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My favorite annual event on search engines and online content took place in downtown Raleigh last week. 1,700 people attended the 2015 Internet Summit, “The Southeast’s definitive digital gathering.” (I’m pretty sure they used to call it the ‘largest’ so something else must have dethroned them, SuperNova South or Digital Marketing For Business, perhaps? I attended DMFB last year, but have to say I feel like Internet Summit > DMFB in quality and size.)

I don’t recall upgrading for it, but I got a VIP Lounge Access pass. The lounge had snacks, massages, plus comfortable and fairly quiet meeting and social areas. This helped me skip a session or two that I found a little yawny and instead got some work done for clients.

internet summit raleigh

VIP pass!

What I enjoyed most and felt was most valuable from the sessions I attended:

  1. Unplugged content brainstorming. Sarah Weise, the UX Director with Booz Allen Hamilton, explained an enlightening strictly non-digital process for identifying your audience and understanding their needs. The meeting structures involve no computers or Internet and are strictly whiteboards and sticky notes – and all persons present have a strict deadline to answer questions collectively, and then vote individually. I look forward to trying something like this the next time I work with a client who has trouble identifying the unique needs of their prospects.
  2. Intent and predictive functions. In years past, predictive search affected how online content writers produced content. With predictive search, the search engines suggest terms and other similar content related to what was searched. However, applications, search engines, wearables, and the other tchotchkes of the Internet of Things have started to provide what we need before we even know we want or need it. Scott Amyx, CEO of Amyx & McKinsey, said that content needs to be highly personalized and dynamic to keep pace with these trends.
  3. Let go of #1. Just about everyone who owns a website wants to be #1 in search engine results for key terms in their industry. For many site owners, you can’t rank in the top spot for all terms–or at all. Rand Fishkin, “The Wizard” of Moz, says site owners should focus on 10x. From what I understood (it was covered very quickly at the end of his keynote), this centers on appearing in the Top 10 results. Like the conversation that occurs among all content creators, Fishkin underscored the importance of better engagement, providing content that fulfills the user’s need, fast site load times, providing the best UX possible, encouraging the user and the content to go deeper and not be superficial, and avoid your general bad UX elements.
  4. Limit yourself. Yes, I was confused by this too, but it makes sense. Marissa Coren, Content Strategist at Uber, explained that we need constraints to avoid creative paralysis. This reminded me of a great TED Talk by Barry Schwartz that explains how we have choice paralysis. According to Coren we should: “Have limited room to experiment. This gets you out of your comfort zone. You should run from [your comfort zone]. You will escape creative stagnation and give the gift of permission.”

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    Marissa Coren, Content Strategist at Uber explaining how we should limit our creative options to become more creative and valuable.

  5. Email marketing – focus less on open rate. I moderate my own newsletter for writers as well as newsletters for clients, and before that I handled the newsletters for employers. I have been involved with coordinating email marketing for 13 years now. (Wow, that number surprised me!) Open and click rates were always the indicators of a transmission’s performance, other than the recipient fulfilling a CTA purchase or registration. Bart Thornburg, Email Marketing Manager at WeddingWire, made me think of focusing on a new metric and function: Open rates associated with subject lines. For example, if I dedicate one of my newsletters to short fiction markets, agents, workshops, etc. and my subject line reflects that–individuals who are not interested in short fiction will probably not open the email. This means I know more about the interest of the contacts who did open the email–and I can separate those ‘open contacts’ into a separate list for future correspondence about short stories–which would be very fitting in the future when my short story collection eventually gets published.

I’ll leave you with one last nugget, which was one of the initial pieces of advice from the opening keynote address from LinkedIn’s Global Content Marketing Leader. Jason Miller explained about innovative content: It must be “useful, enjoyable, and inspired.” Hopefully this and other pieces of content here on Write Naked hit those targets for you.

Check out my re-caps of past Internet Summits: 2014, 2013, 2012.