Can you teach an old dog new tricks when it comes to digital marketing? The ThinkVis conference has once again answered the question and proved the value of investing time in keeping specialist knowledge up-to-date.
In a round-up post after the fourth ThinkVisibility event in 2010, I suggested that, “Changing perspective is what any conference like ThinkVis should be all about in many ways. Challenging existing ideas and perceptions to give a broader and more balanced view.”
That still holds true, perhaps even more than ever given the significant developments in digital marketing over the past two years, so a return was long overdue to make sure I haven’t been missing any important tricks lately.
ThinkVis 9 was also a great opportunity to introduce some of Propeller’s Digital team to their industry peers and give them some insight into how other agencies approach the rapidly-evolving challenges of conversion rate optimisation. After all, continually refining and expanding our skills is vital to delivering the best possible service to our clients and helping them achieve superlative performance.
“The reiteration of sound intelligence is never a bad thing. When it happens in the context of social and search integration, the effect can be perspective-changing.”
With a few of the conference speakers having barely started shaving, I must confess to a little preconceived skepticism about how insightful some of the sessions might be. However, that says more about the prejudices of encroaching middle age than the wisdom of Dom Hodgson’s choice of presenters, who all demonstrated genuine depth of expertise and commercial awareness. There’s an exception to every rule of course, but looking back at the end of the day I’d be surprised if anyone didn’t find ThinkVis invaluable.
There were less than a handful of us there who’ve been in the digital game since it really began in the UK around 1995 – Dave Naylor and Dixon Jones among the veterans. Three years before the birth of Google, when I still had a full head of hair, 1995 was the year both Amazon and eBay launched and ‘e-commerce’ first became recognised as a commercial reality. Things have moved on a bit since then. Web 2.0, the growth of mobile, the impact of social media, and all the rest of it. However, one thing that’s remained constant is the necessity of effective integration. Oh, and remembering that it’s all still just marketing that has to deliver a commercial return to be worth bothering with at all.
Kristal Ireland rammed that point home in her entertaining, back-to-marketing-basics, session on social media strategy. Commenting on how it’s, “baffling that so many social media gurus know nothing about marketing,” Kristal reinforced the importance of keeping the brand at the centre of paid, earned and owned media activity, as well as the responsibility digital marketers share for producing high-quality content.
ThinkVis is primarily about consumer-oriented digital marketing, but there’s much that applies equally to B2B and it was interesting to see how priorities have changed among SEOs since 2010. At ThinkVis 4 the dominant themes were social ‘discoverability’ and linkbaiting. This time around, in a post-Google Penguin world and immediately after the Interflora advertorial saga, the emphasis was on risk mitigation.
On form as ever with his down-to-earth style and no-nonsense advice, Paul Madden highlighted that the three main risks in contemporary link building are the Penguin filter (which subdues the effect of SEO manipulation), link devaluation, and link warnings. Paul’s team had analysed around 5 million domains to objectively (and independently) assess the factors that represent link risk. That’s the kind of research that pushes SEO forward, and which for the most part only gets discussed at gatherings like ThinkVis. Paul stressed the need to continually review and cleanse link profiles and to pay particular attention to anchor text distribution.
Applying common sense and striving for diversity in link building activity was also the key message from James Agate, whose informative session on guest blogging advised concentrating on using relevancy, authority and authenticity as the guiding metrics in link research.
I can’t remember the last time I heard SEOs talk about mitigating risks, but the fundamentals still remain the same. As Paul said in his conclusion…
“Keep on building links, because that’s the only way to win.”
The subject of analytics quite rightly always features on the ThinkVis schedule and Russell McAthy persevered through a few technical glitches to extol the virtues of attribution in understanding the impact on conversions of multiple touch-points during the customer journey. Russell highlighted the value of being able to attribute performance to different online channels, different devices, and to offline activity, and how social media identifiers such as the Facebook login have an increasingly important role in meaningful cross-channel analytics.
At a more pragmatic level that’s relevant to almost any site, Russell also raised the question of, “how can you improve design based on marketing interaction?” He recommended using analytical insight into the user experience to guide the development of custom, and perhaps dynamic, landing pages that tailor the journey en route to conversion.
Many thanks to Dom Hodgson and his hard-working team for organising another cracking event. It seems you can sometimes teach an old dog a few new tricks.