On May 4-5, 2016, the Command Partners search marketing department had the privilege of attending Digital Summit 2016, a marketing conference featuring the latest in digital strategies, content marketing, social media, SEO, email marketing, and analytics. There we gleaned valuable information through two days of presentations, roundtable discussions and keynote speeches from some of the top minds in digital marketing.

Here are our key takeaways:

Mitchell Abdullah

Digital Summit definitely reminded me of what can produce long-term results through SEO – publishing well-written, unique content that provides value, as well as a strong outreach and promotion plan associated with each content piece.

Arnie Kuenn’s (from Vertical Measures) phenomenal speech about seeking to answer the questions of your target demographic through content is absolutely the key to creating non-branded ‘evergreen’ content. He mentioned 5 types of content that will create organic search traffic: cost, problems, versus/comparisons, reviews and best. These post types seek to answer questions that people are looking to resolve by searching Google, Bing, etc. As a result, these individuals have also self identified as people who are likely to be in need of a certain service or product to aid in the resolution of their problem – making them likely to convert.

Jim Boykin’s (from Internet Marketing Ninjas) passionate speech about the importance of link building was a heavy reminder that strong backlinks are what provide real SEO results. During his speech he presented a brilliant methodology for measuring the value of a referring domain by looking past the trust metrics provided by SEO tools and evaluating the site based on its current status according to SEMrush’s estimated traffic chart. If a site is on an uptrend, it’s a strong site that you want to be associated with, but if it lost its rankings it is likely penalized and worth little to no value.

Vincent Ammirato

From the sessions I attended, it was a three-way tie with Matthew Capala (of Alphametic), Michael King (of iPullRank), and Jim Boykin for, “wow that was a ton of information, toolsets, tactics, and code I can actually use tomorrow.” I hope I can get one third of what they dished out. In particular:

  • Matthew’s spreadsheet of websites for enterprise SEO clients showed an amazingly efficient way to quickly analyze a large amount of websites and spot systemic problems that can, if fixed, benefit the entire organization.
  • Mike’s presentation in general was a fantastic defense for technical SEO. Our industry is not just about content. Technical considerations are still at the core. Even better, this wasn’t just a general rant on “technical SEO is not dead”, Mike gave example after example of useable tactics and tools. I particularly liked how central Chrome’s dev tools were to his workflow. It’s nice to share habits with the big dogs.
  • If you don’t know, attending a Jim Boykin presentation on SEO is a must. The man is literally a rock in our industry. News and policy changes fast in our industry and it is easy to get disoriented. Luckily there’s Jim keeping the message simple: It’s about the links. Build good tools and create good content and your website will attract links and rank higher. By the way, Jim’s built some pretty nifty SEO tools (and thus earns a link from me, too).

Matt Wallaert (from Microsoft) was the best keynote speaker I’ve ever attended at a digital event. It was refreshing to get a keen mind who, while dedicated to a profession outside of the digital realm, deftly uses the skill set of his profession to analyze and give insight to ours. Plus he was approachable and followed up on inquiries.

Elizabeth Breedlove

Several of the speakers mentioned that, when writing content, you should consider not only whether or not it will provide value to your target audience, but also how readers are likely to share it. Sometimes when writing content it’s easy to get caught up in keyword research and search terms, but it’s important to take it a step further and consider what the reader will do with the content once they find that it provides value. Share it on Facebook? Tweet it out? Email it to a co-worker? When you understand how people share content, it’s easier to create content that gets shared.

Suzann Knudsen

Several presentations, including the opening keynote from Microsoft’s Matt Wallaert, dealt with neuroscience, which was fascinating. The SCARF Brain Model (Status – Certainty – Autonomy – Relatedness – Fairness) as discussed by Lori Kirkland(from Universal Mind) was particularly nifty as it brought another perspective for writing better emotionally-charged ads. In addition, getting more insight into LinkedIn for businesses, advertising platform performance and overall ways to improve was great data to bring back to clients.

Madison Miller

One of the biggest takeaways for me was to not be afraid to show the human side of a company. People appreciate transparency and when companies own up to mistakes before it gets back to them from other sources.

I also learned that it’s okay to have a fun voice and tone in your content, even when you are writing content for a serious brand. People want to see creativity and not be bored to tears while reading- even if the content is on a serious topic.

Jared Strichek

The biggest takeaway for me from this year’s Digital Summit was the presentation on Anticipatory Design by Joel Sucherman of NPR.

While not nearly close to being an exact figure, it is said that the average adult makes roughly 35,000 decisions in a given day. To me, that’s absolutely insane. “Decision fatigue” is a very real thing; designing your website with this phenomena in mind goes a long way toward improving the user experience. Just because you CAN add a million entry fields on a form or add a bunch of useless functionality doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

Simplify the journey. Create simple, easy user flows. For ecommerce stores, utilize prior user behavior to predict their future needs, thus limiting the spectrum of choice. When done right, eliminating a few of the decisions a user has to make on a daily basis can lead to higher conversion rates and more return visits to your website.

Kyle Varian

My favorite speaker was Dan Hou from HUGE. His presentation was about design, and although it was good, I was more impressed with his public speaking skills. He was without a good working mic but was still able to capture the audience’s attention with his confident stage presence and high energy. It was also evident that he was well-prepared for the event, which always makes a presentation better.

Overall, Digital Summit Charlotte was a great time of learning, growth and team-building for the entire department. At the end of the two days we felt invigorated and ready to apply everything we had learned to our clients’ businesses. As we head into the second half of 2016, we feel more confident than ever about our knowledge of top trends in digital marketing and how we can better serve our clients.