Last year was my first time attending the Inbound conference in Boston, and it was so good that I signed up for more. Inbound 2018 didn’t disappoint. In fact, it was even better.

Here are my top twelve takeaways:

1) Increasing engagement is really just about decreasing boredom.

If you want potential clients or customers to decide to work with you, then you have to be memorable. The precursors to memory are attention and engagement. And attention and engagement are just the absence of boredom. So, how do you fight boredom?

  • Introduce variety: Vary the stimulus. Use a variety of words and content types, like video and images.
  • Challenge your audience: Boredom = ability minus difficulty. Challenging the brain asks for a heightened state of attention and gives visitors a chance to flex their intellect.
  • Ask complex questions: Provide content and experiences that are open-ended, abstract, rich, and somewhat messy.

2) Intent and context in search are more important than ever.

The 2013 hummingbird update ushered in the age of semantic search, which means that Google is more interested in matching results to the overall context of a search, instead of just exact keywords. The example used in the talk was a search for “what’s that wizard prison movie called?”

Google knows I want information about Harry Potter, not wizards or prisons.

With rising use of voice search and personal assistants, our searches sound more human, so understanding user intent and context is more and more important. That should make us ask, “Do keywords even matter then?”

3) Topics > Keywords

Keywords should not be the sole focus of your SEO or content strategy. Yes, keywords are still useful and they still matter, but the topical context is everything. If my topic is gum disease, it’s more useful to consider the types of content that are related to gum disease: how to brush your teeth, best toothbrushes, oral hygiene tips, dentists who treat gum disease.

4) Nearly 60% of organic searches don’t result in a click.

Snippets, and Google’s host of other on-page features are chipping away at organic click-through rates.

Ongoing success in SEO comes down to snippets–but you have to rank in positions 1-5 to be chosen for a featured snippet. Still, it’s good practice to write snippet-friendly content whenever possible. This means having descriptive and short H1s (Preventing Periodontal Disease) and short lists with quick and easy answers.

5) Fast, mobile friendly pages are winning search.

Page speed is officially a ranking factor, and it’s shown to improve engagement as well. Visitors spend twice the amount of time on AMP pages, and conversion rates on AMP pages increase by 20%. So check your page speed, and–more importantly–check your competitor’s page speed.

6) The sales funnel is dead.

According to Hubspot co-founder Brian Halligan’s talk, the sales funnel is dead. Replacing it is their flywheel, which has three components: Delight, Attract, and Engage. The flywheel is a circular model instead of a linear funnel that reduces friction in the customer experience and provides an ongoing force and momentum to help your organization grow.

7) 70% what’s now, 20% what’s next, and 10% what’s new.

When considering how to spend your time, focus 70% on the work you need to do now to keep the business running, 20% on preparing for what’s next, and 10% on the new (and possibly scary) innovations that will keep you ahead of the curve.

8) There’s an equation for happiness.

Mo Gawdat’s talk was centered around his book Solve for Happy, which presents this equation: Happiness ≥ Your Perception of the Events of Your Life – Your Expectations of How Life Should Behave.

For example, if I run a marathon and it goes well, I’m happy. But, if I run a marathon and my pace is slow, or I get injured halfway through, I’m unhappy because that life event did not meet my expectations.

Our brain has three types of thoughts:

  1. Insightful: Big ideas. (I’m going to run a marathon this year.)
  2. Experiential: Tasks and instructions. (Lace shoes. Follow training plan. Run.)
  3. Incessant: Nagging, negative, miserable thoughts. (Running is hard. I’m tired. I’m not good enough. I give up.)

The key to happiness is letting the incessant thoughts come and go when life isn’t behaving the way you expect it to. Instead, tap into insightful and experiential thoughts and ask your brain to give you something useful so you can focus on the joyful side of those incessant thoughts. “Running is hard” turns into, “Running is hard but I’m doing it and I ran a bit further than I ran yesterday.”

9) “The act of doing a thing undoes the fear.”

Shonda Rhimes is a woman of firsts, and when the interviewer asked her how she’s faced her fears and done things no one thought she could do, she just said, “The act of doing a thing undoes the fear.” My main takeaway: Shonda’s shows are great, but she should probably stop writing and run for president.  

10) “Just because something has been done a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the only way it can be done.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s talk focused mostly on how she’s shattered people’s expectations of what a black woman should be, and how she’s continuously pushed herself to take risks and to be better. Open your mind to new possibilities and take risks. Forget about what people expect of you, especially if those expectations belittle you.  

11) We are as happy as the people we keep company with.

If you need a reason to cut a negative influence out of your life, Deepak Chopra’s talk gives you permission. Human happiness is an ecosystem, and what we take in and give out matters more than we think.

12) 663 million people are drinking dirty water.

Before you keep scrolling, consider the magnitude of that number and the scale of this problem. 1 in 10 people on this earth drink dirty water that makes them and their children sick, or kills them, because it’s all they have. But, there’s a solution, and Charity:Water is working to get everyone access to clean water. I hope you’ll take some time out of your day to watch this video or his keynote speech at Inbound and learn how you can help.