A couple of weeks ago, our marketing team attended the Inbounder Global Conference in the lovely Spanish city of Valencia. At its 2nd edition but open to the public for the first time, this event is the brainchild of Gianluca Fiorelli, Inbound Marketing specialist and Moz Contributor.
Over the course of two days, on the 19th and 20th of May, over 20 international speakers and more than 1000 attendees from all over the world took the pulse on the latest trends in inbound marketing, branching off into SEO, PPC, branding, web psychology, content marketing, and more.
We heard on the evolution of search, machine learning and AI, and the imminent or already present changes in the digital landscape, as seen by Gianluca and Moz’s own Rand Fishkin, who successfully crowned the event with a presentation on the importance of focusing on engagement when it comes to our content and brands.
The Inbounder conference, which began last year as a think tank that gathered more than 50 thought leaders and resulted in a 130-page manifesto with insights on the evolution and trend in inbound marketing, was this year one of the most anticipated digital events in Europe.
Besides the conference’s excellent organization, which was ensured by WAM (We Are Marketing), the strong points were definitely the presentations and talks that we had the opportunity to attend. There was a bit of everything for everyone, and there really was a unity and homogenous direction to all the information shared. Perhaps not so much focus on social media, but there’s talk of changing all that for 2017.
Now for those of you who attended, you’ve probably decided on what presentation you liked best, or what insights you brought back home that you want to apply.
Here at Advanced Web Ranking, we definitely had our personal favorites, which we’ve been discussing and deciding how to adapt and apply to our needs.
What were the speakers’ perspectives?
But while I was at the conference, taking notes (and tweeting like mad), it occurred to me that it would be interesting to know what the speakers themselves liked best about the conference, or what other presentations they thought were useful. After all, one of the most important aspects of attending conferences, besides thought leadership, is exchanging ideas with your peers and finding inspiration.
So as soon as I got home, I started emailing some of the attendees I came in contact with, as well as the speakers. I know – as an inbound marketer, I hate being pushy. But I said to myself “hey, this is for a good cause, I’m sure most of them won’t feel pressured”. To my delight, most of them replied almost instantly, happy to contribute to the idea and help me write this piece that’s intended as an extension of the conference, a “let’s draw some conclusions” part.
Obviously, the first person I contacted was Gianluca Fiorelli himself. I was curious, as I’m sure everyone else is, to find out how he thought the conference turned out, whether he was pleased with everything, and what he’s planning for the Inbounder in 2017.
On Sunday, once I finally had recovered from The Inbounder storm, I was looking at it and, surely because of my past in the TV industry, I realized how much organizing an event like The Inbounder is similar to be the showrunner of a TV series.
The showrunner, if you don’t know, is the soul of a series, because not only he is the one who created its concept and wrote its storyline and the most important episodes’ scripts and, even more important, the one who cares that tone of series is consistent along all the episodes.
For me organizing and “directing” The Inbounder was exactly that, and my main purpose was that all the talks, albeit if they were about also very different topics, had a consistent tone and message, which was that The Inbounder is a place where we don’t generically talk about marketing but about how to do marketing.
Let’s be honest, we all love what people like Seth Godin write and say, but we cannot stop in talking and assuming that “our cow must be purple”, we must also explain and understand how we can sell that purple cow.
Overall I am very satisfied that this actionable message hit the attendees and, from the feedback I am still receiving, we succeeded in delivering it.
Now, without the stress of the conference days, I can say that The Inbounder overcome all my expectations. Yes, we had some flaws (eg: in some cases the simultaneous translation was not excellent or the echo in some parts of the venue or small technical problems), but the positive feedbacks are 100 times more than the few negative ones.
However, for being the first edition of The Inbounder – and despite of my perfectionism – I can say that it was a well produced conference.
Right now, like good marketers, we are processing everything and underlining all the things we must better so to offer an even more spectacular second edition next year.
Personally, then, I am already in contact with some potential speakers for The Inbounder 2017, for which is my intention to obviously maintain the diversity and high quality of the keynotes, but also I’d like to bring in people from Bing, Google, Facebook but not for things like the classic Q&A or “pre-cooked” speeches, but with something totally new that can brings us marketers real insights about how Machine Learning, Engagement Metrics or Voice Search – just to cite some potential topics – really work.
Finally, also inspired by a splendid conversation I had with Joanna Lord during the conference, I am thinking about taking few speakers expert in the new frontier of marketing, like Virtual and Augmented Reality, Transmedia and Virtual Assistants.
Now that’s some way to create anticipation for the 2017 edition! Speakers from Google, Facebook, or Bing, and topics like Virtual and Augmented Reality really translate into the fact that next year’s edition is going to take it not one, but two steps further and set the bar so much higher.
In my opinion though, the Inbounder has already set a standard for digital conferences throughout Europe. It managed to combine the gathering of information and actionable tips with great networking opportunities, and a fun atmosphere. Perhaps the location has a lot to do with it.
Although I’d hate to make lists that sound like tops, among the most notable speakers at the Inbounder (purely based on their popularity in the industry), include Aleyda Solis, Rand Fishkin, Will Critchlow, Bas van den Beld, Wil Reynolds, Lisa Myers, Kieran Flanagan of Hubspot, Jennifer Sable López of Moz, or Joanna Lord. You can see the full list of speakers here.
There’s a lot of things I’d like to say about the conference, but in the end most of my opinions were expressed by those I contacted. So without further ado, I’m just going to let you see what the speakers and attendees came back with from the Inbounder 2016:
A few of my big takeaways:
- I loved Jen Lopez’s presentation on how to build a great team and inspire them to do their best work, especially the idea of focusing on strengths rather than just trying to shore up weaknesses
- Will Critchlow made me think a lot about the future of mobile and voice search and how intent/user satisfaction will play a bigger role vs. keywords and links in the future
- Wil Reynolds’ idea that you can win at search and lose at people was great; I’m going to use that phrasing in the future 🙂
- Nathalie Nahai’s talk on provoking curiosity and the psychology of persuasive content was one I loved, too. In particular, I liked how she framed the difference between clickbait (promises, but doesn’t deliver) vs. persuasive content (promises, and then delivers).
I’ve been attending many conferences in the past 10 years, both in the US and Europe. I’ve seen big and small, both exceptional and less so. Coming to The Inbounder this year, I had no big expectations, but I came with complete trust knowing this is an event created and planned by my friend Gianluca Fiorelli. Gianluca met and exceeded my expectations and made me happy with the decision of attending The Inbounder.
One of the big plusses – though not the biggest – was the conference’s wonderful location and venue, at the Valencia City of Arts and Sciences. The open layout of the space helped us all feel very relaxed and welcome, and besides meeting old friends, I made some interesting new ones.
The biggest plus, then, were the high quality presentations by some of the best speakers in the industry such as Aleyda Solis, Wil Reynolds and Samantha Noble. Their topics struck to my immediate interests and I caught on to a few ideas we’ll be applying. I also enjoyed Kieran Flanagan’s case study on how they managed to build a growth team for inbound marketing at Hubspot. This was one of the most actionable presentations at the conference, showing not only what, but how they did things, so I managed to pick up a few interesting ideas that we can apply at Caphyon across all our departments.
For a first-time event, The Inbounder really had the allure of an event with tradition, with a clear identity and scope, and it was all, I’m sure, thanks to WAM as well, which collaborated with Gianluca and saw to the smallest details. Sure, there were small technical issues with the microphones or slides, but these are things you can’t always foresee.
All in all, attending The Inbounder was a great opportunity for me and the members of our marketing department. We learned and observed, and this short trip acted as a team building experience too. I’m pretty sure we’ll be attending The Inbounder next year too!
What an incredible venue and city to host an event, easy to get to from London and the whole event (including travel, etc) was less expensive than many UK events!
Overall a fantastic event, both content but even more so for the networking, meeting old friends and making new ones, together with meeting many for the first time ‘in real life’.
I would say the content was good overall. For many I think more technical information and takeaways would be an improvement, as well as more advanced talks. While the event needs to meet the requirements of a mix of people and skill sets I felt there was room to stretch the thinking of some of the attendees.
The whole team involved did a fabulous job, but a special shout out to the SEMRush team who seemed to have endless energy and time for everyone.
My favourite talk – It was great to see a mix of digital marketing especially the talk from Joanna Lord, who I have followed for some time. Bringing in a topic such as Brand was exciting and exceptionally well presented. The area of Brand is often ignore or simply misunderstood and yet vital to marketing and business.
Nathalie Nahai gave a wonderful talk on the psychology behind persuasive content, again similar to Joanna another important area often not considered.
Aleyda Solis is always wonderful to listen too, giving a detailed approach to competitive SEO analysis!
The one talk that was most discussed with people I spoke with was Sam Noble, a wonderfully detailed view of PPC with actionable tips!! Sam talked about how all too often Paid is seen as a direct response channel, when in fact it has much wider reaching opportunities.
I think that the event had something for everybody (including both the networking opportunities and the talks themselves). While there was comment that it was a little ‘light’ with the content on some talks, in reflection I think this simply mean it reached the wider attending audience rather than just hard core SEO’s and Marketers.
Would I recommend the Inbounder to others? Yes
Will I be going to the Inbounder 2017? Without doubt!
Speaker, Client Services Director @ Koozai: Samantha, whom you can connect with on Twitter and LinkedIn, had a great presentation on paid media, which you can see here, in an article she wrote about her experience at the conference.
The Inbounder set a lot of high expectations and it did not disappoint. From the venue right the way through to the speakers and content I think that Gianluca, Georgio and the team put on a brilliant event that has set the bar high for other events across the globe.
From a content perspective I really thought the speakers brought a lot to the table but one of the key takeaways for me was taken from Lisa Myers talk. She changed the way I look and think about things by making sure I focus on why we are actually doing what we do before focusing on what we are actually going to do. Lisa used this example to show the audience how they come up with creative content ideas but the process can and should be applied to everything we do.
The Inbounder was a great experience altogether. It’s difficult to name the best part, but for me, Jennita’s speech was deeply inspiring and relevant. She talked about organizing success marketing teams, focusing on her own experience with Moz. Her slides were packed with tips for managing marketing and administrative processes, but more than the ideas and techniques shared, I loved how she put herself out there, exposing some of the not so shiny aspects of one’s day at the office. Her honesty was truly refreshing and I think we need to remind ourselves more often that we’re all facing the same fears and difficulties. We all have our weaknesses, but if we’re open about them, if we could only embrace them, we can then start focusing on our strengths.
— Everett (@balibones) May 19, 2016
Samantha Noble’s talk was definitely an eye opener as well, as to what paid advertising can offer as a channel. I never knew before that targeting competitors’ users through Gmail was an option (wink).
Among favourites was, no doubt about it, Wil Reynolds’s talk about search intent and how Google came to learn what type of content users need for each type of query. We need to take a closer look at the SERP we’re trying to rank in, observe what type of pages Google ranks and produce matching content. Insisting on ranking with commercial pages for informational queries is not only useless, but potentially harmful as well. I strongly recommend you check out Will’s talk when the video recordings from the conference will go live.
Lisa Meyers’ and Joanna Lord’s presentations about brands, branding and the “Why” behind our every action, were top notch as well.
The Inbounder has been a phenomenal event! Sensational venue, very well organized and an absolutely stellar speaker line-up!
It’s hard to pick a favorite presentation, but Wil Reynolds is definitely high on top of my list. His highly energetic and engaging presentations are always great to watch! I especially loved his concept of “Stop & Think” – so to grapple with the search suggest showing up upon typing in a targeted keyword, to get a better feeling regarding the search intent of the majority of searchers. His side-by-side examples of PPC and organic landing pages really proved his point to stop selling and start educating to have sustainable success within the organic results.
I also loved the presentation from Bas van den Beld, who was talking about how to create the right content at the right time to the right audience. On day two I especially liked Lisa Myers presentation, who is one of the best content marketing strategists in Europe imho – very smart ideas, perfectly executed! Of course, Aleyda Solis has been great again as well – she’s really on top of things when it comes to competitive SEO analysis and shared some great actionable tips on how to identify opportunities for superseding the competition.
At the end of the day #TheInbounder mastermind Gianluca Fiorelli himself gave a great overview on what’s going on in search at the moment and put all the latest buzzwords (RankBrain, Semantic search etc.) very well in context. Last but not least, the Wizard of Moz, Rand Fishkin, got the SEO-savvy audience in the right mood to “fight back against back” – a great end to a spectacular event!
Thanks so much to Gianluca and his whole #TheInbounder team – it has truly been an epic event!
We really enjoyed coming over to Valencia from The Next Web to enjoy the sun and knowledge at The Inbounder. For a first big conference the organisation was terrific. The biggest things I learned came from Joanna Lord talking about the frameworks she uses to build the biggest brands for the upcoming century.
The Inbounder was a great opportunity to stay tuned to the last trends in online marketing. Although there were speakers from different countries, some ideas kept resonating along many of the presentations that we could attend during the two-days event:
- Content is still king but it is not just original nor long content anymore. We will have to analyze the customer journey so that we are able to identify which is the right content for the user depending on where he is along his purchase decision. This was a key point in my presentation as well as in Bas van den Beld’s, and was also referred to by other speakers.
- On-page and off-page relevance factors are still important, but Google is adding machine learning to be able to rate the quality and relevance of a certain content measuring the user’s satisfaction instead of depending upon external and third-party signals. The excellent presentation by Rand Fishkin pointed out that user engagement is the new and, perhaps, ultimate relevance factor.
- The impact of digital assistants could represent an opportunity as well as a threat for SEO professionals. Willl Critchlow used his crystal ball to envision a future in which we will not search the way we do it today any more. Instead, we will ask whatever question to our Siri or Cortana and oral language will be the new interface to find the answer to our needs.
- The evolution of Google and how semantics is changing the way search engines understand what we search and how the find relationships between different contents to build knowledge graphs. Gianluca Fiorelli took us to dive into how a search engine works today and how it might evolve in the future.
- I also liked the competitive analysis methodology shared by Aleyda Solis, which could be the perfect complement for a content marketing strategy as explained by Lisa Myers who showed fantastic examples of how content can be used to achieve excellent results.
- It is difficult to feel passion about data, but after the passionate presentation by Gemma Muñoz it is impossible not to look at the numbers in a different way. Gemma is able to show the knowledge behind the data and to use it to our benefit to lead our decisions.
- I found very revealing the insights from Ricardo Tayar’s presentation on what is true and what is not about conversion rate in Spanish e-commerce. I am sure this will help dissipate some of the myths that frequently surround this controversial topic.
Although I could not attend all of the presentations, I also enjoyed the rest of the sessions, particularly the ones by Paolo Zanzottera, Valentina Falcinelli, Joanna Lord, Joantxo Llantada, Jennifer Lopez and Marcus Tandler.”
Apart from the fabulous venue and the beautiful weather, the conference was packed with great speakers and pretty cool insights – I’m still digesting this info almost two weeks later 🙂 Speaking of venue and design, Valentina Falcinelli’s presentation was deeply marked with Italians’ renowned class in fashion and design – beginning with the slides and ending with the message. Her speech revolved around the idea that “We don’t read what we don’t like” which is so true: we first skim, scan and only then we carefully read the content. So, no matter how “king” your content is, you need to focus on how you present that content, as well.
Wil Reynolds’ presentation was very talked-up so far, so I won’t insist and I’ll share a free tool that’s very useful on finding out what your customers’ needs really are. This tool grabs the results from Google & Bing’s auto suggest feature and displays them in a pretty nice graphic representation. The information is grouped by different categories (how, why, what etc.) describing each user’s step in the customer journey: Answer the Public. The tool can also be used to find out what kind of information is being searched about your brand – type down, for example “Zara” in the search box to find out what are the most frequently asked question about it. Pay attention as this tool is pretty addictive – don’t say I didn’t warn you 🙂
Bas Van Den Beld’s presentation was the one that shocked me most. Besides starting his presentation stating that “Content is Not King” anymore – keep calm, “Right Content is Still King” :), he illustrated how people perceive the content based on their perspective and interpret it differently. I still remember the metaphor about how we perceive other countries on the map by reporting to ours, and here’s the example he gave us about how Australians see the world map:
It got me like this:
We, as marketers, tend to focus on measurable goals (such as how many visitors, soft or hard leads we brought each month, quarter, you name it) and “forget” about building brand awareness. Samantha Noble, besides having a very adapted presentation to The Inbounder’s theme (space, galaxies and astronauts), crossed the T’s and dotted the I’s and taught me a valuable lesson on how to leverage ads to raise awareness. More precisely, by moving away from “text” and focusing on “videos” when advertising. Youtube is a very good example, as you audience is “captive” during the first 5 seconds of a clip and will inevitably watch your ad. You might argue that most people use plugins such as AdBlock, but it’s worth trying. Just make those first 5 seconds of your video ad count 🙂
Bas van den Beld
I think my main take away from the Inbounder isn’t one specific presentation, but is one conclusion that can be drawn from many of the talks: audience first.
Everything people should do in Marketing has to be audience focused. Stepping away from trying to get a message across to bringing solutions to the problems your audience has. This is not something new but it seems that more people are now ‘getting’ this. Hopefully this will lead to much more valuable content :-).
The conference as a whole was amazing. I think Gianluca did a great job pulling all this together. The speakers, the venue, the organisation. It was all big league material. I can’t wait for the next one!
All the presentations at The Inbounder were great and the quality has been really high. There were two main threads tying together all the speeches:
- the community is getting more and more conscious of the fact that search is no longer about filling in a text field on a search engine and SEO is (luckily) becoming more than keywords and rankings;
- marketers are finally, as they should, giving more credit to users rather than focusing only on algorithms.
Google’s recent acquisitions are all following the footprints of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning: user engagement is becoming a key factor, as Rand Fishkin stated demonstrating that one of the hardest struggles that we as SEO have to face is fighting back the browser “back” button.
The Inbounder has been a pretty exciting experience for me and even if I went to the conference with only 2 goals in mind: to meet new people and learn more, I definitely achieved much more than that.
Now, my takeaways might be more useful if you are in a similar stage in your business like I am, running a startup, but I do hope that you can get some insights out of them:
1. Invest in user experience – Marcus Tandler had an interesting message in his talk, that nowadays it’s all about the user experience. Search engines have been evolving and it’s not only about keywords or links.
You have to put in the work and create a delightful experience for your website’s visitors and readers. Otherwise, no one will care about you.
2. How to build a high performance team – Jen Lopez’s talk was timely for me, because I am working on getting more people to help with my startup and it’s been great to learn more about how she’s taking care of her team at Moz.
She talked about understanding our goals and strengths, breaking tasks by type, or creating a “Love | Like | Hate” list of tasks for every person and let people do tasks that they like to do and others hate to do.
3. Build a brand from the beginning – Another talk that was “at the right time” for me was the one from Joanna Lord on building a brand. My biggest takeaway from her talk is the fact that it’s best to take the time and work on building a brand right at the beginning, because it’s a much less painful process.
For this reason it’s best to invest time into clarifying your vision, create a strategy and set up goals and values for your business. Another important element in building a great brand is working on the company’s culture and making sure that everything is aligned: your vision with the company’s culture and your team’s expectations.
The thing that has stood out most to me from most recent inbound marketing events is the relative end of tricks to get traffic.
I’m sure a lot of them still work and clickbait in a variety of forms will always be a factor. But at a deep strategic level, there seems to be a huge reorientation around deeply understanding what people want and getting great at delivering it. Will Reynold’s talk was really interesting here. He explained how to use what Google already knows to better give people what they want. Answerthepublic.com was a great tool recommendation too. The idea of looking at what ranks highly (videos, images, wikipedia etc…) and building out content to match is powerful and something that hopefully most of us can use.
Samantha Noble was also terrific. The ability to use PPC advertising throughout the sales cycle is probably something that we will apply in our work (and the nugget about being able to advertise in the inboxes when they receive an email from competitors is pure deviousness).
To have gone from less than 200 people to over 1,000 in a year, and who knows how many next year, was an achievement for which Gianluca and We Are Marketing should feel very proud. The event, as a whole, was definitely worth the travel. We tacked a few days in Barcelona onto the end, which was a bonus.
In terms of constructive feedback, I’m sure I’m not the only one who will mention reducing the echo next year. It would also be nice to see more of the speakers out mingling during breaks, or maybe I just wasn’t paying close enough attention. With the amount of sleep I got, it’s likely.
The most salient presentation for me was Lisa Myers talk about PR for link building. I feel like we’re on the cusp of being able to take advantage of this strategy more at Inflow, and her talk inspired me to knock out a good first draft of a data-centric PR campaign that evening. It was the final kick in the but I needed.
Richard Millington and Jen Lopez taught me enough about communities to know I never, ever want to start one.
Rand and Gianluca both presented topics that made me realize the knowledge graph research we’re doing could potentially take on more meaning for our clients.
I plan on returning next year.
The general sentiment emerging from these testimonies is dominantly a positive one. I was happy to see those who contributed to this article offered balanced opinions on the event, real feedback about what they saw and learned.
For those of you who didn’t manage to get to the conference, here are a couple of sources where you can find some of the presentations: Kangadillo has gathered almost all the presentations, and you can find others on SlideShare.
For a first edition, the Inbounder shone out like an event organized by professionals, for professionals. There’s still room for it to grow, as there always is for all of us, and I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say I can’t wait to see how the Inbounder will evolve in the following years.
Until then, we should all get back to work, do what we do best, and put to practice what we’ve learned from these great folks. Lia out!