Ashley Zeckman

5 Impactful Digital Marketing Takeaways from MNSearch Summit


In order to be an effective digital marketer, it’s imperative that you understand the role that search plays in all of your marketing initiatives. The search landscape is quickly evolving and sometimes what you need is a helping hand from some industry experts to set you down the path to success.

Amazingly, that is just what we experienced at this years MNSearch Summit. Alexis Hall, Evan Prokop, Joel Carlson, Kat Steiner and I took a leap across the river into St. Paul Minnesota for a day filled with actionable information that can be used to improve any digital marketing program.

If you were not able to attend, or maybe didn’t get to see all of the sessions that you would have liked, we’ve provided a helpful roundup of 5 of the takeaways that we believed were most impactful for digital marketers.

Team Member:
Alexis Hall

Session: The Data-Driven Content Marketer – Sean Callahan, LinkedIn

The statement exemplifies the pain marketers have been feeling for over 75 years. Imaging the glory days of a 1950s Don Draper, when advertising was based on gut feel, seeing into the soul of the customer. Some things worked and some things didn’t.  The problem was – it was very difficult to tell which was which.

As savvy content marketers today, we certainly know more about performance than the 1950s ad man, but many of us still feel a gap when it comes to measuring content. We are ready to move beyond page views and social shares to find out if our content is really working.

Enter – big data. It’s no surprise that the amount of data is ramping up:

  • 5 Quintillion bytes of data created every day across the globe
  • 90% of existing data has been created in the last 2 years
  • 90% of buyer journey completed by the time a prospect reaches out to a salesperson

Throughout his presentation, Sean provided examples of companies like Netflix, Google, Zendesk and many more that are using data to guide their content marketing strategy.

He explained that one approach to creating relevant content is the Big Rock Approach, when one big piece of content in a period feeds other content marketing efforts.

The Big Rock Approach follows these steps:

  1. Start with keyword research: Find out what your customers asking and where that intersects with your business.
  2. Repurpose content like leftover turkey: Use tactics such as slide presentations, blogs, infographics, webinars and videos. Then drive your audience back to a gated piece of content to drive conversions.
  3. Use turkey slides to fuel your content hubs: Examples would include:
    1. Company pages
    2. Sponsored updates
    3. LinkedIn Groups
    4. SlideShare

When you are able to merge a data driven approach with truly relevant content then you can make your marketing really meaningful.


Team Member: Kat Steiner

Session: How to Win with the Unexpected in PPC – John Gagnon, Bing

In his session, Bing Ads Evangelist John Gagnon offered sound advice to help marketers look at solving problems in unique ways.

There were three strategies that John discussed including voice search, brand term bidding and offsite tagging. All of which can be used to help companies stay competitive with their online properties in the current digital landscape.

Voice Search

According to Gagnon, the increase in the use of voice search will alter how marketers strategize on behalf of their clients. Currently, 25% of inquiries come from a voice search. It is essential that steps are taken to target this specific audience segment.

The use of voice search is different from a typed inquiry in the following ways:

  • A searcher is mobile, so the results will change accordingly
  • A searcher is looking for local results
  • The search inquiry is shaped in a more conversational format

Brand Term Bidding

When looking to attract traffic for branded search, companies still need to utilize paid search opportunities in addition to organic strategies. By bidding on the highly visible paid space, companies can ensure less clicks go to their competitors.

Brand term bidding gives marketers control of what landing page a visitor arrives on. By maintaining visibility in the paid space for branded terms, a marketer can influence the first impression a visitor has when they arrive on their website.

Offsite Tagging

When looking for remarketing opportunities, marketers can utilize the websites of relevant business partners to gain insights. Marketers can tag the site of the business partner to see how visitors are interacting, then start collecting information to build out the audience and report on their behavior. Once relevant audience members are identified, these individuals can be retargeted at a later date.


Team Member: Ashley Zeckman

Session: Email Marketing Trends, Tactics & Opportunities for Search Marketers – Loren McDonald, Silverpop

Loren McDonald provided some great insight into email marketing trends, as well as the convergence of email marketing and search. What stuck with me the most from his session was the opportunity for email marketing and search teams to work together, and the fact that most simply aren’t.

Below is some of the low hanging fruit that Loren mentioned in his presentation:

  1. Landing Pages: You can build a dynamic email based on the search terms that consumers used to get to your landing page.
  2. Lead Scoring: If marketing automation is being used, begin incorporating keywords into lead scoring. Keywords can be scaled higher or lower based on what was used to drive the consumer to your website.
  3. Keyword Driven Email Content: There is also an opportunity to incorporate the keywords used in search results to drive the content of your email campaigns.


Team Member: Evan Prokop

Session: How we Can Tell a Compelling Story with our Google Analytics Data – Jeff Sauer, Jeffalytics

There are many steps involved in collecting, cleaning and categorizing data in a way that makes it prime for storytelling. Jeff Sauer provided many actionable tips in his presentation to help marketers get more from their Google Analytics data. When it comes down to it, how can marketers use data to tell a compelling story?

In order for data to be valuable, it needs to tell a story. “Traffic is up 50% over last month” doesn’t say much, but “referral traffic from the ebook campaign we launched last month helped to drive a 50% increase in total website traffic, 20% increase in soft leads and 10% increase in revenue compared to the previous month” tells a much more compelling story.

A good web analytics story not only summarizes the current situation, it leads to actionable next steps. Taking the example above, a logical and actionable next step would be to allocate additional budget to the content marketing team to concept and launch additional ebook campaigns.

That’s the kind of story that drives business decisions and leads to results, and that’s what all digital marketers should be striving for from their web analytics.


Team Member: Joel Carlson

Session: The Power of Real-Time Content For Any Organization – Bob Stanke, Minnesota Timberwolves

The ability to respond to a story in real-time is an incredibly difficult task. In fact, AdWeek reported that only 4% of marketers are able to create content for breaking news in real-time.

Bob Stanke opened up his session by reminding the crowd of the heart wrenching story of the Chilean miners that were stuck underground for two months in 2010. He also highlighted that Oakley quickly jumped into action and provided the miners with sunglasses to help their eyes adjust once they were finally freed. This seemingly small investment and goodwill move on Oakley’s part led to an approximately $41 million return for the company.

In his position at the Minnesota Timberwolves, Stanke and his team have to be able to respond quickly and effectively to breaking news. Below are some of the ways that they are able to set their team up for success:

Real-Time Content the Timberwolves Way

  • Conduct weekly content meetings
  • Include representatives from over 7 different departments
  • Discuss various what-if scenarios
  • Give attention to crossing storylines (Ex. Does a current player live or did they live in an area that was just hit by a disaster)
  • Focus on human-interest topics as they relate to the organization
  • Discuss ways to use exclusive content and how will it be distributed

A Behind-the-Scenes Snapshot of #MNSummit


The speakers at MNSearch Summit covered email marketing, PPC, using data for storytelling and so much more. Which tip above most closely aligned with your current digital marketing needs?

Disclosure: LinkedIn is a TopRank Online Marketing client.

Header Image: Shutterstock

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Ashley Zeckman About Ashley Zeckman

Ashley Zeckman is the Director of Agency Marketing for TopRank Marketing. In addition to finding innovative ways to showcase the exceptional work of her team, she is also responsible for creating digital marketing programs that drive customer acquisition and growth for the agency. Her background includes expertise in everything from content marketing strategy to branding, account management and social media.

Outside of her role at TopRank Online Marketing, Ashley prides herself on being a great home chef, painter, prankster and dog mom.