Expert Speaks: In conversation with Dale Bertrand, Founder & President of Fire&Spark.

Today, on ‘Expert Speaks‘, we have Dale Bertrand, Founder & President of Fire&Spark

We are indeed grateful to Dale, for making time to answer our questions and enlighten us with his thoughts and opinions. We thank Dale for inspiring us with his words of wisdom. 

You would definitely love reading his fun-filled informative answers, Here it goes!

Hello Dale, it’s great to have you on LearnWoo! Can you share with us your experience as a Founder, Marketing Expert, and Business Coach?

I am the Fire&Spark Founder & President. I hold BS and MS degrees in Computer Engineering from Brown University. I worked in the intersection of marketing and technology for most of my career. I studied artificial intelligence in grad school and helped build the machinery that drives the internet, including high-performance computing systems for the National Security Agency.

I have also trained marketing professionals from TripAdvisor, Microsoft, HubSpot, Digitas, and Proctor & Gamble, and now I share my SEO and content marketing knowledge at dozens of industry conferences every year.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing the marketing industry in the coming years?

We’ve seen every iteration of Google’s algorithm and have learned that websites need to look beyond technical SEO “best practices” to double or triple organic search traffic.

AI-based search engines like Google prioritize websites that have proven authority, expertise, and trust – despite the technical optimizations implemented on the site. Search engines are continuing to double down on high-quality, educational content over optimized content, and marketers must understand what Google’s AI is looking for in order to rank highly on the SERPs.

What’s been your most successful marketing campaign? What role did you play and how did you help achieve the campaign’s goals?

What’s worked best for us is an Authority First SEO strategy that goes beyond technical optimizations and instead focuses on building search engine authority. Authority strategies generate backlinks, keyword targeted content, engagement, mentions, reviews, and content partnerships — all of the signals that Google is looking for.

This strategy has resulted in doubling and even tripling the organic revenue that our clients were generating beforehand. Here’s an example campaign we ran using this method for one of our clients.

We understand that you have extensive academic experience in AI, spanning over 15 years. Could you share your insights on how AI will revolutionize the work of marketers?

Technology has been advancing rapidly over the past few years. Today Artificial intelligence is transforming dozens of industries, including the no different marketing industry. Artificial intelligence will write articles, manage social media accounts and generate images on demand. AI marketing tools will empower marketing teams to do their best work without replacing human imagination or judgment. Now is the time to start investigating AI tools – before AI-savvy competitors begin to dominate the market.

Explain how you’d use emails, social media, and other platforms to attract our target audience.

Create Useful and Relevant Content! 

Social media – We can connect with your target audience through social media platforms as well. Through a combination of images, videos, and text, we can engage and reach them more efficiently. Relevant, industry-specific hashtags can help us broaden the reach of our social media content. And, it will help make sure it’s displayed to people who might actually be interested in it. 

Emails – Sending out newsletters that include relevant articles from which targeted audiences may benefit.

Conferences – I speak at about 20 industry conferences every year. I’ve found conferences to be one of the best places to reach our target audience since the attendees are really eager to learn (and often convert into leads for our business afterward).

From reviewing your profile, it’s evident that you are a highly knowledgeable individual across your fields of expertise. Can you share with us your experiences and what drives you to continue every day?

I have been an SEO specialist for Fortune 500 companies and venture-backed startups around the world for two decades, working with global brands such as Citizen Watch, Nestle, Raymond Weil, Exxon Mobil, and Bulova. I also speak at industry conferences, lead corporate training events and serve as Entrepreneur in Residence at the Harvard Alumni Entrepreneurs Organization. 

What drives me to continue is excitement for the future of the digital marketing industry. It always feels like there are a million exciting things happening at the same time – and I want to figure out how to be a part of them all. I’ve also learned to accept failures as part of the learning process.

In your opinion, what challenges will impact the marketing industry in the next five years?

  • Utilizing AI
  • Generating Traffic and Leads
  • Keeping Up With the Latest Trends
  • Facing Competition
  • Website Management
  • Social Media Marketing

How do you keep up with the latest trends in the marketing industry?

Read voraciously. Read about our industry, our market, and the world in general. Regularly keep up with industry trade publications and websites; national, regional, and city newspapers; influential bloggers and business thought leaders.

Get involved in our industry. Join industry associations, attend their events, take training, and participate in online communities. Associations work hard to keep their members abreast of trends, so take advantage of their expertise.

Network. Get to know people in our industry—and outside of it. Regularly meet and talk with colleagues, partners, and clients about trends in their businesses. These conversations are sure to spark ideas.

Keep in touch with our customers. Social networking tools like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter make it easier than ever to find out what your customers think and want. Are they staying at home more? Spending less? Cooking more? All you have to do is ask.

Monitor our business. Use tools like financial projections and business dashboards to measure business benchmarks and spot trends. Which products are selling, and which aren’t?  Tracking trends over time helps us predict potential problems—and opportunities.

Observe our competition. Visit their locations and websites; follow them on Facebook and Twitter. What new initiatives, products, or services are they launching? Are they targeting new markets or expanding to new regions?

Think outside the box. Get beyond our own industry, market, and region to learn what people in unrelated fields are doing.

Think long-term. Trends differ from fads, so don’t get caught up in “what’s hot now.” Think beyond today to how a current trend might affect your industry one, five, or 10 years down the road.

If you could choose one area of marketing to specialize in, what would it be and why?

Website content marketing. Not only does website content tie into my technical background in SEO, but there are so many different types of content that work (and most people only talk about blog articles). Content is really the key to building trust with both search engines and potential customers online. I love learning more about this topic and pushing the barriers of what it means in the modern age.

As an SEO strategist, what is your method for constructing backlinks and acquiring links for websites? Could you provide some tips to our readers?

To be blunt, acquiring backlinks is difficult nowadays. Back in the early 2000s, it was relatively easy to get another website to link to yours. But, now the space is so crowded that in many instances people struggle to even get a response. Even then, they may have to pay for a backlink.

What my agency has tested on numerous client’s projects and seen really take off is what I like to call “purpose-driven” backlink outreach. Essentially, every brand has some purpose at its core. The purpose could be a change they want to make in their industry, what makes their product/service stand out against competitors or even the founder’s story of why he wanted the brand to exist in the first place. Regardless of which direction you focus on, we strongly recommend creating content around this purpose.

Purpose-driven backlink outreach works because other sites can actually resonate with your story. For example, we did a campaign for a financial institution about how they were helping refugees – and then reached out to a bunch of refugee advocacy groups and organizations. It turns out that as long as our outreach email described why this purpose mattered to the brand made it easy for these organizations to trust the financial institution and were happy to give them a backlink. 

Can you share some thoughts on; Scaling SEO Campaigns in 2023, and how great brands achieve massive organic traffic to their website?

Typically, marketers implementing SEO “best practices” struggle to maintain strong organic traffic growth. Search marketers at top brands, including Kraft, HP, and IBM, all tell the same story—building on previous SEO success is often much harder than achieving your first organic clicks. Scaling massive organic traffic requires a different set of SEO strategies and allocation of resources that go far beyond traditional “best practices”.

What suggestions would you offer to young readers, graduates, and aspiring entrepreneurs?

Invest in training early and get involved in as many online forums and groups as you can. I’ve learned a ton from partners and other professionals I’ve met for advice. 


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