I attended several different sessions at SMX Advanced this year covering topics from local search, to link building, to content marketing, and even an unexpected session-long commercial for Cortana, “the future of predictive search.”
I would say I learned a lot at the conference, but nothing that was Earth-shatteringly new or anything. For the most part these sessions helped to cement some ideas that had been bouncing around in my head for almost 2 years.
Matt Cutts and Danny Sullivan Discuss the Future of Search
The keynote address at the end of Day 1 of SMX Advanced was a sit down conversation between Google’s Matt Cutts and Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan. The deal was they would alternate: one question about search from Danny Sullivan and his Twitter followers, followed by a (usually coy) answer from Matt Cutts and discussion, then one exciting new Google announcement from Matt Cutts, followed by questions and discussion. They alternated between these for a little over an hour with Cutts and Sullivan (that should be a TV show, “Cutts & Sullivan” or “Sullivan & Cutts”) intermittently throwing out stuffed penguins and hummingbirds to the (not always looking up) crowd.
Their discussion spanned a wide range of topics, but the one question and answer that stood out to me most was:
Danny Sullivan: “If you could describe the future of search in one word what would it be?”
Matt Cutts: “Hmm… That’s a really good question, can I think about it?” Moments later he continued, “Quality, Yeah I’d say, Quality.”
In content marketing we constantly are stressing the need for quality. But what is “quality content.” Isn’t quality subjective? This question was asked over and over again during the content marketing sessions I attended at SMX Advanced, and when I put all of the different answers I was hearing together, a definition started to become clearer.
What is “Quality Content” Anyway?
Quality content = is relevant, it’s timely, it’s usually unique (meaning no one else is talking about it or no one else is talking about it how you’re talking about it), and you have to remember that it’s subjective. You may think you have an amazing idea, and that it’s going to just blow up and “go viral” so to speak, but that’s most likely not going to be the case.
Content Marketing vs. Link Building
One thing was abundantly clear from all of the sessions I attended at SMX Advanced this year, link building as people have come to understand it, is in fact dead. However, the power of links is not. Matt Cutts let us know that Google actually tried removing the power of links from their algorithm to see what it did and they found that the SERPs were garbage.
Link building and content marketing are not the same.
Content marketing = going out of your way to produce quality content. This includes doing in depth industry and competitor research as well as in depth site content audits.
Link building = getting people to link to your content. This includes industry research to identify influencers, and a LOT of community building/outreach, establishing connections before you go asking them for things.
How to Improve Your Current Content Marketing Strategy
One thing you should remember is that a good content marketing strategy/plan won’t start to see its impact until 6-12 months in. Trying to accomplish anything that will have a sustainable impact, in less time than that time, is nearly impossible.
Most marketers (including myself) have been approaching content marketing like it’s a checklist i.e.
- We need to post x number of times per week
- Each posts needs to mention one of these target keywords
- Once published, promote the content via social channels
Instead we need to take a step back and figure out exactly what it is we are trying to accomplish with that content. Who do we want to read it? What do we want them to do during/after reading it? What are our goals/targets/KPI’s for content marketing and how do those align with our overall business objectives?
Everyone agreed that consistent posting was important, however, they also agreed that that shouldn’t be your primary goal. The primary goal of content marketing is to create quality content and share it with/make it available to the people who will find it most relevant, timely, etc. in the hopes that they will help amplify that content (via links, mentions, shares, etc.).
You can have awesome content on your website, but that doesn’t mean anyone’s going to see it, there is a certain amount of outreach that should be done for each piece of content that is individualized for that piece.
Would I Recommend SMX Advanced?
So now, to answer the big, $1600 (price for 2 day admission pass) question, was it worth it? Would I recommend others attend SMX Advanced next year. There are a few types of people that I think would especially benefit from attending. First, would have to be the digital marketers looking to network and meet others in their field. SMX Advanced offered plenty of opportunities to socialize with others, including events outside of the conference like the Janes of Digital meet up and the after dark party at the Seattle Aquarium.
Secondly, anyone who is a marketing manager for a small to mid-sized business would learn so much about digital marketing from attending just two days of SMX Advanced. At the very least they’d leave with a better understanding of the things they could be doing, and the impact those digital opportunities could have.
And finally, I think anyone in digital marketing who feels stuck in a certain project or with a certain client, can leave SMX Advanced with a whole bunch of new ideas for how to address that issue. All of the speakers at SMX Advanced we’re really good at explaining how they problem solve, what their process is, and what they do when they themselves get stuck.
Bottom line – Yes, I would recommend SMX Advanced. (And yes, including all of the food and outside of the conference activities available to attendees, I would say that it was worth the $1600).