We heard it all, from hard-core SEO and content marketing to social media and content strategy. There were highly technical talks about Panda and Hummingbird and getting penalized by Google for various esoteric infractions. At the other extreme, there were inspirational, high-level talks about how to create better, more effective content that connects with audiences and gets shared through various social media channels. All in all, we were impressed by the level of expertise — so much knowledge. And people from all over the country. That's amazing to me, here in little ole Portland.
Here are some of the standout talks for us:
- Joanna Lord (@JoannaLord) spoke about her experience leading the marketing team at Porch.com, a growing competitor to Angie’s List. Porch seems to be doing things right from a strategic business and marketing standpoint — you can see it just by heading to their site. They consider their employees their greatest advocates, and they empower them to take chances, which cultivates real pride. One thing that stood out to us is that they’re showing their own customers that they face the same pain — if they are doing an office improvement project, Porch shows the whole process: finding a contractor, planning, building, finishing. We got inspired, and we’re going to be posting about our own process of renaming, rebranding, and rebuilding our website.
- Mark Traphagen (@marktraphagen) kicked ass with his talk about how to use personas in content marketing. He outlined his process of taking each persona and identifying what their concerns might be. Those concerns are a great source of ideas for creating content that can become videos, blog posts, social media posts, whatever. It's a really simple but powerful idea.
- Mike Ramsey's (@niftymarketing) talk actually got us thinking a lot about our own brand voice and mission, as well as that of our clients. We really appreciated his clear methodology for creating a great local content strategy, which means planning on how you can connect with those in your own community.
- We loved Dana DiTomaso's (@danaditomaso) take on establishing a definitive brand voice and not being apologetic about it. She said that you must be direct so that you can weed out some people. That's fine: You have to give yourself permission to speak directly with the customers you want. She also shared her tactics for how to run a kickoff meeting with a large group.
- Marcus Tober (@marcustober) gave a bracing talk about the reality of search engine rankings and site performance. He proved several striking points about site rankings, with great data to back it up, including how search engines are now delivering different results based on the "intent" of the user. If the user is on a mobile device, Google assumes they're there to digest content, not necessarily interact with or share content, or even buy. So, when we're creating mobile strategies, it's vital to think deeply about the content and experience we deliver.
- Matt Siltala (@Matt_Siltala), who has the best beard I’ve ever seen west of the George Washington Bridge, and truly belongs in Portland, and Kristy Bolsinger (@kristy) delivered a joint talk about the merits of making your content more visual. They presented some great case studies that showed how creating infographics and other visually oriented content that took off with the public.
- By far, the most insane session we attended was by Marty Weintraub (@martyweintraub) and Will Scott (@w2scott), both SearchFest veterans, who took dance and exercise breaks throughout to demonstrate that they have both bounced back from major illnesses and surgeries. It was certainly the most energetic talk I’ve ever seen about social media. Their message was great, though, and eminently useful — that there are great tools out there we can use, most of them free or cheap. In particular, they talked convincingly about promoting Facebook posts as one of the cheapest and most effective ways to target audiences.
We walked away charged up to integrate some of the things we learned into our own process. We believe deeply that creating great stuff is the best way to connect with people. (We also know that we can use social media and SEO to help make the introductions.)