Sunny Santa Monica, California was the perfect locale for our first SEJ Summit of 2016. With speakers from Google, LinkedIn, Disney, Ant Farm, and more, attendees showed up early and had almost filled the room in time for Loren Baker and I to welcome the crowd and start the event.
All presentations we are allowed to share have been embedded below.
Wish you could have seen the slides from Google, Disney, and Linkedin? Sign up for our next search conference in Chicago June 23rd, where Gary Illyes will be joining us.
Maile Ohye, Google
Google’s Maile Ohye kicked off the morning with her presentation on Search Prioritization for 2016 where she discussed what is most important for search marketers this year and beyond.
— Ryland (@RyBacorn) April 13, 2016
Maile touched on several interesting topics, but the most interesting point she made was that we need optimize for the human user, not the search engines. Search engines like Google look for how well sites cater to the user and how easy it is for them to find what they are looking for.
Maile said this quote by Seth Godin summed up search in 2016:
“Humanity fuels the new economy.”
She also pointed out that the content from Avinash Kaushik (He writes the analytics blog Occam’s Razor) is a great resource for identifying your most qualified audiences. Once you’ve found these audiences, you must provide a customer service experience that goes beyond what’s expected. She cites the Ritz Carlton brand of hotels as providing exemplary service. They are known for going above and beyond, and, as a result, they have fiercely loyal customers as well as a stellar reputation.
During the Q&A portion, Maile offered two tips I thought were extremely helpful:
- Use Try Data Highlighter on the Google Search Console: it helps you identify scheme markup opportunities
- If available, put your rel=canonical/alternate in the sitemap instead of the header (Jen Slegg covered this portion of the Q&A in more depth on SEM post). This has a greater chance of Google accessing it correctly. However, she warned that bugs are harder to catch in sitemaps, so make sure you test before publishing.
William Sears, LinkedIn
William from LinkedIn covered a lot of ground in his presentation titled Stacking Tools for a Healthy, Holistic SEO-Ecosystem, which was mainly centered around a case study from his former employer, Disney, when they are looking for new search opportunities centered around Disney Princesses.
His team’s flow for this keyword research was as follows:
- Brainstorm seed keywords
- Expand: add KW suggestions (Scrapebox tool for Google Suggest keywords, Google Keyword Planner)
- Get search volume
- Add data to an Excel spreadsheet or Google spreadsheet
- Do a human review of KWs to determine relevancy
- Put words into related clusters to start building campaigns around.
- Use Google spreadsheet to collaborate on project and make changes in real-time
William mentioned he believes keyword rank tracking can still be useful as a lens to view your site. When used as part of an aggregation of metrics, it can allow you to effectively evaluate your KPIs.
— Andrew Dennis (@AndrewDennis33) April 13, 2016
Use Your Network
Another point William touched on was the importance of building relationships in our community. He recommended:
- Create online groups for collaboration across large companies
- Follow each other on Twitter
- Read industry blogs
- Go to conferences to introduce yourself to speakers and connect with other attendees
- Connect online
- ID subject matter experts
- Offer help
- Reach out for help
As part of this, a really good point he mentioned was not to take anyone as your “guru” and then do everything that one person says. He recommends taking an aggregate view (just like you are doing with your search data and metrics) and see what the general industry is saying. If they say one thing or another, figure out why they are saying what they are. Then build your own opinion. You may know more than an “expert”.
I like that approach– you probably know more than you think you do! An example William used was back when people used to say authorship was key. But as we know now, it’s no longer featured by Google.
Anne Ahola Ward, O’Reilly Author, CircleClick
Anne spoke about ‘SEO in a Mobile World,’ which was something Maile also touched on earlier in the day. Anne mentioned that there’s now 100 billion monthly searches on mobile devices– making it a huge and important search market. Mobile search is not the same as desktop, both in results and activity (meaning, what people search for).
Another interesting statistic Anne mentioned was that 50% of consumers who do a local search on their smartphone visited a store within one day.
— Circle Click (@circleclick) April 13, 2016
The first part of her presentation centered around identifying your mobile strategy. Don’t build an app unless you’re taking advantage of all features unique to using an app (like GPS and the camera). Otherwise, focus on better site configuration, responsive sites, and HTTP/2.
Next, Anne urged the audience to think of the latest trends in mobile and how they are going to affect search. She touched on mobile voice, also sometimes called text to speech. Her tips include:
- Queries with voice are more conversational
- Optimize for direct answers/rich answers
- Assume mobile or wearable/connected home devices
- Rich snippets help with voice optimization.
Going forward, Anne urged us to look toward virtual reality, augmented reality, smart devices (TVs, activity trackers, smartwatches), as well as beacons.
Jeff Preston, Disney
Jeff Preston covered ASO (app store optimization) in his presentation: Do’s and Don’ts of ASO: A Practical Guide. Jeff included several examples from his work with Disney Interactive. He said most apps can be successful when they are featured, which is something that is often chosen manually by humans.
Most free apps make their money through IAP, or in-app purchases, as well as native ads. Native ads in apps bring in much higher revenue (3.2 times more) than desktop and traditional mobile ads.
— Jennifer Slegg (@jenstar) April 13, 2016
The majority of Jeff’s presentation was exclusive to the SEJ Summit audience, but some of the tips he mentioned were:
- Look at reviews for common keyword ideas
- Use search data for app name ideas
- Optimize what you can in each app store. For both Apple and Android, that’s the description and title.
- Continuously tweak your title and description based on search data, feedback, and game updates.
John Brown, Google
John admitted he was making final tweaks to his presentation on the plane on the way to Santa Monica, but you couldn’t tell with all the great information he had. His presentation was titled Know Your Ads, Users, and Inventory and started off with some facts on ad blockers, stating that,
“The rise in ad blockers is a result of bad UX.”
Blocking ads increased over 200% since 2013. John says the focus should always be on the user. He recommends tying your creatives to keywords, making creatives relevant to user’s search. He emphasized that writing really simple, compelling copy, with one or more preferred creatives per ad group will make a major difference regarding ad effectiveness.
— Jenise Henrikson (@ItsDUHnise) April 13, 2016
Some of the things John considers to be a poor practice for ads included:
- Ads that slow page load
- Screen takeovers
- Ads that open windows
- Autoplay ads
Even if you are following best practices on desktop ads, John mentioned that only 2% of ad blocking occurs on mobile. While on the surface, this would seem to be a good thing, John countered that this means there’s still more opportunities for users to block ads on mobile. He urged for a better focus on higher mobile ad quality.
Melissa Palazzo, Ant Farm
Melissa had an emotional presentation titled The Human Connection: Video Content That Compels, which was full of great examples of commercials that touched on our emotions. Her agency, Ant Farm, focuses on the human side of marketing. Melissa stated,
“Data is awesome, but sometimes we forget that we are creating content for people.”
Melissa recommended us that first and foremost, it’s important to humanize the brand. Think of it as a person: what do I like and don’t like about this person? Then, shape it as an identity.
— Jenise Henrikson (@ItsDUHnise) April 13, 2016
With social media, we have a chance to make any brand about the people, which has given many brands a lot of opportunities to create that emotional connection with their target audience. Melissa mentioned that ads can be about the brand (the feeling) instead of the product. One good example of this was this commercial from Pandora jewelry, where kids were blindfolded and asked to pick out which woman in a line-up was their mom. It gave us all goosebumps and definitely pulls a great emotional connection:
After a few more examples, Melissa ended the presentation by reminding us that we are all part of something greater, and to tap into this and our human connection when it comes to marketing and advertising.
Kevin Henrikson, Microsoft
Kevin gave the audience several useful tips in his presentation, Steal from the Startups: Entrepreneur Style Growth Tactics for Big Brands. Kevin’s background started in affiliate marketing, but he soon went into the startup world so he could use his engineering background. He went on to build several startups that were later acquired.
Kevin recommends focusing on projects and office needs you believe are going to grow your company. Don’t spend on “cool” extras (like a fancy office or big perks) because you are basically telling your company to die sooner. Even if you’re in a big company, you get more chances to screw up, but that doesn’t mean you should throw away money needlessly.
No matter the size of your company, Kevin told us that whenever an employee came up with a new marketing campaign idea, he asked them,
Are you so convinced that this marketing campaign is a winner, that you’re willing to spend your own money on it?
If you are 100% positive it will succeed, and you’d stake your own paycheck on it (because in the startup world, you basically are), those are the types of campaigns you want to build.
Going more into that, Kevin touched specifically on PPC, stating that, “PPC should be free if you are doing it right.” Your time is potentially more valuable than the budget you’re trying to get approval for, so consider that with any campaigns you provide.
— Gene Skazovski (@Gene_SEOMachine) April 13, 2016
Kevin ended his presentation with this advice:
- Positive ROI is like breathing: if it stops you won’t survive very long.
- Marketing growth should have a target: learn from the best sales teams.
Larry Kim, WordStream
Larry’s fast-paced presentation, titled 7 Ridiculously Smart Facebook and Twitter Advertising Hacks, went through over 100 slides in about 20 minutes. I’d urge you to check out the slides below to go through them all and catch all of his hacks. Larry kicked off his presentation by stating that we are going through an overwhelm of social content. 50% of content gets ZERO social shares, and even less go viral.
Larry walked us through his unicorn pyramid sharing scheme, which included:
- Lots of stuff to Twitter
- Only promote the best stuff
- Download the data from Twitter/Facebook analytics, sort by engagements, then promote the top 2-3%.
He shared a few of his success stories through careful targeting, which is one of the unique benefits to paid social campaigns that traditional PPC often can’t offer. If you want media coverage, target your paid ads to journalists or people involved with major publications and it’s much more likely to get picked up.
— Bruce Clay, Inc. (@BruceClayInc) April 13, 2016
Along with a few other hacks, one of my favorite pieces of Larry’s advice was his point that if you can’t make a post do well with paid by spending $50, it’s not going to do better by throwing more money at it. More money doesn’t guarantee campaign success.
SEJ Summit Santa Monica was a fun day filled with learning and networking. Want to attend our next even in Chicago or New York? Learn more about SEJ Summit 2016.
Featured image by Paulo Bobita.