My SEO Journey: Anne Thornley-Brown from – Set aside a percentage from each business engagement for marketing

Author: Anne Thornley-Brown
Date Published:
Reading Time: 4 minutes. (1,361 words)

My SEO Journey is a series where entrepreneurs and Indie makers share their honest SEO Journey filled with failure and success, and most importantly, proven results. Episode #120 features Alexandra Andrici from Executive Oasis.

Anne Thornley-Brown from share her SEO journey

I’m Anne Thornley-Brown. Through my Toronto-based consulting firm, Executive Oasis International,  I design and facilitate executive retreats, meetings, and team building. I have a series of facilitated business team-building simulations to help organizations:

– foster innovation
– break down silos
– navigate change
– improve cross-functional teamwork
– build more effective virtual and hybrid team
– spot and respond to emerging trends
– boost the bottom line
– thrive even in a turbulent economy

Clients: business executives and their teams.
Organizations experiencing a lot of change and turbulence.

Mission: Survive, thrive, and grow, even in the midst of turbulence.

What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

My first career was in social work. I facilitated many therapeutic groups and family therapy sessions. After the book that I co-authored took off, I got many requests to facilitate workshops. This was before “diversity” was a buzzword.

I enjoyed applying my facilitation skills to training but there was little scope for a career with that focus in the social services.

After I did my MBA, I transitioned to business. I had several corporate positions and realized the difference between healthy and toxic corporate cultures. Again, the buzzword “toxic” and “microaggressions” did not exist at that time.

My acting has fueled the creativity I use in my work. 

My “Aha” moment was when, after yet another one of my ideas was rejected, my director said, “When we want creativity,  we’ll hire a consultant…a white haired man.” I was shocked. 

Attending workshops with Bob Pike, who specialized in creative training techniques, and Dave Meier,  who specialized in accelerated learning, was the validation I needed to know I was on the right track.

Eventually, with the help with a supportive director and VP, I was able to negotiate a contract to work with the organization as a consultant and launch my own business.

I woke up with the name The Training Oasis and thought, of course, that captures my vision of a training experience.

It was scary. The contract was a cushion but I had to watch my finances and work quickly to secure more clients.

Clients came from unexpected places due to my website, SEO, and God sending the right people to my website.

In 2003, when SARS hit Toronto, I sought advice from a business consultant. We spun off some of my services to a new brand “Executive Oasis International” and launched a new website.  I started attracting luxury brands from around the world. I have worked with companies from 19 countries and flown to 14 countries to serve them.

Since launch, what has worked to attract more organic traffic?

I got on the Internet when it was in its infancy. I designed my website using Corel Web designer before I knew professional web designers existed. Hoping to attract Caribbean clients, I designed my site like a my favourite Jamaican  resort. I am self-taught when it comes to SEO. 

Within two years, I started getting requests to facilitate training and workshops all over the world. It came from places like Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and eventually UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Sudan. It took a while before I received requests from companies in the Caribbean.

I started blogging around 2008 and social media exploded traffic to my blogs and websites. This was four months before the global economic meltdown.

My blog posts attracted the attention of editors and journalists and blogging for companies like CVENT and MPI became an additional revenue stream.

There’s more…

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Have you learned anything particularly helpful in your SEO Journey?

One thing I have learned is it’s important to set aside a percentage from each business engagement for marketing. As I didn’t do that, I missed the opportunity to hire an SEO specialist when the Internet became more competitive. 

The best decision I made at the start of the pandemic was to pause and take stock of all of the lessons I’d learned through four previous economic upheavals: when the dotcom bubble burst, 9/11, when SARS hit Toronto and I didn’t work for a year, and the 2008 economic meltdown. I identified every tool and strategy I used to recover and pulled them together in an interactive e-book called, “Lemons to Lemonade: Squeezing Opportunities out of Adversity When Business Goes Sour”.

I began to implement the strategies and, once again, they worked. The e-book is available for purchase on my website.

One of the most important strategies advocates is investing in professional development. I doubled down on that during the pandemic and took advantage of the myriad opportunities for webinars, masterminds, and virtual training. I focused on business, marketing, sales, acting, yes I am an actress, and writing (screenplays and novels.)

I benefited from two of Paul Carrick Brunson’s masterminds and they helped me devise a strategy to ride the waves of the pandemic and come out strong.

A year ago, I attended Grant Cardone’s Virtual Bootcamp and I signed up for his 10X Gold Accelerator. The strategies I have picked up have been game changers.

What SEO tools do you use for your business?

On and off, I have taken advantage of the resources of Webmaster World. My plan was to get a paid membership and i still have to do that.

I eventually got SEO from the 3 web designers who re-designed my websites. It was worth every penny,

Damon Burton’s “Outrank: Your Guide to Making More Online By Showing Up Higher on Search Engines and Outranking Your Competition” has been extremely helpful:

The links came organically through my first e-zine, “Spicing up Your Training”. I also invested many hours calling organizations to obtain or exchange links. Blogging  and social media have also effective ways of building links.

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What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Definitely, the resources provided by Paul Carrick Brunson and Grant Cardone have been game changes. 

Other resources that have been helpful include Ellevate and Clubhouse. It’s a great way to connect with people.

A book that has inspired me in all of my endeavours has been The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. She advocates the practices of journaling, walking, and artist dates to fuel creativity. 

When I worked through “The Artists Way” for the first time, it was six months after my surgery to get rid of cancer.

It definitely fueled my creativity for acting. At the start of the pandemic, “Self-Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam CJ Walker was aired on Netflix. I had the privilege of working with Octavia Spencer, Blair Underwood, and Carmen Ejogo.

I had written one screenplay that received a Harold Greenberg award. I didn’t plan to start writing again. It just happened organically. In 5 1/2 years, I have written 2 novels, 2 TV series, and another screenplay. I am working on my third novel

I recently completed a course based on her new book, “Write for Life”, It was at a time when I was losing my enthusiasm for writing.

I am looking for a literary agent. Manuscript Academy has been helpful in picking up the tools to polish my work and query agents.

What’s the next step in your SEO Journey?

With respect to SEO, I know I have to invest in the services of an SEO specialist as the Internet has become much more competitive than when I launched. At the time, the cost and the need to invest for a year and get service for the entire website rather than just the 4 pages that need it, are roadblacks.

Where can we go to learn more?

Purchase Lemons to Lemonade E-Book:


– Writing E-list: (monthly)
– Team Building Tips: (monthly)

Web Presence:

– Team Building & Executive Retreats:
– LinkedIn:
– Writing:
– Acting:

about the author
Anne Thornley-Brown
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Anne Thornley-Brown, MBA, President of Executive Oasis International, is a professional team-building facilitator, keynote speaker, meeting facilitator, writer, and professional blogger. Anne has designed and facilitated strategy sessions, executive retreats, business team building simulations, team building retreats, meetings, and workshops for executives, managers, and professionals. In 1996, Anne launched her company in Toronto to help organizations foster innovation and improve team effectiveness.

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