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Insights From 7th Graders About Google, Smartphones, Panda, Privacy & Paid Search

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Last spring I had the opportunity to speak with a middle school class about how the students could use the skills they were learning today in a career down the line. It was an amazing experience, and the students asked some outstanding questions, while also providing some extremely valuable feedback.

A few weeks after my presentation, I received a stack of thank you letters from the students. Those letters were so incredible that I ended up writing a blog post covering some of the quotes from the students.

I was amazed at how much they retained, including information about Google, Facebook, Panda, Penguin, social media, etc. Digital marketing definitely seemed to resonate with the class. Actually, I think I found some future interns.

New Semester, New Insights

Based on how well the presentation went last semester, I was able to visit the middle school again in November and present to another seventh grade class. And similar to last spring, I was incredibly impressed with the students.

The students questions and feedback during the presentation blew me away, which is why I wrote this follow-up post. I wanted to present more findings from the next generation of digital marketers.

Smart Kids, Smart Questions

My presentation covered a number of important topics, including how writing is used across various digital marketing channels, including search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), social media marketing, video marketing, etc. I also provided stats and facts along the way, which seemed to really stick with the students.

But the most important part of the presentation, and the one that seems to strike a nerve with the students, is the part about the “business of you”. I explained how what they do now across social media, texting, YouTube, etc. can impact their reputation (and possibly forever).

Similar to last year, I was asked some amazing (and funny) questions during my presentation. I also uncovered some important data regarding how 13-year-olds view certain aspects of digital marketing.

For example, here are a few of the questions I asked the class, along with their answers:

Q: How many of you use Google regularly for searching the web? How about Bing or Yahoo?

A: Every single student raised their hand for Google. Only one student raised their hand for Bing. And not one did for Yahoo. As crazy as that seems, that’s an improvement from my first presentation. Nobody raised their hand for Bing or Yahoo last time. Yes, it’s a Google world.

Q: How many of you own a smartphone?

A: About two-thirds of the room raised their hand. That’s a pretty significant uptick from my last presentation. And it makes complete sense as mobile keeps booming.

Q: How many of you that own smartphones have an iPhone versus another phone?

A: Three-fourths of the students that owned smartphones use iPhones. The remaining students all owned Android phones. So yes, the dominance of iOS and Android is true even in seventh grade.

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The Questioning Gets Flipped

The power of this presentation is that the students are free to ask me anything about digital marketing, my business, etc. I really loved their line of questioning, and it shows how bright and ambitious they are. And here are some questions from the students:

Q: Glenn, you explain that some executives have reached out to you for help, based on your blogging. Did Steve Jobs or Bill Gates ever reach out to you?

A: {Choking as I take a sip of water…} No, Steve or Bill never reached out to me, although I would have had some important feedback for them. (By the way, how awesome is that question? Why mess around with just any executive, this student went right for the top.)

Q: You mentioned YouTube on the last slide, how do you become a YouTube partner? I really want to set that up.

A: That’s an outstanding question! I’ll send you the information via your teacher. You should absolutely look into this, as long as your parents are involved and ok with it. (I was loving that this student was shooting video, and had aspirations to become a YouTube star. More about this topic in the quotes below.)

Q: Glenn, did you know that the number one keyword searched for on Yahoo is Google?

A: {Me: Laughing} OK, I have a cubicle ready for you in my office. I just found my new intern.

The Difference Between Paid and Organic Listings

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Being so heavily involved with SEO and SEM, I’m always interested in learning how people outside the industry view paid search. During my first presentation last spring, I covered a quick overview of SEM, including how Google generates 96 percent of its revenue via paid search.

While on that slide, I provided a screenshot of a SERP and asked the class if they could point out the ads (and if they knew the difference between the ads and the free listings). Not one student could point out the ads last spring! I was blown away, and that has huge revenue implications for Google.

So, I asked the same question during this year’s presentation. And I received the same exact response! Not one student understood the difference between the paid and organic listings.

Think about this for a minute. How many paid search clicks are occurring right now from younger web users that have no idea that those listings are advertisements? Let’s face it, there can’t be a trust issue with paid search if you don’t know they are paid ads in the first place.

Thank You Letters – Always Amazing

A few weeks after presenting last spring, I received a package containing thank you notes from the students. In a nutshell, the thank you notes were awesome. I was amazed at how much the class retained, how interested they were in digital marketing, and how my points about privacy resonated with them.

Well, this time was no different. Just a few weeks after my presentation this fall, I received another package containing thank you notes. And similar to the first batch, the students didn’t disappoint! Their notes contained some amazing comments and feedback.

So, similar to my first post on this topic, I’m going to let the students’ comments speak for themselves. Below, I’ve listed several comments from their thank you notes, and provided my own commentary where needed.

Here is what they had to say:

“It was so cool listening to your speech. I was inspired to not give up my dream of becoming a famous YouTube star. I also never knew that Google was responsible for close to 70% of all searches. Your speech really inspired me.”

How awesome is that? He’s 13, already shooting video, and researching YouTube partnerships. I love it.

“I will remember that tons of sites have been destroyed by Panda, and that it’s cool that there are over a billion Facebook users. Have a good time helping all of those people!”

Our first Panda sighting. I made sure the students understood that creating content is one thing, but creating thorough and high quality content was another. All of them seemed to “get it” right away.

“I thought the amount of tweets going out each day (over 400 million) was really interesting. I also thought it was cool that about 17 billion searches were completed per month. You taught me a lot. Also, I now understand that revenue is the money going to a company from consumers.”

As mentioned earlier, the students all seemed blown away by the stats I provided. That was a common theme.

Also, the last sentence was related to a head-smack moment I had during my presentation. I kept explaining how much revenue was being generated across digital marketing channels until a girl in the back row raised her hand and asked, “But what’s revenue?” Good lesson for me... and I should clarify that concept when speaking with seventh-graders!

“I really liked learning that there are over 72 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute. I also liked how you showed us articles you have written, and how businesspeople reached out to you after reading them.”

The students seemed very interested in how you could write blog posts or articles and have people from around the world (and some in powerful positions) find those posts and respond. I think that’s an amazing lesson. Yes, your voice can be heard!

“I really liked the cool facts you told us like that every minute on YouTube, 72 hours of video are uploaded. I also learned that by using technology and writing, I can influence many people, and let my opinion be heard.”

Similar to what I wrote above, I loved that the students understood that they can influence others with their writing. Don’t be afraid to write publicly! You can help others, and that’s incredibly powerful.

“I really appreciated hearing what you do. I learned that you should start to write amazing work at a young age so you can get recognized.”

Yes! Don’t wait until you’re 22 and looking for a job. Start now, own your reputation, and impress others.

“It was so cool to see a real life digital marketer. I learned many things, like how you can help small companies and people get found on the web. I also thought it was cool to see that someone from Twitter commented on your blog post.”

Awesome, she understood that digital marketing can help small businesses succeed. Second, she understood that some companies actually listen to feedback (and respond). Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in!

“I learned that if you post something on the internet now, it can show up in your life six years from now when you apply to college. Thanks again for teaching us.”

Ah, the most important lesson in my presentation. If the students remember that one lesson, then I have done my job! In a digital world, what you do now will be there 10 years from now. Be careful, make wise choices, and protect your reputation.

“I use Google a lot in my everyday life, and I have also noticed poor content on sites when looking for information. I was amazed at how one person’s blog or post on a social network could be seen by executives of companies.”

Panda really seemed to make sense to the students! It was good for them to understand that low quality content will not suffice.

“I really benefited from you telling us about how we should watch what we do or post on the internet, because it can be found later on. I thought about what you said about starting a blog, and how it could help us. I would like to start one.”

Yes, a future blogger! I believe this was the girl who came up to me after the presentation asking for blogging platform recommendations. Awesome.

“I learned about Google’s algorithm named “PANDA” that hammers poor quality content on the internet. I think that’s really smart. I also never knew that 17 billion searches were conducted on the web every month in the United States. But now that I think about it, I spend a lotof time on the web, so it kinds of makes sense.”

Google should be happy to know that Panda even strikes fear in the hearts of middle school children. Talk about nipping low quality content in the bud. I also liked how this student started making the connection between his own activities and how it impacts Google.

“I liked hearing how much you love your job, and love to go to it every day. I hope to have a job like yours when I grow up.”

Another important lesson, that to be honest, I didn’t point out specifically. In my opinion, you must be passionate about what you do, or else it’s just a job. I don’t view digital marketing as just a job, and that seemed to come through during my presentation. I was glad to see this student was already thinking about finding a career that he loved.

The Future of Digital Marketing is Bright

After presenting to the class, hearing their questions, and reading their thank you notes, I once again feel that the future of digital marketing is bright. These are incredibly smart and savvy kids, and especially with technology. Heck, one student is ready to become a YouTube partner.

Needless to say, I was impressed with how much information they retained, how parts of my presentation impacted them in different ways, and how some students already have aspirations to enter digital marketing. And I’m totally cool with that.

Now it’s your turn to make a difference. I’ll be sharing this post with the class today, so definitely include your advice below in the comments. Let the students know how what they are learning in school today could be used in digital marketing down the line. But please remember, they are 13.


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