optimize for Search in 2023


This free service lets you input a topic, query, brand, or question. You pick where the resulting ideas come from – Google autocomplete, Reddit and Quora, Google’s People Also Ask, keyword discovery, or content explorer.

1672807505 395 How To Optimize for Search in 2023

It returns the ideas in a couple of formats – a questions map and a list of topics under the categories of who, what, where, when, why, which, and can.


AlsoAsked taps into Google’s People Also Ask queries and explores relationships along diverse topics. Heavily focused on searcher intent, the results can help marketers structure their content and internal links.

It usually offers a few free searches but operates as a subscription service with plans starting at $15 a month.

In this example, a search for the keyword “stair treads” shows these results (each with a plus mark so users can click to see more options for that result):

  • Should stair treads be nailed or screwed?
  • Do risers go on before treads?
  • Do stair treads have to overhang?
  • How do you install stair treads over existing stairs?
  • Should I caulk stair treads?
  • Are stair treads worth it?

1672807505 270 How To Optimize for Search in 2023



This free, bulk keyword tool shows related keywords and questions for the topics you explore. In this example, I input the keywords “metal prints,” “custom metal prints,” and “buy metal prints,” and it shared over 14 results (spelling and punctuation appear the way the tool returned them):

  • metal prints online
  • metal prints wall art
  • metal prints vs canvas
  • metal prints Costco
  • metal prints near me
  • metal prints reviews
  • metal prints shutterfly
  • metal prints walgreens
  • who prints photos on metal
  • wholesale metal prints
  • who sells prints
  • whats metal art
  • what are metal prints.”

1672807505 638 How To Optimize for Search in 2023


7. Don’t neglect branded keyword phrases

With a company or product name as the keyword, your brand may not dominate the top results as much as you could.

Content, image file, page title, and other tweaks may improve your rankings. You can make slight improvements on a page without jeopardizing non-branded keyword phrases.

I offer some advice on pursuing this “low-hanging fruit” in this article: How to Use SEO to Boost Branded Keyword Rankings on Google.

8. Use schema to clarify content types

Depending on your content, you can use one of 30 schema types. Semrush has an extensive article: What Is Schema Markup and How To Implement Structured Data. Structured data lets Google understand your website information better and deliver better search results.

Chart your SEO course in 2023

SEO success in 2023 will require you to stay on top of your performance metrics and make frequent adjustments. Whether Google targets a small segment of one industry or plays with SERPs like a puppeteer, you can take helpful steps for better results overall.

New content that addresses searchers’ questions is your best SEO-strategy defense. It’s a tough road. Organic traffic may take some hits, but it’s still a digital marketing powerhouse.

All tools mentioned in this article are identified by the author. If you’d like to suggest a tool, please include it in the comments. 

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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How to Schedule Ad Customizers for Google RSAs [2024]



How to Schedule Ad Customizers for Google RSAs [2024]

It’s no wonder that responsive search ads have steadily grown in popularity in recent years. Through Google’s machine learning capabilities, RSAs provide a powerful way to automate the testing of multiple headlines and descriptions to ensure a closer match to user intent. The benefits are clear: RSAs mean broader reach, better engagement, and improved performance metrics.

However, all these benefits come at a significant (but reasonable) cost – they can be extremely difficult to manage, especially when it comes to updating ad copy to promote limited time offers.

I know this firsthand – I work with several ecommerce clients with promotions that constantly change. Not too long ago, I found myself going through the consistently tedious process of updating a client’s RSA headlines and copy. As I was making the changes, I thought to myself: “There must be a better way to update this ad copy. I shouldn’t have to use find and replace so many times while pausing and enabling my ad campaigns.”

After expressing this to my colleague, Jordan Stambaugh, the two of us agreed there must be a better way. But we’d have to make it happen. A few weeks later, we put that idea into action and created a more efficient process for updating RSA ad copy on a scheduled basis. If you want to try this process for yourself, just keep reading.

Responsive Search Ad Customizers 101: Basic Options & Execution

Before diving into the process of scheduling automatic updates for your RSA customizers, it’s essential to understand some key Responsive Search Ad fundamentals.

First, you can customize three main options within RSAs: the Attribute Name, the Data Type, and the Account Value. Each of these plays a vital role in personalizing your ads:

  • Attribute Name: This is essentially the identifier for the customizer. It is how you’ll reference the specific piece of information you’re customizing within the ad. For instance, if you’re running a promotion, you might name an attribute “Promotion.”
  • Data Type: This indicates the kind of data the attribute represents and it determines how the information can be formatted and used within the ad. Common data types include Text (for plain, non-numeric text), Percent (to represent percentage discounts), Price (to denote monetary values), and Number (for any numerical value).
  • Account Value: This is the default value for the attribute that you set at the account level. It acts as a fallback if more specific values aren’t provided at the campaign or ad group level.

For example, if you wanted to promote a 10% off discount using RSAs, you’d use the “Discount” attribute, a data type of “Percent,” and an account value of “10% off.” Then, when someone is searching for products, Google would test automatically inserting a copy regarding a 10% off promotion into your ad.

Once you’ve set up the right customization options, you can start to format your RSAs with customizers.

Here’s how:

  • Start by typing in {
  • Click on Ad Customizer then select your attribute
  • Google will populate your attributes that are already uploaded
  • For a simple offer, use the “Default text” attribute as a catch-all. This will ensure your ads run smoothly if Google can’t pull the right messaging from your RSA feed



How to Schedule Your Ad Customizers with a Feed

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s cover how to schedule your ad customizers.

Just follow this three step process:

1. Create the feed

Start by creating two sheets: The Parent sheet, and the Child sheet. The “Parent” sheet will act as the primary data source, while the child sheet will pull data from the parent sheet.

We’ll start by building the parent sheet. After opening the sheet, start by renaming the active tab to “Promotions.” Don’t skip this step, it’s crucial for referencing this range in formulas later on.

In your “Promotions” tab, head to the top row and label columns A, B, and C with the headers of your ad customizer attributes. For example, you might have “BrandSaleHeadline” as your attribute in column A, “text” as the Data Type in column B, and “Shop the Collection” as the Account Value in column C.

Once your headers are in place, move to cell C2. Here, you’ll input the expression =lookup(today(),F:G,E:E). This formula will play a key role in dynamically updating your RSA customizer based on the current date.

Next, go to columns E, F, and G, which will be used to manage your scheduling. In these columns, you’ll list out the different values your chosen attribute might take, alongside their corresponding start and end dates. For example, under the “BrandSaleHeadline” attribute, you might schedule various promotional headlines to appear during different sale periods throughout the year.

Here’s how your sheet might look:

Now look back at the first 3 columns on your sheet. They should look like this:

Now create a second sheet. We’ll call this sheet the Child sheet. It’s going to automatically pull in data from the parent sheet you just created, and will be the one you link to Google Ads later on.

Columns A, B and C will be almost identical to the child sheet, but we will be using a special formula later so we can automatically populate this. So, start by labeling Row 1 Column A “Attribute,” then the next column as “Data type,” then column C as “Account value.” 

Then go to C2 and use this expression to populate the right account value from the parent document: =importrange(“[PARENT DOCUMENT URL HERE]”,”Promotions!C2″)

Your sheet should now look like this:

We recommend adding a date range with default text for any days you’re  not running a promotion. In the example above, we have “Shop Our Collection” appearing as default text.

2. Input attributes

Once you have your feed created, the next step involves inputting your attributes into the Google Ads platform. This can be done either manually or through a bulk upload.

For the manual approach, navigate to “Tools & Settings” in your Google Ads interface, then go to ‘Setup’ followed by “Business Data.” Here, you’ll find an option for “Ad Customizer Attributes.” Click the plus sign to add your attributes. It’s crucial to use the same attribute names that you’ve established in your Parent Google Sheet template to ensure consistency and proper data synchronization.



Alternatively, if you prefer the bulk upload method, again head to “Tools & Settings.” This time, select “Bulk Actions” and then “Uploads.” For this process, you only need to upload columns A to C from your template. 

Be aware that it might take some time for your uploaded attributes to be reflected in the business data section of Google Ads.

3. Set up an automatic schedule

At this point, you’ve almost finished scheduling your ad customizers. Navigate to Tools & Settings, then Bulk Actions, then Uploads, then click the Schedules tab at the top. Select your Child Google Sheet as the data source, and share your Google Sheet with the appropriate email.



And there you have it – Google will automatically pull in the data you populated in the sheets into your RSAs.

Common Challenges When Scheduling RSA Ad Customizers

When we test these sheets with our clients in the wild, we’ve uncovered five common challenges. Be on the lookout for these issues – solving them before they happen can save you a lot of trouble down the line.

Not scheduling your upload when the site changes 

The first and most significant hurdle is the mismatch between the scheduled data upload and website content updates. For instance, if the Google Sheet is set to upload at 11 am, but the website changes occur at 3 pm, there’s going to be a discrepancy where the wrong message could be displayed for several hours, or new messaging could appear prematurely. Conversely, if the website updates happen before the scheduled sheet upload, outdated promotions might linger until the new data is imported. Synchronizing these schedules is crucial; it’s best to align them so updates occur simultaneously.

Skipping QA during a message change

Another pitfall is neglecting quality assurance (QA) during message updates. It’s vital to regularly check the business data section to verify that the correct values are in place post-update.

Issues with the IMPORTRANGE function

Then there’s the technical aspect of setting up the IMPORTRANGE function correctly in the Google Sheets template. The ‘child’ template must reliably pull data from the ‘parent’ sheet. If this function isn’t configured correctly, data won’t be imported as needed.

Not sharing access of the Google template for automatic uploads

Pay attention to your access permissions for the Google Sheets template. Google will prompt you with the email address that needs permission to access the ‘child’ sheet for automatic uploads. Overlooking the sharing of your sheet with this address will prevent the system from working.

Having date range gaps in your parent sheet

Lastly, a common oversight is leaving date range gaps in the ‘parent’ sheet. Every single date must be accounted for without overlaps. A practical tip is to have an ‘evergreen’ backup message ready, scheduled to run continuously, ideally through the end of the year, to cover any potential gaps.


Leveraging Google Sheets in conjunction with Google Ads to schedule RSA ad customizers is a game-changer for managing dynamic promotional content. This process not only streamlines your workflows but also ensures that your ads remain relevant and up-to-date, reflecting current promotions without the need for constant manual intervention. 

By adopting this method, you’ll save significant time and effort, allowing you to focus more on strategy and less on the minutiae of ad copy updates. Give it a try and experience a more efficient way to manage your RSAs, keeping your campaigns fresh and engaging with minimal hassle.

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10 Advanced Tips for Crafting Engaging Social Content Strategies



10 Advanced Tips for Crafting Engaging Social Content Strategies

In 2023, there are a total of 4.89 billion social media users worldwide. One of the many reasons you should build your brand’s presence on social media is to capture a slice of this pie.

So, if you’re a marketer wanting to crush it online — this is your time to take action. The social presence of billions of users shows great potential to connect, engage, and build lasting relationships with your target audience.

The real power lies not just in being active on social media networks but in planning social media goals in advance and crafting engaging social media content strategies that make a meaningful impact.

And creating one isn’t as easy as it sounds. It requires a thoughtful approach that goes beyond the basics.

To help you accomplish your social media goals, we’ll cover ten advanced tips that you can use to craft an engaging social media content strategy.

1. Conduct A/B Testing

A/B testing allows you to optimize your social media marketing strategy based on insights and social media metrics.

Experiment with different content formats, headlines, captions, and visuals to see which format performs better.

You can also try different content styles and focus on visual content, which is 40x more likely to be shared on social media.

Example: Test two different headlines for a product announcement social post and use the one that users engaged with and shared more. You’ll need to track social metrics like reactions, shares, and new followers during your test.

2. Personalize your content

Before creating a social media marketing plan or content calendar, segment your audience based on demographics, behaviors, and interests.

Craft tailored messages for each segment and find social media content ideas for that target audience.

And to encourage them to engage with you, publish funny content. 80% of marketers say that funny content is the most effective form of social media posts.

Example: Tap into Instagram retargeting ads to promote personalized product recommendations to customers based on their past purchase history.

3. Embrace User-Generated Content (UGC)

User-generated content is a powerful way to build trust, gather a sense of community, and increase engagement rates.

Encourage users to share their experiences and stories about your brand.

Plan a posting schedule using social media tools, highlight, and feature UGC in your content, and give credit to the creators to showcase the authenticity.

Then, create a dedicated UGC marketing campaign.

Example: Invite customers to share photos of themselves using your product with a branded hashtag. Comment on and share these photos on your company’s social media (with permission, of course), thanking the participants for joining in on the fun.

4. Incorporate influencer collaboration

Partner with influencers in your industry who have high engagement rates. 67% of marketers agree they prefer working with micro-influencers with 10k-100k followers or subscribers.

Collaborating with influencers allows you to tap into their social networks and leverage their credibility to boost engagement.

Use social media management tools to co-create content, host giveaways, or collaborate on campaigns aligning with your brand and the influencers’ style to extend your reach and gain engagement.

If your target audience is Gen Z, you can prefer Instagram Reels for influencer marketing.

For context, look at the stats below:

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Example: Partner with a fitness influencer to promote your health supplements through workout videos.

5. Use interactive elements

To accomplish your social media marketing goals, you can engage people to interact with your brand via polls, quizzes, and surveys. Encourage them to participate and share the results.

Incorporating interactive elements into your social media marketing strategy will spark active participation between your social media team and audience, making them more likely to engage and share opinions.

Example: Host a poll on X (formerly Twitter) to let your audience choose the next product feature you’ll develop or the types of content they’d like to see.

6. Leverage user reviews and testimonials

Showcase user reviews and testimonials as part of your content strategy. Highlight positive feedback and make improvements by taking accountability for negative feedback.

Incorporate these testimonials into your social media strategies to create dedicated reviews or testimonial videos. Sharing this social proof helps build trust and credibility with your audience.

Example: Feature video social proof of a satisfied customer explaining how your software improved their business.

7. Create long-form content

While social media platforms are mostly known for short-form content, they’re switching gears to focus on long-form content.

It’s great, especially if your business receives great engagement on X (formerly Twitter).

“Long-form posts on the microblogging platform are now at 3 billion views per day and rising.”, said Elon Musk, the owner of X.

“This is roughly on par with all newspaper articles views on Earth,” he continued.

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Educational content and case studies tend to work great on LinkedIn. Additionally, blog posts can also help you establish your brand as an authority in your industry.

Publishing compelling content is a great way to increase engagement and shares. You can also repurpose educational content on multiple sites and tailor it to each platform for the best results.

Example: Publish content about challenges and opportunities your company faced and how it helped you increase return on investment.

8. Collaborate with other brands

Collaborate with complementary brands or businesses for promotional content.

As part of your digital marketing strategy, come up with mutually beneficial collaboration ideas that can help you both increase reach and tap into ideal customers.

Joint campaigns, cross-promotions, or co-sponsored events are great ways to use the power of collaboration.

Example: Team up with a travel agency to promote your hotel and their vacation packages through a joint social media campaign.

9. Emphasize customer service

Social channels aren’t just a source for publishing content but also for providing excellent customer service.

Marketers these days actively invest in building social media communities to better connect and interact with potential customers.

Respond promptly to inquiries, comments, and feedback from your audience. Show them you genuinely care about them by addressing their concerns and providing helpful solutions.

This level of engagement can build customer loyalty and community building.

Example: Respond to customers’ support requests on social accounts and resolve their issues within a few hours.

10. Monitor trends and stay updated

Stay updated with social media trends, algorithm changes, and content formats. Track performances, content audits, and social media KPIs.

Experiment with new features or types of content introduced by social media channels.

Plan your social media content calendar based on engagement metrics. Keep an eye on what your competitors are doing and identify strategies that work well in your industry.

Out of all content types, short-form videos are taking the spotlight. Research states that 64% of shoppers ended up making a purchase after seeing branded video content on social platforms.

Example: If video content is becoming popular on social platforms, create your social media content strategy around it.

You might also consider incorporating data storytelling into your strategy. Why? More brands are moving towards storytelling in their social media posts.

This helps reach larger audiences and accomplish business goals. If you haven’t thought about it, give it a thought. The early bird catches the worm.

Final Words

And there you have it — ten advanced tips to level up your social media marketing strategy.

Test the waters with new features on social channels and plan your content marketing strategy accordingly.

With consistency and some creativity, you can increase your brand awareness and establish a strong foothold in the vast sea of social media.

Are you ready to boost your social media presence and accomplish all your business goals? Here’s to your success!

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3 Questions About AI in Content: What? So What? Now What?



3 Questions About AI in Content: What? So What? Now What?

In the United States, Thanksgiving will give us the needed break to take a collective breath.

I don’t know about you, but getting my bearings around the disruptions of generative AI presents an extreme challenge. Innovations come so quickly that once we think we have our arms around it, something new appears.

Almost one year into seeing what generative AI can do for content creation and marketing strategies, OpenAI has introduced custom GPTs for those who pay for access.

You can build custom ChatGPT applications to use the tool’s newest capabilities to do things specifically valuable to you. For example, your company could upload 10 years of blog articles and instruct the custom GPT to use the knowledge gained from the content to formulate answers to questions on the blogs’ topics. In theory, you get the depth and breadth of ChatGPT’s large language learning model focused on your knowledge base and able to take specific actions, such as sending an email or automating a task.

Impressive. But sheesh. What does that do to your plans to integrate tools into your marketing workflow? It seems like one of a hundred things that you’re supposed to pay attention to right now.

Time to reflect

If your time frees up this week either because of the holiday or because the Americans are on holiday, take a moment and reflect on these disruptions to your current marketing and content efforts.

A little more than 20 years ago, a nursing professor at Swansea University published a helpful framework for self-reflection and communication. His exercise has helped me in times of disruption, and perhaps it can be for you as well.

Answer a few questions that fall into three stages – what, so what, and now what?

  • What? Describe what has happened simply and objectively – without judgment or interpretation. Some helpful prompts: What happened? What did you observe? What events occurred? What is the current situation?
  • So what? Answer questions about what you know now that you didn’t know. You can introduce emotions. Some helpful prompts: What did you learn? What difference have the events made? Answer as yourself or within the context of your team or company.

    If it’s just you, potential questions could be: Did what happened clarify an interest? Did you hear or feel anything that surprised you? How is your experience different than what you expected? What do these events mean to you?

    If you answer on behalf of a team or group, you can ask the self-questions along with these prompts: What do these events suggest to you about this group? How might the group work better or worse with these events? How were decisions made or not made based on these events?

  • Now what? Reflect on your future actions based on the first two steps. These broader implications react to what happened. Questions center on defining and looking at the root cause: What would contribute to a successful response? What would be in the way of successfully navigating through this? What learning has now occurred, and how can I/we apply this learning?    

Ask your team to do this same exercise. When you meet back up, create a workshop or team gathering where you discuss the answers and determine where opportunities may exist.

Real reflections aren’t hot takes

If you find yourself thinking that process is basic, well, you’re right. These three questions – and the provocations that come from them – mirror a progression you’ve all tried to work through a problem. However, you don’t often do it for big disruptions in the moment. It’s just too easy to jump to the third step, “now what,” and confuse it with “what’s next.” You get overwhelmed by all the actions you can take.

You can see this challenge happening with the disruption of generative AI.

Check out this article that reflects on the disruption of generative AI in the video game industry. To make the case, it leverages Bain & Company research that “more than half of video game development process will be supported by generative AI within the next five to 10 years.” It uses “what happened” to make a case for “what’s next.” The author didn’t even bother to ask “so what” to reach the conclusion: “Microsoft wants AI to solve problems that game makers say they won’t actually have.”

If you reflect on what the Bain research actually said, you can see it’s almost the opposite of the Microsoft conclusion. The research plainly says few executives believe AI will reduce development costs. They say AI will not significantly impact talent and “do not believe it will replace the creative spark necessary for game development.”

By misinterpreting what happened and not asking, “So what,” the author jumped to predicting what’s next, which is almost useless to make any productive change to address what’s really happening.    

This is why working through this process is helpful.

Now, to be clear, hot takes are fun. I’m not suggesting you do away with predictions or the occasional response. Hot takes are a great way to start the conversation, not to finish them.

Take the time – and the process – to work it out. It’s not perfect. It’s also not meant to be a fail-safe way to predict the future. The three-question stages are meant to help you balance facts and feelings to make more productive and satisfying responses to the disruptions you face.

The process is meant to change your future, not by helping you see it more clearly but by helping you clearly see how you change it.

It’s your story. Have a wonderful, reflective Thanksgiving, and tell it well.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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