Conference Recap of Search Engine Journal (SEJ) Summit 2017

Conference Recap of Search Engine Journal (SEJ) Summit 2017

While I’ve been working on search engine optimization (SEO)  and search engine marketing (SEM) for various clients for almost a year now, heading to my first SEO-specific conference made me feel like a new greenhorn with sea legs.

Would I be perplexed by the all of the jargon? Or would this be a conference for beginners, where I would already understand most of the topics?

After my quarterly review in March, I added “going to an SEO/SEM conference” to my list of quarterly professional goals. I had been hoping to find the perfect conference to help me improve my SEO skills.

I’d been to a few digital marketing conferences before, but I knew Search Engine Journal (SEJ) Summit 2017 would have a strong speaker lineup as well as relatable (and educational!) topics.

It seemed like this conference would be the perfect educational experience to help me achieve my professional goals.

Morning Sessions: SEM

SEJ Summit 2017 was held on May 11 at Chicago’s iconic Navy Pier.

That morning, I arrived at Navy Pier for an early breakfast for our day-long conference. Armed with my computer bag (which conveniently doubled as an overnight suitcase), I met several marketers from Iowa, who were also attending their first SEO conference. It calmed my introverted nerves to know that most were new to SEO and ready to learn!

After breakfast, we were welcomed to the main conference room to hear content marketing guru Ann Handley speak about “Good Content vs. Enough Content.” One of my key takeaways from her talk was:

“Smart companies don’t follow conversation. They lead it.”

Work to ensure that the conversation about your product is informative, yet still conveys the necessity. Look to inspire your customers — not with grandiose ideas, but with ideas that answer questions they may be asking every day.

An influential brand Ann noted was Plum Organics and its edgy “Do Your Part(ner)” campaign. While comical, the campaign expresses the need to live a happy life with your partner, which in turn spreads to your children.

After the opening keynote, the conference split into two tracks of sessions: one on SEO and the other on SEM.

I decided to stick with the SEM track, which offered a healthy mix of topics. These included Mindy Weinstein presenting on how to keep customers engaged in a boring industry and Jeanette Pesnikov speaking on e-commerce and Google AdWords.

Following a morning break, I heard from the great Larry Kim on “The Top 7 PPC Hacks to Make You a Unicorn in 2017.” This was likely one of Larry’s last speaking sessions on AdWords, so it was even more exciting to hear what he had to say. I probably brought back the most practical tactics from his 20-minute session than any other.

Afternoon Sessions: SEO

Navy Pier

After lunch and a great walk around Navy Pier, I switched tracks to learn more about the SEO side of search engine marketing.

Carolyn Shelby focused on mobile-first SEO. With more and more people searching, watching, and doing just about anything the Internet offers from their phones, website developers and marketers need to stay focused on the deep wells of information on both desktop and mobile. Just make sure your site speed isn’t lost in the process!

Jenny Halasz also spoke on mobile SEO metrics to watch to ensure your mobile website is performing at its peak.

According to Jenny, it’s best to look at the time on desktop versus the time on mobile devices. Other analytics to watch include (but are not limited to) page speed, average time on page, bounce/exit rates, and cart funnels.

The conference rounded out with two keynote speakers. The first was Duane Forrester with Yext. He spoke in great detail about how our changing customers are changing how we target both new and existing customers.

Our world is so connected — from your phone to your car, from your home to your phone. We need to look at new options for seeking out customers and how to keep them as evangelists for your brand.

The last speaker was Purna Virji, presenting on “Conversions in a Landing Page-Less World.” Purna is a strong speaker and really hit a grand slam on talking to the consumer on their level. I was able to relate to everything she said and gained a ton of insight, like this helpful tidbit:

“In 2020, it is expected that 85% of a customer’s relationship will be managed without human interaction.”

So how will this happen? With artificial intelligence (AI) personal assistants!

Purna shared interactions with Alexa, Google Home, and more to show how AI is increasingly smarter, more adept at understanding emotions, and influential to its owners. Here’s a look at how AI is becoming the next Rembrandt.

My overall takeaway was that we need to start evolving now to figure out ways to plan conversion strategies for clients and leverage our data.

All-Around Strong SEO Conference

We rounded out the evening with a social hour. It was a great time to connect with fellow attendees and talk with presenters from SEJ Summit 2017.

As there were two tracks to take throughout the conference, I went back and read through the other presentations afterward and gained some valuable information from their slide decks alone.

I would definitely recommend the SEJ Summit to anyone looking to hone their SEM and SEO toolbox!

At 9 Clouds, we are all about setting professional goals and letting our employees attend conferences to further their knowledge.

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