A recap of Botify Connect 2023
Botify Connect, our annual customer community meetup, took place this year in London and Chicago, with the theme of “Being found in an Era of Search Disruption.”
Why this focus? Because, as our CEO and Co-Founder Adrien Menard explained in his opening keynote: “every client, prospect, and partner we met this year had the same question: how should they adapt their SEO strategy, their organization, or their investment to a rapidly changing search landscape.”
A lot is changing in the industry, and Botify Connect, attended by some of the architects of this transformation, was there to explore the main drivers in an atmosphere of excitement and optimism at what’s emerging.
As Fabrice Canel, Principal Product Manager at Microsoft Bing declared in the Chicago session on The Future of Search and the Rise of Generative AI: “SEO is not dead, SEO is on steroids.”
Read further for a brief recap of what was shared by speakers and attendees that proves this or watch the full recorded sessions from both Connect events.
The best time for organic search
Rather than being dead, there was a real sense that there has never been a better time to be promoting or embracing organic search as a powerful performance marketing channel.
As Adrien further pointed out, “the rising cost of paid advertising makes it impossible for most companies to keep exclusively relying on paid”.
There’s a big increase in the cost per lead – up 19% in 2023 according to one source – and at the same time, 10% decline in conversions, according to the same source. [Insert links to source].
And there are some big brands that are seriously reducing their paid budgets and putting their trust almost entirely in organic visibility for traffic and revenue. We were fortunate to have one of these brands on a panel at the Chicago event. As Sara Rosoff, VP of Ecommerce at Barnes & Noble explained:
“Four years ago we made the decision to turn off paid advertising and chose not to pay for traffic, and we are seeing great results with natural search over index on conversion rate performance.”
Having the right data and tools helps, of course. As Sara pointed out: “Watching consumer shifts in traffic and their journey across the site has been a great way to understand the impact of our decision to invest in organic over paid.”
Clearly organic search is in the ascendant.
The age of SEO Velocity has arrived
One of the biggest buzzes around the new possibilities of organic performance at Botify Connect 2023 was around accelerated speed to value. The perception that SEO takes a long time to implement or have impact was debunked in keynote addresses and expert panels and feedback.
Chief Product Officer Christophe Frenet and VP of Product Marketing Rebecca Zabow made this clear in their talk, Imagining the Possible for SEO. They shared some compelling customer data and a glimpse of the product roadmap that clearly shows, as Christophe put it: “we have been led to believe that organic search could ONLY drive long-term, sustainable outcomes, but now we know short-term campaignable results are ALSO possible. The two are no longer mutually exclusive.”
One customer was even able to leverage SEO as a Black Friday campaign tactic. As Rebecca concluded: “Real-time responsiveness on top of steady sustainable visibility is the hallmark of SEO Velocity.”
Return on Organic Search Spend
But perhaps the biggest buzz of this year’s event in both continents was around the possibility of not just demonstrating fast and timely organic impact, but measuring its ROI arguably for the first time with any certainty.
Botify recently announced its new tool designed to calculate these returns. The Botify ROSS Model has been devised to allow comparative clarity between Return on Organic Search Spend with the paid equivalent ROAS (Return on Ad Spend). We used Botify Connect to engage attendees further around the possibility that has just emerged from alpha testing with very positive feedback.
Into the New Search Era
Of course there’s no avoiding the subject of Generative AI in search, and no ignoring its implications for brands that want to stay findable in this New Search Era.
Among Adrien’s predictions for the near future, were that “AI-powered SEO recommendations will be integral to every SEO strategy” and that “SEO Process Automation is going to become standard.”
Further comments from panelists and attendees fully justified the focus on disruption for this year’s event:
- “AI is not going away. AI is amazing at improving your process and speed of execution. People with skills in AI will replace people without skills in AI. You need to understand it and then be able to judge if the tools will be useful,” Ratish Naroor, Global Head of SEO, Etsy.
- “Moving SEO from Marketing into Product and engineering will lead to better stakeholder alignment and easier prioritization, Jean-Eric Blas-Chatelain, Principal Engineer & Global Head of SEO, Vestiaire Collective
- “The pandemic dramatically shifted our thinking and strategy on this. The market is changing so fast, we had to pivot our efforts to adapt,” Morgan Brown, CMO at Wayfair.
- “SEO is not a department. It has to be a mindset across the entire organization,” Gail Buffington, Head of Data Science and Analytics, MilleporeSigma.
- “I would encourage everyone to not focus on bots, focus on creating content that delivers a fantastic experience for users. The bots will recognize and reward that,” Fabrice Canel, Principal Product Manager, Microsoft Bing.
Yet underlying all these changes and even uncertainties was the understanding that finding the best, most trustworthy answers to concrete questions will still be at the center of the digital economy in the coming years.
Whether it’s for blue links or conversational results, search is both fundamental, and evolving, and that new technologies and approaches will be essential to navigating this landscape.
As such, organic search is more essential and attractive than ever.
With comments like these, “Y’all did a BRILLIANT job with your line-up – super diverse, fresh and new!” from Areej AbuAli, Founder, Crawlina, about Botify Connect 2023, we’re very excited about next year’s event, and are planning already.
See you there.