17 SEO & Digital Marketing Expert Tips from SEJ eSummit 2021

With 2020 firmly in the rearview, digital marketers are now looking to adapt to changed consumer behavior and markets – and to level up their skills for 2021.

One of the most useful and prevalent traits in digital marketing is that we tend to be curious.

We geek out over new tools.

We love to experiment, try new things, and constantly push the limits.

Importantly, we like to stay current with what other digital marketers – generalists as well as specialists in SEO, PPC, and content marketing – are experimenting with and learning, too.

It’s how we stay sharp, serve our employers and clients best, and grow in our careers.

And it’s one of the things many of us miss most about the cancellation

This week, digital marketers of all disciplines and skill levels gathered online for SEJ eSummit, two knowledge-packed days of expert sessions, keynotes, Master Classes, video networking, expo booths, and more.

Here’s just a taste of the expert tips and actionable takeaways SEJ eSummit speakers shared with attendees:


Continue Reading Below

SEO Takeaways From SEJ eSummit

Please note that throughout this article, you’ll see direct quotes in quotations.

All other takeaways have been paraphrased either by myself or another SEJ eSummit 2021 attendee.

1. Data Science Is Fully Accessible – The Tools Are Within Your Reach. Don’t Be Afraid of the Tech.

Be aware of the types of bias BERT and other machines may have; analyze entity relationships using Colab, which is already in your Google Drive!

If you’re not comfortable using Google Search Console API, connect Data Studio and upload CSV to a Colab notebook.

Quick tip: Sort & filter by CTR to find keyword opportunities.

Other use cases for Colab: extract entities & categories from URLs, int. link analysis, summarizing text, tailoring a CTR curve, SERP feature correlation to CTR.

@BritneyMuller, Keynote: Automating Data Insights

Search Engine Journal Executive Editor Danny Goodwin shared top takeaways from Marie Haynes’ session, How to Diagnose the Cause of a Drop in Google Organic Traffic:

How to diagnose the cause of a drop in Google organic traffic

2. What Is Webpage Performance in Google’s Eyes?

It’s our intent to put a number, score, or other quantifying measure of how fast and well a website works for users.


Continue Reading Below

TTFB (Time To First Byte) was one way to measure webpage performance in the past… how long from request to server returning the first byte of the response.

The old thinking (circa 2004 or so) was that the server needed to be as close to visitors as possible.

That’s no longer good enough.

The problem with TTFB is that it doesn’t reflect real-life user experience.

You might have a response but no content yet, so we want to see when content is displaying and a user can take action.

You should be within 0.1 secs for First Input Delay… longer than .5 seconds you’re going to lose people.

All other things being equal (they never are) faster pages might get a bit higher ranking, but in practice, it will not be a huge factor.

Content quality and EAT are important. Don’t expect Core Web Vitals to be the #1 ranking factor.

Martin Splitt, Core Web Vitals – Why, What, and How?

3. No More Theory: Web Vitals – A Look Under the Hood of Real Brands

Bartosz Goralewicz shared his analysis of Core Web Vitals optimization of the top 100 most popular websites (mobile).

It shows that even major brands are not prepared to capitalize on the upcoming opportunity.

No More Theory: Web Vitals – A Look Under the Hood of Real Brands

What’s more, just 10% of the top 50 domains pass all Core Web Vitals criteria on mobile.

4. One of the Best Tools out There Is the Search Engine Results Page.

Go type in your keywords and see what else is out there.


Continue Reading Below

What kinds of pages are ranking for the keywords you’re after and what is the intent?

Maybe you’re expecting people to buy but your searchers’ intent is to explore.

If you see that the top three ranking competitors are using video, you need to be using video.

Don’t just look at a single page; look at the entire site.

How do your competitors provide experience and demonstrate authority and trustworthiness?

Ask yourself, how do I deserve to win this SERP?

Keith Goode, Advanced SEO Master Class

5. Should You Use Structured Data to Indicate EAT Factors Like the Author?

Why not? It can help confirm certain facts.

You’re solidifying those connections to make it easier for Google.

As far as old content that used to perform well but doesn’t meet EAT criteria, if it’s misinformation/untrustworthy it may be hurting you now.

Evaluate for truth, trust, accuracy.

Lily Ray, Keynote: How 2020 Changed the Course of SEO in 2021


Continue Reading Below

6. Why Don’t Large Corporations Have VP or Director Level Roles for SEO Pros?

“I’m an advocate for executive roles in SEO and pushing for SEO to sit on multiple teams.”

Why don't large corporations have VP or Director level roles for SEOs?

“Larger corporations needs one point of authority to determine the overall strategy and cohesiveness of SEO across the org.

If the company is big enough that it warrants multiple SEO teams, then a VP role makes complete sense.”


Continue Reading Below

Jenn Mathews, Where Does SEO Fit?

PPC Wisdom From SEJ eSummit

Looking to level up in PPC this year?

7. Optimize to Higher-Funnel Conversions.

Aim for top-of-funnel conversions (ie., add to cart vs. purchase) and you might find higher purchase as a fun offshoot anyway.

Use PPC budget to interest shoppers in the experience, then accelerate checkout.

Amy Bishop, How to Engage Users and Continually Test at Every Stage of the Buying Funnel

8. Why Are You Driving People From Instagram Ads to Pages That Aren’t Mobile-Friendly?

Why are you showing me products lacking inventory in my size?

Stop it.

This is what happens when siloed groups don’t share data.

Wil Reynolds, Keynote: SEO to Growth: How to use your siloed search data to help your company understand your customer better than ever

9. Navah Hopkins’ Main PPC Takeaways Are Three-Fold…

  1. “I like using subdomains for PPC campaigns because I want to maintain brand equity and analytics integrity, without creating points of friction for the SEO team (duplicate content risks, navigation bars, user experience/CRO).
  2. Analytics should always be linked to Google Ad accounts so you can take advantage of more specific conversion actions, audiences, as well as an easier time maintaining a “single source of truth” for attribution.
  3. Build in data sharing (especially search terms/search console) between PPC/SEO teams so lessons are learned once/time isn’t invested in a strategy without some sense it will be successful.”


Continue Reading Below

Navah Hopkins, PPC & SEO Winning Together

10. What Kind of Questions Can We Ask to Get Better Targeting Information on Customers?

The higher in the funnel we are, the more you’re going to rely on that market segment info that you already have.

Talk to your customer service reps and customer-facing team member

If we know, for example, that we’re targeting a group on LinkedIn, we can make some inferences about who they are.

But once they’re on our site, that’s where their behavior and activities tell you more about who they are.

So at that point in the journey, you can advertise for their next steps (remarketing).

Lots of people also use surveys to their site and use site search data to better understand what it is people are looking for but aren’t finding on your site.

Amy Bishop, Advanced PPC Master Class

Expert Content Optimization Tips

Core Web Vitals is not going to be the biggest ranking factor.

11. There’s No Magic Word Count When It Comes to Helping a Page Rank in Search.

Andrew Dennis shared: Just focus on building a comprehensive experience that answers the intent of the query you are targeting.


Continue Reading Below

Three basic questions to ask yourself when building linkable content:

  • Who would link to this?
  • Why would they link?
  • How is this different from pages that already exist?

Michael Johnson, Be Feared and Loved: Ranking Content the Michael Scott Way

12. Market to Your Current Customers Who Already Know How Awesome You Are First.

Then optimize your content pages. Then optimize your sales page.

Start at the bottom of the funnel and do some conversion copywriting.

It’s never a waste of time to optimize your sales pages.

It doesn’t matter how small your audience is; if you write a piece of content for sales, that’s a lot more valuable to you than just appealing to strangers.

Every sales page on the web would be better with a few more embedded testimonials, too.

Andy Crestodina, Laser-Focused Content Strategy: 9 Legit Ways to Drive Impact at Every Stage of the Funnel


Continue Reading Below

13. Has COVID Made us Want Shorter, Simpler Content?

Not necessarily; we are now looking for more digestible content.

Easier to scan, tighter, more focused to meet our new time constraints.

Shama Hyder, Panel: Ask a Content Expert

14. Content Personalization Is a Priority for CMOs in 2021.

SEO pros need to be looking at how to support this with search insights and data.

Do you know where you are on the value pyramid?

Wil Reynolds value pyramid for SEOs

If you don’t, you are probably at the bottom.


Continue Reading Below

It’s fine to start at the bottom of the value pyramid, and it’s fine to stay there if you want.

But you’ve got to know that you’re at the bottom.

Wil Reynolds, Keynote: SEO to Growth: How to use your siloed search data to help your company understand your customer better than ever

How Digital Marketing Experts Create Work-Life Balance

15. SEO Is Still the Wild West, as You Do Not Have the Power – or the Rules.

SEO is inherently stressful.

In small businesses, in particular, it’s challenging to balance birds-eye vs. granular view, and switching back and forth between the two is challenging.

Compartmentalize so you can focus.

Use tools to help you reflect on your current state and move forward.

I like to use a Trello board, my personal diary, and a small group of business coaches to keep everything in perspective.

Dixon Jones, How To Create a Goal-driven Mindset Without Going Insane

16. Pants. They’re a Boundary.

How do you create boundaries for work/life balance?


Continue Reading Below

Create physical & mental space. Schedule your life.

Change your clothes!

Duane Forrester, Find Balance, Find Sanity: Yoga For Your Mind

17. A Big Part of Work-Life Balance for Digital Marketing Experts Is Knowing When to Take Breaks & How to Unwind When the Work Is Done.

To that end, Shanta Hayes helped us recharge, reset, and recall the importance of mindful breathing in her most-appreciated midday work-life balance session, Mindful Self-Care in Digital Times: EXHALE.

As for knowing when to call it a day – this is why ending a jam-packed conference day with a party is practically a rite of passage.

SEJ eSummit did not disappoint!

SEO Pro/DJ Lily Ray shared her beautiful NYC views and exceptional deep house tunes with attendees for the after-party.

SEO Pro/DJ and digital marketing expert Lily Ray shared her beautiful NYC views and exceptional deep house tunes with attendees for the after-party

What did I miss? Share your favorite takeaway, notable quotes, and tips from SEJ eSummit that you plan to put into action this year in the comments below!


Continue Reading Below

P.S. – ICYMI, all of the SEJ eSummit 2021 videos are available on-demand. Get your content pass here.

Image Credits

Featured image: Paolo Bobita
Slide images from SEJ eSummit content.
Screenshots taken by author, January 2021.