Big Digital 2017 Wrap Up

14 Minute Read | Events

With many of our Kwastronauts beginning to plan research, case studies and experiments to present at Big Digital 2018, the whole team reflect on their most important takeaways, game-changing insights and best moments from 2017’s iteration of Adelaide’s premier digital marketing conference.

Big Digital 2017 Wrap Up


Rachael Stewart - Client Success Manager

In her very first weeks at Kwasi Studios, our Client Success Manager got an insanely close look at the technical ins-and-outs of the industry.

My Top 3 Takeaways

One: I absolutely loved diving into all the technical side of SEO and getting a better and more detailed understanding of what the rest of our team does on a daily basis. As the Client Success Manager, my main focus is to liaise with our clients, develop positive relationships with them and find creative solutions for our clients’ and team’s challenges. Therefore, I don’t normally get a chance to indulge my technical knowledge so deeply.

Two: I was so impressed with all the great speakers and SEO masterminds at Big Digital. They were all unique and authentic which made them interesting and engaging speakers.

Three: Duane Brown’s presentation on competitor bidding was very interesting. Using a competitor’s search terms to attract customers to your business is a creative way of becoming noticed. As he said, “People cannot pick you as an option if they do not know that you are an option.”

How it’s changed the way I look at things:

Getting a bigger perspective on the specialisations of the other members of our team was really eye opening. I can better liaise with clients because I have increased my technical know-how and was so impressed with what our team can accomplish. We have our Mr Fantastics who can come up with sophisticated strategies and detailed plans to approach problems. Our Johnny Storms who can crawl and fix technical aspects of sites like lightning, and are on fire when tackling keyword research. Let’s not forget our Ben Grimms, with their extreme strength in content writing.

It was speakers like Jon Henshaw from Raven Tools who I learnt the most from, and I am eternally grateful for their help developing my technical knowledge.

My best moment:

All my best moments were at the networking event. The whole evening was completely filled with fun, laughter and shenanigans! One of the highlights was when I ordered 24 shots (for everyone – not just me!), to which Natasha responded with “That’s why we hired her!” What can I say?


Karthik Vijay - Digital Marketing Specialist

Our master architect, Digital Strategist Karthik Vijay, got more than a new perspective at Big Digital – he might’ve found a new identity as well.

My Top 3 Takeaways

One: We need to keep optimising for SERPs. It’s not just 10 blue links anymore. After doing keyword research for a specific keyword group or theme, we need to analyse the SERPS to really understand Google’s intention for showing the various SERP features. This helps us devise a more targeted strategy to increase traffic.

Two: Be innovative. Be on the constant lookout for opportunities. Identify real problems that real people face, and target your business towards any gaps in the market. This entrepreneurial advice from Mark Bevan, founder of Joust, was inspiring, plus it’s a great example of a business solving a genuine problem that was not previously being addressed.

Three: Having an HTTPs enabled site is becoming even more crucial to its success. We already know that HTTPs is a ranking factor, but as part of its goal to make the internet a safer place Google is going to show “Caution” messages to users who visit sites that are not HTTPs enabled. Jon Henshaw’s presentation was like a burst of clarity as he explained easier ways of installing and running an HTTPs site successfully.

How it’s changed the way I look at things:

After listening to all the insightful presentations, we have started conducting Advanced Keyword Mapping as part of extensive SERP analysis for our clients. We’re already seeing some strong results, with both improvements in both keyword rankings< and organic traffic.

My best moment:

Guessing that I was “Kim Kardashian” during a game of Celebrity Heads as part of the conference networking session.


Andre D'Costa - Conversion Specialist

No one understands better than our Conversion Specialist how people behave, but when faced with them IRL instead of the other side of a screen Andre started wondering more about how AI behaves.

My Top 3 Takeaways

One: There is still so much we don’t understand about AI, and we have a long way to go before it gives us all the benefits we have been promised. It was interesting to hear from Purna Virji, as she and her team are working hard to develop new ways forward for this technology. She explained that whilst Artificial Intelligence is a very complex beast, it is actually only made up of three components: Machine Learning, Human Learning and Data Science.

Two: Esteban Martinez’s presentation was an AdWords masterclass, with the most catchy slogan of the entire conference: Start Lean, Stay Lean. This is a great strategy for smaller campaigns that do not have a large budget and can be done by some clever tweaking of AdWords settings.

Three: Purna was full of great tips, and she also talked about Ad Copy testing. Now a lot of you will be thinking – “Easy! We do that already. What’s the next takeaway?” But hold up my friend. I’m not sure you do it quite as well as Purna does. As she points out, we need to understand how our brains work (neuromarketing!) in order to produce and test new ad copy.

How it’s changed the way I look at things:

Purna’s explanation for new ways of testing ad copy before going live is probably what is going to change the way I look at things the most. Her system gives a really useful process that I’m sure I will use in the future.

My best moment:

Without a doubt, my favourite part of the entire conference was Purna’s talk about AI. Hearing all about Microsoft’s Little Bing (XIAOICE) was incredibly interesting. Basically, it is a Chinese AI bot, not dissimilar to Google Assistant, that already has over 20 million registered users! I’m excited to see what this kind of technology with do for ecommerce websites in the future.


Jack Clark - Digital Marketing Ninja

It didn’t surprise any of us that our tech-savvy Technical SEO specialist spent almost the whole conference geeking out in a major way. But it’s when he picked up the mike for his hosting role that Jack surprised us all.

My Top 3 Takeaways

One: makefastsites.com is a brilliant resource to use for finding quick wins when it comes to page speed optimisation. With the ever-growing importance of page speed and site-wide performance, this takeaway was important to go and find ways to implement immediately.

Two: Bartosz Góralewicz Elephate made a convincing case that Technical SEO is still, and will remain, a vital part of the SEO cog. Like with speed improvements – which are in many ways a subset of Technical SEO – technical can provide relatively quick results compared to other areas.

Three: Dawn Anderson made it clear that dead URLs are never truly gone and forgotten: long-defunct URLs from years ago may still be harming crawl budgets and crawlability.

As someone who often mans the migration helm, this was an important takeaway to remember and implement – in site audits as well as migrations.

How it’s changed the way I look at things:

The above takeaways, plus the numerous tips and tricks I drew from industry experts in plenty of illuminating one-on-ones have helped me become more efficient in many key tasks in my day to day work, as well as really inspired me to experiment a lot more and try out new things on my own.

More specifically, tips given by Jim Stewart about website migrations have helped me get sites indexed faster and make the process much smoother in general.

My best moment:

Although the conference had continuous highlights both days, I can’t go past hosting the SEOPardy game (if the joke needs explaining: it’s a mix between SEO & Jeopardy) at the networking event.

I was lucky enough to get to show off my extremely sub-par gameshow host skills while having blue dye all over my lips and tongue – it’s a long story. I’ve never had so much fun in my life, and while daunting at first, I had fun hosting industry superstars Marty Weintraub, Purna Virji & Kate Toon.


Nat Seppelt - Content Writer & Strategist

Not even our Content Strategist was immune from geeking out, delving deep into advanced keyword research and the potential uses of artificial intelligence.

My Top 3 Takeaways

One: The AI Revolution is still… just… around the corner! A few speakers took on the machines this year, but it was Dan Petrovic who fought hardest for humanity. After playing around with the latest and greatest AI tools available to marketers now, Dan found many of them underdelivering on the hype – and even the promise of just actually being AI. The general sentiment: AI will revolutionise our lives and our work. We just have to wait a wee bit longer for it.

Two: The SERPs are one of your best assets going into keyword research and content strategy development. I had an inkling this would be the case going in to Big Digital, having pow-wowed with Woj a few times on his 99 Problems (But a Keyword Ain’t One) presentation, but Simon Mathonnet’s approach to content auditing ranking pages for potential keywords drove the point home and forged an important link between keyword research and content strategy.


Three: When I’m developing content strategies, I always strive to keep the key goals and challenges of the target audience front-and-centre, but Marty Weintraub – the absolute guru of Facebook advertising and psychographic targeting in general – really highlighted the power of tapping into the peripheral-seeming characteristics of your target audiences – yes, their psychographics – for improving relevance and resonance in your digital marketing. He also has some killer ideas for pulling it off.

How it’s changed the way I look at things:

It can sometimes feel like a stretch when marketers start raising moral questions, but we do have moral questions to answer, and some of them are important.

Here’s one. During her keynote, Purna Virji clued us in on some of the latest developments in AI that Microsoft are pioneering, and it does raise some interesting moral dilemmas. She gives an example of Bing having the ability diagnose a rare form of cancer based on search behaviour. We’re all starting to come to terms with the power of the data that players like Google, Microsoft and Facebook bring; but with great power comes great responsibility (quote attribution: obvious).

In the case that Purna gives, if a search engine has the power to save your life just by prompting you to see a doctor and get a test: don’t they have a moral obligation to?

But here’s why it’s not as easy a question as that strawman makes it out to be: Do they even have a right to that power? And what about this: with systemic social inequalities in the way people use the devices and services that harvest this potentially life-saving data though (e.g. high income earners are probably more likely to own the latest smart phones and, arguably – as white-collar information workers – to use search products), would this kind of intervention only contribute to these inequalities by placing most of these advantages in the groups with the most privileges already: those that are highest earning and highest educated?

Maybe this example is a little extreme, but with digital privacy becoming an increasingly important concern for most people, these types of questions need to be tackled seriously by the types of people who are in positions to make a difference, and that includes us marketers.

My best moment:

The best moments are always the most fleeting ones: trading ideas with some of the industry’s most brilliant minds, the first spark of a new idea that fires when a speaker provides a new perspective on an old problem. Big Digital has had countless of these both years I’ve attended, so I’m understandably reluctant to name just one best moment.


Oscar Redfearn - Digital Marketing Assistant

There was no shortage of thought-fodder for our keyword research expert, who found ways to view his very detail-focused work in some larger contexts.

My Top 3 Takeaways

One: The impending AI takeover – the emergence of artificial intelligence was a theme touched upon by many.

While it does seem there is still work to be done around AI before it really breaks into the mainstream, the versatility of this tech was most striking. The idea that AI and voice search could combine to create a personalised, interactive chatbot where the user can speak their way through an entire website without the need click or scroll even once was eye opening.

Dan Petrovic from Dejan SEO also presented on some cool AI based tools, such as Crystal – a tool that can analyse a person’s personality based on how they communicate on social and email. Then (and this is the real “get out of town!” part) Crystal will give you all a range of tips and tricks on how to communicate with that specific person, including what type of language to use, humour, tone of voice and all that good stuff!

Two: Don’t Get Lost in the Meaningless Abyss of Rankings and Search Volumes.

Doing so much work in SEO it’s easy to find yourself concentrating on too many metrics. Finding high keyword search volumes and then striving to obtain top rankings for these main targets. After all the goal of achieving #1 rank for all your primary keywords can only be a good thing.

However, Dan Petrovic then hit the stage and taught me not to lose sight of what’s real. And by this I mean, remembering the aim is to drive real traffic and revenue to a website. By taking into account actual click through rate (CTR) data, revenue data and connecting these powerful metrics with your keyword research, you can get a comprehensive view of how your SEO efforts are really generating value. At the end of the day, there’s little point ranking first if no one clicks your link. His talk was incredibly engaging, and the rigor of his methods shone through.

Three: Hold My Beer, Tech Savvy Jack!

Everyone was pretty keen for the conference’s networking night, of which rumours had been flying thick and fast. To add even more garam masala to this spicy proposition, Kwasi’s tech guru, Jack Clark, had been delegated the decisive role of game show host for the night’s entertainment – SEO Jeopardy. With a round of sizzling one liners and rebuttals against the fiery claims of Marty Weintraub, Kate Toon and Purna Virji in a no holds barred SEO themed jeopardy contest, Jack was the star of the show.


How it’s changed the way I look at things:

Never be afraid to try something new and always keep the bigger picture in mind. Both Dan Petrovic and Simon Mathonnet touched on some really interesting ideas about keyword research and search marketing as a whole and inspired me to look at new ways of going about my search marketing and optimization.

The conference also reinforced ideas that technology is ever advancing and influencing the way we do search and interact with the web. New innovations, whether it be machine learning, voice search, chat bots, or artificial intelligence will have a significant impact on us marketers and it should not be underestimated how the search and digital landscape may change going forward.

My best moment:

The highlight as always for me is meeting and interacting with the supremely smart and talented individuals that are in and around the digital marketing space. There is so much to gain from seeing other people’s approach, and drawing inspiration from their ideas and methods is what it’s all about.

For the past two years, the Big Digital conference has delivered powerful insights from some of the world’s biggest experts in digital marketing, and the 2018 is already shaping up to be the best yet. Check out the Big Digital website for more information and news about upcoming events.

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