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It’s Time for the 2018 MNSearch Summit!

Hello everyone! It’s that time of the year where digital marketing professionals from across the Midwest gather in our backyard to hear insights from some of the most influential search marketers around. That’s right, tomorrow (June 22, 2018) MN Search is hosting their annual summit! In preparation for the event, today's article highlights the sessions I plan to attend, and why I think they are important. I hope to see you there!

100 Best Companies to Work For by Minnesota Business Magazine

Who is MN Search?

For those not already familiar, MN Search (or the Minnesota Search Engine Marketing Association) is a Minneapolis/St. Paul area professional association dedicated to the uniquely complex practice of search engine marketing. I try to find time to participate in professional organizations for a multitude of reasons, and I’ve always found MN Search to be very special. Search engine marketing as a discipline is, at its core, a technical practice and I really appreciate the balance MN Search strikes between learning and networking. Every event I’ve attended has managed to present detailed technical concepts in an understandable way. MN Search really puts knowledge and practice as a high priority.

The MN Search Summit

The annual MN Search Summit is the big event of the year, offering a full day of learning with industry thought leaders. Positioned smack-dab in the middle of the year, it is timed perfectly to recap new developments and research from the previous year with enough time left to make an impact on the current year. I’ve attended the event for many years now, and I’m always impressed with the quality of content. The presenters do a great job of balancing technical detail and subject-matter specifics with easy-to-understand language and an engaging flow, and I expect this year to be no different.

This year, with three keynotes and five breakout sessions, there will be a lot to take in. Each session has three different presentations to choose from, so here are the sessions I plan to attend (so far) and why.

Morning Keynote: “Data Storytelling – How we break silos down to get sh*t done”

Wil Reynolds (Founder / Director of Digital Strategy, Seer Interactive)

As a resource for clients, a common challenge I personally encounter is the vast differences in organizational structure and how people work together to get things done. This keynote from Wil Reynolds is all about using overcoming roadblocks, breaking down silos, and building buy-in. I’ve seen several presentations from Wil and I am confident that he will provide some powerful insights on the subject. The human element is a complex part of every project and I am always looking for new tools to put in the toolbox, because everyone benefits from working better together.

Session 1: “Analytics Time-Savers – How to do analytics when you don’t have a lot of time”

Jeff Sauer (Founder, Jeffalytics)

When it comes to building stronger search campaigns, data and analytics is a must-have. But the rabbit-hole is deep. This presentation looks to be focused on tools and techniques for automating Google Analytics. Google’s tools typically have very robust APIs and I put a high value on anything I can do to minimize effort without sacrificing quality results. Plus, more efficient processes mean more efficient budgets!

Session 2: “General SEO and Q&A with Google”

John Mueller (Webmaster Trends Analyst, Google)

This was a difficult session to choose. Several talks looked fantastic, but ultimately I think I’ll be attending this session from John Mueller with Google. 2018 is an exciting time, as recent changes to Google’s search ranking strategy are becoming clearer and more refined. Topics like machine learning, mobile-first, and most recently page speed have dominated the conversation about Google’s ranking algorithms. I think that this session’s format as a panel discussion and Q&A session is a unique way to approach the topic and is likely to be very revealing as to the goals of Google, and what this means for the future of search.

Session 3: “Succeeding in Local SEO in 2018 (and beyond)”

Joy Hawkins (Owner, Sterling Sky) & Darren Shaw (Founder, Whitespark)

Search engines evolve quickly, and throughout that evolution we’ve seen the rise of several distinct opportunities. One of these big opportunities is local search. Local search is a completely different animal from traditional search, and the landscape continues to change quickly. This presentation is focused on the most recent and most talked-about changes to local search, and the impact these changes have. I feel that for many businesses, local search optimization is an important part of a successful search presence, so I’m looking forward to hearing what these two have to say.

Afternoon Keynote: “Content Marketing is Broken and Only Your M.O.M. Can Save You”

Oli Gardner (Co-Founder, Unbounce)

To me, Oli Gardner has been the highlight of every MN Search Summit. He consistently brings new ideas to a space that often grows stagnant with the same old ideas. This year, he’s doing a keynote and my expectations are high. Content marketing is a great model for checking all the boxes for a conversion-driven AND search-friendly web presence. But focusing on generating meaningful content can lead us to forget: we are here to sell products and our visitors WANT to buy! Oli’s keynote appears to be focused on a model for product-focused content that converts visitors. While this is a promise many have made, based on my previous experiences with Oli, I trust that this keynote will be valuable.

Session 4: “What the advancement of AI and machine learning in the publishing industry means for digital marketers”

Lexi Mills (Managing Partner, Shift6)

As Plaudit Design’s Marketing Director, I help guide our own strategic initiatives as well as those of our clients. Machine learning and AI are changing the way we build these strategies, and providing a swath of new opportunities. As gatekeeper organizations like Google and major media outlets continue to leverage artificial intelligence, I believe that understanding and integrating tactics designed to capture the attention of both humans and machines is critical.

Session 5: “Conversion Through Credibility – Driving Paid Media Performance by Finding New Paths”

Craig Key (Chief Marketing Officer, Bite Squad)

Best-practices, conventions, and rules-of-thumb all occupy an important place in a marketer’s toolkit. But I believe they should serve as a solid starting point for a digital marketing strategy that actually works. Sometimes, to achieve high performance we need to cast these aside and try something new – we need to innovate. This presentation from Craig Key of Bite Squad focuses on highlighting five unexpected ways that they were able to grow business through “credibility and influence.” I find that learning how others have implemented unconventional strategies helps to keep me on my toes and find the right opportunities to create more effective marketing.

Closing Keynote: “The Intent Funnel: How we get Keywords Wrong”

Dr. Pete Meyers (Marketing Scientist, Moz)

Lastly, we have the closing keynote. When it comes to SEO, the first instinct of most marketers is to try and capture the keywords we want most. The final keynote from Dr. Pete Meyers focuses on demonstrating why we might be picking the wrong words, and how to choose the right ones. Search has changed quite a bit, and in order to be successful we need to align our efforts with user’s intent. I’m looking forward to hearing about the tools, tactics, and strategies that can highlight the RIGHT keywords with the most opportunity.

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