Last week, four of our team members attended the 2014 State Of Search Conference in Dallas. The conference was incredibly informative, featuring an elite line-up and a strong course track. We cannot overstate how useful this conference was to us!

State Of Search is dubbed as “the premiere search marketing conference in the south.” It certainly lived up to that nickname this year. Check out the track list for Day 1:

State Of Search Agenda Day 1

We mentioned the influence of this year’s speakers already. The 3 keynote sessions were delivered by Aimclear’s Marty Weintraub, Wil Reynolds from Seer Interactive, and the legend himself, Duane Forrester. While attending this conference, it was obvious that many of our own HostandStore customers could benefit from knowing some of the same information we received. That’s why we created this list.

Below you’ll find a small sample of the valuable concepts we learned about at the 2014 State of Search conference. Enjoy!

1.  Know What Social Media Is Good For

Marty Weintraub (@martyweintraub) dedicated a huge portion of his presentation to eradicating common myths about social media for marketing. Some of these include:

  • If it’s not viral, it’s not cool: This is absolutely not the case. Going viral in social media is not the only way to succeed with it. Marty says “social media success is often home runs in slow motion.”
  • Your customers aren’t on social media: Again, this is a complete lie. The way Marty explains it is simple: No matter what type of business you have, your customers are using social media. It’s your job to figure out which channel they are using and to learn when they happen to be using it.
  • Negative comments are bad for your business: Contrary to what you might think, negative comments are not bad for your business at all. Negative comments are a perfect opportunity to fix problems in your business so you never make the same mistake twice. This improves your business in the long run.
  • Complimentary – not competitive:  It is okay to share content that other companies post. This can be a way to build partnerships or, at the very least, mutual respect. When doing this, share content that will compliment your company’s products or services – not compete with them. For example, if you’re running a business that only sells peanut butter, it’s okay to share content from a business that sells only jelly.

2.  Know Who You Are Trying To Reach And Plan Accordingly

Mike King (@IPullRank) delivered a great presentation on persona driven keyword research and the importance of knowing what audience you are trying to reach. If you know what audience you are trying to reach, you have a much better chance of actually targeting your message to reach that audience through the proper channels.

An example that Mike gave during his presentation was the word “subway.” If a person is in a place with limited public transit, like Texas, and searches for “subway,” they could be searching for the sandwich chain. Someone in New York City is more likely to be searching for the actual subway system. Understanding your audience helps you develop more appropriate content and also better enables you to target that audience when you share your content.

3.  Gimmicks Will Get You Nowhere, Build a Strategy

Portent Inc’s Ian Lurie (@portentint) was one of our group’s favorite presenters at the conference. He delivered a strong presentation called “One Trick Ponies Get Shot: Doing Digital Strategy Right.” This is very important for webmasters and marketers to understand. For example, there are many people claiming to do search engine optimization, but in many situations the work being done is not actually improving the business.

4.  Customer Reviews Matter

Thomas Ballantyne (@Thos003) gave an incredibly useful presentation about the importance of reviews. As the Director of Marketing for his company, he is directly responsible for growth and customer acquisition via the web. Over the years, he has recognized the importance of online reviews and the impact they can have on a business. Those benefits can be seen:

  • Search: When searching for local businesses many people read reviews. If your site is showing up in Google with no reviews but you have competitors with hundreds of them, where do you think the potential customer is going to click?
  • Business Building: The same rule about negative social media comments still applies to reviews. Negative reviews are a great opportunity for making things right by your customers and, in the long run, improving your business.

5.  Create Content That Works For You And Your Clients For The Long Term

Wil Reynolds (@WilReynolds) delivered an insightful presentation on long-term content. He made some great points that would be useful for everyone to take into account:

  • Don’t publish just to be publishing: Don’t just pump out meaningless articles just to have content. You should create content that helps to build the value of your brand because it is especially meaningful to your clients or user base.
  • Not all great content is meant to make money: Create content that is useful to your customers. All of our readers have probably heard this many times but that’s because it is worth repeating. Your relevant, helpful content can be what keeps your customers coming back for years.

In addition to these points, Wil used Michelin Tires as an example of keeping customers engaged – even though Michelin offers a product that is only sold on occasion. Seriously, how often do you buy tires? See how this could be a problem for a company like Michelin? Early in its existence, this tire company needed to develop a way to make people “need tires more frequently.” To help inspire their customers to drive more, they came up with the “Michelin Stars” program. It was then – and still is – a coveted review system for great chefs and restaurants. This program was effective because it got Michelin customers out driving to new places – all so they could experience the chefs and restaurants that had been honored by Michelin’s program.

This is just one way that it’s possible to give something back to your customers for free and still benefit from it as a company.

6.  Having A Multilingual Site is Good for Business

Zeph Snapp (@ZephSnapp) delivered a convincing argument touting the value of multilingual websites in his presentation. It was called, “Ya’ll Should Speak Marketing In Español.” Two of the key takeaways for us:

  • Many Americans speak Spanish at home: According to the US Census in 2011, nearly 13% of Americans spoke Spanish in their own homes. With a population of over 310 million people, that puts the number of Spanish-speakers at right under 4 million. Could 4 million new customers help your business? Probably so!
  • Beware of machine translation: While it is beneficial to serve the Spanish-speaking community with a translated version of your website, it is important to avoid machine translators that lack the ability to account for regional and cultural subtleties. Simply trusting a robot to express thoughts as effectively as another human is a dangerous idea. Translation must start with real people.

7.  Search Engine Optimization Is Not Going Anywhere

Duane Forrester (@DuaneForrester) delivered the closing keynote speech. He not only explained why SEO will never go away, but also showed how much more complicated any sort of digital marketing is going to become as the years go by. Duane made the point that technology will progress and continue to rely on search more heavily. As technology advances, more and more devices use search. This isn’t changing. Ironically, it’s the way people use search that is changing because of this. Marketers and webmasters alike are going to have to be able to keep up with the evolution of search if they even hope to compete for customers on the web.

8.  Work For Your Client – Not Google

Over the years, many SEOs and digital marketers have lost sight of their actual purpose: Good Marketing! Good marketing is about helping business grow. For many digital marketers, however, the focus has shifted away from delivering a great message and experience to web users, and more towards appearing at the top of Google’s search results. While search is very important, it is important to remember that search engine optimization should only be a single part of our strategy to help a client’s business grow. There’s more to growing a strong, sustainable business than ranking well in Google.

This presentation by Kane Jamison (@KaneJamison), titled “This Is What Great Content Looks Like,” stood out in my mind because I’ve seen so many marketers making content with Google’s standard in mind – even when Google themselves has said to create content that is good for real users!

Final Thoughts:

Our team agreed that this conference was incredibly useful and we hope that these 8 concepts are helpful to you as well. From the speakers to the takeaways to our fellow audience members, #StateofSearch 2014 was something to remember. We’re already looking forward to State Of Search 2015!

We’d also like to thank our friends at DFWSEM for putting this event together. This was a tremendous conference and we’re proud that it was held in our home state of Texas.