SMX Advanced through the lens of a young SEO professional

At a very young age, I knew digital marketing was the career for me. I was instantly drawn to the evolving search landscape and intrigued by customer behaviors on search. To me, SMX Advanced not only amplified my passion for search marketing, but it also provided me the opportunity to network and learn from the best industry thought-leaders.

Here are my three major takeaways from attending SMX Advanced in Seattle.

Communicate Google’s customer journey

As search marketers, we are well aware that the customer journey for search has changed drastically. This is noticeable with updates on Google’s search result pages over the years. However, after SMX, I realized that the speed at which these changes are happening is far quicker than we realize.

In her keynote, Jessica Bowman said, “Google will own the entire customer journey in the future,” and these changes are to start in mobile search results. She referred to this new customer journey as “Google’s customer journey.” In this journey, Google is a marketplace, and the end customer is no longer a visitor to the brand’s website, but instead a “Google customer.” As Google continues to provide experiences right on the search result page, it is important for brands to invest in SEO. SEOs are going to be crucial in making sure the correct information is provided to web crawlers, which determine what is displayed on the result page and what will be spoken by voice devices.

This re-emphasizes that SEO is not dying and is here to stay – instead, we need to start thinking of “SEO as more than a revenue channel,” said Jessica Bowman. The more conversations and education we can have amongst teams (including those in leadership positions) about SEO in relation to Google’s customer journey, the more opportunities we will create for our brands in the future.

Write content to answer micro-questions

A SEMrush study on voice search revealed at SMX Advanced stated: “70% of all answers come from SERP features.” This makes it extremely important to optimize for featured snippets and “people also ask” boxes. To do this, SEOs need to expand and master writing competencies.

Katie Pennell in her presentation on repurposing content, stated, “simply answering a question is no longer enough to rank, you need to adequately address the surrounding micro-questions.” She further went into detail on repurposing existing content by grouping micro-questions in topics suitable for different audiences. Then answering these questions to gain featured snippets and answer boxes. This provided a unique perspective for content creation.

Optimizing content for questions can be a challenge, but without re-creating the wheel (i.e., using existing content to write for featured snippets), this can be a cost-effective strategy. For this strategy to work, SEOs will need to build on their own writing skills and train content teams to write for featured snippets. Ultimately, brands that invest in content will do well on voice search.

Learn JavaScript and its impact on SEO

Programming and coding have an integral role in SEO. In fact, Googlebot updating at the same rate as Chrome indicates Google’s working towards more sophisticated rendering for JavaScript and advanced web apps. As a result, SEOs need to focus beyond HTML coding on JavaScript and its impact on SEO.

Cata Milos of Bing gave an interesting perspective on how web crawlers understand the content on web pages. Bing confirmed using HTML5 semantic elements to differentiate between the primary and secondary content on a page. This, combined with schema markup, helps algorithms to display rich results. These findings can be applied to any other search engine, hence indicating that expanding knowledge in programming will help SEOs to better communicate with developers to design and write search engine friendly code.

Final thoughts

As Google prepares to change the search landscape entirely, SEO will be crucial for brands. SEOs need to increase writing competencies for content creation and build on developer skills. On the one hand, repurposing content to answer micro-questions will help optimize for featured snippets and “people also ask” boxes. On the other hand, coding schema and understanding JavaScript will be important to signal search engine crawlers with the right information. Ultimately, this will prepare brands for long term success, including leveraging voice search.

As a young SEO professional and a frequent reader of Search Engine Land, this jam-packed two-day conference has provided me with ample knowledge, new connections and actionable takeaways that make me feel confident in my search marketing career. 

After SMX Advanced, I’m ready to gear up and build on my skills – are you?

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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