seo pr strategy

I’ve been reflecting on how strange it is that I’ve seemed to attract more media coverage ever since I put a deposit down on a pre-construction unit in the Playgorund condos project at Garrison Point in west downtown Toronto.

The other day I got quoted in a CBC news article, “Major construction on Fort York pedestrian bridge gets underway“, after being approached by a reporter while walking home.

This is after I spoke about the first-time home buyer experience in a podcast and was mentioned in social posts previously.

It wasn’t my intension to bring more attention to myself necessarily, I was just doing my own thing.

It’s got me wondering if some part of success is just buying expensive things and being recognized for it. 😛

Oddly enough, it feels like somewhere along the way I managed to stumble into my own seo PR strategy.

The cool thing is it basically gives me more links to share without having to take the time to make my own original content.

I can essentially just curate the content other people have created about me.

And this all got me thinking about how one builds a personal brand over the course of a career.

Some thoughts on SEO PR Strategy

Maybe I think about things differently than other people, but for me, I think of myself as both a person and a business. It’s as if I’m a commodity but I’m desperately trying to make myself stand out among all the other people doing cool stuff on the internet, or just in life in general.

Trying to work out your own seo pr strategy is probably most similar to trying to build a personal brand.

I always struggle balancing my time with client work and then my own projects. In some ways the client work is the service side of my business/persona. While at the same time my own personal projects are like the creative endeavours of my own self-expression. I know I’m most happiest (or at least feel fulfilled) when I’ve got things on-the-go for both those two sides of the same coin.

However, when I spend too much time dedicated to client work, that’s when I start to feel like I’m falling out of touch with my own brand and my professional identity.

Every time that happens I have to re-focus and I find asking myself these questions help me get back on track:

  • Why am I doing what I’m doing?
  • What do I define as valuable, what do my clients define as valuable?
  • How do I become an expert?
  • What can I do to build local renown?

Some thoughts on Earned Media as an SEO PR Strategy

The cool thing about having other people create content, where you are the topic of that content, is that it helps with your own link building. From a business perspective there are 3 types of media: paid media, owned media and earned media.

Let me give quick definitions of each.

Paid media is messaging that you pay to have broadcasted. This would include the likes of advertising.

Owned media is messaging that you create and own yourself. You know, writing your own blog posts, making your own podcasts or videos etc.

Earned media is when other organizations create messaging about you. It’s the most difficult media to acquire for a business because it requires that the things you do to be inherently newsworthy enough that other people want to talk about it. It’s because of this fact that it’s the most valuable media. Some examples who be a TV appearance or presenting a keynote speech at an event. The fact that you’re being invited to take part in a conversation positions you as a thought leader.

Which is probably something we all know we want to do over the course of our careers.

If you have any of your own thoughts or ideas about link building, personal branding, earned media etc. feel free to leave a comment below or send me a message on my contact page.

In case you were wondering what media I was actually covered in, I’ll embed some of the stuff below.

CBC News Quote:

cbc news quote john cerpnjak

Social Posts:

IN OUR FIRST OFFICIAL INSTALMENT, OUR “ROCK STAR OF THE WEEK” IS: JOHN CERPNJAK As seen in the picture above John is working his way towards one of his goals right across the street! He put a deposit down on a 800k condo! The building is in it’s early stages and is expected to finish in 2020, while the first 5% down payment is due in just 2 weeks! With a Quote from university that has shaped his perspective on life to this day, John lives life on his terms by being busy with work! His goals are to have his work’s reputation to proceed him, to get to a place where he no longer needs to apply for jobs or ask people for work, but rather that those opportunities come his way… to have more opportunities than he can even handle! From the team here at Rock star, we hope that all the best befalls you, and that like you said, opportunities don’t hide from you. Life is an ever long struggle, and there will always be a pathway that you haven’t been down. We can tell you ourselves that failure is nothing new to us, it is the biggest learning opportunity that you can come into. We hope you take your mistakes, and ultimately turn them into something which can push you closer to your goal. WITHOUT A DOUBT YOU’LL GET THERE! If you’re interested in being featured on our page, and sharing your story and goals to help others understand that living life on your terms is something we can all achieve, send your submissions to SUBMISSIONS@ROCKSTARINNERCIRCLE.COM

A post shared by Rock Star Real Estate (@rockstarinnercircle) on

Podcast Guest Appearance:

I recently had a client ask me if we should switch to a different WordPress SEO plugin. They had come across a comment on social media where someone through the recommendation of Perry Belcher had switched from using the Yoast plugin to SEOProcessor. For those of you who don’t know, Perry Belcher is actually kind of a ‘somebody’ in the digital marketing industry, so it makes sense my client would be bringing this concern to me.

Let’s not kid ourselves here, SEO plugins are generally nothing more than a graphical user interface to input some targeted keywords that will be placed in the <title> and <meta> tags of a HTML document’s <head> section. Sure, an SEO plugin can also scan over your text inside paragraph and heading tags to provide recommendations around keyword density and overall readability of the content. But an SEO plugin on its own is not going to drastically improve your website’s ranking.

Understanding how and why websites rank the way they do in search engines is fundamentally so much more than just activating a WordPress plugin and inputing keywords.

The nature of the internet is human-centered

It’s every search engine’s mandate to serve users with high-quality, relevant information to ensure a good user experience. (Google literally says so in their Webmaster Guidelines.)

And that is exactly what you and every other website creator should be doing too.

Sure, search engines run on artificial intelligence, machine learning and algorithmic codes, but what is all this stuff trying to do? It’s trying to replicate human thought, human communication and human connection.

Some people may not be aware of this but the nature of the internet is human-centered. Meaning that everything you do online should be for the betterment of humans.

When creating content, creators should be creating for humans rather than creating for search engines. If your ultimate goal in content creation is to rank higher, you’ll fail in the long run. Your goal should be to create the most valuable content for humans as you possibly can. There’s a simple logical reason for this. Search algorithms are being updated all the time to better serve humans. White hat and black hat SEO practises have been around since the beginning of WEB 2.0 but it’s the black hat practises that are becoming obsolete over time. The majority of the white hat SEO practices from 10+ years ago are still the tried and true practises of today. Essentially, white hat SEO hasn’t changed much, certainly not like black hat has changed. White hat SEO practises are human-centered.

The purpose of a SEO plugin

An SEO plugin is a tool to help you rank better in search engines. It’s not the solution for ranking better. The solution to ranking better is layered and complex but I’m going to layout some key points you should know.

In order to really get SEO you’ll need to study up on concepts like search intent, information architecture, content hubs/silos, backlinks etc. All these concepts will inform aspects of your keyword research and ultimately your content marketing strategy. Once you start executing your strategy a SEO plugin will help you keep track of the keywords you’ve already targeted, it will help you generate and submit sitemaps to search engines and it will help monitor both your internal and external links, or broken links.

How to actually rank well in search engines

Let’s say you’ve had a website for a few years, you’ve been publishing quality content on a weekly basis and maybe you even rank in the top spot for a few targeted keywords. How do you improve from here?

  • Get your business listed on Google My Business and it’s equivalent for the other search engines.
  • Set up schema markup and structured data for your website with
  • Expand your online presence and reach by guest posting and creating high quality content for other websites that are related to yours. This should help grow your online followers and increase your authority.
  • If you’re not doing it already, use more rich media (videos, audio, infographics, slides/galleries etc.)
  • Make sure all your website’s content is mobile responsive as search engines provide different results for mobile search versus desktop search. Make your website as mobile-friendly as possible.
  • Implement Google’s AMP
  • Make your website support HTTPS/SSL, basically, purchase and install an SSL certificate from your web hosting provider.
  • And make sure your website remains fast to load. Although, page load speed is dependant on so many different things, from how your website is developed to what web server configuration you’re using.

Notice anything about that list? None of the tasks listed above can be executed using an SEO plugin. Or at least, most of the SEO plugin developers haven’t implemented all these things as features into their software plugins yet. Meaning that you as a website owner will have to set SEO project goals and manage their execution yourself.

If you’re interested in learning more about basic seo tips you can check out my other post.

I’ve been working in my professional career for over 4 and a half years now. To most people that’s probably considered not very long. But I can still remember a time when I was a recent graduate just entering the work force. I was all doey-eyed and idealistic. And man, has the ‘real world’ of privatized corporations and public sector bureaucracy crushed my soul.

I always thought of myself as a creative and an artist. I mean, reading books and academic literature about theses topics; I fit the descriptions.

I had this expectation that if I pursued interests in art, creativity and design, I could provide some real cultural value to the world and feel fulfilled.

But the longer I’ve worked in my career, I’ve realized the ‘real world’ doesn’t hold the same values as I do. Much of the artistic and creative endeavours that I adore are often commoditized.

But let me back up and provide some much needed context for my thoughts…

My own personal story

In one of my first jobs, I was hired as a multimedia designer. It was my job to help make graphics, build websites and edit videos. With my background in multimedia and copywriting this seemed awesome.

But what I soon realized was that my bosses wanted me to administratively manage design related projects being outsourced to external freelancers and agencies, rather than produce them myself. These business owners felt it was more productive and cost efficient to outsource design work for as cheaply as possible, with services like 99Designs and UpWork, rather than have the work done in-house.

I remember one time, a graphical HTML email layout needed to be created. At that point, I had never designed and coded one before. It seemed like a new challenge and I wanted to do it for no other reason than I had a passion to learn and to create. But my boss wanted me to outsource the work to someone online in the Philippines for “$5 an hour and a bag of rice.” (He was being sarcastic about the bag of rice). My boss thought my time was better spent managing this outsourced freelancer, who was only going to make edits to a pre-made template that fit our needs, than giving me the opportunity to try new work and to grow.

I begged and pleaded for my boss to let me do it and eventually got my boss to break (he was actually a pretty stand up guy after all, and I understand he was only trying to run the most lean business possible), but that’s when I started to realize how much little value business owners give to design work. And experiences like this happened over and over again even when I moved onto other jobs.

And maybe you’ve experienced this too, where you have design skills but your client or boss is asking you to outsource the work to someone, or even groups of people, online for faster and cheaper than it would take if you had done the work yourself.

In an article of How Magazine, titled “An Irreversible Movement,” by David C. Baker, he said:

Design is or (soon will be) approaching commodity status, but the management of the design process is difficult, misunderstood, and undervalued.

As a young professional in the beginning of my career, I was watching this happen right before my eyes. The very work I loved doing was commercially becoming less and less valuable.

But I’m getting ahead of myself again and need to back up and answer the question…

What is a Commodity?

And to answer this I’ve pulled together a few definitions from online dictionaries.

  • Commodity: a physical substance, such as food, grains, and metals, which is interchangeable with another product of the same type.
  • Commodity: a good or service whose wide availability typically leads to smaller profit margins and diminishes the importance of factors (as brand name) other than price.
  • Commodity: a good for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across a market.

So there are some related ideas above. And I think I can adequately define a commodity as a good and/or service where there is little difference in quality across a market and where the buying decision comes down to price and price alone.

Keep this in mind as I go along. So the next question becomes…

What is Design?

This is another question that needs to be address, but defining design is a topic that on its own can take several posts. So I’ll keep it simple and straight forward.

To me, design is a planned solution to a problem.

When we’re talking about graphic design and visual communication, the problem is naturally one of communicating a message to an audience visually. When we talk about web design we add in solving problems of usability and other technical concerns.

Rarely if ever is there a single solution to a design problem.

I think part of a designer’s job is deciding the best, or most appropriate, solution to a problem. This then implies that there is more than one solution to any given problem. And if there can be multiple solutions to a problem, this then implies that some solutions are of higher quality than others. And if designers can judge the quality of a solution, then the quality of design varies across a market.

On the other hand, is there truly a best solution? I mean, you and I could come up with a different design for any client, but does that necessarily mean your design is better than mine or mine better than yours? In order to answer that I think we need to judge a solution based on its application of creativity.

So now we have to ask ourselves…

What is Creativity?

Here are some more definitions I came across to explain what creativity is and what role it plays in design:

  • Creativity is the ability to generate innovative ideas and manifest them from thought into reality. The process involves original thinking and then producing.
  • Creativity is the ability to produce something new through imaginative skill, whether a new solution to a problem, a new method or device, or a new artistic object or form.

We’re getting a collection of buzzwords here: innovative, original, new, imaginative, artistic. These are not words to describe a commodity. These words hint at qualitative differences, and in my definition of commodity above, I stated that commodities don’t show qualitative differences from solution to solution in a market.

I think creativity plays a crucial part in design.

I would argue that despite what we were told growing up in school, we don’t all possess significant creativity. Few people have true creativity and even fewer people are skilled at employing it.

I mean its true, anyone can make something, and anyone can make something up, and in this mundane sense everyone is creative.

But in a design-relevant definition of creativity, one must have the capacity to think differently, see differently, and make connections and perceive relationships in a way others would miss.

The point I want to make thus far is that I believe that design, or any of the other arts, is intrinsically separate from any notion of commoditization.

And yet, I’m personally experiencing an ever increasing transformation of design into a commodity in my career.

Now onto the hard-hitting questions…

Do Clients Value Design?

On some level they must, otherwise, why would our clients hire us, right? But if you search any small business forum it won’t take you long to find many people expressing opinions that design isn’t important, especially on the web. There’s a common thought that design isn’t necessary.

Personally, I think people are referring to design aesthetics when they say this, and to most people design and design aesthetics are one in the same. They’re not differentiating design and art. They point to examples like Craig’s List to show that you don’t need design to be successful. Personally I think there’s a lot more design in Craig’s List than people give it credit for. Aesthetics? No. Design? Yes.

Often I hear business owners claim content trumps design. And it’s true. Most people will put up with a very bad design if they feel the content is worth the effort.

However, from what I can tell most people don’t see the value in design. You and I do, but we’re designers. We think design matters and equate code to poetry. The best designs are often unnoticed to those not in the profession. It’s only when design gets in the way that people realize it’s impact. Bad designs stand out to the average user. Good design is seamless and unnoticed.

If the average person doesn’t see value in design, if they don’t see the difference between good and bad design, then what is the criteria for their buying decision? Likely price. If people don’t see the value of your services and can’t see the difference in what you offer as compared to the next designer aren’t they viewing you and design in general as a commodity? I would argue yes, and this is what I’ve been witnessing for years now.

It’s even possible that this has been happening for decades, it’s just that I haven’t been in my career long enough to be aware of it.

Designers have been commoditized

Let me ask you something.

If things like design patterns and design templates and website themes are the tools our clients ask us to use in our work, doesn’t that lead design down the path of commoditization? If we’re all using the same WordPress themes doesn’t that lead to a sameness in our websites?

If more and more designers use the same stock photography, videography and freely available icons, patterns and textures aren’t we commoditizing design? Aren’t we participating in the very act that is devaluing the craftsmanship of our work?

Globalization and the internet has allowed everything to be outsourced or done cheaper. Every part of the design process can be sent to someone who works for less than you do. Outsourcing to reduce costs leads design toward commodity status.

If the market doesn’t see the value in design and can’t see those differences in quality then they are commoditizing design. As tools are developed that enable anyone to create a design (good or bad) the supply of design increases. People start to buy on price alone, which leads many designers to compete based solely on price, which again leads us down a commodity path.

Some concluding thoughts

Can design be commoditized? I think the answer is yes, based on how the market views design.

Is design a commodity? No, it shouldn’t as there are always present differences in quality from design to design.

Design itself will never be a commodity, but the profession of design can be commoditized.

So what can you and I do about it? Because as far as I can tell, with today’s market and technology, commoditization is the direction this profession is going in.

To be honest, I don’t know what we should do about it. I’m still young (only 27 years old at the time of writing this) and probably haven’t lived long enough or acquired enough life experience to know what to do yet.

But I’ve always had a punk, anti-establishment streak in me. Perhaps on some subconscious level when I decided to quit my 9-5 job and start working independently I was symbolically turning my back against the normalcy of commoditized design so that I could create the kinds of work that truly matter to me.

And maybe, just maybe, somewhere along this journey I’d find some other like minded folks who share the same values as me. I think if we don’t want our profession to become a commodity that’s purchased for the lowest price we should do what we can to consistently improve our skills and knowledge to create better and better designs. I believe it’s hugely important to work on our own personal projects beyond just the client work we need to do to feed and shelter ourselves.

Ultimately quitting my job and taking on the world alone was an exercise in pursuing personal endeavours. We should never use price as a selling point and by example show others that good design outperforms bad design with measurable results.

What do you think? Do you think design is a commodity? Has it been or can it be commoditized?

multimediaIt’s been said that every entrepreneur is a digital entrepreneur.

And in a sense all entrepreneurs are using digital technologies to build, launch, and grow their businesses.

But it would be wrong to think all entrepreneurs are doing everything digitally.

Although, amazingly, it is now possible to do that.

And it can create compelling career and lifestyle options for you in the process.

But what exactly is a digital entrepreneur and how do you become one?

Well in a word: interdisciplinary skills.

I know, that’s two words.

But anyone with multimedia skills, which are interdisciplinary in nature, can become a digital entrepreneur.

Digital entrepreneurs are business owners who focused exclusively on digital commerce.

And digital commerce is selling products and services that are marketed, delivered, and supported completely online.

Examples of digital commerce products include ebooks, online education, membership sites, downloadable software or files, web hosting and web site management, and software as a service (“SaaS”).

Anyone with multimedia skills like web/app design, photography, videography and writing can build a business for themselves.


What does every multimedia expert and digital entrepreneur need to succeed?

It stands to reason a good website is a prerequisite for success.

There are five elements of the modern marketing website that all multimedia specialists need to be thinking about and implementing in a smart way.

Really, all entrepreneurs need a website that incorporates these five elements.

  1. Email (registration, not just opt-in)
  2. Adaptive content and responsive design
  3. The access experience
  4. Online courses as lead magnets
  5. Testing … of everything

Technical skills in multimedia is what you’ll need to implement those 5 elements for yourself. And an interdisciplinary approach will help you execute the work.

A podcast I listen to from the people over at CopyBlogger discus these five elements in the second episode. Here’s a quick link incase you want to listen: The 5 Elements of the Modern Marketing Website

How many people does it take to build an effective website?

You know, I frequently find myself having this conversation with potential clients often.

It honestly doesn’t take that much to develop an effective online marketing solution.

I’m living proof you can do it as one person.

In the multimedia field there are three primary areas of expertise involved with creating an effective website:

  • art/design
  • technical
  • marketing

Sadly many schools offering web design programs don’t offer a comprehensive curriculum which adequately addresses all these areas.  Most schools focus primarily on the design aspect (layouts, colors, etc.)  By necessity they do delve into the technical side, but tend not to spend significant time teaching students about search engine optimization and the more technical aspects of developing a website.  And many schools tend to spend even less time teaching basic marketing principals.

This was a major struggle for me when I first graduated from McMaster University and Humber College and entered my career. I felt like my technical skills were well-rounded but I knew I didn’t know how to apply them in a way that someone would offer me a job for money.

It wasn’t until I met these 2 brothers who co-owned their own business and who were super smart marketers, that I started to understand how to take my understand of web design (and a bunch of other multimedia practices) and really create a web site so that it functioned as a primary marketing vehicle for business.

That’s really why I started writing and journaling the experiences I’ve had working for myself.

If I can play any part in sharing even a small nugget of knowledge or information that could help another young person find their way into a multimedia and digital entrepreneurial career path… I’ve won!

So listen, I’ve got a lot of ideas about what I’d like to write about but I’d still like to hear what you think. You can either write to me on my contact page or leave a comment at the end of this post. I’ll share case studies of my work, the strategies I use to find clients and process & techniques I use to make my various multimedia and digital marketing work.

And if you’re feeling really awesome you can join my email newsletter. (Maybe I’ll even show you how I make graphical HTML email templates).