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SEJ Summit Chicago Recap

On June 23rd, I had the pleasure of attending the SEJ Summit at Navy Pier in Chicago. This one-day conference was a rapid fire output of information from well known industry leaders in the SEO world. Each of the 8 speakers utilized separate 20 minute time slots to discuss the current and future climate of search, and included three actionable takeaways we could apply to help improve our SEO and overall digital marketing strategies. I’m going to recap eight different presentations and discuss the great insights and tips I walked away with.


Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, Gary Illyes on Google & AMP: A Better Mobile Experience

In This Session…

We learned for the first time ever there are more searches being done on mobile devices than on desktop. This is significant because mobile web is historically slow and cluttered with advertisements which creates a less than stellar user experience. Did you know 40% of mobile users will leave a site with a load time of 3 or more seconds? That’s right, it takes just three seconds to lose a user accessing your site on a device accounting for half of all searches. To combat this problem, the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project, or AMP, was born. AMP originally focused on ways for publishers to create mobile-friendly and optimized content that loads instantly everywhere but after seeing the benefits of AMP, the project is now crossing over into other verticals.

3 main takeaways from Gary’s Presentation:

  1. Focus on website speed – especially your mobile site’s.
  2. Pay attention to Google’s AMP announcements – they are extremely important and changes are happening fast!
  3. Open up communication with your developers, put AMP in the back of their minds, and start to warm them up to the idea that AMP pages will eventually become the norm.

It’s important to note that since Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, Gary Illyes works for Google he does have a vested interest in making sure the AMP project is a success. Equally as important to note, AMP pages load up to four times faster than the average and take only about one second to load. Considering the success of the first implementers of the AMP project, this project is definitely a movement to keep your eye on and get excited about. As far as Gary’s concerned, AMP pages aren’t going anywhere soon, and are here to help “make the mobile web great again.”


Director of SEO at tronc, Carolyn Shelby: Tune Up Your SEO

In This Session…

Carolyn brought an inspiring energy to topics that experienced SEOs have been executing for years. She discussed the importance of consistent optimization and stressed the value in taking time to tune up your existing optimization with fundamental SEO principles in mind.

3 main takeaways from Carolyn’s session:

  1. Keep things simple. Have defined and refined goals as well as elegant clean code.

  • Remember: efficient delivery is the key to speed.
  • Speed is the goal. Remember power to weight ratio.
  • Carolyn stressed the burdens and costs associated with complex sites. Carolyn’s session slides offer a deeper look at complexity costs and SEO tune up details.


    Chief Social Media Strategist at Search Engine Journal, Brent Csutoras: Big Brands on Reddit

    In This Session…

    Brent, an avid Redditor for over 8 years, discussed ways big brands can benefit from connecting directly to consumers on this platform.

    3 main takeaways from Brent’s session:

    1. Reddit is valuable – it will take trial and error, but if you want to get the most benefit out of social, use it!

  • Cater to Reddit – do not go blindly into a Reddit campaign and hope it works. Think about what you are doing and do the research!
  • Stay engaged.
  • Take a detailed look at big brand reddit success on Brent’s SEJ Summit Chicago session slides and discover ways you can mimic success.


    Chief Evangelist at Searchmetrics, Jordan Koene: Surviving the Search Plateau

    In this session…

    Jordan’s session focused on the search plateau and tactics to get out of a traffic lull. He immediately stressed the importance of having your ducks in a row when it comes to your website. Make sure you have great content, amazing design & functionality, and have implemented fundamental SEO tactics. If you can say you have done all of these things, then you can look at your traffic plateau and ask why it isn’t growing.

    3 main takeaways from Jordan’s session:

    1. Ignite your content.

  • Expand your reach.
  • Recycle good SEO habits.
  • View Jordan’s Search Engine Summit Chicago session slides for more ways to turn your search plateau into a range.


    Media Lead at Home Depot, Erin Everhart: Psychology of Marketing

    In This Session…

    Erin Everhart discussed the challenges marketers face in today’s digital landscape and the best ways to use emotion to engage and connect with your customers.

    3 Takeaways from Erin’s session:

    1. A linear-path-to-purchase no longer exists.

  • Appeal to customer’s emotion over logic.
  • Properly market SEO to your stakeholders.
  • Learn more about the psychology of marketing in Erin Everhart’s Search Engine Summit Chicago session slides.


    Director of Audience Engagement at The Daily Dot, Amy Vernon: Lessons from the Newsroom: Why Search and Social Should Utilize Principles from Journalism

    In This Session…

    In this session Amy discussed her years in print journalism and how we can apply those same principles to both search and social media strategies.

    3 main takeaways from Amy’s session:

    1. Be curious.

  • Give searchers what they want AND what they need.
  • Respect your audience.
  • Learn more about Amy’s love of huskies and lessons from her time in the Newsroom.


    Manager of Search Strategy & Analytics at SapientNitro, Ryan Jones: The Future is Today: How Machine Learning is Changing Search

    In This Session…

    Still murky on what exactly machine learning entails? Well luckily, you are not alone. Think about your most recent Netflix recommendations. Those recommendations are an example of machine learning or letting the machine figure out the problem. You didn’t ask for those recommendations, but they knew you would need a new show to binge watch soon and what shows or movies you would enjoy based on your past watching history. In this session, Ryan covered the evolving climate of search – including the process of machine learning and RankBrain and how they’re affecting SEO today.

    3 main takeaways from Ryan’s session:

    1. Focus on searcher intent.
    2. Don’t ask, “How do I…?” ask, “What do they…?”

  • Don’t react to change, leverage it.
  • Take a deeper look at Ryan’s session on machine learning and RankBrain in his presentation slides. And don’t forget, RankBrain is not a ‘ranking factor,’ Google continues to say it is an important signal that contributes to results, but only because it helps understand your query and decides what is the most relevant result.


    Director of Digital Marketing at Grainger, Akin Tosyali: Integrating SEO & Content Strategy to Exceed Customer Expectations

    In This Session…

    Akin discussed the benefits of integrating SEO and content marketing strategies to significantly improve the goals of your website.

    3 Main takeaways from Akin’s session:

    1. Show how SEO can listen to customers.

  • Quantify and prioritize content using data.
  • Ask for a seat at the content calendar table.
  • Grainger is the 11th largest eCommerce site on the web today with over 300 branches and 25,000 employees. After applying strategies combining SEO and content strategy teams outlined above the results included a 35% increase in traffic monthly based on the new article pages, a 50% better bounce rate, and a very noteworthy bump in revenue. Check out more of Akin Tosyali of Granger’s SEJ Summit Chicago session slides.


    Overall the Search Engine Summit Chicago covered an array of topics related to SEO and online marketing from knowledgeable industry insiders. The 1-day conference was a great experience that allowed like-minded marketers to come together and learn about the future of SEO. After the presentations and panel discussions ended, attendees were able to mingle and discuss the evolving SEO climates from our respective industries.

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