Business Advice | 9 minute read

Our 7 Biggest Takeaways from Denver Digital Summit 2017

Denver Digital Summit 2017
Pat Ahern Junto Denver Marketing
Pat Ahern
Pat Ahern is a partner at Junto - the digital marketing agency that is powered by vetted freelancers from across the world. Pat loves rock climbing, craft beer and helping startups grow.

"We all know that the world of marketing is constantly changing."

As marketers, one of the toughest parts of our job is finding the time to keep up.

We pride ourselves on staying at the forefront of marketing (and admitting when we’re falling behind). After seeing great minds like Gary Vaynerchuk speak the previous year, we invested in tickets to go to Denver Digital Summit, a 2-day digital marketing conference, to see where the world of marketing is going and how we could improve our own marketing efforts.

Long story short, it was badass.

For two entire days, we had the opportunity to meet entrepreneurs and marketers across Denver, Colorado and attend workshops taught by the greatest minds in digital marketing. Here are our 7 biggest takeaways from DDS.

[Update] This post was last updated on Nov 9, 2018 @ 5:56 pm

1. Rip yourself off before someone else rips you off

The wise words of the great Morgan Spurlock.

Spurlock spoke about the story of releasing Super Size Me back in 2004. While the movie was spreading across the U.S like an epidemic, Spurlock began working on the next idea.

A year later, Spurlock released the first episode of 30 Days – a reality show in which he spent 30 days living in someone else’s shoes. Was it a coincidence that Super Size Me was also 30 days? I think not!

Soon after, Spurlock began to notice the popularity of Super Size Me amongst middle schoolers.

So what did he do? He released an educational version of the movie in 2010 that was aimed at educating middle schoolers on making healthier food choices.

In his own words, Spurlock ripped off his own idea.

Ok, we get it, so has every other great original movie. But Morgan did things a little differently. Each Morgan Spurlock “ripoff” is made unique enough to resonate with an entirely new audience.

So what’s the takeaway here? You don’t need to reinvent the wheel after creating something great. Instead, create something a little different that is great for an entirely new audience.

“Rip yourself off before someone else rips you off.” – Morgan Spurlock

2. SEO is moving from keywords to relationships

Ok, so this isn’t exactly “groundbreaking” (this point was hit home in 2016’s Denver Digital Summit), but is definitely worth a mention.

Google made the first steps towards this change back in 2013 with their first Hummingbird update and shows no signs of turning back now.

Ranking in Google used to be a game of seeing how many times you could stuff your target keyword on your webpage. Now, Google pays more attention to the words on your page that relate to your target keyword.

Let’s assume you search: “What is the movie Cars about?” Most likely, the top 10 results won’t include the phrase that you searched for. Instead, Google is going to break down all of the elements of that question to try and understand what we’re trying to search for. Google is going to look for pages that offer a summary of movies, and specifically look for movies that relate to “cars”.

Yep, we’ve hit the point where Google is definitely smarter than a 5th grader.

We’ve started to focus more and more on these “relationships” over the past year. We typically pick one phrase to place at the center of those relationships for each page of a site. If you’re still targeting exact match keywords, it’s probably time to mix things up.

Ok, so how should we change our SEO strategy?

Short answer: stop writing s****y content.

Create a content marketing strategy that is revolved around the topics that your customers and others in your industry are most interested in. Write the absolute best guide that you can about that topic. Promote that topic to the people who are most likely to find it helpful and encourage them to link back to your article.

Here are a few of our favorite ways to promote content:

  • Participate in relevant communities. Share these guides with the people in those communities
  • Build your email subscriber base with badass content, and then use email marketing to drive fans back to your site over time
  • Use the Twitter Leapfrog Method to promote content to the right people.
  • Find the people who wrote about the same topic in the past. Reach out to them and share your article with them.
  • Find the people who linked to similar topics in the past. Reach out to them and share your article with them.

Looking to pull in outside experts? Come explore our guide to vetting SEO providers.

Schedule a call with Junto

3. Design is not art, it’s problem solving

In the words of Michael Salamon from Lousy, the biggest mistake that most web designers make is assuming that their job is to make a pretty website.

Pretty websites are great and all, but the job of a web designer is much more important than that.

The primary role of a web designer is to build a map that allows prospects to interact with your site in the most logical way possible to help them solve their problems, and eventually turns them into customers. Once that map is complete, the secondary job of the designer is to add the aesthetics.

Start with basic persona development to understand who your customers are and what problems they are dealing with. From there, construct a website that aligns with their views, motivations, and hesitations to make it as frictionless as possible. Test the performance of this layout and make revisions when performance is lower than expected.

“Designing is not art, it’s problem solving.” – Michael Salamon of Lousy

4. Banner ads suck

Well, we’ve known this for a while.

But did you know that 32% of people are now using ad blockers? As if that isn’t enough, Google officially announced their plans to block annoying ads on Chrome by 2018.

Denver Digital Summit Ad Blocking Notes

So what does this mean for digital marketers? Content marketing is the future.

Businesses who aren’t yet doing content marketing need to start ASAP.

Don’t believe us? Read this content marketing case study and see what you’re missing out on.

But seriously, how would you feel if a custom walked up to a member of your sales team with a question about your product…

…and your salesperson turned them away?

How quickly would you fire that salesperson?

A properly structured website is your best salesperson, and content marketing is the magnet that gets people to your site and helps them to buy from you?

5. What’s keeping you up at night?

As a marketer, your answer should be user friction.

The best marketers know that user friction exists at every stage of the customer journey. The best marketers obsess over eliminating this friction.

Seth Godin, one of the keynote speakers, gave a great talk on this concept of friction back in 2006 and the core ideas still exist today.

In today’s online world, one of the biggest sources of user friction is your website. Elements like annoying popups (yes, we’re looking at you, Forbes), poor mobile website design and slow site speed all interfere with the symbiotic relationship between you and your customers.

Google came out swinging against websites that weren’t mobile responsive in April 2015. On average, 50% of your website traffic comes from Google, so why isn’t your site mobile-friendly yet?

Website conversions fall by 12% for every extra second that your website takes to load. If your site takes more than 2 seconds to load, you need to invest in improving site speed.

Start by exploring our site speed insights in this article about severe SEO errors, and reach out to us if you need additional help with site speed.

6. Be a thought partner, not a thought leader

Big thanks to Mina Seetharaman from The Economist for this takeaway.

The rise of social media has turned thought leadership into a pedestal that can be reached by anyone. However, the rise of opportunity also brings the rise of competition.

Today, everyone wants to be a “thought leader” in their space. Mindshare is quickly becoming more important to businesses than market share, as mindshare drives customer loyalty and repeat business.

The problem is that thought leadership is selfish. Thought leadership puts us first. If the goal of thought leadership is to bring in more customers, then shouldn’t thought leadership be less focused on us?

For more than half of the buyer’s journey, we don’t control the conversation. Our prospects sync with their team internally, evaluate other options, and then comes back to us with preconceived notions of which option is best for them.

If thought leadership leaves us out of half of the conversion, what can we do differently?

We can focus on being a thought partner, not a thought leader. We can focus on empowering our prospects through creating content that focuses on their pain points. We can create resources that prospects can share with their team to better understand how our product will solve these pain points. We can speak to their needs, not our features.

“Be a thought partner, not a thought leader” – Mina Seetharaman of The Economist

Related: Learn about our biggest takeaways from Con Con 2017: The Hustle’s Content Marketing Conference

7. Effective questions lead to effective metrics

Huge thanks to Dan Roden from DOMO for this knowledge bomb.

The best business analysis begins with asking questions about business goals that can be tied back to clear metrics.

Start by identifying your biggest business goals, and then identify 1-2 metrics that will determine whether or not you are moving in the right direction for each goal.

1. Identify one owner for each metric – aka the guy that everyone can point their finger at if results are bad).
2. Ensure that these metrics are able to drive action – your metric owner should be able to find something else to try if their metric has a bad month
3. Make the metric as clear as possible – the metric should be easily understood, reliable, and applicable.

“Effective questions lead to effective answers.” – Dan Roden of DOMO


A few tools that we’re excited to explore from the 2017 Summit:

  • Bloomberry – a tool to identify customer questions and needs.
  • SharpSpring – a more affordable marketing automation tool than some of the other guys.
  • Google Tag Manager – if tracking codes were new tube socks, GTM would be the box that Grandma gives them to you in. Adding Google Analytics and other tracking pixels into your Google tag manager account will allow you to add all sorts of crazy tracking elements to your site.
  • UsabilityHub – the tool that gets your customers to tell you how they really feel about your site.
  • Verify – like UsabilityHub, Verify is another tool to identify how customers feel about your website.

2018 Denver Digital Summit: Event Details

When is the 2018 Denver Digital Summit?

The conference takes place on Tuesday, July 17th and Wednesday, July 18th. You can see the full agenda here.

Where is the 2018 Denver Digital Summit happening?

At the Ellie Caulkins Opera House (1385 Curtis Street, Denver, CO 80204)

Who is speaking at the 2018 Denver Digital Summit?

Rand Fishkin, Robert Rose, Chelsea Handler, Mitch Lowe, and dozens of others. You can see the full list of speakers here.

How much are tickets for the 2018 Denver Digital Summit?

Ticket prices range from $295-$995. You can see the full list of ticket options here.


The Digital Summit Series is happening across the country. If you haven’t booked your tickets yet, make sure to sign up right away.

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