This week I am attending the MozCon SEO (Search Engine Optimization) conference in Seattle. One overwhelming change to this year’s gathering is a noticeable and sweeping demographic shift in the age of the average attendee. Where there once was almost nothing but 20 somethings complimenting each other on their cool new iPhone cases and Chuck Taylor’s, today there are 30, 40, and 50 somethings slamming shots of vitamin B 12, reminiscing about workouts wearing a Sony Discman, and joking about the possibility of a popular movement to bring back Geocities.
The aging of attendees was most obvious to me on the morning I saw an older man, probably 45 to 50-years-old shepherding a group of four 20 somethings into the presentation hall. Leading the pack, he reviewed the day’s schedule of speakers and reminded each of his staff what topics they would be personally responsible for paying especially close attention to. I was struck by the fact that people at MozCon were actually being managed, that the managers were also here, and that the managers were the ones trying to impress upon these young people the importance and privilege of participating in MozCon!
Over the last four or five years I have faithfully attended MozCon myself. In this time I have sat, eaten, and spoken with hundreds of fellow MozCon attendees. What I have gathered is that from a large company’s perspective, MozCon has historically been a consolation conference awarded to a company’s young and ambitious “web folks” who really had no other conference to attend. For others, MozCon was a place for marketing managers to send their young pups, to keep them up-to-date on what had largely been “peripheral” marketing concerns. But we faithful attendees know the truth: MozCon is an opportunity for data driven and innovated online marketers to surround themselves with others who share a passion for dominating the search returns and for driving quality traffic to the websites they own or manage.
So what does this shift in demographics mean (other than the possibility of an AARP discount offered on upcoming conference tickets)? I believe there are two possibilities; 1.) Either the older people attending are actually the weathered and former younger MozCon attendees of years gone by (which would include myself) or, 2.) Companies have realized that SEO and inbound marketing are so important that the ‘kids’ can no longer be trusted to manage it. I believe the latter is true. The ‘old’ people I have talked to this week (who are easy for me to engage because I am one of them) are not simply corporate ‘tools’. They are smart, educated, creative, analytical, excited, and motivated. In short, they are a company’s best people. They are here because more companies are finally recognizing that SEO and inbound marketing are essential to a company’s stability, and more importantly its growth. And with this recognition comes an important shift. Inbound marketing teams are no longer being lead by the young people who are most vocal about wanting to lead them. They are now being led by talented people who have a history of successfully implementing important business strategies. Age is no longer a default limiter on the pool of available talent who are energized about an opportunity to work on these new marketing challenges.
I, for one, am very excited by this injection of new blood into our profession. With age generally comes experience. Experience is the foundation of wisdom. Embracing a wide swath of experience and wisdom, and encouraging sharing will only connect the dots between each of our individual challenges to solve our common problems. And that is why I am already so excited about MozCon 2014. I just can’t wait for this next opportunity to surround myself with the absolute best people, young or old, within our industry.
Travis Luther is the President of Denver, CO based Luther Media, LLC. Luther Media, LLC is a niche marketing agency and the parent company of Law Father – LawFather.net, and ValetAds Valet Ticket Advertising – ValetAds.com. Luther is also an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at Metropolitan State University of Denver.