3 Lessons from the 2018 Nottingham Digital Summit

Working in digital marketing I’m always looking for opportunities to learn more and get new insights into what’s new in the industry. Conferences are great ways to do so, which is why I headed to the Nottingham Digital Summit, organised by Nottingham Digital agency Hallam.

There were some great speakers from companies like Microsoft, Google, Speedo, and Hallam themselves. I’ve picked out three things I have taken from the day.

Know the ‘what’ but don’t forget the ‘why’

The summit kicked off with an insightful talk from Vikas Arora (Bing, Microsoft) talking about planning search campaigns. Although I think his advice can be used for search engine optimisation (SEO) in general.

He emphasised the importance of not only knowing what your customers are searching and who is searching your products or services, but knowing why someone gets to conversion.

74% believe what they see on search engine result pages (SERPs) over a brand website, so ensuring customers see what they are looking for on SERPs is important.

You might know someone is searching for a hotel room in Lincoln is all well and good. But knowing they are planning a trip because they are attending a big festival coming up in the area will help you to reach more customers searching for the same thing. You could add a blog post about the festival, or create an online package for it. Knowing why a customer is doing what they do will help your SEO plan.

How to do understand “why” is tricky. Big data we can get from Google Analytics or other tools won’t always give the answer. This is why user research is important. Could you run a survey to your social media followers to see what they are interested in? Or could you add a field to your booking form or checkout to ask the reason behind the purchase?

Dr Sam Howard from Userfy showed how they do user research to really dig deep into why customers convert. Getting this qualitative data from your customers is so important to be able to grow your business.

It’s all about ideas

Kirsty Hulse’s talk (Many Minds) was probably the fastest paced and most fascinating of the day, talking about content marketing – which is what I work with most at Visit Lincoln.

She explained how for a good content marketing campaign you need an idea, data, and assets. Ideas are free and data is easy to find if you know where. But whereas assets are often thought of as hard to get and expensive, they don’t have to be if you have a great idea.

Something like Slides can help creating beautiful scrolling content, there are tools to create fake Instagram posts, Timeline can create timeline content. Maybe you could work in collaboration with another business not in your niche to create something that really stands out.

Personally I use Unsplash to find stunning Creative Commons (read free to use) photography, and Canva is great to manipulate your content into something that looks beautiful.

To get a good idea you need to get away from your desk – go for a walk or to a bar, or just somewhere different – because creativity comes through play.

Innovation comes into this too. Kirsty suggested incentivising innovation is a better method for creativity than avoiding risk. And Meaghan Rogers from Google shared their policy of allowing employees 20% of their time on a different project or in a different team to encourage innovation across the company.

Prepare for the future of search

A theme through the day was Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the effect it will have on digital technology in the future.

Vikas from Bing commented that AI will link human ingenuity with technological intelligence. And we will likely not even notice it happening: 75% of apps this year are infused with AI. He showed us some ways that Bing is using AI to improve their service by giving more intelligent answers to search terms and making their search results more conversationalto work with home assistants (more on that to come!).

Dr Dave Chaffee spoke on some general advice from his company Smart Insights and suggested that the best way most marketers will use AI will be to integrate it with automation. As AI grows, even smaller businesses will be able to harness it to automate their marketing and sales even when they are not working.

Vikas also revealed that studies show that 30% of all search by 2020 will be by voice. Barry Adams, the Chief of State of Digital, added that this is already happening in many homes, especially where home assistant devices are replacing traditional audio players like radios. Who needs a radio DJ when you can just ask Google Home to play your favourite Spotify playlist ?

The rise of voice search does mean though that websites must be ready for this impact. Structured content is needed — Schema in the back end, FAQs and lists in the front end. Websites must be machine readable so that the robot in the corner of the room can read it to speak it to the searcher.

A good tip is to just make sure your content online is useful. Hopefully this is already the case, but the more useful your content is, the more likely it will be picked up by voice search terms like “how do you make scrambled eggs” or “where can I buy Nike shoes”.


I had a great day at the Digital Summit and have brought some knowledge and ideas back to Lincoln with me. Plus this photo. Check my Twitter account to see the bullet time video!