Engage Conference 2018 Round-Up

My colleague, Julia Nelson, and I had the privilege of attending the Engage Conference 2018 in Portland last week. Engage Conference is a one-day digital marketing and SEM conference that provides insight into the latest digital marketing strategies.

The most noticeable thing about Engage 2018 was that there were so few mentions of Amazon’s burgeoning advertising platform. One speaker noted last year that Amazon sold $1.6 billion in ads compared to Facebook and Google’s $30-some billion and $80 billion respectively. THAT WILL CHANGE—more brands will look at the different channels’ ROIs and realize the potential of the Amazon ad platform. In any event, there were still a variety of educational, non-Amazon morsels to take away.

The opening keynote speaker may have been the best: Microsoft/Bing’s Purna Virji shared a humorous history of search tech, complete with 1990’s video of wide-eyed actors wearing ill-fitting blazers talking to smart wastebaskets.

Virji dedicated a good chunk of time to talk about innovations in image search—meaning use of an image as a search term for when “you can’t think of the word.” She also said images are the most important factor in making the decision to purchase. Voice will soon make up the majority of all search, and within a few years, the average person will speak more to a robot AI than to their spouse (tough to compete with Alexa’s infinite willingness to listen).

Kane Jamison of Content Harmony spoke to the crowd about the scale and state of marketing content on the internet these days. There’s little question that content is being dumped on the web at an unprecedented rate, but sharing of that content is rapidly decreasing (down 50% since 2015; Facebook being the biggest source of shares).

“The economic value of simply publishing content is zero—unless it’s shared,” said Jamison. The big question is whether the content is becoming increasingly unworthy of being shared, or whether people are just getting sick of all this sharing. In the meantime, let’s control what we can control—and when it comes to selling products online, that means keeping your product detail page content top-notch so that any SEO/SEM efforts driving eyeballs there will be optimally capitalized upon.

About infographics and other visuals, Matt Siltala of Avalaunch Media explained that many marketers slip up by sacrificing quality for quantity, and also by getting overly cute and/or loud. He shared some very polished videos with no voice-over at all, comprised just of imagery, animations, and some light text. Certainly, this style of the video has a lot of appeal in our modern, over-noisy world. Siltala also promoted the repurposing of infographics in a variety of ways, e.g. snipping a banner for a blog or landing page, posting on social, sticking in white papers, etc.

Marty Weintraub of Aimclear and Will Scott of Search Influence both shared a bunch of fun facts, opinions, and theories about Facebook marketing. Weintraub called it “the definitive research tool of humankind.”

“Psychographic targeting,” as these gentlemen called it, is the act of analyzing and sorting demographics by every personal detail found on Facebook—so basically everything—including age, sex, interests, behavior, job title, income, device used, life events (retirement, marriage, vacations) and so on. The prices of Facebook ads are also rapidly dropping, though that may well have something to do with their relative lack of performance.

The sleeper hit presentation of the conference was Michelle Morgan of Clix Media enlightening the group about negative targeting and audience shaping for Google and Bing. Morgan gave a detailed, comprehensive rundown of how to logically and incrementally tag, monitor, and cull members of your audience.

All in all, the Engage Conference was an upbeat and worthwhile event. I’ll bet next year we’ll see a lot more attention being paid to Amazon Advertising—once it becomes common knowledge that Amazon is an in-marketplace ad platform with an impressive ROI.

Editor’s Note: On September 5, 2018, Amazon rebranded its advertising platform. Amazon Marketing Services changed to Amazon Advertising and Amazon Advertising Platform changed to Amazon DSP, among other changes. This blog post was changed on October 5, 2018 to reflect those changes.