Computer 2So many people have asked, “What are you actually learning there at Startup Institute? Do you feel like you’re coming away with worthwhile skills? Are you getting your money’s worth?”

Here’s the short answer: yes.

The long answer? How about a debriefing of some of my favorite lessons, shall we?

HTML & CSS

Before SIC, I could get myself through a lesson or two on Codecademy, but it never stuck and I couldn’t figure out why. But the why was just having a human in front of my face helping me understand what all the bracketed code meant. Once that happened, it was like a light bulb went off. It’s just like building a house – HTML is the foundation and CSS is the fancy siding. Your text fits inside HTML, and the CSS makes it pretty.

I’m certainly not a pro, but I’ve got a site that I built from scratch using Sublime and GitHub, and added basic styling elements to like borders and floats.

SEO

Gotta be honest, I was kind of dreading this lesson. I feel like SEO has become synonymous with “stupid scam ninja and guru consultants who want to dump in tons of meta tags and steal your money.” But Google has outsmarted these fools, and SEO is becoming less about tricking search engines with your fancy hidden keyword text and bad links and more about just delivering solid, useful content to your audience. Amen. There certainly still are important HTML pieces to making sure your website gets crawled directly (title and header tags, site maps, and making sure the body of your site mentions the keywords and phrases your audience is searching for), but more than that, it’s delivering a website that’s actually useful to people. And Google is relying more and more on links back to your site from credible sources to ensure you’re doing just that.

Our instructor, Mike Rome from GiveForward said to, “Create for humans with search engines in mind.” That, my friend, I can do.

Analytics

This was hands down one of the most useful lessons in the curriculum. I’ve logged into Google Analytics a million times, I’ve even done keyword research to see what’s driving traffic, but I never put two and two together to build targeted landing pages for different search queries. All of the talk about “the funnel” was finally starting to click. Super granular landing pages for super specific audiences will naturally increase conversion since you’re showing people exactly what they came to your site for.

We also talked about email campaigns, custom URLs so that Google Analytics can track the performance, and using Optimizely and significance testing to try out multiple versions of an email or a landing page to see which one drives a higher conversion rate.

This lesson was the piece I was missing to pull together all the hodgepodge of marketing and media experience I had prior to this. Now I can bridge my content background with the right inbound tactics to drive actual conversion.

I’ll tackle positioning strategy, optimizing the funnel, paid placements, sales vs marketing model and more in future installments..