After hosting a virtual conference for the last two years, C3 2022 was back in person—along with a live stream option—and better than ever. This year’s 11th annual C3 brought in over 1,000 attendees, with nearly 300 attending in person, underlining how much we all have missed the magic that happens when like-minded, innovative marketers come together.
Energizing, inspiring, enlightening, electric—this is how attendees described what it felt to move beyond Zoom screen squares and get back to face-to-face sessions and talk all things organic marketing and SEO. With more than 14 sessions, 21+ of the best speakers in the business, and countless opportunities to network, every attendee walked away with new actionable SEO insights and winning organic strategies to try out. Here are some of the top takeaways, insights, and learns to implement from this year’s conference.
Top takeaways from C3 2022
Seth Besmertnik, Co-founder and CEO of Conductor, kicked things off with an inspirational keynote focused on the rapid innovation happening in organic marketing and how Conductor is shaping the future of the industry.
Heads nodded around the room at New World Stages, and excited chats came in rapid-fire succession as Seth discussed the changing landscape of what consumers are looking for and how it’s only becoming harder to capture their attention as more consumers opt to avoid paid ads for more authentic and trustworthy content. But in order to get that attention, he underlined how marketers have to put in the work.
“You have to earn your SEO and organic results.”– Seth Besmertnik, Co-Founder and CEO of Conductor, at the C3 2022 Keynote
The good news: that’s exactly why we launched C3 11 years ago, to help marketers realize they face many of the same challenges and understand how to best reach their future customers.
One theme that resonated most was the diminishing ROI in paid and the importance of organic for continued business and revenue growth. It’s clear that marketers are reallocating dollars and shifting strategies to lean in and invest more in their organic efforts. The investments you make in organic marketing produce reliable, long-term results that drive higher conversion rates from better quality leads. Additionally, organic provides a way for marketers to make the most of their first-party data, which will only become more crucial as third-party cookies are fully phased out. Investing in organic is no longer optional; it’s critical for business and revenue growth as audiences seek out authentic content and engage less with ads aimed to buy their attention.
“Give people what they want. Solve their problems. And you will get results.”– Seth Besmertnik, Co-Founder and CEO of Conductor, at the C3 2022 Keynote
Here’s a look at some more of the top takeaways from each of the C3 sessions.
Rev Up Your Revenue With a Demand En-Gen Fueled by Organic
Led by Lou Cohen – Director of Digital Marketing & DemandGen at Ernst & Young LLP, and Stephan Bajaio – Innovation Consultant
- On how to figure out what content to focus on to drive revenue: “Tier your content. Tier 1 projects are the most valuable and most discoverable. Tier 2 projects are still important but not as prioritized. Tier 3 is content that just needs to get published.” – Lou Cohen
- On the constant state of change in SEO and how what worked one month ago might not work anymore: “Don’t be afraid to rethink a decision you’ve already made… We can’t be afraid to say there might be something better than what I thought of.” – Lou Cohen
The Power of Real-Time Technical SEO for Your Site’s Health (and Bottom Line)
Led by Matt O’Such – VP of SEO at Getty Images & iStock, and Steven van Vessum – Director of Organic Marketing at Conductor
- On his stance on redirects (to a point): “Redirect every damn thing.” – Matt O’Such
- On how to get buy-in and better collaborate with other teams: “Easiest way into another team… find out what their goals are first. Then align your SEO goals.” – Matt O’Such
How Customer Behavior Can Help Jump-Start Your Digital Transformation
Led by Sam Lee – Director of SEO Strategists at Conductor, Eric Farkas – Dr. Director of Digital Marketing at WeWork, and Farra Kober – Sr. Director of Global Content at WeWork
- On breaking down silos between teams: “Our SEOs should be able to speak to the product managers with no middlemen. It should feel like ONE single website team.” – Eric Farkas
SEO Tips & Tricks
Led by Pat Reinhart – VP of Customer Success at Conductor, Stephan Bajaio – Innovation Consultant, Katie Greenwood – SEO Strategy Director at Conductor, and Fiona McGovern – Sr. Director of Customer Success EMEA at Conductor
A fan favorite of C3, the annual SEO Tips & Tricks session didn’t disappoint. With great banter, multiple Beyoncè references, and invaluable SEO insights, this is a can’t-miss session to watch on-demand. Here’s a look at some of the top tips and insights from these experienced leaders:
- On how to position SEO when it comes to budgeting:
- “SEO is an investment, not a cost.” – Stephan Bajaio
- “Think of keywords like stocks. SEO is a 401k investment that will increase in value over time.” – Stephen Bajaio
- On getting buy-in and support for SEO across the org: “Don’t be afraid to share your stories, results, and data across the organization.” – Pat Reinhart
- On the importance of alt text: “You have to optimize your images for both keyword and screen reader value.” – Katie Greenwood
- On how to get in front of the C-suite: “Data is able to go places you can’t, so share it widely.” – Stephan Bajaio
Building the Right MarTech Stack to Stay Ahead of the Pack
Led by SJ Yun – Sr. Director of Digital Strategy at Daniel Gale Sotheby’s, Chris Carlisle – SVP of Global Marketing at BraunAbility, Andy Weissberg – Leader of Digital Brand and Discoverability at Taylor & Francis, and moderated by Lindsay Hagan – VP of Marketing at Conductor
- On getting team buy-in on a new technology: “Get the team to understand the why behind the tech.” – Andy Weissberg
- On ensuring the tech provider will offer ongoing service and partnership: “It is really important when you are validating these marketing services to move beyond the salespeople. Ask who my account team is going to be and who am I going to be working with day in and day out.” – Chris Carlisle
You’re Hired: How to Land the SEO Job of Your Dreams
Led by Kathryn Parsons – Chief Digital Operations Officer at MACH9
- On finding the right fit: “Not all jobs are right for you. They may be right for someone else, but not you. And that’s O.K.” – Kathryn Parsons
- On getting the salary you deserve: “The salary you get very much depends on your own negotiation skills, so know your worth.” – Kathryn Parsons
Financial Service Strategies You Can Bank On
Led by Brian McDowell – Senior Director of Growth Marketing at Credit Karma, Mike Cooke – Digital Lead – SEO at Franklin Templeton, Heather Collins – Director and Head of US Brand Marketing at RBC Capital Markets, and moderated by Wayne Cichanski – VP of Search & Site Experience at iQuanti
- On the upcoming elimination of third-party cookies: “Navigating a cookie-less landscape makes it more difficult to reach your targeted audience, and organic search can help.” – Heather Collins
- On how to drive more website traffic: “Building trust and focusing on personalization will help increase site traffic.” – Brian McDowell
- On what consumers are looking for: “Being trustworthy used to be a competitive differentiator, now it’s non-negotiable.” – Heather Collins
Level-Up Your Approach: Winning Enterprise SEO Strategies for B2B Brands
Led by Mike Nelson – Senior Manager of SEO at Pegasystems, Nina Carlson – Online Marketing & Analytics Manager at Emerson, and moderated by Caitlin Rashbaum – Director of Customer Success at Conductor
- On how to use search data to inform content strategy: “Look at how the user is actually searching, and make tweaks, like creating landing pages, to fit this.” – Nina Carlson
- On how to balance educational content with product content: “A lot of [speakers at C3] have mentioned tiered content—I recommend doing the same with keywords. Being able to map keywords to different stages of the buyer’s journey is huge.” – Mike Nelson
- On getting the content team to prioritize SEO before content creation: “It’s about building trust over time.” – Nina Carlson
Why and How Brands Build Their Marketing Strategy Around Customer-First Content
Led by a panel of 2021 Women in Search Honorees, including Amy Kozlow – VP of Global Digital Marketing at Wolters Kluwer, Jennifer VandeZande – Editor in Chief at SAP, Patricia Atrian – Sr. Director of SEO at Live Nation Entertainment, and moderated by Selina Eizik – COO/Chief Customer Officer at Conductor
- On driving organic traffic through customer-first content:
- “You need to solve problems for humans—that’s how you drive organic growth.” – Jennifer VandeZande
- “If you humanize your content, you attract more users… Think of how you search things—that’s how you should write.” – Jennifer VandeZande
- On the skill sets needed for marketers today: “You have to be a technologist to succeed in marketing today.” – Amy Kolzow
Play Your Carts Right: Retail Strategies to Drive Conversions
Led by Gaby Florance – Senior SEO Lead at Newell Brands, Dawn Nuccio – Senior Manager of Digital Content at e.l.f., Christine Bronzo – Senior Marketing Manager – SEO at Fossil, and moderated by Katie Greenwood – SEO Strategy Director at Conductor,
- On the importance of knowing your direct and indirect SEO competitors: “60% of top-ranking results [about the makeup industry] don’t even sell makeup. We have to compete by answering those non-branded questions that consumers are asking.” – Dawn Nuccio, Sr. Manager of Digital Content at e.l.f.
- On the impact of COVID: “COVID has disrupted how people search… How does it change your strategy? [It means] your content needs to be fluid.” – Christine Bronzo
Most talked about challenge: Improving alignment and breaking down silos
One theme kept coming up across multiple C3 sessions: how to improve alignment and break down silos among teams when it comes to SEO. Whether included in the speaker’s talking points or brought up by attendees during the Q&A portions, it’s clear that this is a major challenge regardless of industry or business size.
In fact, bridging the gap to build more effective collaboration between SEO experts and other teams ranked as the top SEO priority of 2022 for marketing leaders, according to our State of Organic Marketing 2022 report. The reason behind this push for improved alignment between teams is to unlock agility and enable marketers to move faster, create better content, and publish more—ultimately driving increased organic traffic, conversions, and revenue.
SEO knowledge shouldn’t be limited to your SEO team. For your website and organic marketing efforts to reach their full potential, SEO has to be understood and utilized across departments, so that every person who touches your website operates under the same SEO best practices. This also helps individuals recognize the importance of prioritizing SEO best practices within their processes.
Aligning your SEO goals to other departments’ goals and connecting SEO efforts to business results will help you gain buy-in and access resources for your organic marketing efforts. Once you’ve obtained buy-in from one team, you’ll find getting it from other departments becomes easier. Plus, you’ll have more people to advocate on your behalf and encourage greater collaboration.
A Conversation with Carla Piñeyro Sublett on the future of marketing
Last but far from least, Carla Piñeyro Sublett—Conductor’s newest board member and the former CMO and SVP at IBM—brought C3 to a close with an honest, direct, and informative discussion. Carla opened by providing some personal insights into her career trajectory and what led her to Conductor before delving into some aha moments she’s experienced throughout the years and an engaging Q&A session.
“I’m always surprised [by] how much marketers hang onto activity and base their worth on measuring activity versus revenue growth, much less profitable growth.”– Carla Piñeyro Sublett, C3 2022
For many Conductors, it was the first chance to get to know Carla and hear from her firsthand. From providing guidance on how to develop authentic teams to how to get the attention of the CMO (“Ask questions… Figure out what’s important to them vs. trying to pitch why organic is important.”) and everything in between, Carla covered a range of topics and delivered actionable insights for marketers and executives to implement.
“Organic traffic has a much stronger correlation to growth than anything that you can do in paid.”– Carla Piñeyro Sublett, C3 2022
The top takeaway from her session was her take on the four tenants of the future of marketing, which are the following:
- Authenticity. Be truthful about who you are and who you’re not.
- Credibility. Show the difference you can make with your product and services.
- Generosity. Add value whenever and wherever you can.
- Connection. Always remember there are real people on the other side of your content.
It’s clear Carla is a forward-thinking leader in marketing today, and we are beyond excited about the vision she has for both Conductor and the industry at large.
Let’s keep the C3 magic going
It’s safe to say our first-ever hybrid in-person, and virtual C3 was a success. The sessions led by some of the best minds in marketing were informative and engaging. It felt so good to be back together again and see attendees get a chance to network with fellow marketers face-to-face (or in the virtual chat). But we couldn’t have done it without our incredible sponsors, customers, event organizers, and our amazing attendees who came prepped with detailed questions for speakers that made the sessions that much more impactful. Thank you from the entire Conductor team.
Just because C3 2022 has come to a close, doesn’t mean it has to end. Watch your favorite sessions in our C3 2022 On-Demand Hub. With videos from every session of the day, it’s the perfect way to experience the event if you weren’t able to attend or revisit your favorite sessions for takeaways you might have missed.