Deborah Carver – The Content Technologist

guest: Deborah Carver

On this episode Deborah Carver from The Content Technologist joins Joe to discuss valuable insights for content creators, marketers, and anyone interested in navigating the ever-changing digital landscape. Deborah’s passion for websites and measured approach to AI adoption provide a refreshing perspective on the future of online content.

Key takeaways:

  • Debra’s career path: Starting from building personal websites in high school, Debra transitioned through publishing, B2B marketing, and SEO before becoming a consultant specializing in website strategy and email marketing.
  • Website vs. social media: Debra advocates for websites as a timeless platform for owning your online presence and narrative, compared to the shifting algorithms and ephemeral nature of social media.
  • Specific search queries: She highlights the increasing sophistication of online searches, with users now employing detailed and specific keywords to find exactly what they need.
  • AI for content creation: Debra sees AI as a valuable tool for assisting with tasks like audio/video editing, wireframing, and summarizing content. However, she emphasizes the importance of human oversight and editing to ensure high-quality content and avoid plagiarism.
  • AI excitement and concerns: Debra is excited about the potential of AI for data analysis in Excel and code generation, but warns against relying solely on AI-generated content without human review and editing.
Episode Transcript

Welcome to mind your own marketing business podcast, where we explore marketing trends and technology, gaining insider knowledge from the industry’s best Fjord is proud to present mind your own marketing 📍 business with host Joe.

Thanks for joining us in the mind your own marketing business podcast. I’m Joe Barsanus from web and software development team Fjorge. And today on our show, we’ll be talking with Debra Carver from the content technologist. Welcome to the show, Debra. Hey, Joe, thank you so much for having me. I’m super excited to be here after all this time.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. It’s so great to have you on the show. I think we have known each other for maybe, I would say five years, but that probably means it’s It’s a little bit longer than that. Yeah. In the way I usually do things. Yeah. ’cause the PA pandemic all those years of the pandemic, that was one year.

Yes. So that was one year. Yeah. Yes. That was a very strange year that we had. Yes. Yes. From 2000 to to 20 to 2022. Two. Yeah. Yeah. and a half. Yep. . Mm-Hmm. . Alright. So I know over the years I’ve known you in, in different capacities, but I, in, in those five years you had a career before that, so I want to know.

How you have have come to be at the at the content technologist Where did your drive for writing and and all of those things come from and where did you go? And how did it end up kind of where you are today? Yeah, so I actually so i’ve been building websites for my own benefit since I was in high school, since I was a freshman in high school, and have been working on the web for, since the late nineties.

So I’ve been interested in it. And at the time I had no idea that it could be a career cause I wasn’t like a computer science kid. I just wanted to publish my own poetry online. And I wanted someone to read my poetry. It was honestly like the whole thing has always been about, well, can I find an audience here?

So. Then I went to college was an English major and I worked in publishing and in the publishing industry on the business side did a couple of internships and worked in an historical publishing company. I was working in and around publishing for the first 10 years of my career. Then switched.

So I had been working in, b2B trade show, like live events company for caterers. And it was in 2011, 2012, right when Instagram and right when, right when social was starting to be taken very seriously for business. And so because it was a company for caterers. There were lots of little pictures of food all the time.

So I was like, well, we should do Instagram and we should do more social media. And I really helped them build out their digital presence. But it was also like events and there was a print magazine. So I was creating a ton of content. I was creating content. All the time, and I had no idea what was working, like who was looking at what, like, were people looking at the website content I was doing?

Were people looking at the email content I was making? And the company I was working with wasn’t that sophisticated to be able to tell me either. So, because most places weren’t at that time. So I actually, I I made the switch to go to a digital agency and work on the SEO side about 10 years ago.

And so, yeah, the first half of my career is very much publishing. Then I went to the digital agency side, worked on the content side of SEO. And worked at a performance marketing agency, then a content marketing agency. And then for the past almost five years, I’ve been out on my own as a consultant, kind of taking everything I’ve learned from publishing to, you know, analytics and SEO to operations and the business side of digital publishing and kind of putting that all together and working mostly on.

Yeah, content strategy doing a lot with websites, content strategy, specifically, and email as well, email newsletters. And those, those two things, website and email have been great for me. That’s a, those are, that that’s kind of where my focus is. I, as much as I loved doing cater catering Instagram I have focused recently much more on.

The web, more on email, and the kind of, I guess, classic, classic internet. The stuff that’s been around since I was young. So yeah, yeah. What What in recent memory, what are some of your like favorite things or organizations to write content for? Is there anything that’s that’s more engaging than others for you?

I would So I actually only write content really for myself right now. So I, I, I write a monthly, well, weekly, it’s now going every other week newsletter. And I write that and write all the content for content technologists, which is what that newsletter and my consultancy is called. But I, you know, I really love doing content projects.

When I get I just got a pitch for a new sector and it’s like a home ownership oriented thing and I love doing a content research project where it’s like I’m learning about a new subject. I’m learning about a new like a new intricacy. Usually it’s a business because I do a lot of B2B, a lot of B2B software.

But this one’s, this one’s more like home oriented. So I love getting a project where I can do some good, deep social listening, content research keyword research on a new subject because then it’s entirely new to me. Like there’s some subjects that I just won’t do anymore. I have, I have had my fill of health insurance and life insurance and I Bless everyone who is making content about them that I, you know, I have done it a lot and I know what the keywords are.

So it’s like, it’s like, that’s not as interesting for me as much as a a research project where. I, I can, we can like really dive in and like, look at, look at what’s happening, look at what people are talking about, and even bust some myths with the marketing team I’m working with, because oftentimes people would be like, we think that people care about this, or this, and I’ll be like, well, based on this keyword research and the social listening I did, actually, these topics are at least what they’re telling the internet they care about.

So yeah. It’s, it’s always, the thing about digital content research is it always reveals something about your audience that They don’t know what you think they know, or they are much smarter than you think that they are, because they’re asking these really in depth questions, and that is something That like they’re asking very in depth questions that you wouldn’t expect them to ask on the internet and actually searches have gotten like in the past 10 years, like way more sophisticated, like, especially for B2B.

It’s been really interesting. But yeah, love, love digging into that keyword data still like 10 years later, just love getting into just a hands on research project. Yeah. So you said something there that was something I’ve noticed or something that I came across not too long ago, you said. Did you say that searches for, especially B2B, have gotten more specific?

Meaning that people are asking literally for what they’re looking for? Yes, yes. Well, like, it used to be, it used to be that B2B searches would just kind of be really generic, high level keywords. And now people ask Very in depth, detailed questions about the subject matter, like if you’re whatever technology it is, and it’s not all they’re always their business operations questions to it used to be that you could get if you were working on something technical, like, yes, you’d always get people researching technical issues on the internet and searching for that.

But now it’s more like, oh, I’m researching In general, yeah, my business operations, or my customer service operations, or how I’m doing something, how, how I need to start or improve a specific metric in my business. And how do I do that? How do I even find that? And people, people definitely in the past 10 years have gone from not Not necessarily only talking to their sales rep as the only source of truth, but also doing that research on their own where they’re like, searching for these really, I’m like, I didn’t realize people were that sophisticated about this particular topic, but here we go.

So it’s, it’s interesting. It’s definitely, yeah. My, my example of that is like, I think it was probably like three or four months ago I was searching the internet for something. I don’t remember if it’s a product or a service. And I was using all these like. Old school ways of searching like searching generality searching this and I’m like, how about if I type in like literally what I’m looking for Like I want this thing that does this and for this and for that and then like all of a sudden I got like the Perfect thing.

I’m like, why didn’t I just type in the whole thing that I was looking for because I’m You know, I’m coming of age, I guess I’m getting older and you know, used to search for Google and generalizations and you had to filter through the information, but people really need to bring the whole idea to the forefront and you can get a good result from that.

Yes. And it’s like. Really about those specific keywords, like I, you know, keywords as a concept are still there. Those specific, the specific words that people use to talk about a subject that align with like one specific subject, search engines are better than ever. Recognizing that because they are using, they’re using the same natural language processing technologies that that AI is using.

It’s the same type of technology where, you know, the engine identifies this specific word with this topic versus before it didn’t. There wasn’t enough specificity available for the search engine to understand what was going on. It’s interesting. It’s cool how it’s changed. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

I, you know, one thing I wanted to to jump into here is one of my favorite things about you and talking with you over time and recently is this, and you know, I’m kind of in this industry so I love your enthusiasm for this and you said the comment today I’m a website evangelist and the web still matters.

Yeah, yeah. Expand on that for the audience a little bit, because I love that. Yeah, yeah. I’m very, you know, I’ve, like I said, been building websites for 25 plus years, and Here’s the thing is I it was when I first started building websites, there were a lot of tools out there that were just like learn HTML and build your own website.

And then with social media that kind of went away. It’s not like those tools went away. Like there’s still obviously Squarespace and all those like tools where you can build your own website, but The kind of idea that you could own your own little space and publish, publish things on it, that kind of got transferred to social media for a little while.

And I think a lot of, especially like writers, I, I’ve been working a lot with freelance writers recently, and people relied really heavily, especially on Twitter, on, on specific platforms, on, on one platform or another. And the thing with web is that. So yes, it is. There are parts of it where it is tied to a platform, which is Google, but there’s also the idea that it is your space and you can put whatever, whatever you want on it.

And it is the source of truth. And especially now that you know, Twitter became X and is whatever now. And just in general, social media usage is more fractured. Having a website is that source of truth about you, either as a person or the source of truth about your business. And it’s what, it’s what you can.

own and what you, like, if you have a narrative that you want to push forward, like that’s, that’s where it goes. It goes on your website so people can, you know, check what they see in other places. And I just, I really think I love the flexibility of web. I love that it can expand. infinitely if you want it to, and if you do, if you do it well, like you can still hold a really large collection of content online, it doesn’t need to be like people can go down rabbit holes, you can build rabbit holes for them to go down.

And it’s, it’s like, I mean, it is, it’s like your own little platform. And you don’t have to, I mean, yes, you do have to worry about search engines. But also, I will say that, as far as platform discovery goes, Search has been very consistent as to like Google and other search engines have been very consistent as to what they ask for in the past 10 years.

Like it hasn’t actually changed a ton. I know there’s, I would say practices have changed because people have, have gone in and out of, you know, growth hacks and growth hacking mentalities. But the general idea of like, building a good website that uses that has good content and uses good words uses good words.

That’s what the writer says. That’s like, and uses specific words and is it is helpful and is not just generic. That is still, that is still the ideal. Like the ideal of a website is hasn’t changed all that much. Whereas social algorithms can just will say, Oh, we’re not promoting news anymore.

Sorry. Like, yeah, yeah. That’s something that I’m, that’s not a world that I’m in on a day to day basis. That is super interesting where they. Just decide that your effective algorithm, the way that you’re doing things, is just, Oh, we just changed it, and we didn’t even tell you. We don’t need to tell you.

Yeah. Yeah. No, that’s actually why I kind of got, like, you know, before, ten years ago, it was like, Well, you do digital content, you do everything, and, like, the second social media kind of started to splinter off, I was like, Yeah, I do web. So, it’s like, I’m a website person. So, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Let’s, let’s, I got a big plan.

We’ll, We’ll do photos on Instagram and we’ll just release pictures and pictures and pictures and then then we’ll get grow our audience and then all of a sudden Instagram’s like, we’re not doing pictures anymore. Sorry, it’s all just drawings. Yeah, it’s just drawings. You have to put a filter on it or something.

Yeah, yeah, exactly. That’s interesting that you’ve, you’ve, you straddle, well, you maybe had some bad experiences that caused you to to lean more back towards web, but it’s, it’s obviously strategic as well. Yeah. And I mean, for me, it was more like. I, some people really love the, like, always changing aspect of social media.

I like a nice, consistent experience, which is why I like web and email. It’s like, yep, these have been around for 20, these are, you know, well, they’re 50 year old technologies. But I’ve known them for my whole life and I’m very comfortable with them. And I’m comfortable with social media too, but it’s just for my job.

I’m like, yeah, there’s less algorithm chasing over on the website. So yeah. That is obvious from in hindsight, but not something that I have to think about or deal with on a daily basis. So that’s, that’s super interesting. You enlightened me, of course, as you always do. Which is a good transition into the next question.

I know that there’s lots of top talk about this topic, but I am really curious about Debra’s perspective on AI and how it is affecting and how you, how it is affecting what you’re doing and how you are utilizing it through the content technologist and the other things that you’re doing. Like, what are you excited about?

What are you nervous about? What are you concerned about? What is, what does Debra think about when she thinks about content and AI? Yeah, so I, it’s really funny because I have been publishing articles about AI since the beginning of Content Technologist in 2019, but no one cared about it back then. And now people are really into it since OpenAI and ChatGBT came out.

And I think so. My thing is that with the kind of general adoption of this technology is number one. We are still very early stage. And there is a certain kind of I would say there’s certain users who are closer to adapting a I than others. There are some people who are really into it and some people who are not so much.

And I’m right in the middle. I love how a I can assist And help. And I actually really prefer AI assisted technologies with like audio and video editing, like what we’re we’re doing now where it is much easier to smooth out an audio recording without a sound engineer. And not that sound engineers aren’t needed, it’s just that they don’t wanna, you know, work on my my little web project that’s in pilot phase, you know?

Sure. So I can use an AI to help with that prototype. I love. using AI for prototyping for like say we’re building wire frames for a website. ’cause most of my consulting work is information architecture. So if you need like a high fidelity wire frame that doesn’t have official content in it yet, AI is a great place to start to just get, okay, here’s something like, yep, what we’re, what we’re going for.

I think that there’s a lot of great tools out there. But I do think kind of like any technology or anything. It’s it’s not like what you see on the surface isn’t going to be the most useful thing that the tool can do. And I think that the biggest my biggest fear with it is that is what I see is that people, you know, ask chat GPT for a thing.

Don’t look at it. Go ahead, publish it. And they, you know, you see those are the articles was like I published 80 million website or 80 million pages on this website with AI. And I’m like, that’s not going to work for for a long time for a long term. That’s not a really good strategy, especially when you consider how Google algorithms have always worked, which is that when it sees something that looks spammy, it tends to work.

Get thrown out as like it will rank very highly for a few days. And then once Google sees it, it’s like, No, we’re not gonna like, we’re not going to do that or anything like that anymore. We’re not going to promote that anymore. Because it’s not it is clearly trying to hack what we have said is the good standards, which is that we want high quality content created by humans.

So So yeah, I, the AI, like, I love using AI as an assist. I use it for I’m actually doing a, I do a live stream show every Wednesday that I launched this year called let’s build a website and I send out recaps. So it’s, it’s an hour of me live streaming, building a website live and talking through it.

So I’m just rambling and and just kind of talking through my process. And so I use a tool writer AI. To recap those and it does a stellar job of summarizing and taking what I’ve said and then rewriting it. I still have to rewrite and we rework what it says, but it does. It pulls out the main points better than I could because I’m so in it.

It is like working with an editor or another writer, and as a solo producing this show, it really helps to have something else look at the transcript and say, these are the important things. And in like, like under a minute, it’s, it’s amazing how fast it comes back with the summaries. Yeah. Guess what? I guess how I get my paragraph intro to this show.

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Like, because I am. I’m not a writer by any stretch of the imagination. I know everybody gets writer block, but I feel like I, like. Have a block in my brain about writing things and so you need that like it really helps me to like Even react to something like that’s terrible Like I should write it this way like as long as I have something to react to or like I like that part But I don’t like that part.

I’m sure that’s what you do, too But like yeah, that’s I’ve been taking our transcripts from these shows and being like summarize this Because I do the descript thing where the AI writes out the transcript and we actually, you know, use that for different things as well. But then you can summarize it and I get a paragraph or two that makes it way faster just in the mind generation.

So that’s really cool. Yeah, there’s a couple other things. Like, I think for me as a writer, I don’t use it for writing, but I love knowing that other people who aren’t as comfortable with writing are just kind of able to work faster, like think more clearly about their writing because I, I love writing.

I love words. And I, I think it’s important to be able to get what you want to say across clearly, whether that comes naturally to you or not. The other thing I’m super excited about, and I’m, I’m kind of waiting on Excel for it to incorporate chat GPT, which is more data analysis, because I do a lot of analysis in my consulting work, but it is very time consuming and very manual, and I am so excited to just tell a chat interface, like, look, can you do these, like, three things to my columns and have it be done?

I am, I am very excited for the parts of AI that will help me. with programming and, and building websites and and with code, like it helps can it helps me a lot with if I have to do anything with regular expressions, like I am not good at regex, but AI can help me figure that out. And it just helps the analysis process go faster.

It helps my trial and error go faster too. So, you know, there’s a lot out there. But my least favorite thing is like, yeah, just copy it from the chat GPT. Don’t edit it and put it in, put it in your LinkedIn post. And it’s like, no, no, no, no, no. That’s not how, that’s not how this thing is supposed to work. So yeah.

No, no, no. But you did just get me very excited. I had not thought about how. AI could be used in Excel and you made me now anxious for that to be true as well. So. No more VLOOKUPs. Just, just chat. Yeah. Just, just tell it what you want to. What you want to know and make sure it’s, I guess you got to make sure it’s accurate.

But yeah, you have to double check, but it can get you a few steps closer. Yeah. It’s like asking a neighbor, right? Like, Hey, like, do you, you know how to do V looks lookups really well? Like, and can you help me with this? Yep, those numbers look right. That VLOOKUP must be correct. Like, moving on. And now you don’t have to bother, bother your person’s like, this is the sixth time you’ve asked about VLOOKUPs this week, Joe.

And where you’re like, you’re like, yes, I know. I still haven’t mastered the skill, but it’s I, you know, thanks to this. Now, now, thanks to AI, you don’t have to bother someone with the things that. You really try hard to learn, but never actually, they never stick. So, cause everyone’s got that somewhere.

Like, yeah, that’s crazy. That’s crazy. Well, Debra, I could talk to you for hours, I think. Yeah. Yeah. And I do talk to you for hours at other times, but unfortunately that’s all the time we have for today on Mind Your Own Marketing Business. Thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much for having me.

Yeah. All right. And to our listeners, you can find Deborah at content technologist. com and sign up for her newsletter. I get it weekly or bi weekly or whenever she decides to send it out. And I, I read more of that than probably any other newsletter I get. So. Well done, Debra. And thanks to our listeners for joining us.

You can download episodes of our program by going to fjords. com slash mind your own 📍 marketing business, or subscribing to the show on iTunes, Stitcher, and iHeartRadio.

Stay in Touch!

Subscribe to our newsletter.

listen to some of our weekly pjodcasts

Podcast Archive