On May 9, 2018, Stone Temple presented the second edition of its Next10x digital marketing conference in Boston. This year’s theme of “Mastering the Changing Digital Marketing Landscape” was explored by some of the top marketing speakers in the United States. Throughout the day attendees learned not only what they should be doing to be competitive in online marketing today, but also how to be ready for the massive changes already impacting digital marketing.
Here are some highlights and takeaways from the day.
As SLOW as Possible: A counter-intuitive approach to driving meaningful results by slowing down, creating less
Ann Handley – MarketingProfs
Ann Handley opened the day with a content marketing keynote that urged us all to “go slow” with much of our marketing efforts. While there are times when reacting quickly is critical, rushing everything out the door is a bad idea.
We’ve been taught that more and faster are always better, and maybe even essential to win at marketing. However, Ann’s research shows that we’re often creating too much and only skimming the surface.
Attention to detail matters a great deal, and should never be rushed. Ann urged us to focus on three areas in our content efforts:
- Smarter reflection
- Better quality
- Honest empathy (with our audience)
How AI Will Change Marketing Forever
Chris Penn – Brain+Trust Insights
Chris took us into the future of artificial intelligence in marketing, along with glimpses of how it is already a reality today.
He told us we need to embrace artificial intelligence because of these Four V’s:
- Volume: The amount of data generated daily is increasing exponentially.
- Variety: An incredible diversity 0f activity happens every minute on the internet.
- Velocity: We’re on target for 75 million news stories in 2018.
- Veracity: Need for increasing accuracy and verified trust of information.
Chris’s solution to these challenges is cognitive marketing, marketing that learns using artificial intelligence and machine learning. He went on to help us understand what AI is, and what it isn’t, as well as the basics of machine learning.
Then he showed us how AI in marketing already powers content creation, conversations (chatbots), split-testing, reverse engineering search, content distribution, and analytics analysis. In the future, Chris said, many current marketing tasks and skills will be replaced by automation, so he recommends all marketers develop AI and machine learning skills.
The Social Shift: Pivoting for Success in a Time of Shrinking Reach
Larry Kim – MobileMonkey, and Greg Jarboe – SEO-PR
Anyone doing social media marketing in 2018 agrees: it isn’t as easy as it used to be. Increased regulations, crackdowns on automation, and ever-shrinking organic reach are just a few of the daunting challenges in social now. In our first panel of the day, video marketing expert Greg Jarboe and chatbot tool entrepreneur Larry Kim (founder of Wordstream) gave us strategies to triumph in a time of challenge.
Greg Jarboe walked us through how classic organic social marketing for brands is not a great career choice, unless you know how to create content that generates massive engagement. (Hmmm, another reason to go slow, right Ann Handley?). For that reason, Greg urged us to focus on video, and in particular to take a new look at YouTube (which he reminded us is a social network, even if most people don’t think of it as one).
He left us with four main takeaways:
- Buy more digital advertising, especially using video.
- Create remarkable content.
- On YouTube, pivot from views to watch time as your primary metric to improve.
- Collaborate with influencers and creators.
Next, Larry Kim opened our eyes to the opportunities Facebook Messenger represents right now. Messenger apps have actually surpassed social networks in terms of active monthly users. Facebook’s Messenger app offers some particular marketing opportunities because of the ease of integrating chatbots.
Messages sent via Facebook Messenger chatbots get a response rate that is 7 to 8 times that of email marketing. There are now a number of tools, including Larry’s own MobileMonkey, that make it easy to create customized Messenger chatbots that can handle everything from capturing a lead to setting an appointment to creating a subscription list for future message blasts.
Here’s Why Live!
Eric Enge and Mark Traphagen – Stone Temple
After lunch our audience experienced a journey to Middle Earth, er, Middle Search, that is, via a live version of our award winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series.
Here’s Why always features a humorous skit introducing a serious discussion of a digital marketing topic. In this live episode, Gandalf challenges Frodo to take the One Ring that rules search, enslaving SEOs to black hat practices, and cast it into the fires of Mt. Hack. Then Gandalf became Eric and Frodo reverted to Mark for a chat about some of the most disruptive areas of search marketing coming our way.
Search Marketing’s Evolution: 2018 and Beyond
Rand Fishkin – SparkToro
Rand Fishkin shared data about how large Google’s market share really is, pegging it at nearly 90% here in the US (if you include Google Images, YouTube, Google Maps, as well as Google search). The good news for SEOs is that the most accurate data indicate Google search continues to grow.
There is bad news for SEOs as well, however. Even though search continues to drive more traffic than other marketing channels, it still tends to get a lower proportion of marketing budget than things like paid search (PPC). Also, Google seems determined to provide directly more and more of what used to be the low hanging fruit of SEO (basic informational queries such as flight times).
He emphasized that understanding user intent in search queries is now more important than ever in ranking on search. Google is investing a significant amount of machine learning effort in this and is dynamically adjusting results to better match user intent based on what they are learning. More about this in Eric Enge’s keynote below.
Rand then covered 5 Big Shifts in SEO:
- Page One is available to many, but dominated by a few. Two years ago just 16 companies dominated Google’s results. Today nearly all of them rank even better for even more keywords. How to fight back?
- Become a brand.
- Go hyper-niche.
- Use barnacle SEO (create better resources for topics dominated by the Big Guys)
- On-Page SEO is now 75% intent, 25% keywords. Keywords still matter, but these days they’re just table stakes to the game. There is a lot of evidence that Google is getting better all the time at sniffing out the real user intent in a query and directing those users to the best resource match.
- Domains inherit and pass topical authority. Even though Google says websites per se do not possess any authority score, Rand thinks that’s a semantic game. He sees too much evidence that brands can carry tremendous authority for certain associated topics. So it may be more important for brands to concentrate on building authority around topics important to them than by the more traditional means of link building.
- Links still work, but they aren’t alone. Rand cited search user behavior on site, your amount of coverage and virality, and overall engagement as important signals.
- We need to learn to influence searchers who don’t leave Google. For example, if a review site gets the featured snippet for a query that relates to your product, you should work hard to rank well on that review site. Or try to be the source for search features like featured snippets or product carousels.
Giving Your Vision Voice: Designing the Right Voice Experience for Your Brand
Emily Roberts – Amazon Alexa
Voice usage is on the rise. Emily Roberts, Senior Manager of Marketing and Partners for Amazon Alexa, provided great data on how voice usage is continuing to increase dramatically. Amazon believes voice is the next major disruption in computing. The ability of machines to understand human speech accurately is increasing exponentially.
Marketers can take advantage by learning to build Alexa Skills and using Alexa Voice Services. Four out of five Alexa users have now engaged with a third-party skill.
Our own experiments with building an Amazon Skill and an Actions on Google App have provided great initial results. This is an area of great opportunity for those who choose to pursue it.
Debunking Myths and Examining the Value of AMP
Stone Temple CEO Eric Enge led our AMP panel speakers Demian Renzulli of Google, Mats Tolander of Stone Temple, and Josh Parrish of WompMobile in a lively discussion about the viability of AMP today. They showed us that:
- AMP drives huge performance AND sales gains (75% increase in conversion rates!) for your business
- It can pretty much replicate any site features, so the idea of a stripped-down AMP site is really a myth today
- It is easier to implement than you probably think it is (complex site features requiring only 25 to 45 lines of code!).
Enterprise Case Studies: The Good, the Bad, and Lessons Learned
Kathleen Steinmetz of Arrow Electronics and Chanelle Harbin of ABC:
Basic SEO still matters a ton. Led by moderator Brian Weiss of Stone Temple, Kathleen and Chanelle both illustrated how basic SEO work can bring huge results. Kathleen illustrated how SEO hygiene doubled their SEO revenue in the course of one single year. Chanelle discussed great case studies that showed how using schema, old fashioned link building to convert mentions into links, and an AMP implementation brought them strong results.
The Rise of Trust-Centric Marketing
Eric Enge, Founder and CEO of Stone Temple
Eric Enge’s closing keynote talked about the role that trust plays in digital marketing today. Lining up with Ann’s and Rand’s comments on understanding your audience and user intent, he shared many examples of how businesses are scaling rapidly as a result of concentrating on building such trust. Eric wrapped it up by illustrating how this plays out in your SEO and content marketing strategies.
Overall, it was a great day full of valuable insights. If you’re interested in receiving information about Next10x 2019, you can sign up to get updates here.