This is the second year I’ve attended the Digital Summit in Minneapolis. The collaboration of knowledge that comes out of this event each year is unparalleled. This year my colleagues and I gained amazing insights into four top digital trends:

  1. The future of search
  2. Mobile performance
  3. Building authenticity
  4. Living on the edge

The future of search and SEO

A big leap in search in the past few years has been voice recognition and smart speakers. You may have heard of the Amazon Echo and Google Home. These products are leading the way in what will be a smart speaker wave—allowing consumers to voice search for what they need in full sentences rather than using one or two words. This new ability will have a big impact on how websites are optimized.

You will need to:

  • understand your visitors’ intent
  • know what questions they’re asking
  • consider the words they will use

How do you get inside your consumer’s mind?

Market research is a great place to start: send out a survey or interview existing customers. Focus on their motivations, their questions and how they describe their thoughts. Use this insight to set up your web page titles, H tags, and metadata.

Some online tools that can help you get started include:

Very soon voice recognition search will be second nature to most of us.

Dare I quote Vanilla Ice? We must always “Collaborate and listen.”

Along with understanding how your consumer is searching for you, I encourage you to download The Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors by Search Engine Land. Print it out and share it with your colleagues. Everyone working on any digital project needs to be on the same page—collaborating and listening and working with the same vision in mind. Take setting up a simple landing page for example. The page is initially schemed by a strategist, refined by a writer, drafted by a designer and then implemented by the developer. Everybody needs to work together along the way to ensure the landing page will meet the client’s goals and the users‘ expectations.

Mobile performance

Most people are accessing websites on their mobile device, so in addition to using the right page titles, H tags and metadata, part of optimizing your webpages is how well they perform on a mobile platform. Speed, accessibility, user friendliness and responsiveness are key components to a great-performing site.

“Just because you have a mobile version of your website, doesn’t mean it’s mobile friendly.”Mindy Weinstein‏ (@mindyweinstein) of Market MindShift

(Digital Summit workshop, Current Search Strategies That Will Increase Your Exposure.)

I love Mindy’s quote because it’s so true. Often, I am initially impressed with the fact that a company has a mobile version of their website, but then I get frustrated because it’s not user friendly or consistent with the desktop version.

Issues can include:

  • navigation that doesn’t work
  • buttons are too small to click
  • text is too small to read
  • images aren’t made responsive
  • forms are difficult to fill out
  • it’s just plain confusing

Chances are you’ve experienced some of these issues. How long did you stay on that website? Probably not very long. In this mobile web page study, conducted in late 2016, Google found that:

  • 53% of visits are likely to be abandoned if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load.
  • The average size of the content on mobile sites is 1.49 MB, which takes 7 seconds to load over 3G connections.
  • One out of two people expect a page to load in less than 2 seconds.

Speed speed speed. Make smart decisions.

  • Avoid large image files, make sure every image you use is saved/optimized for the web.
  • Externalize your CSS and Javascript files.
  • Stay up to date with the latest HTML and CSS practices.
  • Don’t use excessive comments and whitespace in your coding files.
  • Avoid inline CSS rules as much as possible.
  • Research the plugins being used on your website to find out how much space they use.

In my opinion, performance and experience across all device sizes is more important than search. Make sure your website works, and then make sure people can find it, because first impressions are important.

Authenticity

Authenticity, honesty and credibility have always been important, but are now growing in significance. Online reviews are playing a big part in how genuine a brand looks and feels.  Whether your reviews are good or bad, make sure to ALWAYS reply, by either saying “Thank you for the positive review,” or acknowledge the negative review and do something about the complaint. Be honest. Don’t let your customers down. Act with integrity at all times. Companies with this mindset are bound to have success.

6 tips for making your website reputable:

  1. Cite credible sources in your blog posts.
  2. When appropriate, backlink to websites with a positive reputation.
  3. Gather Google reviews; ask your clients to take 5 minutes to give a positive review. Send them the link and make it easy for them.
  4. Make it easy for people to reach you with a phone number, email, contact form or all of the above.
  5. Use secure badges to display that your website is safe. Make sure to have an SSL certificate. This has become quite important and will soon become mandatory. In October 2017, Google Chrome will show a security warning on HTTP pages. See this article for more.
  6. Show that you’re active online. Keep up with consistent social media posts, engage with your audience, and keep customers up to date with your company’s latest news.

Live on the edge

“The biggest missed opportunity in content marketing is playing it too safe.” Ann Handley (@AnnHandley) of MarketingProfs

(During her Digital Summit lunch keynote, titled Good Content vs. Good Enough Content: A Fight for Sore Eyes)

Bigger, bolder, and braver. There are so many new products and services being marketed right now—and even more are being introduced every day. In order to stick out of the crowd, you must be willing to take risks. No matter the industry you’re in, if you’re following what everybody else is doing you might be successful, but you won’t be on the forefront. During Ann Handley’s keynote, she mentioned that, “Smart companies don’t ‘follow’ conversations, they lead them.” And in order to lead them, you must use bigger, braver and bolder marketing strategies.

Bigger context

A meaningful, well thought out, deep story will give your customers something to care about.

Bolder approach

A bold strategy will back up your original meaningful story and take a difficult challenge head on.

Braver marketing

Try something that hasn’t been done before. Take a risk and dare to be different. Seth Godin (@ThisIsSethsBlog) had a similar message in the keynote that he gave at the Digital Summit where he says, “The people who come out ahead are the ones that change.”  Mistakes will be made, but that’s how you learn what doesn’t work and what does work. You need to be the company that’s able and willing to take the risk. This article by Handley will dive into this process more thoroughly and gives you real life examples of the bigger, bolder and braver strategy in action.

Conclusion

The Digital Summit offers plenty of insight. What you’ve read here is just a small portion of the useful information one web developer has obtained. Remember that our digital world is changing more rapidly than ever before and you’ll never be able to keep up with everything, but you can examine, schedule and prioritize what you want to focus on. Most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy the ride.