We had the best time at this year’s Nottingham Digital Summit. It was great to see so many digital marketers come together as a community to share knowledge and learn from each other, all while supporting local charity, Emmanuel House.

A huge thank you to all of our speakers this year. We’re so grateful that so many incredible professionals were able to join us. Thank you for giving your time and insights. The day wouldn’t have happened without you. 

For those of you who missed any of the talks on the main stage last Thursday, here’s a rundown of what happened. 

Opening keynote 

The day started with an opening keynote from our CEO, Julio Taylor. His talk was based around the idea that every digital strategy and website is fighting for the same thing: the human attention span; meaning that the ability to earn and keep user attention is paramount to success in the modern age of marketing.

Automation and generative AI is amplifying the speed of content creation and consumption. However, the overuse of personalisation and a copy-and-paste approach (referred to as ‘zombie marketing’) will deter customers, as they’re learning to tune out generic, mass produced content. 

Julio’s overall message was that trusted authentic content is more important than ever. It’s still human skill that will gain us a competitive advantage, framing the outlook of the day.

Reinventing your paid search strategy on Microsoft Advertising

Our first speaker of the day Cristiana Herrera, Head of Performance Marketing at Diginius, spoke about developing a paid search strategy on Microsoft Advertising and the Microsoft advantage. 

Advertising on Microsoft enables you to reach 1 billion people who have greater purchasing power and are likely to buy online. 

Microsoft Bing’s adoption of AI-powered search is increasing advertiser value and potential by expanding customer reach and volume, changing the way we experience ads and customising them to fit each customer’s context, all resulting in greater return on investment.

The power of nostalgia: emotion in B2B creatives on LinkedIn

Wensy Antoli, Senior Creative Strategy Consultant at LinkedIn, spoke about how most B2B advertising is creatively uncompelling, with 48% of B2B purchase decision makers finding B2B adverts boring, and 71% of B2B ads being likely to generate no sales at all.

The WARC Effective 100 is a ranking of the world’s most awarded campaigns for effectiveness, and 59% claimed to use emotion in their creatives. Leveraging emotion can make a brand successful by building memory structures in the brain and therefore increasing its share of mind.

On LinkedIn specifically, tech companies providing an emotive experience have a 25% higher engagement rate than tech companies who don’t advertise with emotion. Again, emotive tech brands had a 30% higher lead generation form completion rate than those not using emotion.

So, now you know that emotive brands influence purchase decisions and outperform peers, start tapping into that emotion using nostalgia. With nine out of ten people admitting they think fondly about the past, nostalgia is a particularly powerful emotion, even if it’s ‘fauxstalgia’. Create a community with shared nostalgia and appeal to their formative years by designing creatives to elicit the joy felt at this time. You can add this to your strategy by implementing content like ‘throwback Thursday’ to share company memories.

Why data is everyone’s problem (and opportunity) 

Peter Laflin, Morrison’s Head of Data and Insights, emphasised the importance of ‘viewing data as a product’, which can be made available for use throughout an organisation. 

Once the data is uncovered, it should be translated into insights by transforming it into a digestible format that can be used for innovation within each department – sales can use data from customer success to improve the sales process, marketing can use data from product development to inform the way it’s marketed, and so on.

Bing, bang, boom: SEO for new players in search

Crystal Carter, Head of SEO Communications at Wix, explained how AI is not new to search. Google has had dedicated AI business solutions in Google Cloud for years, like its Large Language Model, BERT, for interpreting text in search, Google Lens for image recognition (which now has 10 billion monthly searches) and featured snippets.

While AI isn’t new to search, the way it’s used is. AI using the previous model, Web2, relies on an index understanding of old stored content to surface content for search queries. But the new generative web model uses old content to create unique real time content experiences that are potentially completely new.

Google has changed how they rank content by adding an extra E (experience) to the E-A-T acronym (expertise-authority-trust). This places emphasis on first-hand experience and user generated content for ranking when content is becoming more automated.

Search in 2013, 2023 and 2033: the more things change…

Barry Adams, SEO Consultant at Polemic Digital, outlined the changes that have happened in Google’s SEO algorithms over the decades, and what they can tell us about the future.

Right now, search is underpinned by these three key trends:

  1. Machine learning and AI is moving away from manual factors.
  2. SERP features have increased in terms of diversity of their ranking types.
  3. Knowledge Graph enables Google to understand entities and relationships, taking the focus away from keywords and providing more accurate AI generated answers.

Barry predicts that, based on the changing algorithms of the past, machine learning and AI will follow a black box system, where internal workings that produce an output are invisible to the user. The Knowledge Graph will still play a huge part in ensuring that SERP results provided are accurate. 

How to build a newsletter people care about

Joe Glover, founder of The Marketing Meetup, (and known as the nicest guy in marketing) spilled the secrets of building a newsletter that people care about.

Step one 

Context is key, think about:

  • Diagnosis – understanding the market
  • Strategy – who, what, how
  • Tactics – price, place, promotion, product

Understanding what you’re trying to achieve and who you’re doing it for makes the world of difference. 

Step two

It’s not about you. To build a newsletter that people care about you first have to care about the people. You can show you care by giving subscribers a reason to sign up (a reason that benefits them) and through the language used in your emails.

Step three

Make emails your own. You can do this in so many ways and Joe gave the examples of personal sign-off, subject lines hinting at previous emails, informal CTA copy and unique salutation.

Google insights: AI powered ads

Kwanele Nomoyi, Senior Retail Business Strategist at Google, shared the fact that 80% of advertisers already use at least one AI-powered search ads product. But now we’re at an inflection point where we can combine the AI-powered tools you’ve been using with generative AI to drive next-level growth and profitability.

Here are four ways you can start implementing generative AI into your marketing strategy today:

  1. Get the foundation right. High-quality data – especially consented, first-party data built from direct customer relationships – combined with value-centric measurement – is the bedrock to fuelling AI and directing it to optimise for conversions.
  2. Once you have your data foundation set, activate it using AI-powered campaigns like Performance Max. It’s all about getting the right message in front of the right consumer at the right time. But when this is a constantly moving target, the only way to be present at all key moments is by setting up your campaigns to be truly AI-powered from the start.
  3. It’s not enough to be there with the exact right message, you also need the right creatives. You need to choose which format options – short-form video, long-form video, shopping ads, display ads etc – suit your customer best.
  4. Measure the success of your campaigns with value-based smart bidding and make the most of customer connections across channels. Lastly, align marketing KPIs with business goals and key financial metrics.

SEO for TV: the rise of streaming

In an increasingly competitive world, Daniel Morehead, SEO Manager at Channel 4, explained how speed and ease of use is everything when it comes to getting ahead:

  1. Technical SEO is the key to increasing organic traffic – it makes your pages as easy as possible for Google to crawl and index. 
  2. UX and SEO have never been more intertwined – both are essential for making the customer experience as easy and smooth as possible.
  3. Consider the intent lifecycles of your keywords – from informational to transactional and navigational search intent, make sure you’re providing what users want.

The robots are coming – let’s not sh*t ourselves 

Our Director of Growth and Innovation, Ben Wood, discussed the pros and cons of AI and machine learning and how we can harness the power of the machines.

His overall message was that by incorporating generative AI to boost efficiency, we’ll be free to focus on higher level strategy. We just have to avoid the mediocrity which AI can easily generate.

Using AI tools comes with a lot of responsibility too. We need to make sure we’re putting measures in place to protect user privacy and safety, and be aware of algorithmic bias.

How to do thorough research when building a B2B topic cluster

A topic cluster is a group of content that revolves around a central topic and uses a pillar cluster approach to link related-content pieces in the cluster. Primarily, it helps to improve internal linking, helps you become an authority and increase the number of pages your visitors engage.

In her talk, freelance SEO copywriter Chima Mmeje walked us through how to build a topic cluster following the steps below:

  1. Choose a topic on which you want to build authority
  2. Conduct a content audit 
  3. Turn to your audience
  4. Keyword research 

Her key takeaways were: 

  • Include workflow showing the product in action
  • Use customer reviews from the sector to build trust
  • Personalise content to the audience’s specific needs

Sustainable strategy: developing an SEO strategy with the environment in mind

With more than 4 billion people actively using the internet, the combined carbon footprint of energy, infrastructure and communication technologies, such as smartphones and computers, totals about 3.7% of greenhouse emissions globally, which is comparable to the airline industry.

Heavy images, poor navigation and irrelevant content on your site cost unnecessary amounts of energy to maintain, as does the crawling of the entire web to make sure new content is found and shown to searchers.

Carmen Dominguez, our Head of Organic, explored how you can develop a sustainable SEO strategy through web caching, reducing image sizes, reviewing site structure and pages, reducing clicks, reviewing your sitemap and removing outdated content.

Why should you care about web sustainability? Well, because your users care. Sustainability is a main concern for 50% of users, and 85% have shifted their behaviour to a more sustainable consumption. 

A sustainable SEO strategy also:

  • Improves page speed
  • Reduces crawl budget wasting
  • Improves indexability
  • Helps target content intent

Link building case study: how we earned 2K+ backlinks with a boring page

Joshua Hardwick, Head of Content at Ahrefs, explained how a blog on the topic of SEO statistics gained backlinks from 182 websites with a DR of 70+.

He outlined five keys steps that will help you achieve the same:

  1. Choose the right topic – it has to be something that people search for, but also link to.
  2. Give journalists what they want – be sure to include stats they’re looking for.
  3. Replace outdated statistics
  4. Publish popular statistics at the top
  5. Build ‘seed’ links with outreach

How you can use audio and visual content formats to improve your content strategy

The last session of the day was delivered by Azeem Ahmad, Digital Marketing Lead and Podcast Host of Azeem Digital Asks. He outlined the best way to implement audio and visual content into your strategy.

  1. You must be on board with GA4 (as well as U/A).
  2. Understand which countries want audio, video, none or both.
  3. The barrier to entry is incredibly low and cheap – you can start by repurposing old blogs into short clips or create video testimonials or video product demos.
  4. Segment your strategy in this way by market for greater impact.

We still have insights from the Neville Studio and Company Room Stage to come, so keep an eye out for those. You’ll also be able to watch our main stage talks on our Youtube channel very soon.