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Highlights From SMX West

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SMX West: The Highlights Of 2016

SMX West was a hit yet again this year and here we look at the two main talks that caught our eye.

SMX West took place earlier this month and there were, as ever, a host of insightful and informative talks across the three days in San Jose. The world’s number one search engine marketing conference saw numerous stars of search hit the stage and deliver some nuggets of information that will help us all better understand just where the market is heading in 2016 and beyond.

It’s Time To Get Conversational

This year’s keynote speaker was Behshad Behzadi, Google’s Director of Conversational Search, and he had a message for the packed house at SMX West – voice search is set to take over. That’s quite a prediction, but if anyone is qualified to make such a claim then it is Behzadi. Ten-plus years engineering at Google has made him an authority on such matters, and when he speaks the search crowd listens.

According to Behzadi, voice search is already growing faster than type, and the rapid improvements to speech recognition look set to ensure that this continues for the foreseeable future. This is especially true as the device market diversifies into different realms, such as wearables and smart car technology.

So, what does this mean for search marketers? Well, one thing that hit home from Behzadi’s talk was the way that people interact with devices when using speech rather than typing is that the search terms differ dramatically. Voice search is much more likely to be conversational rather than the blunt requests that we pump into a desktop computer.

For example, someone trying to find out the latest stock price for RBS is probably going to simply type ‘RBS stock price’ when searching. However, when using voice search, the search string is likely to be extended to ‘What is the latest stock price for RBS?’ or something similar. This is a key difference that will have to be properly understood by search marketers as the landscape changes.

Audience Over Algorithm

You’ve heard it countless times before – write for the person who is reading, not for the search engines, but Wil Reynolds hammered home this point during his conference address this year. He spent 25 minutes up on stage trying hard to convince marketers to readjust their thinking, just like he challenged himself to.

Reynolds decided to look at the world of marketing without using the internet, a pretty bold step for someone so steeped in SEO. However, the fact of the matter is that people were still marketing stuff before the likes of Google came about. I know, shocking isn’t it?

Reynolds announced to the enthralled crowd at SMX West that in order to become a better search marketer you really should be concentrating on how and why people make their decisions when they are in buying mode, not worrying about the ins and outs of how Google works.

It may not sound like much, but to this crowd it may have come as somewhat of a revelation. His theory is that Google may not be the global giant that it is currently forever, so therefore it makes sense to look at the underlying reasons why people do what they do when buying, rather than fretting over the latest algorithm changes.

He also closed his talk by urging marketers to better understand the changing landscape of SERPs. What was once an uncluttered domain prime for marketers to make their mark in is now awash with PPC ads, maps and news articles. However, Reynolds reckons that the key to being a great search marketer is to evolve with the times, and that means mastering all forms of search, not just organic.

Search is changing, and we are changing with it. Some people like to shout “SEO is dead“, but the reality is that SEO is becoming a more complex activity that unifies all aspects of marketing with web development. SEO is far from being dead, it is still growing up.

SMX London is only two months away, we will be reporting on this event too and sharing some new insights into the changing search landscape.

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