At the end of every February, hundreds digital marketers from around the United States and the world converge on Portland for SearchFest. This one-day-a-year search marketing extravaganza put on by the good folks at SEMpdx is always jampacked with presentations given by a collection of the digital marketing industry’s brightest minds. 2015 marked my fourth consecutive year attending the conference. With my esteemed colleague and fellow Search Engine Marketer, Chris Miller in tow, we set out to pin down this year’s overarching themes and bring you the top takeaways, tips and tools. But first let’s look back at the predominant themes that emerged from the last four SearchFests. 2012: #RCS. Wil Reynolds at SEER spanked us all for treating SEO like a beaver-pelt top hat full of ‘tricks and spam’…and not the stuff that cartoon rabbits and Hawaiians like to eat, but the stuff that Google likes to spit out. 2013: The Mobile tidal wave was coming and it was going to swallow us all unless we had a mobile-friendly life raft…and it did. Some of us are still floating to the surface as we realize some startling facts:
- Since mid-2103 people spend the majority of their Digital Media Time on Mobile platforms. See comScore chart below…
- Mobile Search will overtake Desktop Search in 2015
- And for goodness sakes, of the 7 billion or so people in the world, more own smartphones than toothbrushes
Digital Marketers As TranslatorsAs we swam through our pages of notes looking for possible themes for this year's SearchFest, the one that kept rising to the surface was digital marketers as translators. We translate data into compelling stories. We comb, we scrape, we sift and we sort data to make things easier and to craft solutions for our clients.
"The person with the most data wins. […] Data is your organization's second most valuable asset. The first is your employees." ~ Tim Mayer of Heddle MarketingHow do we move towards being better translators of data into actionable insights? Here are some of the top takeaways from SearchFest this year…
Resonance vs RelevanceIn his opening keynote, Tim Mayer said that marketers need to go beyond relevance and use data to promote resonance within their content marketing strategies. If relevance is how we target and match our messaging to find new customers then resonance is how we get our customers to stick around. Another way of looking at this is from a PPC perspective. Relevance attracts Clickers, while resonance builds a base around Converters, and, as Mayer puts it, “Clickers are not your converters in many cases.” So if your strategy focuses on optimizing for Clickers then you’re headed in the wrong direction. Use what you know about your audience to anticipate their needs and serve them content that eases their pain points.
People-based MarketingThe shift towards people-based marketing is liberating to those search marketers who for years mistakenly thought their client was a cold, mother-in-law of an algorithm that either gives them a SERP thumbs up or a SERP thumbs down. In the past we measured devices as if they were people. Nowadays and going forward we are seeing more solutions to track people (individuals) as they move across devices. This simultaneously creepy and heartwarming development is freeing us digital marketers so that we know longer have to write “SEO Content” that was more machine code than interpersonal communication. We could always craft content that resonated on a personal level, but we had no mandate to do so. Now we are being told (and in some cases reprimanded) by the search engines that this is what we should do. More and more brands will be able to deliver that individualized content to members of their audience. In a beautiful sort of ironic twist it will likely be through machines and automation that we can achieve and deliver this personalized, human touch within our content marketing.
Trust Your StrengthsImitation is the sincerest form flattery, but don’t flatter your competitors by copying their marketing and digital strategies. Your impersonations aren’t terribly great and you’re kind of embarrassing yourself out there. Even when copying a successful marketing strategy, there is no guarantee that what once worked will work again. Successful marketing is strongly driven by its uniqueness, as soon as that’s gone, it loses its power quickly. You need to trust your own strengths and focus on what makes your business desirable over your competitors. What your business offers is unique and that needs to show through in your marketing. Showcasing your unique strengths and offerings will lead to creating unique marketing and digital strategies.
Kill Assumptions By Testing Your Hypothesis“I have a hunch” doesn’t really cut it these days. When you have an idea for something new, you need to test these ideas before committing 100%. With the myriad of ways to test your ideas in the digital spectrum there is no excuse for not making a reasonable effort to test your marketing hypotheses. Don’t be afraid of coming to a conclusion that your new idea will be unsuccessful. It is not a bad thing for a test to show that an idea wouldn’t work. It is much worse to go all in on a new idea that turns out to be unsuccessful knowing you could have saved yourself the trouble by just spending a little time and money in testing.
"The drive to be perfect is what distracts us from solving problems." ~ Jonathan Coleman of Facebook in his keynote at SearchFest 2015Remember that perfect is a progress-killing myth. In its place we should foster cultures that are not afraid to experiment in order to get to what’s better. Test those big ideas and let the data decide the path forward. Encourage your team to think big, support them and make them feel comfortable to take risks.