003: A Growth Mindset for Marketing, Mentorship, Structured Data in SEO with Martha Van Berkel
Martha Van Berkel has never backed down from a challenge and wouldn’t know how to hit the brakes on a hairpin turn on a go-kart track. She is always wanting to move faster, solve clients’ problems better, add more value, and think bigger. This is why she created Schema App. Learn more about structured data and how her mentors helped guide her there as we dive deep into being open to feedback and opportunities with Martha.
Key Points + Topics
- [1:37] Martha grew up in Canada, moving every few years as her father worked for IBM. She went to college at Queen’s University where she got a degree in Applied Mathematics in the realm of engineering. She really wanted to maximize her opportunities while at university, so she was very active in engineering societies, intramural sports, and did some study abroad programs. Instead of going for her MBA later while working, she realized that was NOT necessary to be successful and instead attended training at MIT that was fair more specialized to her path. She had to figure out her “Why?”
- [12:50] What is a mentor? After attending a “CEO Camp” weekend, Martha left wondering if she had a current mentor in her life and, if so, what did that look like? This helped her to realize she had many mentors both then and throughout her life. Mentors are people who have been a champion for her or who have been courageous enough to give honest feedback. They’re giving the gift of feedback or shared learnings. Have a growth mindset and being open to learning from feedback is crucial to moving forward in your career and life.
- [17:05] Martha’s mentors at Cisco each played important roles at key decision points, forks in the road of life. After 4 years at Cisco, she wanted to transition from tech support to leadership and was offered a role in Belgium. Her mentor, who happened to be on assignment from Australia, shared his wisdom with her as one who worked abroad. He shared his concern that at her current level, she wouldn’t get the support she’d need in Belgium to really continue her momentum and convinced her that he would help her find another job if it would mean she stayed in San Jose. That new job was a role that was effectively created for her at Cisco which put her as an expert problem solver in front of Jim Click, who was a vice president at Cisco. He lit the entrepreneurial spirit and encouraged her to just keep asking questions and advocating for what she needed.
- [28:52] Martha makes a very concerted effort to mentor her team at Schema App. She regularly meets with people on her team and with others she’s identified as having great potential and going the extra step. That time can be spent answering questions about strategy, but it’s also about finding out what energizes and drains her team members. She’s now going to be implementing this company wide on a quarterly basis.
- [33:25] Martha is writing a chapter in the book: SEO in 2023, sponsored by Majestic. They reached out to thought leaders. Schema App just finished a blog post retrospective on the evolutions and learning in structured data in 2022. She’s going to be sharing ongoing themes and plans they use to work with their customers.
- [35:50] Schema markup can be seen in search results as a page with a 4 star ranking, or a recipe carousel, or an author byline. Schema markup is code that Google translates into rich search results. Schema App implements this markup page by page for clients. This is you deciding what IS a thing on your website. Is it a product? A real estate listing? An FAQ? You can learn more by creating an account on schemapp.com
- [42:05] Does Google really need schema? Martha gets asked this a lot. And ultimately it comes down to how much it would cost Google to do certain learnings. It’s often cheaper and faster to utilize those learnings and code already created by 3rd parties. Additionally, schema app helps give some of the control of the websites and data back to the companies and site owners. This helps bring some relational balance back into the very unbalanced world of SEO.
- [47:10] Top 3 Books (from the CEO part of Martha’s mind)
Guest + Episode Links
Danny Gavin 00:01
Hello everyone. I’m Danny Gavin, and I’m the host of the digital marketing mentor, most of the founder of Otage, and a marketing professor. And today we’re going to dive down deep into the world of mentorship and marketing with Martha van Berkel, cofounder and CEO of Schema app. Martha’s awesome. I met Martha at a conference years ago, and I was just so elated by her kindness and her willingness to talk and stay in touch. And she’s been amazing. It’s a little bit about Martha and Schema app, her company. Well schema is an end to end schema markup solution for SEO teams to stand out in search. I use it. I recommend it all the time. She’s also a structured data expert and remove. Most recently she’s contributing a chapter to David Bayne and Majestic’s book SEO in 2023 and I’m sure we’ll touch upon that a little bit later. But Martha, so glad to have you here. How are you?
Martha van Berkel 01:28
Thanks for having me. I’m delighted to be here and right back at you. Danny, with regards to, you know, you never know who you’re gonna meet at conferences and where those relationships might blossom, right? Like I think that’s going to be probably likely a theme as we talked through today show awesome i can’t agree more. All right, so let’s dive in. Let’s talk a little bit about your education and background. So where did you go to school? What did you study? And let’s start there.
Martha van Berkel 01:56
All right. I should probably, I was thinking through like, you know, like you have some hard questions for me today where you’re like how, you know, what contributed to where you’re at today and where you’re going and decisions you made. I, before I went to university, I did live like I moved every three years because my dad worked for IBM and, you know, he, as he got promoted, we moved cities. So in Canada we have provinces instead of states. So I lived in like 4 different provinces. I moved every three years. And so I think that did build resilience in me. And sort of not being afraid to move. So I grew up in Vancouver, but I went to university in Ontario at a school called Queens University, and I studied applied Math, which is math and engineering, and I did it because I thought mechanical engineering would be too boring. I don’t believe things, but it was fun and that adventure like I I’m a big believer in like maximizing those opportunities. So at university I was really involved in our engineering society. I played intramural sports. I went on exchange to Scotland and my third year and played varsity field hockey because that was something I was passionate about. You know, i asked to break all the rules in my degree. So my thesis was with was in mechanical engineering so I could work with a remote team in Turkey and they’ve now made a rule that you can’t get an applied math. Free without doing a thesis in math. And I think it’s the Martha rule because I broke them all. So that’s where I went to school. I did later go to MIT and study innovation and strategy and that was that was actually instead of doing an MBA which has its whole story to itself.
Danny Gavin 03:32
Well, let’s talk about that because I know that, you know, some people, especially nowadays, you know, we’re like getting recession, you know, is it a good time for an MBA, is it not, what like, what’s your opinion on an NBA?
Martha van Berkel 03:42
Oh man, so you’re going to go there? So i originally really wanted to do an MBA and this was probably in about like 2008 2009 so I graduated in 2000 size by 8 or 9 years into my career at Cisco. So i grew up at the large tech company based out of San Francisco. I moved to the valley right before the big tech bus and while I was there like I really i had a dream of becoming a general manager or so I wanted to work for a big company and basically run a whole department not so different from what I do now but that’s like that’s inside right and so part of that it was. Like, oh, there’s things I just don’t know, right? There’s things I necessarily can’t learn on the ground, things like accounting and finance, where, like accounting is kind of backwards once you learn how they do it and so forth. And so I was like, I really should do an MBA. And it was actually working with a coach that was like, well, why? Like, why do you want to do an MBA? And I. And as I dissected that, I figured out that the reason I wanted to do an MBA was because I held a belief that to be successful, I had to have an MBA. And I figured out that belief came as a result of my parents like holding that belief. And then I just adopted it. And so I sort of had this blocker that I couldn’t be successful until them did it MBA. But when it but when I actually really recognized it, like I identified those things. I wanted to learn the things I was going to have to give up in my personal life. And I did a lot of volunteer work at this time of my life where I was running like a kids running program where we were mentoring girls and played a 10K to help them. Believe anything is possible. I was like, I’m not willing to give that really important piece up. To do my MBA and it’s a time thing. And so then it was like well, can I bash the belief that I can’t be successful without the NBA? And so I chose I to bash that belief. And I and Cisco was quite happy because they don’t have to pay for it at this point. And so I asked them for two things. I said but I’d like to go to MIT and I’ll pay for all my travel if you pay for the course to do innovation strategy because that’s what I did for Cisco at the time. And I was like, I think this is really relevant. I think it’s going. And I wanted the MIT name on my resume. I wanted to be able to mark it with that. And then the second thing I was, and I want a job where I get the opportunity to lead a broader team and manage a budget so I can get into the finances. And I got both. So my learning from it was like really ask yourself why on a lot of these things and then. You can sometimes break it down and get the better outcome, right? So then I got the opportunity, I got the real world experience doing it with mentors and people coaching me because it was like their success was tied to my success because I was like in the job and I got this really relevant life experience that MIT that was like way more time manageable so I could continue to do the volunteer work. That was really important to me.
Danny Gavin 06:33
Yeah, that’s fascinating and like that’s sort of like that construct that we build. I have a similar scenario where you know actually went ahead and got that MBA, but to me success was getting that you know ticket of yeah, you’re supposed to get a 6 figure salary and a big corporation. And this was like in two thousand nine ten when it was like the that recession or you know downturn that never happened for me and obviously my path after that you know was successful but you know I built that up, you know no one says you know. And you go get in a bit, you have to do that. But to me, I created that and when I was able to like rechange my expectations or what success meant, you know, then I’ll be happy.
Martha van Berkel 07:14
I love that. So the what 6. What does success mean? That was the question I asked myself on graduation from engineering. Because when I graduated, I was like, oh, I should get an engineering job, right? Like, I’ve just spent four years doing this super hard degree. Like, I should apply it, right? But again, who should? Like, where’s that should coming from? And I got a job offer and I actually asked myself the question of if I were to visualize me being successful, what does that look like? Like, literally, what does that look like? And like I was only, what, 22 at the time. So like my answer here is a little superficial but just go with me on it, right? Because at that time it was important, right? And I was like well, success for me specifically looks like I’m wearing a suit, I’m traveling, I’ve got my like laptop bag and I’m like and something that’s super fast-paced and I’m learning all the time. And again, like, you know, I don’t like to travel anymore because I did that and it was like takes a lot of time out of your life. But what was so interesting is it did serve me though as a filter to then say. Is this going to can I see myself doing this job and having some of these experiences that right now is my definition of success? And it allowed me to say no to some jobs that if I had just followed the like, oh, I should get an engineering degree, I should do these things, then I would have taken that job in this small town designing bone plates because I thought that I should do that because my degree was I did bio mechanics and I like understand math of stress and strain. Or instead I took a job at Cisco where I had the opportunity then to work for a global company. Constantly learn to find my new job and I actually moved to California to do it. So the adventure part, the things that like I was able through success to define as to what would fulfill me came out of that.
Danny Gavin 09:01
And I feel like your background of just moving around all the place, I’m sure it must have been hard at the time, the man, I’m sure you developed the skin and also like, looked for opportunities like, wow, I grew up in this household, you know, where my dad’s moving around and, you know, for opportunities for different things and like, that became the norm, right, so that it meant that, like, that wasn’t a risk to me, right? Like, oh, I’m gonna go live in Scotland for a year and like have to live in a brand new city that I’ve never known and make new friends and, you know, joining new field hockey team. Like all good, right? I’m going to move to California when I’m 22 and like land and, you know, join a new company and be in a new country because, you know, Canada and the US are still have their differences. Yeah, it was like bringing up that sounds fun.
Danny Gavin 09:44
So I know this is not a parental podcast, but you know, I think nowadays parents are kind of like, you know. Want to protect our kids so much, but it’s, you know, putting them through some of these situations which you know, are a little bit more difficult. It really prepares them for later on, you know?
Martha van Berkel 10:02
I’m a big believer that there’s good that came out of COVID because it forced us to be resilient. It forced our kids to learn how to adapt, right. Like they had to come to school at home. Ok now they’re going back. Now there’s these requirements and these new rules that I have to like see what I’m comfortable with, be able to advocate for myself, all those things. So you know, like much as you know, we look back at those years of our lives, right. And how hard it was. I do think it’s. It has built resilience into our kids in a new way that I that I don’t think we’ll see for years to come. But I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful that like if we you know if they had an environment where they’re supportive and they got answers and they figured those out that those will come back as muscles for them so that they can they can use that. When they’re you know have adversity when they have change when they have things they don’t like that they can they can find their voice and they can navigate that. Yeah so i’m i’m hopeful of that yeah i hope is important, but also just having a positive outlook, right? Because everything in life, we have the good and the bad and there’s always ways to look at it in different ways. And I think looking at even situations which are really rough, right? But looking at the positive side, that helps us all grow and just get better in life and move forward.
Martha van Berkel 11:25
Well, and like mentoring is like some of that whole piece that you’re looking at and I do think that like feedback is one of these things, right. Like anytime you get given feedback and I have like lots of examples so I’m happy to share stories. Is that like you know it’s either an opportunity for you to sit and victim energy to be like this person doesn’t like me. They’re trying to push me down, you know? Or it’s like man, if I can sit in a neutral position and just hear them and understand, you know what they’re what they’re. What they’re telling me and ask myself that if there’s a lesson from it. So our company would call this growth mindset, right, that in every opportunity, even if something failed, even if you did something really bad, there’s if you’re sitting in an opportunity to learn from it, then that’s good, right. You know, I would sometimes say like oh, that was a really good first attempt and we failed, right. But would we learn from it? And if we can get any learning, that’s good. And so I think, you know, anytime like that feedback cycle, which with mentors or friends or family or colleagues. Like they all have an opportunity to be a mentor if you’re open and willing to take that feedback and that sort of plays to like where you sitting, right? Are you, are you sitting in a piece of a growth mindset is sort of the words we use at schema app. But like that’s imperative to kind of make that a learning moment versus a diminishing moment is maybe the word I would use.
Danny Gavin 12:48
And a culture which allows mistakes or growth moments is huge. And that’s what people are looking for. And that’s a really great segue into getting deeper into the world of mentorship O. How would you define a mentor from Martha’s perspective?
Martha van Berkel 13:06
Oh man, this. I think this is a hard question because I. I’m going to divert us, sorry to and then I’ll answer. So I was i went to CEO camp this past September and so I don’t know if they do camp and where you’re from but in Canada in summers our kids go to summer camp and they stay overnight and they have these. Often great experiences or these experiences of independence where they get to learn and experience new things and I had the amazing opportunity to join 40 other CEO’s of scale up companies in our region and we went to camp like we went and we like stayed in bunks. We had to do songs to earn our lunches and or dinners. And it was so interesting because the reason I you asked that is that I left that camp weekend with lots of learnings. But one of the things I wrote on my book was a mentor. Question Mark Circle and the reason was as I was questioning whether I have a mentor today. You know should I have a mentor today and what might that look like for me. And it made me reflect on like well what is a mentor and who are, you know who have been my mentors and they’re often people that I really think of as mentors in my career are people who’ve been a champion in some sort of way for me and have been courageous enough to give me feedback or to open doors. For me. And I say courageous and also because like they’re giving you the gift of time and they’re also giving you the gift of open and honest feedback or I’ll say shared learnings and that can be very many that can show up in different ways, right. So I would, I would argue my father today is a mentor for me because he spent, you know, many years in sales at IBM and so and I, you know, I run sales now at our company. And so it’s like Dad like I know, you know, help me understand how you would manage this. Situation or I’m thinking of doing this, what do you think the impact was? And he can, you know, again courageously share his experiences or you know, ask me quite qualifying questions. And then I’ve had other mentors who are peers of mine now where, you know, they ask me the hard questions and share their experiences. But they’re in a similar role that I am in today. And so less of a sort of like they’re more senior than me or older than me. And then I would say even early in my career, a lot of times it was my boss or my boss’s boss. Or women. I couple really cool women leaders who kind of just was like, oh, she’s going somewhere and I want to help her remove some barriers and sort of help her thrive. And they just raised their hand and said I want to help. So it really depends.
Danny Gavin 15:47
Yeah, when you mentioned camp. Oi actually went to summer camp in Montreal, Canada like 2 hours north totally so i love Canada camp and have a lot of wonderful memories. Just everything. The French Canadian, the summer is the beautiful clouds in the sky over the lake like so I totally relate. So the fact that you could go back there now like it’s a dream. I would love that.
Martha van Berkel 16:15
Oh my gosh, awesome. I love this. There has been talk of schema camp, so I’ll just lay that out that like right before the pandemic, I was actually going to run her for a schema camp. So thank you for receding. That Danny.
Danny Gavin 16:28
Yes, please put me as number one on that list because I’ll be there. It’s amazing how like you left this retreat. Which technically was kind of like a retreat of peers. And, like, the question you had is, ooh, do I need a mentor? And then you’ve enveloped. Ok, like, man, I’ve got lots of mentors in my life. And there’s different types, right? Just my dad is my bosses, there’s my coworkers. And really, you know. For someone. You know, I think even before we were talking about like I don’t know how much of a meant, you know how many mentors I have, right. I’m more of like on the mentorship side, but really like it’s amazing. But you have such a like a circle around you of different places to go and to pull from. I’d love to go a little bit deeper into some of those. You know, you spoke to me about like Anna and Denby and Jim and these were all people in your Cisco time where they really helped you like move and grow in that organization do you have any like stories or anything specific regarding?
Martha van Berkel 17:31
Those individuals, many stories. Well and this is so like outlets frame it right because yeah so this was like I spent 14 years at Cisco so I graduated from engineering actually an like the a friend of mine who was a year ahead had moved to California to join Cisco. All my all my friends and peers at school went to Jordan Nortel we know how that happened so I moved to California and so those three people are all executives at Cisco at the time and each of them played a really important role. And I’ll say a decision points and I see these as really important times of your life because you know, it’s sort of like, you know, it’s a decision point, but then you know, four years down the road you’re like, you know, like they can kind of really go in divergent ways. And you know, Denby played a role where I really needed a change. I was four years after I started Technical Support for Cisco. In early days of voice over IP and i was team lead and I was more of a people person. I was like, I think I want to lead more than I want to be a technical expert. And so there’s some good and then I didn’t know what my next role was going to be. And a past manager who is someone that had stayed in touch with, you’ll see a theme of this. She was like, oh, I have a job in Belgium. And again, I like adventures. That’s sort of like part of. And it was working with IBM. So again, I had like a family history there. I worked there in my summers. Do I want to move to Belgium? And you know the 24 or five year old me was like yeah it’s gonna be awesome. It’s gonna be great adventure and Denby was a director in the Technical Support organization and he actually was on assignment from Australia. So he sort of knew a thing or two about working internationally and you know he was at a different stage of his life but he kind of understood the complexities of it and he actually took me aside and he was like I want to go for a walk and this is someone like I knew like he sort of like he knew he was sort of like part of my I sort of led the team leads globally. So he knew me like well, OK, but not super well, like, I wouldn’t consider him like a direct mentor, but he was like, I have some wisdom I need to pass on to you. And what he said was he was like, you know, international work is amazing and super fun if supported in the right way. And he said, I’m concerned that at your level they’re going to send you to Belgium, you’re going to have a ton of fun, but you’re going to get stuck there. And he said, you have a lot of potential at this company, and you’re right now in headquarters in San Jose. And he said, I know you’re not going to want to hear this, but I don’t think you should take this job. And I was like, but this is like, I want a new job. He’s like, I will help you find a different job for you to stay in San Jose. He felt so passionately about that he was like, I’ll help you find another job. And he did. So I didn’t move to Belgium, I stayed at headquarters. And this is actually where Jim click comes in, who is I consider I’ll say one of my champions and one of my mentors and what I didn’t what I knew but I didn’t know there. And now I look back on it is Jim was an entrepreneur before he joined Cisco and I was doing a role. I was basically like they created a role for me but it wasn’t a real role. But they were like trying to keep me in the organization and I was exploring this legal issue that I won’t bore everyone with and I basically had got. You know, like everyone at Cisco that had to do with this issue, I just like kept calling people and like following down the rabbit hole. And again, like I was really young and had No title. Like I just was like, I’m going to solve this problem and this is like one of those things. Like I could have taken that as like, oh, I don’t have a real project, but instead I was like, what am I going to learn? Like, I’m going to learn how to do project management. I’m going to learn everything I know about this. It’s called export controls. Like I’m going to know everything about it. And then worst case, like I just hand this off to someone and I go do something else. But like I’m going to have some fun. And I’m going to just like make this into what I can make it, right growth mindset, right. So that was and what happened was is that Cisco got called at the very senior level on this issue that I was now the expert on. And the only reason as an expert, was because I took this opportunity for fun. And I had to. I basically got called into a vice president’s office. And I’m again, I’m young, right? Like I’m like 2425 I don’t know anything. But all I knew was like, they were like, Martha, what do you know about this? And I was like, oh, here’s my project plan. Here’s all the people you need to pull into the room. This is where our biggest exposure is, and this is what we need to do in the next 60 days in order to get this solved. And I pulled all the people into the room. I directed everyone and what they needed to do. And it got done. And my vice president looked like a hero. And then he’s like, I’m going to have you take on my next biggest project, which was a three to five year strategy on how to automate support for Cisco. And he championing me and mentored me. I had like no idea how to do strategy. I had no idea like how to work with these senior directors, like in identifying what the themes were in order for us to then put together a budget, a team. Pitch it to executives to get funding and then build a team. But guess what? He saw the entrepreneurial spirit in me. That he was willing then to coach me and mentor me on how to walk. Like I had to stand in front of 10 executives on a monthly basis and just get like you think of, I don’t know, you guys have Shark Tank in the US like Dragons den Canada, but he like coached me on like, you know. Under, you know, like under promise over deliver right was one of the things that I like. I still like think of that coaching right or, you know Martha like. Prove like you like, stand there with confidence and answer with the information you have. But like, stand tall like, they don’t know what you don’t know right. And the reason I share this story, Danny is like that mentoring opportunity. So like, yeah, I made him look good, like. I got the opportunity and the support then to build this organization within Cisco that ended up being over 200 people. Manage a budget. Oh wait, those are all the things I want to do. And grow and learn, remember. Yes, right. But it wasn’t just because, like, it’s opera. Like it’s about you have to do the hard work and then those mentors will also show up because they want you to be successful. Because your success is their success, right? And what he what I didn’t know then, that I know now, is that he lit up this entrepreneurial spirit in me. That like I’m now the CEO of a company I cofounded right. Holy smokes. Like thank you Jim and I have told him thank you and Denby and others like but like these are like pivotal moments where I get but I like I really do believe like you have to be sitting in that energy of opportunistic of like you know if I had that in the energy and I’m sure I had lots of moments of doubt like during this period. I just I’ve chosen not to remember them as much now but like. I just kept asking like, great, like, what do I need to get done? Like, what do I need to learn? Like, how do I figure this out? Who can I work with? Like, I just kept asking the questions of an Arctic, you know, advocating for what I needed, and those people just kept showing up. I mean.
Danny Gavin 24:43
No, it’s so helpful. The problem is that so many ideas, so many create like so many Nuggets of wisdom. I mean, first of all, the concept of jumping for opportunities, it’s so important because I feel most people are like in the mediocre space in the world, right? I have a job description, I get it done, and then I’m good. However, people don’t realize that if you just go a little bit higher, you do more than what’s asked of you look for those opportunities. That’s when you see the success, whether you’re in college and like just studying or you’re in a workplace, in an internship, anything but. The problem is like, it’s sort of like we’re giving people the secret here, but people don’t jump at it right they actually do it well. Yeah, well, and to be honest, I like, I did apply for other jobs as this go, but my career 14 years, right, I didn’t apply for one. Job I created, or like a champion of mine or a mentor of mine created a job for me to go to. And like. So part of it is like if you sit in your passion right? Like if you sit in doing the things you love to do and you ask for permission. Like a lot of the things I did was on my extra time too. Like my other favorite as like I basically anything. I was a pilot was basically my permission to break all the rules and then like ask for permission later I piloted with AT and T an open API to all their service data. It was all public information, right? I was like, there’s no, but like they want AT and T really wanted. It was going to like unlock their ability to spend tons more money with Cisco. No one wanted to do it because I was going to break it into rule. I bought in. My boss bought in. We’re like, we’re just going to do it. And we have AT and T like tell them it’s the best thing we’ve ever done. And they did that. Got in all kinds of trouble. My hands slapped. But it was like, but like there was the team was so energized. Like no one was going to stop us from doing this because it was like the right thing for the customer. It like played all around like it wasn’t bringing legal rules like. Wasn’t it was just value creation. And everyone said we couldn’t do it and we did it and we did it with like 6 different organizations who like didn’t need to work together but decided to work together. And like those are the moments I remember right. Like I don’t remember doing the job that was mundane. Like I did the job that was mundane because I had then like once I did that quickly, I could go and do these other things. And that’s actually like I think what where I grew the most, where my peers grew the most. You know, and where frankly like champions popped up because they also were sort of they caught on to the passion, right? They caught on to that energy.
Danny Gavin 27:16
Yeah, it’s so cool because I like, I’m envisioning being there like in that, you know, sometimes people envision like a corporate world like kind of rough, but it sounds like man, you were just like breaking open doors and having a great time and.
Martha van Berkel 27:30
It was. I ended up leaving because I kept I started getting in trouble because there was like a little you know like there I needed to, I like, I wanted to change and move faster and that’s actually why I you know why I ended up becoming an entrepreneur in the end was because it’s like well. What if, you know, what if we can, what if we can move faster? What if we just like make the decision and go and what if we can then create something that allows our customers to like do that as well, like, which is sort of, you know, what we really attempt to do in a really complex area of SEO is just like make you know, feel that energy, right? Like can we get that energy and speed and agility that so many large organizations or even smaller organizations are challenged with. So that was sort of, yeah, I’ll say like what was a stress point? In my last role that I we tried to, you know, eventually because it doesn’t happen overnight like has turned into like part of our why of like what we what we do today. And you know all that because I got, you know, someone. Because Denby took me aside and told me not to move to Belgium.
Danny Gavin 28:37
So having these people like Debbie and Jim in your life and like there’s two ways of looking at like corporate people like they want to look good, so they’re going to make sure they look good. But on the other hand like going out of their way and actually mentoring and actually giving advice and changing people’s lives. Like it tells a lot to like those corporate people. Like hey, you should be doing that and look what you can accomplish just outside. So I’m saying now that you are kind of like obviously your business is not necessarily a corporate. Smith but, you know, do you, do you look back at those people and then situations that you’re in now and try to find those areas with people in your company where you’re the mentor and you’re providing that mentorship?
Martha van Berkel 29:20
Absolutely and I think it’s like anybody who has a big heart, right? Like I don’t think it matters what type of organization you’re in, but if you. If you really believe that like you have an opportunity to help someone grow and that they’re open to it right like really like that’s so important and that’s like in a hive had through our conversation. So thank you and Danny is i think that can show up anywhere and so in the in our organization now you know it’s interesting because like I have my direct team right who is accountable to me so totally so I run in the business I am the CEO but I like sales marketing, CS directly reports into me and then my cofounder. Star CEO he runs like product operations and in finance and so that’s sort of like how we divide and conquer to get things done but we also like I get the chance to do skip levels so anyone who I see as a high potential. So people who are delivering or going above and beyond I spend extra time with and part of that is sometimes to answer questions around why like if they want to dig deeper into sort of. Why we’re doing a certain strategy or so forth. And then it’s also time for me to understand really what energizes them and what drains them. And actually another great takeaway from my CEO camp was one of the speakers, who runs a bit of a larger organization than US said that he’s just over 100 employees and he’s like, I call every one of my employees once a. Quarter i was like, that’s a lot of people. And he’s like, yeah, but you know what? I connect with them. And I learned things about how I can make their lives better and what, like, the organization can do better by just setting that time aside and being open to listening. And so that’s like, while I’ve done skip levels with our high potentials, Now I’m actually going to do a skip level with the whole company. So we’re about 30 people. And so once a quarter, I will now have 30 minutes with everyone and that the questions are the same. What’s energizing you? What’s draining you? What do I need to know? What do I need to hear? And I see that as reverse mentoring. So I see that as an opportunity for the employees. Should they have the confidence and should they, you know, trust that I’m sitting in growth mindset, they get to tell me what needs to change or what is working and to me that’s. I’m super jazzed about those sessions. So i learn a lot from the ones I do today and i’m looking forward to the reverse mentoring that I can get from the employee and i think this is one that. Like the right person wants to hear your opinion and the right person wants to hear how they can do better and how the company can improve. And I think I maybe got lucky that, you know, I found those people at Cisco that like cared about their company and their results and so forth. And so they wanted to hear my opinion on it and I had to be you know, data-driven have examples like be prepared. But i see that as sort of like a cool way for any organization, any leader even. To kind of push it around right and listen.
Danny Gavin 32:37
I’m so excited that you’re implementing the ones with everyone in the company. I’m a huge believer, you know, sometimes. You know, as CEOs we create all these levels because, you know, we need to get out of the company, not in the company, but you know, getting rid of those personal relationships and like you said, like being on the ground floor and talking to people. There’s nothing that can equate. So even if it’s like. You know, we have lots of priorities, the CEOs, but you know what, push something else aside to make that happen. And I, yeah, I can’t stress that more. So that’s so cool that was one of the big takeaways and that you’re something you’re looking to implement now yeah and I think it’s easier in an in person environment. Like when everyone was in the office, it was very natural. I could just pop by someone’s desk or I could walk to lunch with them or offer to buy them a coffee. In the virtual world, I think we have to be more intentional about it. And so and so that’s what that’s what I’m doing wonderful another I would say mentoring aspect with you is the fact that you’re writing a charter for this book. So in 2023 why do I call it mentoring? Because I mean you’re basically taking this knowledge and you’re sharing it with others and showing them how to be better specifically when it comes, I assume to schema. So would love to let’s talk about the book a little bit in your involvement sure so, Umm, so sponsored by Majestic and they sort of reach out to thought leaders and experts. So I wrote in last year’s book as well. And you know, I’m just excited one two i still have moments where I’m like I’m an expert skier, Margo. Like people want to learn from me, so they’re don’t.
Danny Gavin 34:16
I’m sorry to tell you, Martha, but you are.
Martha van Berkel 34:18
Yes, yeah. So it’s, you know, and this is again where, you know, things I didn’t think that would happen in my life, but that have happened as a result of sort of. Company we’ve built and sort of the need to sort of teach and grow the organization like the world is knowledge about this, right. And so the book is really about a lot of our learnings and I’m happy to share. We also just kind of captured kind of a big kind of retrospective on 2022 and structured data on our blog. So I’m happy to share that link with you as well. But the chapter in the book really talks about like thinking about your schema markup strategy like a financial portfolio and really sort of how do you really think about diversification. How do you think about making sure that you’re being planful? How do you work as a team sort of across your organization, so content IT and so forth. And I’m just excited to kind of share some of what we see as I’ll say like ongoing themes as we work with our customers and then share I’ll say like on a more high level like what that approach looks like and how you can use that approach to better get results for your marketing team?
Danny Gavin 35:26
Awesome i can’t wait to read it. And The funny thing about schema markup is especially like when I’m teaching people about it the first time, you know, it doesn’t come up as like ooh like a big part of SEO and a lot of people and they find out about like, this is so cool. I love it. So it’s just, it’s interesting how it’s like an aspect of SEO. Sometimes it doesn’t get enough play. But like what I think what you’re opening up to people is no, like this is a whole thing on its own. And if you really dive deep into it, you can see a lot of amazing results. So why don’t we quickly for those people who don’t know what schema. Markup is how can we best explain schema for them?
Martha van Berkel 36:03
Yeah so I always like to start with the outcome because that’s like, well, what are, what are you going to see different? So when you do a Google search and you see extra information in the search results like stars or FAQ or price information or a big video image or sometimes even carousels of recipes, those are enabled when that website has code called Schema markup or structured data on the website that Google reads and then rewards that extra result in search and so. Schema markup is code basically that’s translating the website content into this vocabulary and that’s what we do at Schema app. So we basically specialize in only sort of producing that code either page by page through our do yourself tools or at scale and you know with our enterprise solution so you know it’s we do all day every day and it’s fun because it’s a part of SCO where you can ask yourself like what is this page talking about like what is this thing is in essence like the philosophical question. Which I think is really fun in marketing because this comes into all the things, right. Like well, what was my intention? Who is the audience? What is the main things I’m trying to articulate in this page? And now do I do that in a comprehensive way? Am I connecting it to other related things, you know versus fit into the overall customer journey and you know how do I want to have that birth interaction with this piece of content show up in the SERP and so that’s sort of why marketers do it. Why SEO’s do it is really to stand out in search and you can what. So it was cool it is that it is a really measurable part of SEO in that Google Search Console allows you to actually measure how many clicks impressions and clicks rate you get from that additional kind of you know enriched result or what they call rich results. So yeah so that’s what it is it but it is a little complex but if you if you want to learn more like we have a ton of learning resources and my hope Danny is that we have more this coming year. Can we can we sort of empower the market to really understand what schema markup is and how they can use it to drive results?
Danny Gavin 38:07
In my teaching, I feel like you gave me a cheat code some. We learn about schema and we learn about the markup and Jason and different things like that. Obviously beginners wanting to Oh well, how can I do this on my website, right? And I’m like, well, you just got to create an account on schemat.com You’ll be able to do it. You know it. So thank you for the cheat code.
Martha van Berkel 38:26
You’re very welcome anytime.
Danny Gavin 38:29
So what what’s your favorite approach or element of structured markup? You know, when it comes to marketing, is there a certain part of it or a certain class?
Martha van Berkel 38:39
Our purpose of our company is to do make meaningful connections and to be understood and that means with people, right. That means that our content. And so I think the coolest part about the structured data is that it allows like true understanding of the content and allows you to be very particular and basically describe anything and so when you’re asking I was like well kind of like multi type entities where like. Ok, now this is super nerdy, but it’s like where like one class might not explain what you are. So if you’re a house for sale, like just saying you’re a house doesn’t really explain you, just saying you’re a product doesn’t really explain you. But if you combine the two of them, like you can really truly be understood because it allows you to have a price that allows you to have like a, you know, a number of bedrooms, like size of footprints. So i like that it comes down to people understanding which is, which is kind of my why.
Danny Gavin 39:40
It brings me back to memories of while I was studying my MBA and my focus was marketing. So I typically, you know, people say OK, do all the marketing courses. But to me it was like, I don’t want to just take a marketing courses one course that I think are going to make a difference right? So I took a course on database design like relationship databases. To me it felt like it was in the MIS department and like, you know, I was like one guy with all these Ms. Students, but it changed like my life in just how. Understanding things. So when you talk about like relationships, it’s like it to me it’s like, ooh, I didn’t like put the two and two together. But really the just the similar to databases where we keep information in certain places and we relate them like I didn’t think of schema as being like a in a way like a database, right?
Martha van Berkel 40:29
Absolutely Yeah. So like when we recently had a conversation with one of our very large companies and we’re like when you put your schema on your website, so it’s actually like really important that the schema. Lives on your website and you own that data. And this is like, again, one of our tenants is that like, you own that data, is that like, it’s actually like defining your content? Right and like all those bucket like your web page that describes this as holding, like the schema is holding that like structured data of what that website is about, right. And then when you connect it appropriately like you’re actually describing your company, your brand, like your content. So yeah, that’s now we’re getting very philosophical on this day. But like that’s actually like you know, we are a semantic technology company, which is like how all things are connected and your knowledge graph when we talk. When I use that word, I’m talking about not the knowledge graph and. The panel shows up in Google but like what is how is your data connected in a meaningful way that explains exactly what you do and who you are so you can be of service to your customers and yeah that’s those are you know those are those are sort of like what has come out of all that learning from that journey through Cisco and my MBA my school is that like that you know that these things matter and explaining that why matters and that there’s you know there’s goodness that comes from helping. Others, right?
Danny Gavin 41:51
Totally O. If you think about it like that’s the underlying. Reason, right? It’s sort of like we’re making it easier for Google to understand what the site is so that we can actually help people get what they need.
Martha van Berkel 42:03
Yeah, which is silly.
Danny Gavin 42:04
Which is amazing. There’s a question that a lot of people ask me. What specifically when we’re talking about schema? and. The question is. Does Google really need it? Like does Google really need the schema? Like does it really make a difference? I understand it makes it easier for them, but. Like is there a point where like Google won’t need it anymore or? I don’t know. Have you, have you thought about that? Like, do people ask you?
Martha van Berkel 42:34
That yeah I get. I get asked a lot and you know it’s interesting because i think of this like we often just need to step back and say like well what does it cost Google to do different things right. And you know in the Ryan Levering podcast that came out in April from Google where there’s sites called structured data. What’s it all about? I have my version of the summary on our website so if you if you go to our blog you’ll see it there. But it’s you know he talked about like you either do all the hard machine learning work which is very resource intensive right? And then sort of use structured data to enhance it or you start with the easy reader of the structured data and then just invest a little bit to do the machine learning and the inferencing and so in the podcast he really talks about like how those things really work hand in hand. And so I think that you know while the machine learning, you know there’s lots of conversation about open AI and GT and everything right now. But it’s like you know what are the jobs to be done and sort of where should you invest that extra money? Well, they like that. They also say that like it’s good to have some. Give the website owner some control, right, because there are then more likely to participate, which is important, right. And then also the resource piece. So I I’m not concerned about it going away and that like you know, it helps Google and it like makes it less resource intensive which is and it gives us control and so meaning like it balances out a little bit of the imbalance and control like within the SEO world. So i don’t stress about it. I think there it makes a lot of sense when you think about. Sort of like resources to invest in order to get to answers. Like if we’re going to give you that data, why would you do the hard work to figure it out on your own, right? Like why and it balances out the relationship. So that’s my take on it. It’s a really, I encourage it’s three minute podcast. I really encourage people to listen to it. It’s if you’re interested at all in structured data, they do a good job explaining it. Martins also on it like it’s a, it’s a good half hour.
Danny Gavin 44:32
And i love your point about control. Like there’s so much when it comes to SEO that we we’re not in control of. So whatever Google can give to us where we do have some control, like that’s awesome, right. And we’re going to hold on to that and it helps them right because. You know, like you said, we’re moving down a path of more AI, but I still think at every point there still needs to be that human involved. At some point. You know, I was just talking to one of my. Colleagues, you just about testing like ad copy, you know using the new open you know yeah chat and the bottom line is like. You know maybe one day it will be perfected but you know the idea is that they get are great starter points but you usually you know 99 % of the time you have to take that into finesse it. So just tying it back to schema. It’s a similar concept where men yes a I can do a lot but if we can if we have the power to mold. And you know, really say what our organization is, what are, what are our services, what is the building blocks of what we do. That’s very powerful and hopefully it stays that way.
Martha van Berkel 45:46
Yeah, i’m excited how like schema should play more of a role with content teams and you know, it’s sort of like broadening who in marketing actually needs to know about it. So it’s like I spoke at SMX next and that was a lot of what I talked about is like how like as he was a team sport where i see content teams. Being playing a more important role, especially with this past year with all the helpful content updates, like I think it’s them, it’s supporting the fact that it’s a team sport, right? So it’s not just something you can do on your own. It really is sort of working cross functionally with those with those different group.
Danny Gavin 46:19
And a quick tip, just that you told me so I’m not taking credit for this at all, but you told me this a while ago. A good example guys, is if you have like A blog post, it covers a lot of questions and answers. A really great thing that you can do is either you could, you know, mark up the subheadings as questions, or you could actually at the bottom of that article go in and summarize like the top questions and answers that were covered. So now instead of just a regular blog post, you’ve actually added this FAQ schema that when now when it shows up in Google. You have extra, you know, extra goodies for Google to use and hopefully further accentuates your content and your listings over someone else’s Little things like that like can make a huge difference, and I think that’s a cool tip that you gave me Martha, but it’s nice to share with.
Martha van Berkel 47:05
Our that was in the book this year.
Danny Gavin 47:07
Oh, wonderful great. At least you know I’ve been listening right so amazing. Thank you cool well, before we close U, I’d love to know what are the top three books that you recommend to our listeners.
Martha van Berkel 47:23
Oh man. And I have to frame this by like this is CEO brain Martha, right? So not structured data brain Martha. But there’s three that come to mind. One is called tools of the Titan. And this one’s great because it’s it covers lots of different topics about leadership, about health. And I like it because it’s one of those like almost like choose your own adventure. Like you can just read a chapters like 3 or 4 pages and it’s just wicked awesome hard things about the hard things. So if you’re a leader. It’s just an awesome book that gives you perspective from a really seasoned CEO about everything from promoting people, hiring friends, firing people, you name it. And the other is like a really a book that actually my husband found out about it during his NBA. How about that? Here we go, tie it all together called you squared and it’s price Pritchett. And this is really about like high velocity formula for multiplying your personal effectiveness in quantum leaps. And it’s super short, but it really challenges you to say. Like, what’s that quantum leap? What’s that next thing that you just like, are so passionate about? And how do you basically make that happen?
Danny Gavin 48:32
So talk about next thing, what’s 2023 looking like for you?
Martha van Berkel 48:38
I feel like I have a lot of like learning and growing to do this year as a leader specifically like wearing my sales and marketing hat. So I i’m really I’m really excited to kind of weekly reflect on like what I learned what I’m going to do differently, how do I sort of really kind of empower that team scale that team. So that’s something that I’m really excited about and you know we’re going into you know recession you’re a harder year so I think it’s a it’s a good time to learn. I think it’s a new season for me sort of in my leadership. And I often joke like every time we hire a new person, it’s like well I’ve never been the CEO of a 30 person company. I’ve never been the CEO of a 31 % company. And so again just sitting in that like I’m not going to be perfect either, but I’m committed to continuing to think growth mindset and learn.
Danny Gavin 49:30
I love your positivity and just the opportunity that each new thing you know comes. It’s so cool.
Martha van Berkel 49:37
There’s bad days, but I try to stay mostly in that energy, yeah.
Danny Gavin 49:41
It’s a very good and positive energy to be in. O where can our listeners learn more about you and your business?
Martha van Berkel 49:48
Sure so schema 2 places to check us out. So our website www.schema.com SH E M A P dot com or follow us on LinkedIn. We post a ton of content there. So if you spend time on LinkedIn and want to learn more about what we do or what’s going on in our industry, that’s a great place to follow us. And then to kind of learn about me, i’m on Twitter, I do respond if you if you tag me in things, but I’m not one of those like. Active Twitter people if you if you want to connect with me or feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn, but make sure to send a note as to why you want to connect and how you heard about me. So if you don’t send a note, i won’t accept.
Danny Gavin 50:27
Yeah, we don’t want any bots. No bots contacting Martha, OK? Martha, thank you so much for being a guest on the digital marketing mentor. It was exceeded all my expectations and really enjoyed chatting with you today. And thank you listeners for tuning in to the digital marketing mentor amazing thanks, Danny.
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