Top 5 Big Topics at Pubcon Las Vegas 2017
Of the myriad of conferences on digital marketing, Pubcon remains my favorite. It’s one of the oldest, having started in 2000. It’s traditionally been the most focused on insider knowledge sharing (finding the “secret sauce” of successful marketing tactics). And it’s in Las Vegas! What’s not to love?
Every fall we pay special attention to the news coming out of Pubcon Las Vegas, and the 2017 conference brought us a flurry of interesting information on a variety of digital marketing topics. While Technical SEO, Conversion Rate Optimization, and Facebook were covered in depth as alw
ays, here are what we felt were the five most important areas covered this year.
1) Mobile, First on Our Minds
It’s only logical that Mobile SEO would be at the forefront of Pubcon 2017. Mobile touches every aspect of digital marketing – from Local to Social to Technical – and is generating the largest sea change in marketing technology. Voice Search, AMP, and even the dreaded Mobile First update all spiral out of the shift of Mobile Traffic over Desktop Traffic.
Kristine Schachinger presented a strong explanation of both the Mobile First algorithm and RankBrain, along with some compelling statistics on why your business should double down on Mobile UX. For instance, did you know that Mobile influenced $1.4 trillion of U.S. retail store sales in 2016?
Schachinger also points out that with Mobile First if you don’t have content on your mobile site, then it cannot be found for it even in desktop. That sounds like a strong argument for Responsive Design to me!
With an eye on the Analytics side of Mobile First, Jenny Halasz made a strong push for Mobile-centric site audits. She walked through how to tell better stories with Mobile data to help clients solve their digital problems. I love a good deep dive into data!
2) Local SEO, the Big Battlefield in Your Backyard
The intense scrutiny of Local Search at Pubcon this year was palpable. What was surprising, however, were the numerous angles on the topic.
Presenting a strong by-the-numbers guide to Local Search optimization, Jesse McDonald, Director of SEO at Geek Powered Studios, really emphasized the importance of user reviews and the finesse involved in obtaining them.
Perhaps the most pointed presentation on Local Search, Andrew Shotland of Local SEO Guide makes the case that proximity is not the #1 Local SEO ranking factor. And he provides an expert walkthrough of Local link building.
Steve Shackelford, SEO Manager at Globe Life, explained an approach to link building that was essentially a digital approach to local public relations outreach. Greg Gifford, Director of Search & Social at DealerOn, echoed much of this while adding in some more specific tips for local links and content. And he rightly pointed out that local links will be the hardest for your competitors to reverse-engineer, since they’ll likely look like low quality links when run through Majestic or Ahrefs.
3) Voice Search, Louder than Ever
Attached at the hip to the rise of Mobile, the topic of Voice Search certainly made itself heard at Pubcon 2017. Voice Search came up in several Mobile- and Schema-related presentations and is now a key piece of any SEO strategy.
Katy Katz, Director of Account Strategy at Marketing Refresh, talked in-depth about Voice Search and the role of AI, noting that Voice and Image Search will make up at least half of all searches by 2020.
She broke down the anatomy of a Voice query, which heavily features intent in a conversational manner. And Katz pinpointed how to target for Voice Search through a mix of Schema and writing in the voice of one’s customers.
Most importantly, optimizing for Voice Search is a great way to gain a foothold in Featured Snippets.
4) Schema, Markup Goes Mainstream
With mentions of Local, Voice, and now Schema, you may start to get the impression that Mobile Search represents the majority of important Pubcon takeaways. In a manner of speaking, that’s correct: Mobile casts a long shadow over Search strategy, and it impacts tactical execution in major ways.
Schema, for instance, has been upgraded from useful contextual information for SERPs to absolutely essential for Mobile. Naeem Dollie of CleverClicks even managed to ask Google’s Gary Illyes his top tip for 2018 and was told to “focus a lot more on structured data” and markup as much as possible.
Covering Schema Markup Basics, Carrie Hill’s adorable dog picture-rich presentation explained the roll out of new Schema types and the complexities of evolving markup language. Hill even discussed an approach to Schema that’s been on my radar for a while now: implementing Schema via jSON with Google Tag Manager.
Elmer Boutin, Organic Search Director for GTB, recommends “organizing your digital ecosystem” based on Keyword Strings and Semantic Search/Entities. For this, Schema tagging is critical. Bill Slawski took things a bit further with a comprehensive overview of Semantic Search topics based upon white papers and patents from Google.
5) Content & Influencer Marketing, the New External Play
Pubcon 2017 also brought the growth of Influencer and Content Marketing to the forefront. In many ways, these disciplines have represented a sophistication of traditional link building – bringing a more human, real world approach to something that’s historically been the realm of technical players.
Starting with Matt Siltala’s Influencer Marketing 101 presentation, the Founder of Avalaunch Media provided a solid step-by-step guide to identifying and engaging the perfect influencer for one’s campaign. He also noted that nearly half of all online consumers use some type of ad blocker, making Influencer Marketing even more important as a tactical play.
Kat Haselkorn, New Media Manager at Go Fish Digital, presented on maximizing the ROI of Content Marketing campaigns. Her process promotes identifying goals upfront, producing timely content, creating Google Consumer Surveys, leveraging Google Trends data, and preparing a strong pitch to publishers.
Finally, Senior Director of Digital Marketing at KoMarketing Casie Gillette covered how to best repurpose older content pieces, using performance data and Buzzsumo insights to mine for content worth keeping and improving. Gillette also showed off a variety of useful tools for developing your old content into a new asset type.
A Highly Evolved Marketing Landscape
Looking back over all of these juicy digital marketing presentations, the sophistication and growth of the marketing thought capital expressed is what stood out to me the most. Virtually everyone picked up on the huge impact of Mobile, and Content Marketing has truly grown into its own cottage industry.
The intensity of knowledge shared at Pubcon 2017 is, perhaps, one of the only elements that remains from years gone by. New voices have emerged as thought leaders (though familiar faces like Marty Weintraub, Andrew Shotland, and Bill Slawski still remain), and many new speakers this year were female. It’s nice to see that we’ve moved light-years beyond the SEO “boys club” of the past decade.
Pubcon serves as a reminder that we should never grow complacent. The industry is always changing, and smart marketers must change along with it.