This year, Workshop sent three members of our SEO team to MozCon 2016. For those who missed out, Jack, Aimee, and Oeuyown’s day-by-day recap will get you up to speed with key takeaways.
MozCon Day 1 with Aimee Sanford
Day One Speakers
Welcome to MozCon 2016! with Rand Fishkin
Rand’s opening, as usual, was more than just a simple “welcome”. My biggest takeaway from this first presentation was that almost half of all Google searches do not result in a click.
Uplevel Your A/B Testing Skills with Cara Harshman
Cara is an A/B testing nerd who gave us tips for prioritizing what to test on your site. It’s easy for us to go off a “feeling” and test something that we really hope makes a difference. But testing takes time and resources—so we need to use data to decide what knowledge we need to make the biggest movements toward our business goals.
I love that she emphasized that what you are always looking for in an A/B test is to learn something. You should never get discouraged if tests don’t yield the results you wanted, as long as you took something away from it that you didn’t know before.
The Big One: Relaunching Your Website with Lauren Vaccarello
11 Things you Need to Know
- Know WHY you are relaunching a website
- Set clear goals, metrics, and timing for the website
- Make sure entire team has emotionally bought in
- Get the entire company behind the project
- Do the pre-work: define info architecture, wireframes, content strategy, technical decisions etc. before work begins
- decouple the frontend and backend changes
- collocate design, copy, web, and engineering
- Test a few pages and iterate (don’t do a mass page build before you work through the bugs)
- Do a slow, methodical site rollout
- Don’t underestimate the workload behind international
- The new website is live. This is Day 1!
What really struck me is the recommendation for a slow, methodical rollout when relaunching a site. We usually think of a site launch as a “flip the switch” situation where you obsessively comb through the entire site for days to find and fix any bugs you find. Rolling out a new site slowly and methodically in sections allows you to get a grip on any unexpected tweaks that are needed, and will keep major bugs from damaging user experience.
The Hidden Talents of Email: Creating Customer-Centric Messages with Justine Jordan
60% of customers would rather get an email than interact with your website. It’s true!
I loved how Justine focused on making email as personal as possible. Marketers talk about personalization all the time, but we are still afraid to talk to customers in a personal way that focuses just as much on our subscriber’s needs as it does on our business needs.
One of her examples of an email that thrills your subscriber and also meets business needs is this simple alert email from Karma:
This is not a promotional email, but it will provide real value to your existing customers. This reinforces brand loyalty, customer satisfaction, and therefore the likelihood your subscribers will rave about and recommend your product.
How to Do Reputation Marketing with Rhea Drysdale
Rhea argues that that you must constantly exceed stakeholder expectations. Stakeholders are not just your customers. Stakeholders are anyone who interacts with your business, including employees, the surrounding community, media, government, and partners.
Rethinking Information Architecture for SEO and Content Marketing with Joe Hall
My favorite quote from Joe’s presentation is “think more about where you’re going (marketing) and less about what you’re doing (development)”. When these overlap, you have IA that’s great for SEO.
Most website’s use a very formulaic approach to structuring their navigation. It looks something like this:
His recommendations, however, include segmenting your site by main ideas, not simply by page types. You should supplement these main ideas with supporting content of any kind, so your “blog” content would be sprinkled throughout, not necessarily stored away in a subfolder. Then you should add conversion opportunities throughout.
Breaking Patterns: How to Rewrite the CRO Playbook with Mobile Optimization with Talia Wolf
There is an astounding 270% gap in conversions between mobile and desktop.
People on mobile are in a different state of mind. Mobile experiences generally suck – because responsive sights take content created to cater to the intent of desktop users and squish it down for mobile. We should be figuring out what mobile users are coming to our sites for, and providing them with an experience that meets their needs—this is how we will begin to close the conversion gap.
Taking the Top Spot: How to Earn More Featured Snippets with Rob Bucci
In January of this year, only 9% of SERPS had featured snippets. In July, it had increased to 15%.
Rob put a lot of emphasis into breaking down featured snippets by type.
Frequency of Featured Snippets by Type
- 81% are paragraphs
- 16% of snippets are tables
- 19% are lists
(tables and lists are on the rise)
In order to gain more of these featured snippets for your site, you should research which format Google prefers for your query type and industry, then format your content appropriately.
Another tip Rob provided was to let the “People Also Ask” boxes in search results guide your next featured snippet efforts, as PAA boxes are appearing alongside featured snippets more and more in the SERPs.
Content Chaos: Building Your Brand through Constant Experiments with Ross Simmonds
Here is Ross Simmonds’ model for experimentation: Build, Ship, Learn, Decide.
He believes in embracing chaos and experimenting with new ideas. When you try something new and it works, work hard at it, but move on when you stop seeing returns.
I loved hearing Ross talk about Coca Cola’s model for experimentation. About 70% of their budget goes to low risk content (established and successful campaigns); 20% goes to emerging trends that we can see are picking up; and 10% goes to experimenting with strategies that are completely untested.
Social Media: People First, “Rules” Second with Dana DiTomaso
I had never heard of Dark Social before Dana’s presentation, but it accounts for 20-60% of traffic for her clients.
Dark social are visits to your site form the social web that aren’t being attributed to social in your analytics reports. Dark social includes visits generated from all the ways we were social on the internet before social media sites. So sharing through platforms like instant messenger, chatrooms, forums, and email—now this includes offline applications like SnapChat and WhatsApp.
These dark social visits don’t include referrer data, therefore in Google Analytics they are dumped into direct traffic buckets.
Dana shared a custom Google Analytics report to help you see how much of your direct traffic is actually dark social.
MozCon Day 2 with Jack Boland
Day 2 Speakers
You Can’t Type a Concept: Why Keywords Still Matter with Dr. Pete Meyers
Two things stand out to me regarding Google’s commitment to machine deep learning:
- “Optimizing for RankBrain” isn’t new. White-hat SEOs already take a human-users-first approach to content and keywords. RankBrain is Google’s next step toward taking human behavior into account when it comes to rankings.
- Thoughtful meta descriptions = higher CTRs = better rankings. Now apply the transitive property.
One more thing: if you haven’t read Steven Levy’s article on the the big G’s love affair with machine learning, please do.
How to Be Specific: From-The-Trenches Lessons in High-Converting Copy with Joanna Wiebe
During her talk, Joanna had the audience perform an exercise. We closed our eyes, and she read us an example promotional email. She then asked what we visualized. The short answer: nothing.
Joanna insists that great copy should create strong visuals in readers’ minds. I plan on repeating this exercise as a smell-test against my own boring, crappy copy.
Server Log Files & Technical SEO Audits: What You Need to Know with Samuel Scott
An enormous organization told me recently that they rely almost exclusively on server log data for their analytics. Most of my career has been in helping much smaller organizations, though, so I haven’t really needed to jump in the server deep end.
Samuel Scott’s talk showed that there are small biz applications. Moving content around? Check logs for crawl priority. Struggling to rank certain pages? Logs will tell you if they’re being crawled at all.
Digital Marketing Skill Pivot: Recruiting New Talent with Emma Still
This is possibly my favorite new trick from MozCon: use BuzzSumo to find people who share content that matches your company culture or soft skills you’re hiring for. It’s obvious, right? The content people engage with often indicates which qualities they exhibit or admire.
Boost SEO Rankings by Removing Internal Links with Alex Stein
Internal links flow authority from page to page. This is basic SEO stuff, but the basics are easy to forget, or, in this case, overdo. Alex Stein’s case for cutting down on your site’s internal link volume is both compelling and actionable.
Reduce the number of links per page, pass authority only to the pages you care about ranking, and see 5-10% traffic growth. Every Workshop client is going to see some benefit from this talk.
Improve Your UX & SEO through Navigation Optimization with Robyn Winner
If you’re making the case to improve a site’s UX, this slide is for you:
Robyn used this report to tell a client “You’re making it hard for people to give you money!”
So, I asked her about one of our clients, and…
@VincentVanBrogh such great data diving! Now ask, how many pages is too many? What should be your standard? What is the ideal sesh duration?
— Robyn Winner (@robyn_winner) September 13, 2016
If your paying customers are spending all day trudging around your site before converting, the answer might be simplifying your navigation. Make it excessively clear what it is you want them to do. User experience is less about what you (or your designers) think is exciting than it is about meeting expectations and making it easy to move from visitor to customer (or prospect or lead or loyal brand fanatic).
Local Projects to Boost Your Company and Career with Mike Ramsey
Which outreach approach is more effective, spray and pray or selective? Mike Ramsey and Nifty performed a study that answers this question definitively: selective outreach is better.
Nifty’s spray and pray method resulted in a 1.5% response rate from bloggers. Only 5% of those responses resulted in links. That’s about 1,334 emails for every link. Ouch.
Selective outreach earned a 42% response rate, with 18% of responses churning out links. At just 13 emails per link, targeted, thoughtful outreach is 100 times more effective than casting a wide net.
Reimagining Customer Retention and Evangelism with Kristen Craft
Kristen handed out a few marketing tips that we’re already working on at Workshop:
- Don’t try to be all things to all people.
- Be precise in your language and meaning.
- Don’t shy away from your idiosyncrasies.
- Prioritize the personal over the professional.
For us, it’s an effort to create a valuable and memorable customer experience for our clients. If we nail that, everyone stays happy. Plus, as Kristen mentioned in her talk, 86% of people are willing to pay a premium for top-notch customer experiences.
Optimizing the Journey to Deliver Radically Relevant Experiences with Rebekah Cancino
Separate your marketing funnel from your customer journey. They’re not the same. This is a theme for MozCon 2016: market to humans – the complex, thinking, feeling creatures behind all the mouse clicks. Algorithms are dumb at best and cruel at worst, and they are not your customers.
Putting Trust into Domain Authority with Wil Reynolds
Geez, Wil Reynolds sure can own the hell out of a conference stage.
Again, the secret theme at MozCon this year was human beings and their wild, scary feelings. Wil encourages marketers to get out of our tools (looking at you, Keyword Planner) and consider what people truly want and need.
Then he makes a business case for it.
By helping his clients create simple tools that answer user questions or help them make decisions, Wil’s content dominates search results.
MozCon Day 3 with Oeuyown Kim
Day Three Speakers
The Irresistible Power of Strategic Storytelling with Kindra Hall
Kindra started off the last day with a story about a Physics paper she wrote in high school discussing the role that gravity played as she click-click-clicked up a rollercoaster with a heavy bar pulled tight over her shoulders. What did her story have to do with SEO?—Nothing at all but I won’t ever forget how much she seems to dislike science (although she claimed otherwise). Regardless, I remember every vivid detail of her story off the top of my head over most other presentation introductions because of how brilliantly she told it.
Kindra argues that every company has a story to tell, which is not a tagline, a list of features or benefits, and especially not the vague, high-level values to “put the customer first”.
A story should tell your customers about a specific moment in time that provokes emotions and increases their focus in the influx of companies fighting for attention. They’ll be more enticed to take action and remember your story over another company’s generic promise to “listen to what customers want and deliver results”.
29 Advanced Google Tag Manager Tips Every Marketer Should Know with Mike Arnesen
Mike’s list of advanced GTM tips provides inspiration for far more than just 29 tracking opportunities—it really proves that you can track nearly any engagement on a site. As an advanced marketer, you should not let the out-of-the-box functionalities of your analytics platforms limit your ability to analyze important metrics, such as dwell time on a page, pogo-sticking back to the search results page, video engagement and much more.
Engineering-As-Marketing for Non-Engineers with Tara Reed
A reoccurring thought of mine during MozCon: “I can do what?!” Tara Reed showed us that marketers can engineer useful resources to differentiate ourselves without writing a single line of code. There are dozens of platforms online that allow marketers to easily create customized tools through simple click-and-drag systems.
Engineering as marketers involves converting, acquiring and engaging your users through tools that assist users in their decision process better than a plain body of text ever will. Tools like quizzes, demos, and even social media platforms can be created by marketers without a single line of code through hundreds of resources available online.
Persuasion, Data & Collaboration: Building Links in 2016 with Kirsty Hulse
Kirsty Hulse identified tactics that (ashamedly) every SEO might be guilty of committing. From surveying users at random regardless of their interest level to writing apologetic outreach emails, Kirsty called us out, and rightfully so. A previously mentioned common theme in MozCon was prominent in Kirsty’s talk: Treat your audience like respected humans. As analysts, we tend to forget who the person is behind the email we’re sending and their ability to see through our marketing tactics.
When building links, keep in mind that you’re reach out to another marketer. All marketers are aware of every marketing scheme there is in the book, like the famous “I read your latest blog post and loved it!”—no you didn’t, you liar. Refrain from using jargon and apologetic language, do your research and play to their ego, don’t waste their time with teasers, and only reach out to people who you know will care about your request. The “spray and pray” technique doesn’t work for the educated group you’re most likely going after, but a curated message will.
Indexing on Fire: Google Firebase Native and Web App Indexing with Cindy Krum
Cindy Krum’s talk was one that stood out to me as a talk of the “future of SEO” over the general talks with the theme of “this is SEO, now”. Cindy gifted me with the introduction to Progressive Web Apps (PWA’s) and Google’s Firebase Native, which reinforced the thought that although Google is taking over everything, it really is trying to make the web easier, faster and more user-friendly for everyone.
If you think Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP’s) are fast, PWA’s will blow your mind. Progressive Web Apps are websites that deliver content through app-like experiences. In other words, PWA’s give users the ability to instantly retrieve pages on your site without having to wait for it to load by having it stored in the memory. That means users can access pages on your site immediately, without having to wait and even when they don’t have internet access.
With PWA’s advanced caching, retrieval, and exclusion to mobile, there are bound to be caveats to proper indexing. Google’s Firebase Native platform helps drive indexing of Progressive Web App content so you don’t have to sacrifice SEO for PWA’s.
Mind Games: Craft Killer Experiences with 7 Lessons from Cognitive Psychology with Sarah Weise
These days, there’s a sea of advertisements, promotions, and marketers fighting for someone’s attention. Your potential customer’s brain is made up of three parts: rational, emotional and survival, and Sarah Weise points out that your message has to appeal to all three areas to be persuasive above the rest.
The emotional side necessitates an association or social proof that they’re making the right decision by purchasing this thing that 100,000 other people purchased and rated with five stars. The rational side needs to be convinced that you’re making the right decision because it’s $15 dollar cheaper than it usually is so you’re really saving yourself money. Just as important to consider is the survival side of your brain that will jump on a purchase knowing that there are only 10 tickets left for that concert ticket you’ve been eyeing.
Link Building’s Tipping Point with Rand Fishkin
Rand closed out MozCon in a similar fashion as he did last year by reexamining one of the fundamentals of success to SEO in its entirety: backlinks and how to get them. Although it sounds like a simpler topic compared to those that covered PWA’s and how to get snippets through proper formatting, Rand broke it down to something much more complex.
Google’s interpretations of links and passing of authority has evolved over time to become a “machine learning first” company. A link will never be just as simple as “pass authority from authoritative linking site to linked site”. Every link is not the same and every facet of the link—much beyond the domain authority or anchor text— is considered in the amount of passed authority.
Google is considering who links to the site that links to yours, where that site is in search results pages, how authoritative the author of the linking post is to your site, and much more. And despite the seemingly infinite factors that are weighed into the authoritative affect of backlinks to your site, every link can be bucketed into one of five categories: UGC, press and media, embed, partnership, or content marketing.