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Event Recap: 8 Things I Learned at the SEJ Summit 2015 in NYC

Tara M. Clapper
Event Recap: 8 Things I Learned at the SEJ Summit 2015 in NYC

The SEJ Summit 2015 packed a bunch of information into eight short sessions, with ample time for food and networking. Hosted by Searchmetrics, the event featured experts on content marketing, branding and advertising. Each session ended with a few key takeaways.

As I sat through the sessions, I thought about how each presenter's perspective could help me improve my process, habits or this blog. Here's what I learned.

Balance Your Blog Posts

SEJ's Executive Editor Kelsey Jones addressed the importance of content variety. According to Jones, a winning blog post contains a healthy balance of facts and images. Key information:

  • Interviews should have strong, short quotes isolated in quote card images, making them shareable on social media.
  • Variation is important: podcasts account for 26% of all audio listened to in the car and 78% of all U.S. Internet users watch video.
  • Strong content can consist of written posts converted to audio or podcasts transcribed into blog post. The value translates both ways.
  • While you want to be mindful of too much duplicate content on your site, syndicated posts are great opportunities to expand your audience and get email subscribers.
  • This provides a more natural transition to a video-heavy content hub.

As a result of what I learned from Jones' presentation, I will make a more conscious effort to include audio content in the SEMrush Blog, particularly on our more standout posts. I look forward to learning basic audio recording and editing techniques.

The Future of Social is More Natural

Geek Factory, Inc.'s CEO Peter Shankman offered some predictions regarding the future of social. According to Shankman, the importance of likes and shares may go away because that's not how social networking is done in the real world. While text messaging will stay around, he mentions that Twitter may die.

Instead, Shankman predicts that social will act more like real life recommendations and interactions. Google will increasingly show results (especially local search results) based upon where your friends go. Generally, people would rather try a business based on a friend's recommendation than a generic review. Why would you need the opinion of a stranger who tries a little too hard to be snarky on Yelp when you know your friends have been checking out a new bar?

He also mentioned the necessity of a personalized and shareable experience.

This also has a more democratic feel. As a user, I'd be happier with Google showing me results based on my friends' habits versus which brand simply paid them the most to lure me in. There will still be ads, but on a tiny mobile screen, those friend-frequented locations will especially stand out.

Shankman emphasized:

  • Transparency
  • Relevance
  • Brevity

Additionally, he recommends asking "how can I help?"

As a blogger, this makes me think about the importance of personal branding and trust. Why should people trust my opinion? What if I want to blog about something I haven't covered before? Honesty – transparency – is important. My followers would rather read a genuine account about my first time on a social media platform than a generic post full of bloated 'expertise' about it.

Go Beyond Reader Demographics to Stay Relevant

AimClear's Daniel Morrison discussed the importance of psyschographics: important data about your audience that goes beyond the basic buyer persona and demographic. While demographics tackle census-like information (age, gender, income level), psychographics look into affinities, behaviors (patterns beyond interests) and active filters. What is your audience watching, doing or going to?

This information can really help guide your content creation and strategy. I find this especially important in content creation and integration. On the SEMrush Blog, we've got readers interested in autos as well as digital marketing. While we may not want to publish posts about motorcycle maintenance on here, a post about marketing motorcycles online has the potential to doubly capture our readers' interests.

The Future of Advertising is Personal

WordStream Founder Larry Kim offered valuable information about paid advertising. According to Kim, apps and mobile devices change the landscape. Apps take users away from Google searches (since users already have an app installed for a specific purpose) and the mobile device screen offers a decreased amount of space for ads.

Like Morrison, Kim also asserted that brands will market closer to identity and affinity. The smaller space for attention accelerates the demand for more personalized ad delivery.

Kim utilized very personalized advertising methods on Twitter to target editors and journalists who didn't even know they were being pitched. And all of that effort can result in a really valuable link (and a dance):

This affects what I do in terms of content value. I see how important it is to really get beyond the basics when it comes to readership. As an editor, I'm also aware that the line between ad and social message can be blurry, unlike a search result marked "Ad" on Google.

Mobile is Relevant Well Beyond Mobilegeddon Fixes

Conde Nast's John Shehata discussed the differences between responsive, dedicated and dynamic pages and how SEO can differ for each type. Google continues to push recommendations in this area, recommending progressive rendering (top content loads first) with a one-second load time for all above the fold (ATF) content.

Google Mobile is extremely clear about their continuing initiatives to craft ranking around mobile usability and UX. The separate mobile usability makes page speed and other mobile factors extremely important.

I'm often so buried in analytics more heavily related to content that I forget to check out other important SEO factors. This is a great reminder to check page speed frequently, especially since this blog has the support of a great tech team.

Mind Your Website's Status Codes

Proving ROI is an of-discussed topic in the world of SEO, website creation and blogging. Ayima's AJ Mihalic detailed the SEO visibility report, emphasizing the importance of your status codes, errors and SERP changes. Whether due to your competitor's success in finding a link or a slight adjustment to Google's algorithm, it's possible for your site to lose rank. By setting a schedule to monitor your site, you can respond quickly.

Again, I'm usually so focused on blog content that I glimpse past other metrics. However, these trends are worth noting and require constant monitoring.

Remember Google's Gold Standard

Think back to high school. Remember when you learned how to write an essay and the teacher emphasized how each point you make should somehow relate to your thesis? According to Jordan Koene, that's how you should think about Google's ideal for content. If you're maintaining the status quo for sites in your industry, you'll have a hard time ranking above them. But stellar content with attention to technical details may help Google like you more, especially if your content relates back to your main message.

This is especially relevant in three areas:

  • Topics: Are you flexible with keywords? Topics and keywords may differ.
  • Competitive intelligence: Keep track of your competition and the type of content they produce. Koene mentioned how Toyota added the word 'official' to their online user guides to harness their existing brand and the authority of it.
  • Content recall: Look at your category pages: how do they rank? You need overall authority to truly earn the trust of Google (and your readers).

Set Content Goals and Achieve Them

Stone Temple Consulting CEO Eric Enge discussed goal-setting in content marketing. He recommended the goal of increasing your:

  • Reputation
  • Visibility
  • Audience
  • Links (link building)

Enge's method is targeted and calculated, including a keyword identification process, SERP position analysis, competitor research and result analysis.

Enge also discussed a client whose company lost top ranking on Google just before their vital Christmas season. Enge and his team identified the reason: a news outlet had given his client's competitor a link in a news story. Stone Temple Consulting called the news outlet and asked for a link, which was granted; the SERP ranking shifted in his client's favor once this happened.

As our marketing team grows at SEMrush, I look forward to setting and achieving more stringent goals with the rest of the team regarding publication on our own site and others' sites. I recognize the importance of this, but sometimes it's hard to make it a priority. Based on Enge's advice, concrete goal-setting seems like the best answer.

Do you have any insights on the SEJ Summit format or the information provided by the presenters? Let us know in the comments.

Tara M. Clapper is Technical Editor (blog editor) at SEMrush and Senior Editor at The Geek Initiative, a website celebrating women in geek culture. Tara is a prolific content creator, having written thousands of blog posts, small business websites and other inbound marketing content through the course of her career. Tara enjoys blogging about SEO copywriting, content management, corporate culture, personal branding, networking and LinkedIn. She has over a decade of experience in digital publishing. Connect with her on Twitter @TaraMClapper.   

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Tara M. Clapper is Content Development Specialist at Express Writers and Senior Editor at The Geek Initiative, a website celebrating women in geek culture. Tara is a prolific content creator and an accomplished editor, having written and edited thousands of blog posts, small business websites, and other inbound marketing content through the course of her career. Tara enjoys blogging about SEO copywriting, content management, corporate culture, personal branding, networking and LinkedIn. She has over a decade of experience in digital publishing. Connect with her on Twitter @irishtara
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Kathleen Garvin
Nice recap, Tara! It's the next best thing to being there in person. ;)

I disagree with Peter about Twitter, however. Aside from using it daily, building my network and sharing information, it is my #1 go-to to get in touch with a company. When I have a problem, Twitter is WAY more effective than email and the phone. So, if only for customer service purposes in the future, I think it will live on.
Tara M. Clapper
Kathleen Garvin
Thanks, Kathleen! You definitely have a good point about Twitter. I use Facebook the same way. You can contact big brands and authors by using the 'message' feature on their Facebook pages. I love finding and contacting interview subjects that way!
Kelsey Jones
Thanks for the recap, Tara!!
Tara M. Clapper
Kelsey Jones
You're welcome, Kelsey. Thank you so much for sharing!

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