Jeff Larson: How Theory Can Help You Save Time Staying Current

Staying up-to-date with the latest digital marketing changes and trends may feel impossible. However, staying current with minimal investment of time is feasible with the right mindset.

Jeff Larson, a professor of marketing at Brigham Young University, believes that applying theory to new trends can help educators find the most important takeaways for their instruction. He shared his tips on how you can spend less time staying up-to-date in his Stukent® Marketing ProfCon 2023 session, “Staying Current on a (Time) Budget: A Guide for the Busy.”

“If we understand the digital marketing theory underlying these principles, that will help us contextualize any updates and incorporate them into our instruction,” Jeff said.

Throughout his presentation, he gave examples of digital marketing topics, reviewed associated theories, and used recent updates to guide curriculum adjustments based on the theory-practice relationship. He covered how ChatGPT will affect SEO, the move from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4, social media targeting, and changes in display advertising.

If you missed his session, read on for a recap of his insights!

Where Does ChatGPT Fit Into SEO Theory?

It’s no surprise that one of the latest technological developments that affects your marketing instruction is ChatGPT. Acknowledging that ChatGPT builds upon a concept that has existed for some time — interacting with AI for information retrieval — Jeff discussed the potential impact of ChatGPT on the search process. 

He speculated that it could revolutionize how people interact with search engines, potentially reducing reliance on traditional search engine optimization (SEO) practices.

To provide context, Jeff explained the theory of SEO and search engines. He emphasized two key factors: relevance and quality. Relevance refers to matching search queries with appropriate content, while quality involves assessing the value and credibility of websites.

Jeff suggested that despite the introduction of AI-driven interactions like ChatGPT, the fundamental principles of SEO remain unchanged. While some users might interact with AI for search queries, he thinks many will still use traditional search engines. In those cases, the rules of SEO still apply.

He concluded that staying updated on ChatGPT is important but does not necessitate a significant shift in how SEO is taught and practiced. You can save time by applying the theory of SEO to determine what remains robust and applicable even in the face of emerging AI technologies like ChatGPT.

“We probably want to keep learning about ChatGPT and bring it up with our students,” Jeff said. “We want to talk to them about it, but we’re not going to change what we teach in SEO.”

The Move to Google Analytics 4

The theory of web analytics plays a pivotal role in making informed decisions for maximizing website performance and profitability.

Jeff highlighted the move from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 as a recent change in the marketing world. He explained that while Google Analytics 4 isn’t new, it has gained substantial importance due to the departure of Universal Analytics. With this shift, businesses must adopt Google Analytics 4.

To illustrate his main point, he delved into the fundamental principles of analytics, stating that data provides valuable insights to aid decision-making. For a digital property or website, the core objectives revolve around tracking traffic, optimizing conversions, and maximizing revenue per conversion. This triad of goals forms the foundation of influential analytics.

He explained some of the theories behind using analytics, including:

  • Traffic analysis takes center stage. Focus on understanding the number and frequency of sessions. 
  • Channel breakdowns allow you to identify which sources drive the most traffic, including insights from ad campaigns. 
  • Conversion, a critical metric, is explored through the conversion rate — the percentage of visitors who transform into paying customers. This metric is dissected by channel and ad campaign to identify high-performing sources.
  • Spillover effects, including direct-to-brand and generic-to-brand scenarios, underline the intricacies of user behavior across various touchpoints.

Jeff also shared his reservations about the Google Analytics 4 update, saying that while it introduces some positive elements, it departs significantly from the metrics and insights that drive actionable decision-making. He believes the new interface presents vanity metrics with little practical value, such as real-time user counts.

“Google Analytics 4 is not so much a bad update — it’s horrifically bad,” Jeff said. “For example, we had 116 users in the last 30 minutes. How is that useful? It can never be useful. How would it be useful to know who’s there right now?”

Jeff argued that these metrics distract from more essential indicators, such as conversion rate, which have been crucial for informed decision-making in the past.

However, he did acknowledge a silver lining — Google Analytics 4 includes the “average purchase revenue per user” metric. This metric bridges the gap between total revenue and total users, offering insights into the value of each user even before a purchase. While Google Analytics 4 falls short in certain areas, it excels in tracking user behavior over multiple visits, providing a more comprehensive view of user engagement.

As an educator, you can save time by identifying faults in programs such as these to focus on the more essential tools.

The Fast-changing Fate of Social Media

Jeff underlined the importance of teaching students to identify and comprehend business use cases for social media platforms. You can guide students in tailoring their strategies to specific objectives by focusing on the purpose behind each social media effort. This approach helps streamline decision-making and time allocation in creating content, advertising, and managing reputation.

TikTok is a prime example of a platform with immense potential for advertising. He emphasized that businesses should prioritize advertising despite the challenges of creating organic content on TikTok. You can impart this strategy to students, enabling them to harness the advertising capabilities of TikTok effectively. This not only optimizes the use of the platform but also saves time by focusing on high-impact actions.

Jeff also highlighted the significant impact of iOS 14.5 on social media advertising, particularly for platforms like Facebook. He showcased how changes in data tracking affected retargeting and reporting. You can leverage this shift in your course to teach students the nuances of attribution and its potential inaccuracies.

Keeping this strategic perspective can help you save time in your research and empower students to make more meaningful contributions to social media.

“Digital marketing instruction changes more slowly than digital marketing practice,” Jeff said. “Students need an understanding of principles and general practice, both of which evolve slowly.”

What Isn’t New with Display Advertising?

While there might not always be groundbreaking revolutions in display advertising, there are constant smaller changes to contend with.

Jeff highlighted the critical concept of coverage and exclusion. He used a marketplace analogy to illustrate that only a fraction of a diverse pool of potential customers are genuine prospects. Even iconic brands like Coca-Cola face the challenge of targeting specific segments to optimize their resources. 

Jeff also explained the key factors for a compelling ad:

  • Attention is vital, ranging from basic visibility to capturing genuine interest.
  • The value proposition influences viewer action.
  • Alignment between the ad and the landing page is a must.

“If we understand our principles and the theory, it’s going to save us a lot of time,” Jeff said. “It’s going to help us instruct on those changes a lot better.”

The principles of digital marketing change slower than the trends and platform changes that are created every year. You and your students can save time in school and beyond if you stick to these principles and learn when to apply them.

Jeff is the coauthor of Stukent’s “Digital Marketing Essentials” courseware which can be bundled with the Digital Marketing Simternship™. The bundle challenges your students to explore strategic keyword research, audience segmentation, marketing campaign analysis, web design, on- and off-site SEO, budget management, social media, and more. The bundle also includes hundreds of ready-made resources for you, helping to take the pain out of your course preparation.

Marketing ProfCon 2023 was a three-day academic conference held from June 14 – 16, 2023. Each year, ProfCon presents actionable tips and strategies for marketing educators to use in their classrooms. To watch sessions on demand, visit the Stukent Webinars Library.

Stukent is here to help educators help students help the world. To learn more about our first-in-the-world Simternships and courseware, or to get FREE instructor access to our products, visit our website.

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