On March 9th, some of our team headed to EngagePDX, an annual conference talking about what’s new in the SEO world. This year, the focus was on looking forward, embracing new changes, and improving user experience. With panels on voice search, community, and content we all walked away inspired, with some new information to chew on and new ideas to try.

Here are our 5 key takeaways from EngagePDX.

Voice Search is here to stay – it’s time to optimize.

By 2021 voice search will be taking over – not only to answer your questions but to make recommendations customized to your interests and lifestyle. Voice search is becoming more commonplace with the introduction of those digital assistants so many eagerly snatched up over the holiday buying season. The way in which we consume information from the search engines is going to naturally start to shift to accommodate this next level of integration of search into our everyday lives.

With voice search, users are not using a traditional browser and depending on what device the request is being made from (assistant, phone, car) you may not have a selection of search results to choose from – your digital assistant will select and provide only one answer to the question asked, rather than deliver a selection of results that we are used to today. This will make having a personalized, engagement-focused digital strategy imperative for long-term results.

This next generation of search is the exciting future of a more seamless integration of the internet and its information into our everyday lives.

Speed matters more and more – whether you’re mobile or not.

Stressing the importance of site speed on mobile devices, Jon Henshaw walked through every way he can think of to optimize sites for mobile users by utilizing caching to the fullest, including tools to get your site up-to-date with HTML/2. We walked away with tips for delivering convincing arguments to communicate with designers that ‘yes’, web fonts are nice and all, but site speed really matters. Group that with the fact that every second of load time on a site decreases the page conversion rate by 7% and we walked away with the case and tools to make your mobile site lightning fast!

Agencies make your job easier.

If your company is serious about getting results from a digital strategy, using an agency for some or all your marketing is going to pay off. An agency typically can handle more work for less money, push a company to the forefront of new trends, and offer better insider knowledge around best practices, platforms, and strategy. Our advice? Ask the right questions at the beginning to make sure you get the right agency for your business.

Google is moving from search first to AI first.

It’s no longer an option to ignore the AI movement. While augmented reality and virtual reality are still working to get a foothold, AI and machine learning empowers marketers and tech companies alike to provide better content faster. The name of the game at Engage this year was to stop fearing change and start embracing it for better results and user experience. Our devices are moving away from needing browsers, screens or keyboards, so Google is trying to figure out a world that is less dependent on using URLs and links, and more focused on user needs. Now that Google decides the answer to a voice-activated query (Try it – Google ‘What sound does a cow make?’), you don’t get to decide what the answer is, Google decides for you based on the accepted answer.

This begs the question, what does this mean for businesses? How do you ensure that your business is the resource for the answers from these voice–operated devices instead of competitors? This is the exciting new space our strategists are putting our ideas behind.

Collaboration is key.

This was reiterated in many of the panels, but understanding the way that marketing, tech, and strategy teams work best together and utilizing for maximum effectiveness is important. Internal teams need to feel invested in both their personal success and the overall success of the brand and company. Ensuring cohesion, recognition, and fair compensation will go a long way to helping your business enjoy better results.

In this fast-paced industry, it can be easy to feel like recommendations from others are criticisms instead of useful information to help everyone win. We must remember that there are different ways to win in SEO now as technology evolves once again. Never stop collaborating or innovating and you’ll reap the rewards.

That’s all from us. If you attended, or just have some thoughts let us know in the comments!