3 Major Takeaways From the State Of Search Conference

Posted on December 30, 2014 in


On Monday, November 17th, and Tuesday, November 18th, the Dallas / Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association (DFWSEM) hosted its annual State of Search conference. Immediately after I graduated college in December 2010, I became involved with the organization, and I’ve been fortunate enough to see State of Search evolve from a simple monthly meeting, into what is a two-day conference with 70 speakers from all over the world, that are some of the most respected names in digital marketing.

Just as in previous years, I worked my fingers to the bone as I live-tweeted both days away (rumor has it I tweeted over 600 times in those two days). And while I usually feel energized after attending a conference, this year I felt a different type of energized; possibly because I felt like I could take action on many of the tips and possible because it’s an amazing time to be a part of the search engine marketing industry. It’s definitely changing, and for the better.

While many may write a write-up titled something like “10 Things I Learned At State of Search”, I decided to write about three of the over-arching themes I saw at the conference.


When SEO was in its infancy, all of the metrics were about numbers. Everything was a numbers game.

  • Strategically place your keywords in your title tags, meta descriptions, IMG ALT tags, and strategically throughout your website at a certain density – it didn’t necessarily matter the words around them, as long as they were there.
  • Create as many pages for your keywords as possible, be they however thin.
  • Get as many links as possible, with keyword-optimized anchor text.

As long as you performed these tactics, you were sure to rank in the search engine pages.

But as search engines got smarter, they began to weigh factors differently in their ranking algorithm. They began taking various factors, like keyword variations and semantic search phrases, quality of links, and landing page quality, into consideration.

All of a sudden, many web properties found themselves with a fraction of the traffic they once had, and making only a fraction of the revenue they once made. However, there were also web properties that saw sales and traffic INCREASE.

The difference between the two?

The latter didn’t focus on trying to trick or game search engines. They provide the most value and the best experience to their customers. The web properties that master this idea from here on out will be the ones to succeed in SEO.


And many of them are.

Though the State of Search conference is one of the best in the digital marketing industry, it seems as though even the SPEAKERS stepped up their game for the conference this year, building on what they learned over the last year.

The best example?

At State of Search 2013, Rankhammer’s CEO, Steve Hammer, gave a brief overview of what you can do with Adwords scripts. He mentioned bidding up and down based on current weather conditions at the end of his talk. This year, no less than three speakers recommended using a script to adjust keyword bids based on a weather API:

Will Scott even acknowledged Steve’s 2013 talk on Adwords scripts:

There were also many more talks this year than there were in the past on incorporating paid methods into your marketing mix. In fact, Dana DiTomasso’s presentation was called “Paying For It In Local” and she spoke on paying for traffic in clever ways to enhance your local search efforts. Likewise, Sean Dolan gave a great talk on how to effectively use retargeting to your advantage.

As organic reach on Facebook continues to decrease, paying to promote your content is almost essential. Michael Stancil spoke on setting up, managing, and optimizing paid social accounts and how to effectively run them simultaneously.


One of the great things about SEO is that since it’s a relatively new field, the barriers to entry are lower than a field like traditional marketing. Because of this – the fact that it isn’t something you’re taught, but something you learn through practice – people from many different backgrounds work in the field. The CEO of Rankhammer, Steve, has an engineering background, while Nathan comes from the programming world. I, however, studied traditional marketing in school.

Even through our diverse backgrounds, we are all able to bring something uniquely different to the SEO space.

The low barriers to entry in the SEO space, of course, come with advantages and disadvantages. Many SEOs have unique perspectives in the field, and are able to draw on their previous background to think in a different mindset. However, many SEOs, may be good at one or two parts of SEO. Many are good at the technical aspects of SEO, and many survive in the field in spite of themselves. However, many, since they haven’t studied marketing, do not know the basic principles of marketing. One speaker even spoke on the 4Ps of marketing – product, price, place, and promotion – a basic principle of marketing taught in school – and many SEO practitioners had never heard of this concept. So, in essence, there is a lack of education in the industry on how to influence people, how to build relationships, and HOW TO MARKET.

In today’s economy, many people aren’t fortunate enough to be able to work in the field they got their degree in. When people ask if I am able to use the skills I studied in college, I walk around the question.

Now, since SEO is coming full-circle, and is now about marketing, I won’t have to do that anymore.

In the future, SEO won’t be about who can create the best H1 tag, or who can manipulate the search engine the best; it’ll be about who can market the best.

Unfortunately, this is something traditional marketers have been doing for a while now. Therefore, in the SEO space, we have to work that much harder to be seen as effective. Ruth Burr even spoke about it in her talk, “Traditional Marketers Are Coming For Our Jobs”.

Therefore, in order for the industry to SURVIVE, it MUST come full-circle.


It’s an exciting time to be a part of the digital marketing world; We’re at a point where we are being taken seriously, and not just something you sprinkle on top of a website to get a little more traffic. But this time, as exciting as it is, can also be a little scary: the industry is moving from having a formula to what is guaranteed to work, to having a holistic solution that – while it SHOULD work – definitely may not work.

But this time in digital marketing is like natural selection – it will separate the strongest from the weaker ones in the business, and like the saying says, only the strong will survive.

I can’t wait to see how SEOs and digital markets speak on what they’ve learned over the last 12 months at the State Of Search 2015 conference.

By Matt Decuir

I have a broad array of interests; SEO and inbound marketing, fashion, grammar, transportation, and music. I'm currently the SEM coordinator at Rankhammer, a full-service inbound marketing agency in Dallas, TX. I love grapes, hate socks, and one of my life goals is to come in first place at the International Whistlers Convention.

  • ShahMenz

    Hey Matt,
    Great wrap-up post. It’s nice to get a more holistic perspective on the the themes from a conference and how the sessions reflect them.
    State of Search was such a wonderful conference to attend, both as an attendee and as a sponsor. The speaker list was the best of the conference year and the care and attention paid to ensure that rmoov was truly looked after as a sponsor are a credit to the DFWSEM team.
    Very much looking forward to seeing you in Dallas again next year.
    Here’s to a wonderful 2015.
    – Sha