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Your 2024 Digital Priorities: Part One
Episode 123

Your 2024 Digital Priorities: Part One

Key Areas To Drive Success

This episode is hosted by Dan Titmuss.

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In This Episode

From the rise of AI-driven advertising to the imminent third-party cookie crunch—which developments deserve your valuable time and attention in 2024?

At CI, we've pinpointed five key priorities that will set arts and cultural institutions up for success this year. Join us over the next two episodes as we delve into each area so you can confidently navigate the changing digital landscape, drive results for your organization, and refocus as we head into a new era of digital marketing.

Crank the volume on Part One, and be on the lookout for Part Two in the coming weeks. We’ll round out the list of priorities and offer even more tips and insights from CI consultants.

Maximizing Your Website With Data And Analysis

An arts organization’s website is the heart of its digital strategy and the key to achieving institutional goals. CI’s VP, Analytics Yosaif Cohain and Senior Consultant Alana Harper reveal how to unlock the immense potential of your website by making incremental improvements driven by data and analysis.

Diversifying Beyond Google And Meta

Digital media usage has been shifting in recent years, and fundamental changes to how and where we reach target audiences are coming fast. Principal Consultant Ally Duffey Cubilette shares what to consider as you look beyond Google and Meta.

Dan Titmuss: Hi everyone. It’s your friendly neighborhood podcast host, Dan. The digital marketing scene is buzzing with big changes, from a slew of new AI applications to the imminent demise of third-party cookies. There is a lot vying for our attention, and let’s face it, time and resources are precious in the arts. We can’t do everything at once, so where exactly should we concentrate our efforts in order to hit our institutional goals? This month on the pod, we’re staying rooted in impact by outlining five key priorities for 2024. My friends and fellow consultants will join me over the next two episodes to break down the digital areas that will best set you up for success in the year ahead. In today’s episode, we’ll kick off our two-part digital priorities extravaganza with two big topics: maximizing your website with data and analysis, and diversifying beyond Google and Meta. We’ve got a lot to cover so let’s dive in, shall we? Let’s start with maximizing your website with data and analysis. And who better to discuss this topic than Alana Harper, Senior Consultant of SEO, and Yosaif Cohain, VP of Analytics. Congrats to you both on your long awaited podcast debuts!

Alana Harper: Thank you. I’m really excited to be here.

Yosaif Cohain: Thanks, Dan. Great to be here. What is it everyone says? First time, long time.

Dan Titmuss: Yeah, first—we should have a call-in version where people are like, yeah, longtime listener, first time caller.

Yosaif Cohain: I might add also, maybe hopefully last time for me as well, or at least for the next several years.

Dan Titmuss: Alright, cool. When most people think of digital marketing, they think of creating social content or optimizing ad campaigns, but website improvements rarely make the to-do list. Why do you think that is?

Yosaif Cohain: I think that’s a really interesting and really tough question. Obviously there’s the budget answer, right? We are limited and constrained by budget. I think there’s also the reality that we are constrained by resources as far as our ability to take on these projects. When we are continually asked to push the next production, we have something new on stage coming up and we need to create the social content, we need to create the social posts, we need to optimize them, we need to create the newsletter. There’s a lot of work that goes on, so I think the website ends up getting updated, but it doesn’t really get optimized. And what you end up seeing a lot of times is a website that launches, let’s say, it’s day one of that new website and five, six years later, the website looks pretty much the same. And I would argue that there is so much opportunity in between day one and year six for pausing and saying, let’s really optimize the production detail page or the calendar or the global nav, and that’s where we can have a big impact by improving those features of the website.

Alana Harper: I think every website has its challenges, and sometimes those challenges can feel really insurmountable. You just don’t really want to deal with it. Everyone has limitations and quirks with their CMS that you’re sort of like, okay, there’s not much we can do there. Our hands are tied or we’re restricted by our third-party ticket path, so it’s not worth doing anything because we can’t do X, Y, and Z. But there are still optimizations that you can implement, and it’s really important to do that because your website really is the heart of your digital strategy. It represents one of the biggest opportunities that you have to hit your institutional goals, and we can’t afford to ignore that.

Dan Titmuss: Yeah, I mean the website is at the center of all of the other marketing efforts. All of your other marketing channels most likely at some point touch the website, so giving it some TLC can have far-reaching impacts.

Alana Harper: Yeah, I mean, we also, we are talking about digital marketing, but we are also, there’s also offline marketing, offline touchpoints where we’re telling people to go to the website, so we want to make sure that for all of that engagement, communication, marketing, that the website is really tip top and optimized for all of those interactions.

Yosaif Cohain: The other thing, also, I think is important to call out—third-party cookies, information that we collect on properties that we do not own. That has been at the core of digital marketing for years, and our ability to do that has been going away and really this year is a pivotal and an inflection point. Google is taking that ability away. They are sunsetting that in Chrome. We need to shift to rely more on first-party data strategy, on properties that we do own, which is the website.

Dan Titmuss: Yeah, you’re future-proofing your organization when you pay attention to the website. So… have a great website. Simple. But what does that actually look like in practice?

Yosaif Cohain: I think there are lots of tactical ways that we can answer, “here is what a great website is.” I think philosophically though, there is one answer and that answer is having a user-centric website. It is a website that is saying, I am prioritizing my users and they are going to be the kings of the website. I am designing for them. They need to have something that is intuitive, that is easy, that eliminates friction, and I am focused on answering that question, “how can I make this an amazing user experience?”

Dan Titmuss: I mean, we’ve all been on a website, even if it’s not to buy tickets, but we’ve all been on a website where friction has happened, which just makes you abandon the whole process. This has happened to me so many times.

Alana Harper: This literally happened to me yesterday. I was trying to buy a pair of shoes and hit “place order” and it just didn’t work, and I was like, well, I have to get back to work, so I just left it.

Dan Titmuss: I think that user-centric thing also relates to SEO, right?

Alana Harper: Oh, yeah, totally. I mean, we often think about the user experience starting once people get to our websites. It actually starts on Google. It’s like if your website is your building, then Google is like your front gate. It’s that walk up to the sidewalk before you knock on the door.

Dan Titmuss: Yeah. It’s often the first thing that a user sees of your organization, is that listing on the SERP.

Alana Harper: Yeah, and you want to make sure that on the search engine results page, that, number one that you’re showing up there because if you’re not showing up there, then you’re losing out on that traffic. And then also you want to make sure that you are high up on that page.

Dan Titmuss: And how do you know if you need to prioritize SEO? I know we both work on the SEO team, so we’ll just say everyone needs to, but what are some things that really stick out for you?

Alana Harper: Things like if you are not showing up on the search engine results page, but something else that is really a great telltale sign is if you look at your organic search traffic, looking to see how much of your traffic is coming through from branded search terms versus non-branded search terms. Sometimes when we are looking at our organic search traffic data in Google Analytics, we can get lulled into a false sense of security because we see that, oh, okay, organic search traffic is our number one traffic source, so we must be doing great in terms of SEO, but is all of that traffic basically coming through by searching your brand name? And if so, then that means that your non-branded traffic, that there’s an opportunity for optimization there that if you’re not ranking for things like “Russian classical music composers” or “what should I wear to the ballet,” you are missing out on those opportunities to basically introduce a new audience to your organization and to who you are.

Dan Titmuss: Yeah, it can almost seem like two different channels. That’s how we definitely approach it at CI is having branded traffic and non-branded—thinking about them in completely different ways. It is a completely different way that people are using the search engine.

Alana Harper: Absolutely.

Dan Titmuss: What are some other ways to make sure you have a user-centric website, Yosaif?

Yosaif Cohain: Obviously as a data person, I’m going to advocate for incorporating data into your process, so if we’re saying we want to be user-centric, that means that we want to be more in tune with our users, and the best way to do that is by using data. Our focus and my team’s focus is on using web analytics on GA4 as a way of collecting data. There are other methodologies as well, but the whole purpose is for us to learn more about what users are trying to do. That’s where you get into creating personas and trying to define what are use cases for the website. It’s using data to identify friction that’s going on right now. How often are people utilizing features that we build for them in different modules? Where on the site are people going? Which content are they showing interest for, and how are they engaging with that? Those are all questions that we should be asking, and we can use that data to help us understand, what is behavior like today? And help us formulate hypotheses around how can we improve the user experience.

Dan Titmuss: Yeah. Yosaif, you’ve helped a lot of clients with website upgrades, both big and small. When you think of the organizations that do this work really well, what do they have in common?

Yosaif Cohain: Great question. I think we can distill it into two pillars. One is they have the right infrastructure in place. What is good infrastructure for analytics? I would say it is having data that we trust to be accurate data that is rich and granular data, that is usable and actionable from an SEO point of view. The right infrastructure, having the right fields in place in the CMS, I don’t know, if it’s having a schema, if it’s having a sitemap XML file, it’s having the right technical pieces to let you begin optimizing. The second pillar would then be building process on top of the infrastructure. We are going to have a monthly meeting internally to review dashboards together. We are going to make sure that when we make updates to content on the website, we’re first going to look at it from an SEO point of view and we’re going to do some keyword research. We’re building internal process on top of the infrastructure so that we can make sure we are holding ourselves accountable to being user-centric and data-driven.

Dan Titmuss: What are some steps listeners can take to get better at SEO and GA4?

Alana Harper: So in terms of SEO, one of the most important things that you can do is to take control of how you appear on the search engine results page by prioritizing your title tags and meta descriptions. Another really important thing is to set up Google Search Console. We talked a little bit about how GA4 does give you some information on your organic search traffic, but it really is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of really understanding how you are getting that traffic to your website, what pages they’re landing on and what pages they’re not. And if you use Search Console, not only will you get more information on the clicks that you’re getting to your website and the impressions that you’re getting on the search and results page, you can also get really great insight into what search terms, what search queries are getting you a lot of traffic, and that can give you information that you can use to optimize other pages and just to kind of uncover additional opportunities for ways that you want to try to build up that non-branded search traffic. It can be a great way to see exactly how much of your search traffic is coming from those branded search terms and how much is coming from those non-branded search terms. So it really will just allow you to take a deep dive into your search traffic to really start to optimize it.

Dan Titmuss: It’s such a useful tool. I think once people go into the search console, it opens up an understanding of Google and how organic search works that is not necessarily clear before you look into that data.

Alana Harper: Totally, totally.

Yosaif Cohain: Yeah, and from an analytics point of view, I would say that you should make sure you have a good GA4 setup in place. So we are fully in a GA4 world right now. Make sure you have data that is coming in that is accurate, make sure that it’s connected to your e-commerce platform so you’re tracking your ticketing, and get familiar with GA4 as a reporting interface. You’ll probably see that it’s overwhelming, that there’s a lot of data, so make sure that you’re also defining KPIs, your key performance indicators, the most important metrics that help you measure the performance of the website. Start building and automating some dashboards. We like to use Looker Studio as a platform. It’s a platform by Google. It’s free. It integrates really nicely with GA4. Build some dashboards, automate them. I would say share them with colleagues. Hopefully that can generate some excitement, some conversation, and remember that the role of the dashboard is going to be to show you what is happening, but then hopefully by reviewing the dashboards, you’re going to start asking “why.” We’re seeing the trend of engagement rate going down, why? And that’s going to lead into more questions. It’s going to take you further down the analytics rabbit hole, and that’s going to get you into the process of analysis and then hopefully optimization.

Dan Titmuss: Yeah. What’s the biggest thing you want listeners to understand about this priority?

Alana Harper: The biggest thing that I think people should understand is that you do not have to be an expert in SEO or in Google Analytics to improve your website. You really just have to be curious. First of all, you might need some help with the infrastructure of getting your search console set up, getting GA4 set up, and that’s something that we could help you with as consultants, but then you just need to start examining your internal processes to see where are there opportunities for improvements? Where are there opportunities to introduce more data into your conversations?

Yosaif Cohain: I agree wholeheartedly, Alana, I think the real opportunity is thinking about your process and how can I make this infrastructure work for me? How can I be more data driven by incorporating these tools and these platforms into my internal process?

Dan Titmuss: Yeah. I feel like both analytics and SEO, you kind of get overwhelmed because they touch every part of the website. It becomes this huge beast that you kind of need to wrestle, and that doesn’t necessarily need to be the case. You can take it piece by piece and just slowly start to incorporate that. So… what great, encouraging points to end on. Thank you both for being here.

Alana Harper: Thank you so much.

Yosaif Cohain: Thanks, Dan. Thanks for the conversation.

Dan Titmuss: Next up, let’s welcome Principal Consultant Ally Duffy Cubilette to discuss diversifying beyond Google and Meta. Thanks so much for being here, Ally.

Ally Duffey Cubilette: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Dan Titmuss: So Google and Meta have been the powerhouses of arts marketing for quite some time, so I was a bit surprised to see diversifying on the list of priorities. What makes this so urgent for arts organizations?

Ally Duffey Cubilette: Yeah, surprising for many, maybe. We’ve been banging the drum of Google and Meta for a decade now at this point. It’s been a while. The other thing that you might be thinking is, diversifying—that means more, and I don’t have time for more. So I want to just state that upfront, acknowledge those feelings. But I think we have come to a time now where that landscape has changed. So I think it’s worth having a conversation about how it’s changed, how it’s still actively changing, and what that might mean for where we want to spend going forward.

Dan Titmuss: So let’s talk about that changing digital landscape and just give a quick lay of the digital land, right? Starting with Meta.

Ally Duffey Cubilette: Yeah, so Meta—comprised of Facebook and Instagram—are still incredibly popular platforms. The demographics have changed on them over the years, of course, but a large number of people across the US are on both of those channels. So when we think about where we can reach our audiences, where people are spending time, those two channels are still really significant.

Dan Titmuss: And it’s not like you are doing boring old advertising on these platforms. There’s still a lot of unique opportunities and interesting stuff we can do on Facebook and Instagram, right?

Ally Duffey Cubilette: Yeah, totally. I think one of the things that was always most exciting to me about social media advertising was that opportunity for storytelling. You can reach people who have very particular interests and you can reach them with something that’s really dynamic. You can share video, you can share images, you can change the copy, you can respond in the moment to how those ads are resonating with people.

Dan Titmuss: And talk to me about Google.

Ally Duffey Cubilette: Yeah, Google.

Dan Titmuss: Heard of it?

Ally Duffey Cubilette: The behemoth. We have always recommended utilizing Google as a part of your digital advertising mix. So when it comes to search engine marketing, Google is the behemoth, as I said.

Dan Titmuss: Yeah. I think their market share was something like 93% in December.

Ally Duffey Cubilette: Exactly. So when it comes to search engine marketing, Google is the place to be because it is responsible for so much of that attention and where people are actually going to search. When it comes to the Google Display Network, the display network has historically reached 80% of users across the internet. So it is a very comprehensive placement as well and has a really low barrier to entry. And then when we think about YouTube, 83% of US adults said that they have used YouTube. And when we look at monthly active users too, which I think is a somewhat better measure of, okay, right now, what are people using regularly? YouTube always ranks within the top three, right in there with Facebook and Instagram. So if we’re talking about where we can reach the most people and reach them efficiently, Google is always a part of that conversation.

Dan Titmuss: Alright, so I can almost hear our listeners wondering, if Google and Meta are so effective, why fix what isn’t broken? Why do we need to diversify?

Ally Duffey Cubilette: There’s definitely still a really strong case for investing in Google and Meta, but so much is changing. We’ve been talking about all of these other channels. I know everybody’s thinking about all of these channels. Everybody’s asking, do I need to be on TikTok? And I think we have reached a moment of inflection where TikTok is proliferating at an incredibly rapid rate. Same with connected TV, streaming TV, digital radio… So I think it’s really worth having a conversation about what those channels and what those new opportunities are and whether or not they might be right for whatever campaign or initiative you are looking to promote.

Dan Titmuss: I think that’s especially true with TikTok because there was a study from Pew Research Center that said TikTok—in 2021, it had 21% of adults use TikTok, and then this year it was 33% of adults using TikTok in the US. So that one in particular feels like we have reached that, as you said, that inflection point.

Ally Duffey Cubilette: Exactly. TikTok really has that quality that we were talking about with Facebook and Instagram, that ability to share your message in a way that is really dynamic and is really aligned with the other kinds of content that people are seeing on that platform. And so that makes it more on par with those things. And I’ll say the demographics have definitely changed on TikTok. So people of different ages are on TikTok now, and older audiences are on TikTok now. And I say older and I cringe because as a Millennial I’m now quote unquote older.

Dan Titmuss: Isn’t that an awful feeling when you realize that? I know my dad is on TikTok a lot, like hours a day. Shout out to longtime listener of the pod David.

Ally Duffey Cubilette: So people in their thirties and forties who are actually buying things are on TikTok. And so some of that recommendation has certainly changed as a result of that.

Dan Titmuss: It’s also interesting to think about how Facebook and Instagram have more users, but there was a stat recently that came out that actually TikTok is capturing more time for its active users. You go down a rabbit hole. I got into a birding community where it was just showing crow content for me, but that’s how easy you go down the tangents on TikTok.

Ally Duffey Cubilette: Crow Talk. Yeah. So data has shown when you’re asking people about how long they’re spending on these different social apps, people who are on TikTok are spending a lot of time on TikTok, and so there’s a real opportunity there to reach people where they’re very engaged and where they’re spending a lot of their time.

Dan Titmuss: So there’s definitely a need for arts organizations to branch out beyond Google and Meta, but it sounds like there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. If I’m putting together my digital strategy for the upcoming season, what should I consider first?

Ally Duffey Cubilette: I think it’s important to think first about what your budget is because obviously we can’t do everything and be on five different channels with $2,000. So we need to scale our channels and our strategy to our budgets. And so starting there is going to be critical. Once you have your budget, the other very significant criteria or a thing that you’ll want to think about is what assets you’re going to have. Because when we’re thinking about TikTok in particular, that’s video, and you need vertical video in order to make an impact on that channel. So the next thing that you’ll want to consider is what are the channels that best align with your goals? If you’re promoting professional development services, maybe that’s LinkedIn. If you’re specifically interested in reaching younger audiences, you do TikTok. So I think while Meta and Google still serve that all-purpose role, some of these other channels can be particularly impactful when there is one of these specific types of objectives that we have for that campaign.

Dan Titmuss: Yeah. What are some other digital alternatives to traditional media?

Ally Duffey Cubilette: Yeah, that’s another thing that we are thinking about a lot now is the trends that we have seen in streaming TV and digital radio. These are channels that… they’re kind of digital. The way you buy them is very similar to the way that we have bought paid social or search through Google, for example. But they’re also more directly aligned with traditional media and TV. And so often the conversation that I’m having with clients is, if you’re interested in connected TV or streaming TV placements, what are you spending on traditional TV? And can we reallocate some of that budget instead? Same thing for radio, but the way you run those ads and the data that you get back is certainly more robust than those traditional media channels. Traditional radio is a little bit more scattered. You don’t have a lot of targeting capability. You also don’t know whether people are actually engaging with those ads that are being placed.

By contrast, digital radio gives you exact impressions and people have to listen to the thing. They don’t have a way around it. They can’t change the channel and not hear your ad. When you get an impression on digital radio, people are hearing it. The other thing that’s back to this idea of targeting very specific audiences, Spotify is getting a lot better and gotten a lot more sophisticated over the last couple of years in the ways that you can target interests. So I think particularly if you have a musical, a concert, that you could target on Spotify, a genre that you could target on Spotify, that’s another way to reach a very specific audience in a different way.

Dan Titmuss: Yeah. If you could wave a magic wand and have listeners do just one thing when they finish this podcast, other than go and rate it five stars, what would it be?

Ally Duffey Cubilette: I think it’d be to start experimenting. Think about what channels might be aligned to the productions you have upcoming or the campaigns you have upcoming, the goals and objectives you have set as an organization. Starting to experiment and invest in some of these other channels is going to give you a bit of exercise of actually doing that and getting out of the Google-Meta comfort zone, should you be in it as I am. The other thing that I think is going to be critical, a lot of these other placements that are potentially exciting to play in are video-based, and so if you have not invested in creating video sustainably and regularly for all of your campaigns, that’s definitely something to push. An underlining of the need for video assets going forward.

Dan Titmuss: And final question, how many thousands of dollars should we be spending on BeReal? That was just a joke. Ally, thanks again for walking us through this priority.

Ally Duffey Cubilette: Yeah, anytime.

Dan Titmuss: So there you have it, the first two areas to hone in on in 2024. Be on the lookout for our next episode where we’ll round out the list of priorities and offer more tips to set our industry up for success this year. And remember, the CI team is just a phone call or email away, so don’t hesitate to reach out if you’re stuck on any of these priorities. You can also visit our website at where you’ll find weekly blog posts that dive into each priority, plus a schedule of interactive livestreams so that you can chat with CI team members and get answers to your questions in real time. We’ve got more digital priorities on the horizon, so stay tuned.

Thank you for listening to CI to Eye. This episode was edited and produced by Karen McConarty and co-written by Karen McConarty and myself, Dan Titmuss. Stephanie Medina and Jess Berube are CI to Eye’s designers and video editors, and all work together to create CI’s digital content. Our music is by whoisuzo. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please take a moment to rate us or leave a review. A nice comment goes a long way in helping other people discover CI to Eye and hear from experts in the arts and beyond. If you didn’t enjoy today’s episode, pass it on to all of your enemies. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube for regular content to help you market smarter. You can also sign up for our newsletter at so you never miss an update. And if you haven’t already, please click the subscribe button wherever you get your podcasts. Until next time, stay nerdy.

About Our Guests
Alana Harper
Alana Harper
Senior Consultant, SEO

Alana Harper has worked in the cultural and nonprofit sectors for nearly 15 years, specializing in digital marketing, content and brand strategy, and digital experiences. Before joining Capacity Interactive, she served as a Senior Strategy Consultant at LaPlaca Cohen and the Digital Marketing Manager at Alvin Ailey. Alana began her career as an arts journalist in public radio.

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Ally Duffey Cubilette
Ally Duffey Cubilette
Principal Consultant, Capacity Interactive

Ally Duffey Cubilette joined Capacity Interactive after receiving an M.B.A. with a concentration in arts administration from the Bolz Center for Arts Administration at the Wisconsin School of Business. Before that, she worked in marketing and fundraising for non-profit performing arts organizations, including the Cunningham Dance Foundation, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Pilobolus, and Overture Center for the Arts.

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Yosaif Cohain
Yosaif Cohain
Vice President, Analytics

Yosaif Cohain leads the Analytics team at CI and intentionally spends most of my workday doing what he loves – the work! Yosaif is passionate about websites and their usability, and partners with clients to collect great data, analyze it in new ways, and take action on it. Prior to CI, he built data practices at Huge and AKQA – two global digital design agencies – and it was there that his passion for leveraging data for marketing and UX purposes was ignited.

Read more

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