We are pleased to announce we are one of the sponsors of International Search Summit Barcelona, taking place on Thursday, November 14th. We sat down with Gemma Houghton, the organiser of the conference and asked her how she manages to attract such fantastic speakers and why international search is so important.
1. How did you first become involved with International Search Summit?
The first International Search Summit was in London in 2008, 1 year after I joined Webcertain. There are some significant differences between managing websites and search campaigns in just one language/market and doing so across many, and these topics and challenges had limited, if any, visibility at other search events. So we decided to do an event dedicated to this – covering aspects such as culture and language, local search engines like Baidu and Yandex and technical topics like geo-targeting.
We started working with SMX in 2010 to run ISS alongside their European and US events, and we still take it to Munich and London every year.
I organised the first one and have been doing it ever since – it think we’ve done about 60 events in total!
2. How is International Search Summit different to other conferences? How has it changed since it was first launched?
It focuses entirely on international topics and challenges, which no other search conference does. We try hard to keep that focus as tight as possible; we’re not trying to compete with the many excellent search conferences out there, but offer something specific to support those marketers dealing day to day with international markets.
In a way, it hasn’t changed much at all. The focus and style remains the same as it always was, and while topics have obviously evolved, some of the core challenges are still the same as they were in 2008. In the last couple of years, we have expanded it to new cities– heading to Boston and Barcelona, and we held the first two-track event in Barcelona last year. This year, it will be 3 tracks, enabling us to cover a much wider range of topics across SEO, paid search, localisation and content marketing – which is both exciting and scary!
3. At one point you were responsible for 7 international conferences a year. Can you share your tips on ensuring you have the best speakers and venues for the event?
My biggest challenge with speakers is finding those who can speak specifically to the international challenges and topics. There are loads of fantastic specialists and speakers, but often their topic or experience doesn’t have international angle we need, so I can’t have them speak at ISS. Equally, there are people with so much experience and knowledge to share who aren’t active on the speaking circuit so it’s not easy to find them and I have to search quite hard to discover them.
I try to have a mix of experienced speakers who I know will deliver a great talk, with new speakers who I’ve never seen speak – but who have something interesting or new to talk about. It can be a risk that doesn’t always pay off but equally it can result in some brilliant sessions. I’m always happy when I get pitches on relevant topics, from a speaker I don’t already know.
Diversity is obviously an important topic too. As we’re focusing on international we often have a wide mix of nationalities on the speaker list and I’m very conscious of actively trying to address the gender imbalance – although not at the expense of having the right topics and right experience on the agenda.
For venues, location is a really important factor, to make it both easy and appealing for people to attend. Also, I look for flexibility in the initial discussions, as working with a venue who will adapt to your needs and make changes as the event approaches and requirements can change makes the process and the overall experience for attendees much better.
And I always check the menu!
4. Why should people attend International Search Summit in Barcelona?
- It is the best event to get insights and tactics specifically tailored to international digital marketing
- We’ve got 3 tracks crossing SEO, paid search, content marketing, localisation and analytics; its not just relevant to one aspect of digital
- The speaker line-up is very strong, featuring speakers from all over the world. From leaders in their field to marketers managing search and digital for huge global brands, there is a lot of experience and knowledge about international on the line-up.
- It’s a great opportunity to meet fellow professionals from around the world, who shame the same challenges
- It’s very affordable and there are additional discounts for groups.
- It would make me happy
Can you give three tips for those organising international events that you would have liked to have when you started?
- Audiences in different countries behave differently from each other – from how far in advance they book tickets to the way they like to engage during the event, so don’t expect everything to work the same way and be prepared to adapt your approach.
- Even if your events are in different countries, with different audiences, don’t plan them too close together. Organising events always takes more time than you think, especially in the few weeks before, so having space between events makes it less stressful and enables you to give your full focus to each one.
- No matter what you do, you can’t please everyone – so don’t take every negative comment personally or let it diminish positive feedback.
6. How would you recommend an online marketer starts their career (or changes their career) to international search?
The principles of search/digital marketing are the same regardless of how many countries you target, but the scale and implementation of international require different mindsets. These are few things that are important when working on global sites or campaigns.
- Google and Facebook don’t rule the whole world. Understanding the different search and social landscapes in different countries is important, as you can’t deploy the same strategy and use the same channels everywhere.
- Have a global mindset about everything you do. For example, if you’re changing your CMS or building a new website, think about how it handles different languages; if the site architecture works for all markets; how you will manage the translation process all from the outset. If you don’t, you’ll hit issues, delays and increased costs further down the line.
- Develop frameworks, processes and best practices that apply across markets, but allow flexibility and adaptation for each country. Whether you have a centralised or de-centralised approach, you need to ensure consistency and accuracy, while creating content and campaigns that are relevant for each audience.
- And attend an International Search Summit!
Thank you Gemma for your time and for being interviewed on the Authoritas blog. We are looking forward to seeing you at International Search Summit Barcelona on November 14th. We have an exclusive 10% off the price of a ticket, so grab yours before the early bird special ends October 14th. Simply type in AUTH10 when purchasing a ticket.