What State of Search 2018 Teaches Us Heading Into 2019

Earlier this fall, myself and numerous other digital marketers convened upon Gilley’s Dallas for State of Search 2018.

It was my first State of Search and I couldn’t have asked for a better time. I owe a big thank you to my boss, Jason Channell, and the rest of the leadership at Infinite Digital. Thanks for sending me and investing in my education and professional development.

It’s taken a couple months, but I’ve finally found the time to put the highlights of what I picked up on from this conference to paper. Below you’ll find quick notes of the major take-home points that I came away with over a couple days. Fair warning that there’s a lot to chew on, but I’ve tried to make it easier for everyone by breaking points up categorically.


  • Ranking number one doesn’t mean you’re “number one”. With Google claiming more and more dominion over the front page of their search engine results, position zero is an important focus today for SEOs. Write your content around needs. What is the purpose of the query you’re optimizing for?
  • Local pack, video and image optimization are the starting points for helping your brand reach position zero.
  • User intent is how you optimize for search engines, rather than optimizing for search engines first and pigeonholing user intent into it.
  • Nearly every day, 70% of search engine queries are research oriented. This shows we should understand that our traffic is largely coming from people at the top of the funnel.
  • Brand loyalty is influencing the pages that Google delivers to visitors on the SERPs. If you’re finding a competitor’s thin content pages are ranking well, it may be because loyal followers of the brand are visiting frequently.
  • Ask your clients about their goals. This will help them focus on the right tactics before combining with other too early.
  • SEO should not be siloed. Every tool a marketer has is part of a bigger picture in the marketing world. They are meant to work together.
  • Tailor your messaging to the people that you’re actively targeting. Don’t miss out on the opportunity for personalized messaging.
  • In a mobile-first world, it only makes sense for video to be part of your social media and advertising plans. Text gets harder to read as you get older, and someone is more likely to stay engaged with video content than writing.
  • People begin content marketing thinking they start at a 10/10 level. In reality, you start at a 0/10 level.
  • Multi-attribution reports in analytics are a great way to get different teams (SEO, PPC, social, display, etc.) in your organization to understand why their work is important for a company as a whole.
  • Keyword research is customer research.
  • Layer keyword data with audience persona data for more granular insights.
  • What are people thinking, feeling and doing? These are important questions for insight on the customer journey.
  • The volume of data that we have now is matching the computer power we have. This is an opportunity to harness in SEO.
  • Searchers are now looking for help every step along the way. Marketers that work with this will be rewarded. Hence, why we’ve seen the rise of AI voice search recently.
  • Customer experience is and will be the best marketing for you to pursue.

Local SEO

  • Google reads websites for local businesses in an inherently different way than how they read them for enterprise-level and other non-local types of businesses.
  • Local SEO should start with your client or brand’s Google My Business profile. This is foundational for the rest of your campaign.
  • For conversion focus in local SEO, find ways to maximize the hours open for your business. This may mean, for example, if you’re a small business then having your phone number and email available to customers outside of normal business hours to answer questions and fulfill things such as emergency orders. The extra phone call, click, or in-store visit could make a huge difference
  • If your site is still not mobile friendly or you’re operating without an SSL certificate, fix this immediately for the sake of your local SEO.
  • It’s called Local SEO for a reason. Going after local packs larger than an immediate area isn’t sustainable. Proximity is key. Optimize around geo-coordinates.
  • “Some people say links are of less relevance today… good luck to them.” Gyi Tsakalakis #mehlinks

Content Marketing

  • Why pursue content marketing? According to Eric Enge of Perficient Digital ORM issues, social media users evaluating their usage as their favorite platforms come under scrutiny, ad blockers, and more clicks being devoted to organic content over paid are all important reasons. All that said, the question still remains how to use content marketing to provide value to SEO.
  • Content attracting share and links is legitimately good content. Don’t mistake making cat videos attracting lots of hits on YouTube as the only way.
  • If your content is trying to sound authoritative or fit in the editorial journalism space, you need to be a trusted figure among those publics.
  • 3 steps to amplifying your content: Social Media, Blog Outreach, and Influencer Marketing
  • Out of all forms of content, blogs have the shortest shelf life. Aim to be a content hub. Educate your audience with new posts consistently for the short run and develop evergreen content to win in the long-run.
  • What’s the best way of getting in the mind of your customer? Talk to them. Ask questions such as why they are or are not currently buying from you.

Office Life/Professional Issues

  • Setting boundaries of what you do and don’t do in each campaign/project is critical to not getting thrown under the bus.
  • Professional work has to scale. It’s natural to get excited and want to learn and do new things often. But at the end of the day, it has to scale.
  • Be as detailed as possible in a process outline. Processes should remain fluid, though. Be flexible if something isn’t working or could be better.
  • Set KPIs and create goals that match the website you’re working with.
  • Add a monetary value to goals to help prove ROI for your clients. Throw the dollar at their face in a positive way. Be the value proposition.


  • Successful content marketing is built on strategy, creativity, and promotion. In that order.
  • Content created in-house versus outsourcing has its advantages. Write, get crawled, send out a press release, earn media coverage, and earn links. It’s the total package for SEOs.
  • Make up an award at well-covered events. The award should have the URL listed on it. Follow those two steps and it’s likely to pick up coverage and drive links. — Adam Riemer
  • Today, people have become numb to “doom and gloom” news. Nonprofit organizations should emphasize the positives in how your cause has grown in order to earn links and coverage.
  • As link-building (and Google’s controversial stance on “unnatural” link-building) comes under more scrutiny, diversity of channels driving traffic to your site becomes more important. Having multiple channels send traffic to your site will protect you if your organic search becomes penalized.
  • Localized links are a huge opportunity in the SEO world. Go for them. Stop scrutinizing factors like trust flow, DA, PA, follow/nofollow, etc. The good of obtaining these links far outweighs the bad.

Tony Wright

My former boss and Wright IMC founder Tony Wright spoke on the challenges of running a digital marketing agency and winning and growing business. Specifically, Tony spoke on the constant challenge of scouting new clients through performing audits and how most agencies are handling audits in the completely wrong way.

  • The typical agency is fired when they become replaceable. Go above and beyond. Be excellent in what you offer. Be irreplaceable.
  • An SEO audit is a snapshot of a website’s SEO presence and problems. Every audit must contain a plan for implementation. Most agencies aren’t pushing these out aren’t including this and it’s problematic for growing their business.
  • Audits seem like the promised land, but they don’t provide recurring revenue. Without proper planning, audits rarely produce repeat business.

Mark Traphagen

Social media is always a bit of a tricky subject to speak on in the realm of SEO in the digital marketing community. It doesn’t send direct ranking influences to search engines so it’s hard to always sell social media as an important part of one’s SEO strategy. But more important, according to Mark, was having the discussion on “Why Social Media Needs to Grow Up in 2019”, and how it’s not farfetched to say “2018 Has Been The Most Chaotic Year in Social Media Marketing.”

Traphagen’s talk centered largely around how social media is beginning to undergo a taming of its “Wild West” landscape that SEO went through several years back. Google started scrutinizing and penalizing spammy and corner-cutting behavior, and platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are now doing the same. Mark highlighted the recent work done by these platforms to fight “fake news” and offensive posts by bots that have become more frequent in our current political and social climate. Engagement has been our focus so long on social media, but the more mature metric to look at is meaningful conversations in our communities, and how to facilitate them. Don’t assume organic social will get you to this place. It’s like a billboard. It’s out there for many people to see, but do you know that they’re the right audience? Embrace paid social. It’s not optional and it’s good for you (like eating your vegetables).

Notable Presentations/Links:


















Thanks for staying with me! Feel free to share this and even leave your thoughts in the comments below. Let’s make 2019 an excellent year for digital marketing and search.

Mid-20s Digital Marketing Professional Living and Working in Dallas. Spicy Food and Red Bull Connoisseur.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store