I’ve just returned from SearchLove San Diego 2015, and my head is still spinning from all the great information and ideas that I picked up. This is now my third time in Paradise with the Distilled team. What I love most about the event is that, unlike other marketing conferences that try to stuff every possible piece of content into the agenda and force you to make lots of decisions, Distilled curates the show into one excellent track of great insights from all channels and disciplines.
Rather than try to recap all the greatness, I decided to recap with 5 awesome things that I learned.
Lesson #1: Everyone wants to be Alfred.
That great quote gets attributed to Marli Mesibov, whose fantastic presentation on Anticipatory Design really was the one to beat on Day 1. That particular quote was relevant for so many other talks though. What is clear is that the new war being waged in the digital space is about anticipating the needs of our customers and making our brands indispensable to them.
Everyone from Amazon to Facebook to Google is building digital personal assistants, yes; that is a literal interpretation of the butler metaphor. It goes beyond that though. As we look closer at the major areas of online marketing, they are converging.
- Search is going predictive and mobile
- Advertising is increasingly more targeted
- Optimization is seeking to delight customers and make their lives easier
Lesson #2: Marketing is as agile as it gets.
Having spent over a decade working with the software sides of organizations trying to become more agile, I was fairly skeptical when I saw marketers starting to use the term a couple of years back. What was clear from all the speakers and attendees at this show though was that, there may not be a great deal of ceremony around it, but marketers have become agile out of necessity.
Tom Anthony, Rand Fishkin, and Will Critchlow taught us about how we would need to adapt as search marketers to a changing set of conditions. Larry Kim and Wil Reynolds taught us about staying lean in our approaches to targeting and advertising. Angie Schottmuller reminded us of the importance of testing every step of the way while optimizing our content. Scott Edwards and Joanna Lord both kept us focused on customer value. Finally, Jose Callber and Chris Do showed us that you can collapse the big, expensive agency envisioning activities into a compact, utility process that brings all the key stakeholders together.
Lesson #3: Less is more when it comes to content.
It’s clear that content is on everyone’s minds. Heck, our team was thrilled to see so many content related talks on the agenda this time around. What was really refreshing though was that the messages were not about how to create more, rather they were about doing more with less.
Kindra Hall most elegantly cut through the hype around storytelling. In 30 minutes, she showed us how genuine storytelling can be so powerful and deliver more results than the best flashy marketing.
Scott Edwards showed us how Simple has created some great creative dialogue with customers through some good, old-fashioned personalization.
Joanna Lord talked to us about how we could aspire to be the backdrop of our customers’ lives through content. One of the greatest examples of this was the blogger network that Porch.com created on their site to host blogs of their most dedicated community members. Her mantra of,
is still stuck in my brain.
This talk resonated with me in a huge way, as our content marketing efforts at ThoughtWorks have focused on amplifying the voices of our 3000 employees while also trying to be inspirational and informative to customers and partners.
Lesson #4: A little research goes a long way.
Chris Bennett reminded us that even with all the focus in the media on big content, social promotion and engagement, the fundamentals still matter. His talk really proved to be a pivotal moment for the conference, IMO, reminding us that keyword research can still pay off in a large way when it comes to ranking your content for things that people are searching for.
Angie Schottmuller provided us with an elegant set of optimization tools and frameworks to keep landing pages working their hardest for our businesses (complete with Star Wars ASCII art!)
Larry Kim’s 10 Hacks for Social Media Advertising gave us a killer playbook for mining our most successful social content in analytics and using micro-advertising budgets of $50 or less to drive 3-4x engagement rates on the same material.
Lesson #5: Links still matter.
It may be trite, but it was a message that came through subtlety throughout the two days. Certainly, Rand drove it home during his talk. Yes, there are fewer links to be had in search results anymore. Yes, search is becoming more predictive. Yes, mobile is changing everything. Yes, you need great content that engages people. But it also cannot be denied that one currency still works best for getting found: getting lots of high quality links.
I hope you enjoyed my lightning round summation of key takeaways that I had from the talks. There are lots that I did not mention, so I urge you to stop by the Distilled website to check out the full agenda, grab all the slides from SearchLove San Diego and get the videos when they are available. See you next year!