MozCon 2017: Collected Live Tweets

Last week, I attended MozCon in Seattle. As usual, I live-tweeted the heck out of it! For those of you who weren’t able to attend, or who want a wrap-up to refer back to, I’ve collected my live tweets of each session below, along with my main takeaways from each talk, and a link to the talk’s slides where I could find them. Enjoy!

Day One

Rand Fishkin, “Inside Google’s Numbers in 2017”

Rand started out the conference with a by-the-numbers overview of Google’s current search growth and market share. Google is still the biggest referrer of traffic on the web, sending TEN TIMES more traffic than the next biggest referrer (Facebook).

Lisa Myers, “How to Get Big Links”

Lisa’s approach to link building outreach and content creation is so refreshing. She’s been able to get big results by letting her team be creative and try bold things, knowing that there will be failures. I loved her idea to find existing data sets and leverage them to create new, beautiful content pieces. I think the most important takeaway from her talk is that content marketers/link builders are individuals, and you get way more success by letting them approach things their unique way rather than locking them into a rigid process.

Oli Gardner, “Data Driven Design”

Oli’s talk contained one of the statistics that stuck in my mind the most from MozCon: 51% of marketers he surveyed said their analytics was set up wrong. I know that’s a huge problem we help clients combat at UpBuild; it’s really challenging to make sure you’re tracking everything you need to track, in a way that gives you confidence that the numbers are accurate. Once you have that in place, you can use your data to gain new empathy for your users, understanding why they behave in the ways that they do, and designing solutions to better serve their needs.

Joel Klettke, “How to Write Customer-Driven Copy that Converts”

Joel is a super-smart writer and I love his approach to copywriting. Copy needs to answer users’ questions, in the order they have them. We can’t ask for a conversion if we haven’t explained why people should care, how it works, and why they should trust us. It all boils down to empathy – when someone searches for something, why do they want it?

Daniel Russell, “What We Learned From Reddit & How it Can Help Your Brand Take Content Marketing to the Next Level”

Daniel started out this session with one of my favorite keyword research tips: check out online forums around your topic to see the questions people ask, and the content they like to share. I think a lot of marketers try to use Reddit purely in a promotional way, which the Reddit community really frowns on. Instead, Daniel recommends using Reddit’s advanced search functionality to find content that is popular and trending, then analyzing that content to understand what resonates with users in that space.

Katie Cunningham, “How to Build an Intent Based SEO Campaign for Any Business”

Carrying on the theme of looking for the “why” behind keyword research, Katie outlined a framework for mapping keywords by search intent. Not only does she map keywords to specific touchpoints in the customer journey, she maps them to KPIs she’s trying to improve – then creates custom segments for content based on search intent, to track whether or not that content is successfully meeting that intent and improving its designated KPIs.

Ian Lurie, “Be a Badger: Bad-Ass Content by Teeny-Tiny Teams”

In the marketing world, there’s a lot of talk about “unicorns” – but to actually get stuff done, we have to think more like badgers: efficient and adaptable. Even a small team working with few resources can create a reliable content marketing program with the “badger” mentality. Ian outlined a basic framework for ongoing content production by small teams, including some tactics and tools to help marketers do stuff on their own instead of having to rely on other teams to produce and edit. Most important, Ian says, is to continually refine, streamline and accelerate – chipping away until you’re left with something great.

Justine Jordan, “The Tie That Binds: Why Email is Key to Maximizing Marketing ROI”

Email marketing can be something that annoys our customers, or it can be something that delights them and forges a lasting connection with our brand. Too often, Justine says, we treat email as a box to check in our marketing plans, rather than as a valuable channel. But when we optimize our email for opens and clicks, we may be ignoring factors that detract from overall customer happiness and lifetime customer value.

Purna Virji, “Marketing in a Conversational World”

Purna’s talk was fascinating! As digital personal assistants, skills, and chatbots become more sophisticated and integrated, we as digital marketers have an opportunity to engage with customers beyond our websites. Chatbots mean that conversational marketing can go from 1:many to 1:1, and the result is incredibly personalized marketing that connects with users where they live.

Phil Nottingham, “Thinking Smaller: Optimizing for the New Wave of Social Video Platforms”

This was one of my favorite talks of the conference. Many marketers tend to view video as something that needs to be slick, high-production, and expensive – but with new video tools and social sharing platforms, brands of any size can create engaging video content on a shoestring. I often advise people to create different content for the different social platforms they share on, and Phil points out this is even more true for video – in part because different platforms have different capabilities around size, aspect ratio, etc; but in part because people consume video on different platforms in different ways. Phil closed out his presentation by making a live video with Wistia’s new Soapbox tool – and got me inspired to start creating more video at UpBuild!

Day Two

Wil Reynolds, “I’d Rather be Thanked Than Ranked”

I missed the beginning of Wil’s talk, because my Lyft was stuck in traffic. He touched on what was definitely one of the major themes of the conference: finding the “Why” behind search behavior. Content that doesn’t serve the user’s needs disappoints people, which means that that content is highly disruptable. To get to the root of user intent, Wil recommends real user studies – talking to real people to learn about their pain, and watching them use search to try to solve that problem. Once you see the problem behind the query, you’ll never forget it.

Rob Bucci, “Reverse-Engineer Google’s Research to Serve Up the Best, Most Relevant Content for Your Audience”

Keyword rank tracking is only somewhat useful as a barometer for how a site is doing in search these days. Between increasingly-personalized results, a constantly-shifting algorithm, and a long tail that gets longer every day, rank tracking can only be so reliable. With this talk, though, Rob completely shifted my thinking around SERP tracking and why it’s important; not to measure any single site’s performance, but as a front-end window into Google’s multi-billion-dollar human behavior research machine. Google needs to keep getting better and better at solving people’s problems using search, and by paying attention to how they try to do that, we can learn about how we can do the same.

Matthew Edgar, “More Than SEO: 3 Ways to Prove UX Matters Too”

We’ve known for a while that user experience (UX) is important for SEO, but many people consider UX to be someone else’s job; plus, it’s hard to measure whether or not your UX is good or bad in the first place. Matthew made the case that how people behave on your site is a good indicator of how well the site is helping them find what they’re looking for – a classic measure of SEO success. This kind of advanced usage data in analytics is a big part of what we track at UpBuild, so this talk was a nice confirmation that we’re on the right track. Matthew’s talk also included some very interesting and fun resources and scripts to play around with, and the analytics nerds on the team had a field day with them.

Jayna Grassel, “A Site Migration: Redirects, Resources and Reflection”

Jayna provided a very in-depth, transparent case study of migrating the huge Dick’s Sporting Goods site to a new platform. I was nodding along for a lot of this talk; the challenges she faced were very similar to the challenges I’ve seen with large site migrations in the past. The most challenging part of a site migration is that so much of the SEO work has to wait until toward the end of the project, and often has to be redone since URLs change and are added and removed. Jayna’s honesty about what went right, what went wrong, and how they fixed it was refreshing and inspiring.

Kane Jamison, “The 8 Paid Promotion Tactics That Will Get You to Quit Organic Traffic”

As organic marketers, we often tend to view paid promotion as solely in the realm of our PPC counterparts. Kane (who is one of the smartest content marketers working today, in my opinion, and is also the person who suggested that I start Storifying my tweets in a blog post after conferences) blew the lid off of that assumption with this talk. Paid promotion, especially on social media platforms like Facebook, can be as much about building an audience as it is about closing a sale. This top-of-funnel paid strategy can result in conversions down the line, but it can also assist in exactly the kind of brand engagement and influencer outreach that, ultimately, drive the links and shares organic content marketers crave.

Unfortunately, I was in a lunch meeting that ran long on Tuesday, so I had to miss Tara-Nicholle Nelson’s talk, “How to Be a Happy Marketer: Survive the Content Crisis and Drive Results by Mastering Your Customer’s Transformational Journey.” I heard it was great, though!

Matthew Barby, “Up and to the Right: Growing Traffic, Conversions, and Revenue”

My favorite thing that Matthew said during this talk was that everything you do, as a marketer, will stop working eventually. Once the net gain from a tactic starts diminishing, it’s time to move on, not run it into the ground. Matthew’s talk addressed the difficult problem that businesses face when they have a new or disruptive product offering: people aren’t searching for their product, because they don’t know it’s a thing. Matthew offered several tips for using “side doors” into your product, by targeting the problems that product is designed to solve.

Joanna Lord, “How to Operationalize Growth for Maximum Revenue”

Joanna is the CMO of ClassPass, and the kind of high-energy speaker that gets the tweets flowing fast and furious. She talked about building growth into your company in such a way that growth goes from incremental to inflection – that “hockey stick” we all want to see. She recommended hiring T-shaped marketers (deep understanding in one discipline, but broad understanding of the business as a whole) to create empathy and cross-team collaboration. She also talked about some of the traits that make a fast-growing business different, like failing fast and making hard decisions that will pay off down the line.

Krista Seiden, “Analytics to Drive Optimization & Personalization”

In this talk, Krista talked about the difficulty of driving personalization and customer experience at scale. Happily, you can get a long way toward a more personalized customer experience simply by looking at how people use your site, and where it is and isn’t meeting their needs. Adding in qualitative data will give deep understanding into who your users are. One of my top takeaways from this talk is that sitewide templates aren’t always a great idea for an international site; users in different countries may have very different expectations for how a website is supposed to look and behave. By testing different layouts and UX for different countries, you can make sure your users feel right at home on your site, regardless of where they’re coming from.

Dr. Pete Myers, “Facing the Future: 5 Simple Tactics for 5 Scary Changes”

The Google search results page is an ever-changing world, and you never know when a new feature might roll out and stop your traffic in its track. Dr. Pete advocated for looking at the other results Google is serving up for your target queries: if there are a ton of videos on the page and you don’t have a video, you’re missing something. If the entire top of the page is Shopping results, you’re going to have a hard time competing without being present in those Shopping results. The good news is that Google is trying more and more to emulate human behavior in its machine learning, which means that marketers can spend more time focusing on humans and less time focusing on robots.

Day Three

Cindy Krum, “The Truth About Mobile-First Indexing”

This was hands-down my favorite talk of the conference, which is basically true any time I see Cindy speak. To be frank, I’ve had a hard time getting too excited about mobile-first indexing; it’s seemed like an inevitability for a long time, so when Google announced it, I was kind of like “what else is new?” Cindy’s talk helped me realize that mobile-first indexing is all about information portability – what of your data can be understood and surfaced up by any and all devices, including things like voice-assisted devices, which may or may not have screens? Cindy referred to this as “portable-first indexing;” I think we could also call it device-agnostic indexing. Her slides are definitely worth checking out.

Tara Reed, “Powerful Brands Have Communities”

Tara talked about something I think it’s valuable for all businesses to keep in mind: people are going to have conversations online about your brand and products, whether you’re there for them or not. Why not create a place where your customers can interact with each other, and with you, in an authentic and delightful way? As Tara pointed out, marketers often focus on new customer acquisition while neglecting their existing customer base, missing huge opportunities for monetization. She also shared several inspiring case studies from powerful brands who built great communities.

Heather Physioc, “From Anchor to Asset: How Agencies Can Wisely Create Data-Driven Content”

Big brands often have a shockingly low amount of content – or the content they do have is thin, shallow, and uninspiring. The truth is, agencies report having trouble with every part of the content marketing process, from ideation to execution to promotion. Creative content is often based around big, tentpole-type pieces that can take months to produce, but digital marketing often needs continuous content. Heather shared a process for enabling both within your organization, to incrementally drive traffic gains between the spikes that your tentpole content creates. Ultimately, this approach makes the spikes higher and the dips not as bad.

Britney Muller, “5 Secrets: How to Execute Lean SEO to Increase Qualified Leads”

Britney is the Head of SEO at Moz, which used to be my job, so I had a lot of empathy for the challenges she talked about addressing with the Moz site (for most of her talk, I was the human embodiment of the “praise hands” emoji). Britney talked about how she used curiosity to test all manner of things on the Moz site, ultimately resulting in better performance. She also talked about several different tactics to get internal buy-in, which any in-house SEO will tell you is the hardest and most important part of getting things done in-house.

SEO Experimentation for Big-Time Results

Steph Chang is the head of SEO at Etsy, which is a giant site with a ton of content, and she’s been able to drive huge results there by implementing a testing program (her slides are embargoed, so you’ll just get the live tweets on this one). The big challenge at Etsy was organizational: they’re super data-driven, so they require forecasting and data proof before and after tests before they’ll sign off on changes. Stephanie shared her model for creating hypotheses, designing tests, and proving results to effect big change.

Dawn Anderson, “Winning Value Propositions for Crawlers and Consumers”

Humans are curious: show us a door, and we’ll want to go through it. That said, give us too many options, and we won’t know which one to pick – and when we do pick one, we’ll worry we chose wrong. Dawn showed several strategies for large e-commerce companies to help their consumers avoid choice paralysis and find the right choice. Of course, adding multiple presentation layers for your products can exponentially increase your website’s total number of URLs, and the amount of those URLs that are duplicate or near-duplicate content, so Dawn also detailed a strategy for using canonicalization to mitigate that risk.

Rand Fishkin, “The State of SEO and How to Survive Google’s Trojan Horsing of the Web”

Rand closed out the conference by scaring the bejeezus out of everyone, showing how Google’s ranking of its own results first can completely tank the search traffic for a site designed to serve up the same information. To guard against this possibility, Rand recommends segmenting search queries not just by user intent, but also by how complex an answer the query requires. By prioritizing complex tasks and creating robust resources around them, we can ensure that Google can’t snap up that traffic by surfacing up a simple answer on the SERP page. We can also invest in diversifying our traffic sources, so Google’s traffic isn’t the end-all be-all for our sites. Think “How would Google steal this data?” and then create that resource yourself, first (and better).


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Drawing on over a decade of digital marketing experience (both in-house & agency-side), Ruth leads the team to drive client strategy forward.

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