MozCon bills itself as an endless journey into the deepest realms of marketing. It’s a one-track, three-day session packed with 27 industry experts, actionable insights and strategic connections with the industry’s best and brightest. It’s the who’s who of SEO and Digital Marketing from Rand Fishkin, Wil Reynolds, Britney Muller, Dana DiTomaso and countless other bright minds just in attendance. And I’m like boy band excited to be attending (for the third time). I always walk away with a renewed sense of awe for the incredible work that my digital marketing, developer and C-Suite peers are churning out. And inspired to put some of those precious learnings into action.  

Disclaimer: At Acumium, our digital marketing team believes in the power of experimentation and constant iteration guided by data, especially to keep up with the constantly evolving consumer, not to mention Google. To be at our best for our clients and our own growth, we are constantly collaborating with industry experts, researching the spaces that our clients do business in, and attending conferences like this. Because when we’re growing, it helps us solve some of your most complex problems. Follow along with us as we break down some of our favorite sessions from this incredible conference. 

The State of Search 2019: Voice Search won't actually kill the radio star. Or organic search for that matter. 

While there’s a lot of brilliant marketers out there, there’s few that have done as much for the current state of SEO than Rand Fishkin, former head and founder of Moz, now SparkToro. He’s partnered with Jumpshot in scraping and pulling data to bring us the present and future of SEO.  

In the US alone, 95% of traffic comes from Google, and zero-click searches exceed 50% for the 1st time due to Google’s aim to keep users on Google’s platform. And in 2019 Google sent about 20% fewer organic clicks via browser than 2016. Google’s ad change from the green outline box to bold black increased ad CTR by 16%, and only about 3.6% of all searches get a paid click. But the same data also tells us that there have never been more web-based searches despite voice-based searches when you add app data. There has been no decline in either pages or domains visited. So, people’s behavior in how they consume the information is differing, much like how TV consumption has never been higher, people are just consuming the content via streaming. Did I mention that still, 45% results in a click via organic? 

Links, clicks, and keywords are important SEO factors but so are authority, accuracy, and comprehensiveness. Rand pointed out these aren’t just impacting health, educational and financial spaces and that while these ranking factors can actually be weighted more heavily in these spaces, it’s clearly an important factor that Google is paying attention to (and can adjust as they so choose to deliver users the best experience). 

There’s a high correlation between social reach and rankings. So, even if you are focused heavily on SEO or PPC or brand, you need to care about social reach and move beyond just those top-level metrics. Social platforms are trying to keep people on-site (very Google-like) and they do this by engagement-first algorithms, sharing content and this is usually by controversial content or content that people deem engaging, not just likable.  

Our Takeaway: Are we all doomed as marketers then? Or should anyone, agency or client-side just give up? No, it’s proof now more than ever, due to the sophistication in the space and Google, of the importance of sound and integrated marketing strategies. All channels work together but there’s a strong foundation in organic search. Creating valuable content that Google will reward is incredibly important, but the data also shows us that there’s more organic traffic and competition than ever. Ranking signals are changing at an ever-increasing pace and Google is constantly course-correcting and you need qualified people, be it an agency or in-house who hold content authority and user relevance as core values to guide their technical and on-page SEO. It's important to continuously optimize for the user (humans) and Google. Both are possible. And necessary. 

National SERPs don’t really exist.  

I feel a little like a Mathlete a la Mean Girls here (the limit does not exist) because Rob Bucci pushes hard on the fact that the impact of location, even for sites without brick-and-mortar locations, has more significance on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) than the impact of personalization. And he’s got the data to prove it. When looking solely at localized data and SERPs, there can be up to an 85% variance in what’s shown depending on where locally a searcher is. We’re talking at a zip code level. And this is impacting queries that have zero local intent. Keeping in mind Google’s goal (to make money or rather keep you on their site and satisfy searcher/buyer/consumer intent), even considering when ranking for informational queries, all local search matters. All the time. Add in the challenge of collecting and analyzing that volume of search data, exponentially increased by local competitors that don’t show up at a national level view, and a stack of keywords, it’s a pretty complex task. 

Our Takeaway: Tracking nationally is important, and so is local, but this highlights the importance of radical prioritization at the national, regional and local levels to really know what opportunities will actually move that needle. Which keywords matter to you? What markets? Who is the real competition in each geography, people you haven’t even thought of? Do you care more about markets where you’re performing well, where you are looking to break into, or places you’ve never considered but that organically, do well for you? Whether you’re an agency or client-side, having data that can answer these questions and then a focused and strategic mind to make sense of it, is what it’s all about. 

Demonstrate quality in ways that both your users and Google can understand. 

As Ruth Burr Reedy tells us (and we agree), marketers need to focus on both the user and Google (or the other machines). We’re the intermediaries that must interpret inputs (like metadata, link volume, page speed and keywords, for example) as well as broader signals like content saliency, topic quality, and relevance. The very things that Google deems a strong indicator of content quality (and thus rewarding it) are the very same things that a user is evaluating when deciding to click or purchase. A human will always be better (for now) at interpreting those human signals of a good piece of content. But it’s still important to keep in mind what Google deems good content. 

EAT (Expertise, Authority, and Trust: a big topic in the world of SEO) isn’t a ranking factor the same way brand isn’t. EAT is actually made up of hundreds (probably) of signals that may or may not be ranking signals. No matter how many updates Google makes, core or the daily course corrections, if we’re impacted that means something bigger. Most likely, that we’re not providing quality content in a way that Google deems appropriate. And probably to our users. Sometimes it’s not possible to get that traffic back, but to realize when these changes happen to take a step back and think about what this says about what customers are looking for, and how can we provide and structure our content and SEO on-page for both the user and Google. 

Our TakeawayGoogle does what Google wants. It’s our jobs to make sense of what Google is going to do, or be reactionary to what the last update did. We want to know when these instances occur because it helps us tell the story in what we see in the data, but at the end of the day, it’s our duty as marketers to holistically look at content beyond the foundational metas and h1’s, and ensure we’re meeting Google’s and our users' standards. And constantly be asking ourselves, how can we be better? It’s why we create strategic and tactical roadmaps in SEO for example, so we move beyond just that first layer of metadata, just like how we prioritize our keywords. Take into account the big picture and always remember, it’s all about the users. And that includes Google too. 

To be rather than to seem. Are your pages and site, worth ranking over your competitors?  

One of my favorite talks of Day One was Moz’s Russ Jones (self-stated to be better than Dr. Pete in every measurable way). Plus, I have to shout out to Russ’ shirt: “Questions are not arguments.” (preach, hands up emoji). He challenged everyone in the audience to think beyond the job of what we’re doing. When he asked marketers, do you (or on behalf of your clients) ensure that site content is best before pushing for ranking and SEO goodness? 14% of people answered they never even looked. 64% said no.  

Being user-centric (page speed, content quality, etc.) and rank-centric (keywords, meta, etc.) are both important, but really what we’re doing is improving the experience. And is it truly better than any other one out there? For a site to truly be best-in-class it must also be accessible, have the best content, the best UX/UI, be mobile-first, be truly unique and do everything well, better. Luckily for us, the ROI of being the best is fast approaching the ROI of pretending to be. It’s never been cheaper, thanks to tools out there, to do the right thing. And the fakers, thanks to Google’s updates, are being found out time and time again. Jones asserts that it’s time to stop sacrificing the long term for the short term.  

Our Takeaway: We all have a job to do. Be it more revenue, more clicks, better rankings. But what Russ said today is something so fundamental that we, as marketers, really should give more conscious thought to at every stage of our marketing activities. Do we deserve it, not because it’s our job, but because it really is the best? He isn’t saying don’t work 100% on something you don’t believe in, but to think about what you’re really doing. Because how you do it and what you’re doing, is important. As an agency, we hear lots of “I need it now,” or “It doesn’t matter if that isn’t right or won’t work, I need it done now”. Sometimes we get to be the bad guy because we like to employ that radical candor and ask those hard questions. Sometimes it’s because we aren’t a fit or can’t make you appear on page 1 for every term you want, today. We need to stop sacrificing the long-term for the short term. Period.  

These were just our takeaways from Day One of MozCon 2019. Imagine what Day Two and Day Three have in store! We're jacked up on caffeine and ready to bring our clients the best experiences in digital marketing. Want to geek out on all things marketing? Talk about the latest and greatest trends? Or how we’re working with our clients to make their brand better? Drop us a line, we’d love to help you with whatever you’re faced with.