Topics, Trends and Takeaways: What I Learned at INBOUND 2017


It’s my first day back in the office today after attending INBOUND 2017 in Boston with the Crowd Content team, and I want to share some of my experiences.

If INBOUND 2017 had a recurring theme, it’s that you need to be authentic and true to yourself and your company in how you communicate with your audience. Several of the show’s great speakers, including Michelle Obama, John Cena and Rand Fishkin, all spoke about this.

So, authentically, I think Hubspot did an amazing job with INBOUND 2017.

If you haven’t been to an INBOUND conference before, I’d highly recommend you check one out. This year’s show featured over 250 speakers and had over 21,000 attendees hailing from over 100 countries. There aren’t many marketing conferences at this scale.

We were so happy to meet amazing people doing great things in content marketing. INBOUND does a great job creating a positive and inclusive vibe with ample chances to meet new people.

While the conference and its attendees were great on their own, some of the speakers really made the experience incredibly valuable. Here are three of the most teachable, inspiring moments I experienced from some of the industry’s most inspired thought leaders.

The Invisible Giant that Mucks Up Our Marketing

by Rand Fishkin

I’d really encourage you to watch Rand’s presentation. He opens with a great discussion of cultural conditioning and how it biases us to behave and act in certain ways. He then explores how this applies to us as marketers, leading us to follow norms and practices that we’ve been conditioned to. Sometimes this can prevent us from taking actions that could actually benefit our businesses.

Key Takeway:

Conventional wisdom is that working on search engine marketing (SEM) can only benefit you by earning organic rankings (SEO) or displaying your ads in paid results (PPC). However, the reality is that only  54.7% of search results have only those two types of results. There are a plethora of other types of results you can optimize for including Knowledge Panels, Related Questions, Images and Featured Snippets.

RELATED: 3 Powerful Content Marketing Metrics You Have to be Monitoring

Topic Clusters Over Keywords: It’s the End of SEO (As We Know It)

By Leslie Ye

We all know that focusing on specific keywords in your SEO is pretty out of date. For at least the last few years, and certainly with the advent of Google’s RankBrain, it’s critical that pages satisfy searcher intent and that the content has high semantic value. That means that an individual page will rank for a number of related keywords instead of just one.

Expanding on that, each page should live within a topic cluster (or neighborhood) of pages that are related and speak to similar searcher intents. These pages should link to each other and support one pillar post that acts as a hub or overview of the topic.

Leslie’s presentation does a great job presenting this approach and really delves into the logical reasoning behind the move to topic clusters over keywords. She also presents some good information on how to track progress by cluster rather than by keyword.

Key Takeaway:

Make sure that you’ve done historical optimization, and plan to do it at regular intervals. This involves auditing which pages are getting traffic, ranking for search terms and generating conversions. Depending on what you find, you may want to improve the content to improve rankings and get more traffic, optimize the design for conversion or many other things.

When doing this, you’ll also want to ensure that all pages on your site belong to a topic cluster and are properly linking to their cluster-mates.

You’re likely to find that certain content duplicates other content, and in those cases you might consider merging and updating the content. (Be sure to do this around the older post and update it.)

Unicorn Marketing: Getting Unusually Great Results Across Every Marketing Channel

By Larry Kim

Check out Larry’s marketing theory here.

Larry gave a great presentation focused on helping you identify your unicorn content — your top 3% performing content. The question is, your top 3% based on what? The answer turns out to be clickthrough rate. From there, he goes on to outline how high clickthrough and engagement rates are tied to positive performance in SEO, PPC, CRO and Social.

Key Takeaway:

Always be looking at your content to spot unicorns. Content that has exceptional engagement rates should be identified and expanded into spinoff content and campaigns, since you already know there is an audience demand for this type of content.

In Closing

These are just a few of the most compelling highlights from literally hundreds of sessions offered, so I’d really encourage you to check out Inbound’s YouTube channel to watch some of the other great sessions offered.

INBOUND 2017 was a great show for a number of reasons; chief among them its strong reminder to be authentic to your brand in any content and communication you create. As the former First Lady Michelle Obama says, “It’s all about us believing in our authentic self.”

Did you attend INBOUND this year? If you did, what were the highlights for you?


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Eric has been working in marketing and product management for over a decade with companies in the software, eCommerce and content creation spaces. He’s particularly drawn to both content marketing and SEO and is excited that the two areas are increasingly converging. While he’s pretty serious about marketing, he does love to drop a great dad joke on occasion.

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