Olga Andrienko, head of global marketing, at content marketing SaaS platform SEMrush, assesses the impact of coronavirus on the marketing events industry.
Events have long been a mainstay of modern marketing. Despite the pandemic’s dramatic hit, some conferences are still taking place, moving from offline to online, and marketing pros are even more eager to learn from the industry leaders in attempts to adapt to the ‘new normal’ and to implement best practices relevant for today’s new realities.
By using a range of SEMrush tools, we have sourced and analysed the data that reflects these key and topical shifts within the events industry with the aim of identifying those conferences that are attracting the highest audience interest, pinpointing some common audience traits, and uncovering the most popular marketing event topics able to withstand a turbulent year. This data has also allowed us to evaluate the pandemic’s impact on the sector.
Our research shows that the predominant demographic of people surfing the web for marketing conferences globally are 25-34-years old (28%), followed closely by 35-44-years-olds (26%). Looking at the gender breakdown, it is more or less equal: 53% male vs 47% female.
Online marketing events are taking the lead:
Traffic numbers show that the general interest in marketing conferences is drastically down – no great surprise there. Looking back at 2019, January and March saw peaking interest in conferences, with monthly traffic to over 250 analysed conference sites exceeding one million visitors. Early in 2020, even before the pandemic hit, there was a decreased user interest beginning to emerge for marketing conference sites, with 200,000fewer visitors back in January. But since the coronavirus outbreak, the average monthly traffic to marketing event sites has plummeted by around 50%, with some months like June/July showing an even bigger drop.
As the pandemic meant the end for live events, as we know them, for at least the foreseeable future – digital events have rapidly risen to the occasion within the marketing conferences sector, thanks to worldwide travel restrictions and the majority of all marketers working remotely.
When comparing web searches for ‘marketing conferences’ against ‘marketing webinars’, there is strong proof that 2020 is the prime year for all webinar fans and organisers. These searches also illustrate a correlation between the two: As conference searches are down, interest in webinars goes up, and vice versa.
This year also saw the rise of a new search term related to marketing conferences – “virtual marketing events”. Back in 2019, not a single search for virtual marketing events ever occurred. However, 2020 saw a growing demand either to attend such events or for specific guidance on how to organise them and engage marketers with them.
To assess the topics linked to conferences which get the most searches online, we ranked themes by popularity. Social media and conferences topped the charts, followed by content marketing, SEO, email marketing, affiliate marketing, followed by the more general product marketing and video marketing. This was measured as searched for-terms alongside ‘events’. Events that cover any of these fields are likely to have the highest appeal to marketing audiences, as is seeding any of these themes into an event or conference schedule and associated digital promotion.
Popularising your own events:
So, how best to stand out in this increasingly competitive environment, and reach the audiences you want?
When talking about indications of popularity in digital terms, we tend to refer to either traffic figures or volumes of searches.
For our study, we analysed over 250 annual marketing events against these criteria to understand what kind of events attract the highest audience interest. Geographically, we focused on global English-speaking events, including a few regional ones that are very powerful on a local level but also attract international attendees. Unsurprisingly, the top three marketing conferences ranked by website traffic were ‘Social Media Week’ ‘Digital Summit’ and ‘Advertising Week’. Having keywords like social media, digital, and advertising in the event name helped with SEO, supporting the existing profile for these events and their websites.
Taking traffic as an indicator of popularity indicates both the level of brand awareness around each conference and the amount of marketing effort put into attracting large crowds.
When ranked by monthly search volume, the top three winners proved to be ‘DXSummit’, ‘SMX’ and ‘Adobe Summit’. Interestingly, the traffic leaders we see in the previous category – Social Media Week and Digital Summit – are actually not topping the most searched events list, implying that brand awareness reflected in direct traffic is an important traffic driver for both events. The opposite seems to be true for the DX Summit, which is the most searched event, despite not appearing on the top by traffic list.
Keywords related to specific marketing topics hold a lot of power when it comes to audience engagement and driving website traffic. For example, ‘social media conferences’, ‘content marketing conferences’ and ‘SEO conferences’ are the most popular topics searched for online in the past three years. These insights highlight the importance of the social and digital aspect of events that attracts the most attendees. If you are able to deploy these keywords when promoting your events, you are more likely to attract your marketing audiences who are actively searching around these terms.
Virtual and digital experiences that have been developed during the pandemic will remain in demand even post-Covid and post-lockdowns, as working habits and patterns have changed for good.
This data has shown that people are open and ready to find new ways of doing things virtually. While the shift to virtual or hybrid events may require extra research and preparation, optimising your websites with keywords and related terms now will help you boost your traffic search and reach your target audience in the long term.