On May 2, 2019, Perficient Digital hosted the third annual Next10x conference in Boston. The one-day agenda was packed with relevant, valuable digital marketing and SEO information and networking breaks. It included 12 industry speakers and had a strong focus in two areas:
- The future of digital marketing
- Things that you can do right now to grow your business
Many of the industry’s top speakers came and shared their knowledge, expertise, and insights. Didn’t get a chance to join us this year? No worries – today’s post will provide you with a recap of the top takeaways from the day.
Top 5 SEO Opportunities
Eric Enge, General Manager, Digital Marketing, Perficient Digital
SEO is about giving Google what they want — a great user experience based on intent. Our learnings from the algorithm updates show that consistent updates raise the rankings of sites that meet user intent. It’s in our interest as publishers to align with Google’s goals. As a result, here are the five biggest opportunities for SEO in 2019:
- High-quality content – Google recognizes that user needs are complex and unique to each user, and its algorithm updates are focused on surfacing sites that offer a depth and breadth of content likely to satisfy those needs. In short, publishing high volumes of content (when compared to the competition) can cause your organic search traffic to soar.
- Promote content effectively – You can have the world’s greatest web site, but you won’t get much traffic if no one knows about it. Promote your site, drive high levels of visibility to what you’ve created, and get cited and referenced across the web. Links still matter a great deal, and they remain a big key to SEO success.
- Speed matters – A one-second mobile delay can reduce conversions by up to 20%, and 53% of users abandon pages that take more than three seconds to load. Yet, the average page takes more than 12 seconds to load on mobile. Find ways to speed up your site and you’re likely to see great results. One approach to consider is to implement accelerated mobile pages (AMP), a progressive web app (PWA), or both (a PWAMP!).
- Publish original, high-quality images – Searching with a camera is the next big phase of search. Original, large, clean, and optimized images directly related to the site will offer users a better experience with your content and open the door to new traffic opportunities, such as traffic from Google Discover.
- Invest in voice – Users are becoming more and more comfortable speaking to their devices. Personal assistants will be the driving applications behind voice usage. As a publisher, the biggest opportunities are for those who create personal assistant apps, such as an Alexa Skill or an Actions on Google app. These will advance from the scripted conversations available today to fully cognitive conversations.
Make Your Mobile Site Fly with AMP
Ben Morss, Developer Advocate, Google
Speed is everything. It matters to users across the globe. It is even more critical in a world where most users have 3G connections or slower (40% of connections worldwide are 2G). Here in the U.S., delays in page load times significantly impact user engagement and conversions on your site.
- AMP discourages/bans features that slow speed, provides a stable layout that eliminates distracting ads, and only loads content when it’s needed.
- In general, most sites can largely be re-created in AMP, which can support visually rich experiences. Some exceptions remain but are rare.
- Ben shared a case study of an eCommerce site in India that saw a 60% improvement in speed and a 40% reduced bounce rate.
PWAs create an app-like experience on the web, and adoption of these is spreading. Microsoft is actively looking for PWAs to feature in their app store and Chrome has started launching PWAs for PCs, with Macs hopefully soon to follow.
Consider the key aspects of PWAs:
- If your site is developed with a PWA, your normal web pages behave like a smartphone app when accessed via your phone, eliminating the need to develop a separate code experience for phones. This drives rapid adoption — since all users who access your site get the PWA, maintenance and development are simplified.
- A core component of the PWA is the Service Worker, which actively preloads content prior to a user requesting it. As a result, the page they access next is often preloaded onto their phone even before they request it, resulting in great increases in speed.
The Future is Conversational and Visual
Duane Forrester, VP of Industry Insights, Yext
Trends are driven by platform change. It’s important to have these new devices and platforms in your life to understand how users are searching and what content they are consuming. Smart speakers and personal assistants are integrating with everyday life, including in houses, cars, and during a user’s day-to-day routine.
Your brand has numerous audiences and consumer touchpoints. Search engines want consistent and reliable data across touchpoints to determine how to serve up a reasonable and expected answer.
- Seventy-three percent of high-intent traffic (someone intending to enter a business/make a purchase) happens off-site. Most customers never visit a homepage because search intent takes them to other channels and specific landing pages.
- It’s important to manage entities (companies, events, people) as users become more thoughtful about their spending power.
The customer journey usually begins with a question, but it involves a series of questions and answers before the goal is completed. As a result, search is moving from keywords to questions. Developing a questions catalog can help drive content creation to enable your business to be a part of the conversation.
- To be a trusted and valued brand, businesses must structure data across entities and platforms and provide answers for all stages of this journey. Knowledge graphs are key for a business to develop an authentic relationship with consumers. Using “best” in a query automatically filters out any business with less than a four-star rating, so cleaning up and responding to feedback is more critical than ever.
- The world is having a conversation, whether you’re in it or not. It’s best to be in it. For example, do you look at your reviews? Do you respond to the bad ones and try to resolve the issue?
- Conversations are more authentic. An organization must understand the complex intent behind questions and get to what the user means to better advertise to a group. This is especially effective when you overlay demographic data — one of the things that makes psychographic marketing on Facebook so interesting.
Spicy Content Marketing that Warms Up Cold Calls
Chris Brogan, CEO, Owner Media Group
It’s critical for marketers to put humanity back into content. Attention is at an all-time low because of the junk content cluttering the space, especially for email marketers. Over 2,000 words may get you linked and bookmarked, but quick content gets you actions. As a result, it’s important to match the content you produce to the user needs you’re trying to address and the results you hope will come from it.
Two types of users exist – browsers and searchers. Both start their query because of an event, followed by awareness, and then an evaluation of the results. Marketers need to get smarter about the customer journey and recognize that trying to reach the masses won’t reach anyone. Instead, we need to go after multiple specificities.
For example, consider Microsoft’s Super Bowl ad about disabled gamers. It is very targeted, yet has broad audience appeal at the same time. At the heart of this type of approach is understanding that specificity makes us take an interest because we feel connected.
In addition, email marketing needs to be worth forwarding and worth keeping in an inbox. Don’t waste the opportunity of a newsletter with poorly planned content — make sure it resonates. Don’t send it from inhuman email addresses that shut down conversation (donotreply@ addresses). Invite the responses and respond back to them. Create a conversation.
When reviewing content, don’t just focus on the technical aspects of writing like grammar, word count, and links. Review the content for tribalism and consider the social flux. Speak to audiences that are developing their voices when you have a compelling reason. Business is about belonging — fitting in is what you do when you don’t belong.
In terms of creating a connection, video is underutilized and underappreciated:
- People read, on average, 19 minutes a day.
- On average, they spend six hours online consuming content, but text is no longer a driver.
- Video puts a human face in front of human faces.
Panel: Case Studies
This panel had four speakers covering several different topics:
- Susan Wenograd, Account Group Director, Aimclear
- Grant Davies, Agency General Manager, Perficient Digital
- Jordan Silton, Director of SEO Marketing, Apartments.com
- Shawn Tyler, Senior Director of Marketing, SEO, Affiliate and Social, BOLD
Brand Awareness Case Study
Susan Wenograd, Account Group Director, Aimclear
Aimclear tried to prove the impact of a Facebook video ad campaign on brand awareness by testing a two-market strategy for six weeks. For this test, they determined the measurement for increased awareness would be a lift in traffic. The test focused on scalable tactics for the travel vertical for two cities, one of which would operate as a control group.
The client created how-to videos with long wind ups that achieved an average watch of two seconds. Aimclear provided aspirational videos rooted in the emotions of travel and received an average watch time of 10 seconds. Aimclear scaled the project and achieved a 41% lift year over year (YoY) for the test group over the control group.
- The emotional connection helped with engagement that stimulated a retargeting campaign featuring product details.
- The key is to capture attention in the first couple of seconds.
Mobile Case Study
Grant Davies, General Manager, Perficient Digital
Apps account for 80% of time spent on mobile devices. Businesses are doing the work to get users to their mobile experiences but aren’t emphasizing work to keep them there. Fifty percent of consumers are put off by a bad mobile experience, and 40% will turn to a competitor after a bad mobile experience.
Grant shared a rental equipment case study that found a change in user needs within their industry. His team found that users wanted to make phone calls and talk to a person rather than go through an app.
Once this was realized, new ways to chat and personalized features, like active notifications and chatbots, were developed. Identifying the actual needs of the consumers changed the way the business prioritized work.
Grant also added some thought on the future of mobile:
- We will see more microtransactions from users that are willing to sell data when properly informed of the use and personal benefits.
- There will be improved accessibility for those with disabilities.
- Healthcare services will increasingly leverage mobile.
- Voice assistants with actual intelligence will emerge.
Contextual Linking Case Study
Jordan Silton, Director – SEO Marketing, Apartments.com
Apartments.com is a large and complex site with many opportunities for natural interactions between their pages. Yes, the problem of implementing contextual linking was a tough one – it’s hard to do it in an easily scalable way.
Using artificial intelligence (AI), Apartments.com created a scalable method for adding accurate, quality links to test. The method correctly identified entities and the correct links, but the cost to parse the content wasn’t scalable. Apartments.com couldn’t easily prioritize entities that mattered to them.
As a result, Apartments.com started with a database of their entities. They used regular expressions to match entities within content with content to link to. This method allowed them to effectively narrow down on local entities and the content they were linking to. Using this method, the contextual links on their site update automatically.
Takeaways from the experience:
- Data science is key.
- Simple solutions can be more effective.
- When you dream big and push the envelope, you find your most creative solution and accomplish more.
Managing a Mature Product Case Study
Shawn Tyler, Senior Director of Marketing, SEO, Affiliate and Social, BOLD
Shawn shared an enterprise’s approach to assessing and evolving a mature online property. His presentation focused on years of building up a successful site – when some of the strategies stop working, how can you change direction without risking what is still working well? Some key takeaways were:
- Realizing that catching and strategically addressing technical errors is essential.
- Utilizing multiple tools to track and differentiate their properties is important. This helps prioritize what content to emphasize or devalue and collect and evaluate backlinks.
- The need to establish KPIs across sites and develop content and technical QA processes.
Technical SEO and How It Can Benefit Your Business
Martin Splitt, Developer Advocate, Google
Technical SEOs are the link between developer and marketer. They need to understand the challenges of developers and investment interests of marketers to help both achieve their goals. Some key aspects of this include:
- Supporting development teams so they are thinking about SEO when you are not in the room and can keep pace in an agile workflow.
- Testing and monitoring for technical issues to build a strong foundation rather than after the fact. This is more costly and time intensive than catching issues early on.
- Advocating for site performance in a sea of competing priorities.
- Sixty-six percent of customers judge a company based on website performance.
The four most important aspects of technical SEO:
- Be discoverable
- Knowing when to use buttons vs. links. If it takes the user to different content, use a link.
- The History API runs code when URLs change. This helps to avoid tricking browsers with fragment identifiers.
- Be crawlable
- Crawl budget is based on crawl rate, and demand is determined by the server.
- Changes to the server include migrations and changing pages.
- Crawlability has nothing to do with ranking.
- Update your robot.txt file very carefully.
- Be indexable
- Using semantic HTML markup helps search engines understand the page.
- Make sure you’re making a reasonable number of requests.
- Be usable
- An obvious title and snippets are a must.
- Website performance and mobile friendliness must be a priority. Use tools to verify this.
- Measure speed by the time it takes to load the content users have come to the site to find.
- Understand the limitations of your framework.
Panel: Demystifying Analytics
This panel had two speakers:
- Kathryn Bogen, Analytics Director for Perficient Digital
- Jenny Halasz, Founder, CEO for JLH Marketing.
Analytics Governance and Documentation
Kathryn Bogen, Analytics Director, Perficient Digital
Some of the top requirements for a successful analytics program include:
- Expertise to understand tools and resources.
- Centralized tracking to promote accuracy.
- Constantly onboarding new talent and tools.
- Learning to trust the tools and the data they collect.
- Reducing reliance on development and deployment.
Since the number of people involved in analytics programs is often small, even at large enterprises, one of the biggest challenges these organizations face is staff turnover. As a result, the approaches used, specifics of how things are setup, needs of the stakeholders receiving information, and all other aspects of the program need to be thoroughly documented. Businesses also need to clearly define their analytics goals and how to measure results for each project so tools, goals, and staff knowledge are accessible by those who need it.
Google Data Studio
Jenny Halasz, President and Founder, JLH Marketing
Google Data Studio (GDS) is a program designed to make the process of creating compelling views of data easy to setup and use. Key to its success is that GDS plugs into many sources of data, including Google Analytics (GA) and Google Search Console (GSC), to enable the processing of data from those sources simple to setup. GDS supports far more than GA and GSC, including data from non-Google sources. More companies are creating connectors for GDS all the time.
Additional key points about GDS:
- Corporate governance tracking and tagging make it easier to understand where data is coming from with custom channels and channel rollups.
- GDS makes it easy for businesses to figure out analytics goals and tie them to business goals.
- Sharing data and controlling risks can also be easier.
- It’s recommended that you make a copy of free templates and existing reports so you have copies of original data.
A Bigger, Braver, Bolder 2019: What to Stop, Where to Double-Down, How to Kill It
Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs
Email is vastly undervalued. It’s the only place where people, not algorithms, are choosing to receive content. It is a place to build trust and brand affinity by projecting who you are. Email content needs to build trust and affinity. Don’t underinvest in the value of that content.
- Ninety-two percent of surveyed businesses use email, but how many actively think about the value of the email content?
- Seventy-three percent of businesses are producing more content than the previous year, but 35% know their content isn’t hitting the mark.
- Ninety percent met user’s needs, 94% value creativity and craft, and 96% say their audience finds them a credible resource.
Businesses need to ask these four questions about content:
- What are we communicating, and more importantly, how?
- The content is less important than how the news is conveyed.
- Personal style increases trust and affinity and should have a human at the other end.
- Content should be a conversation between the brand or, preferably, a human face for the business.
- What kind of letters do we most love to get?
- Include less promotion and more information.
- Make it more about the subscriber.
- Write with “here is my reason for writing to you” in mind.
- Generate a feedback loop to better understand the audience and engage in an intimate and social way.
- Don’t fret about an audience that isn’t a fit for your content. Focus on your targets.
- Does your marketing feel like marketing?
- Don’t tell me what to do, tell me why it matters to me.
- Ask yourself what your audience wants.
- How does this content only come from me?
- Lose the marketing voice and talk to your audience. Businesses need to establish an embedded style that conveys who you are in your content
- If your logo disappeared from the web, would anyone be able to attribute your website to the brand?
Overall, the day was a great success. In our follow-up survey to attendees, 100% of respondents said they would recommend the conference to a colleague.
We are already starting to plan for Next10x 2020. Interested in receiving updates for next year’s event?
Eric Enge leads the Digital Marketing practice for Perficient Digital. He designs studies and produces industry-related research to help prove, debunk, or evolve assumptions about digital marketing practices and their value. Eric is a writer, blogger, researcher, teacher, and keynote speaker and panelist at major industry conferences. Partnering with several other experts, Eric served as the lead author of The Art of SEO. Learn More About Eric Enge