Five Breakout Themes Following MozCon 2020

Thank you to the Seer MozCon 2020 team for taking notes and contributing to this post: Emily Goss, Tyler Cameron, Lauren KonyvesRobert ConklinChris Evans, Jordan Strauss, Rachel DiNicola, Kati Polaski, Allison Hahn

We are into the second half of this year and after facing economic shutdowns, being reminded of the importance of social impact, and the need for accurate news and information, marketers have seen a long road. 

As marketers start to earn back some of their budgets and test new strategies, we should take a step back to reflect on the year we’ve had and what themes will transform SEO now, throughout this year and those to follow. 

Five MozCon 2020 Consistent Themes

  1. It's time to make business changes
  2. Re-evaluate how you view your content strategy
  3. Understand your audience and their journey
  4. Impressions don’t mean impressed
  5. We can all leverage automation

1) It's Time to Make Business Changes

Being a master of SEO doesn't guarantee that your consultancy will succeed. Below are tips for agencies to weather the next update and tactics to keep your clients and bottom-line happy.

Along with consumers and the economy, companies and agencies have taken a hard hit. Most businesses believe in an entrepreneurial economy, people who are proficient in their skill decide to run businesses, but being a great marketer won’t make your business a success.

In his presentation, "I Wanna Be Rich: Making Your Consultancy Profitable", Russ Jones walks through tactics to keep your business profitable:

Start by finding ways to cut costs: 

  • Potentially hire more contractors 
  • Evaluate costs of your office space
  • Assess and consider leadership changes
  • Cut service lines

Experiment with ways to be profitable:

  • Test new service lines
  • Potentially raise prices

SEO isn’t dead, it’s commoditized.

109 markers were polled and Heather Physioc found, 66% believe content marketing is commoditized, while 72% believe SEO is commoditized and 74% of paid search is commoditized.

In a world where search companies are a dime a dozen, "unique selling propositions" aren’t so unique.

In her presentation, "Competitive Advantage in a Commoditized Industry", Heather discusses how to find, activate, and articulate your competitive advantage with the following framework:

Discover > Differentiate > Demonstrate > Defend

To dive into discovery, Dana DiTomaso stresses the importance of this phase to better understand your client and project needs-- it’s rare a client knows exactly what they want when they contact you, it's time invested that you will be paid for, and review is one sided in proposals. Running a discovery process at the start of a project will help you identify client red flags. In her presentation, "Red Flags: Use a discovery process to go from red flags to green lights", Dana discusses tactics to create a seamless discovery process.

One tip she offered was to ask the following questions around your client’s marketing foundations:

  • Analytics: What do they use? Are they using custom dimensions?
  • Ads: Are they using tagging to properly sort ads? Are other things showing up in GA?
  • SEO: What year is their SEO program in? How are they attributing biz/revenue to SEO?
  • Social media: Who is running it? Are they dedicated to it, or doing it on the side of their desk?
  • Branding: Is there a brand guide? How are branded items evaluated?
  • Website: Platform? Is it attached to a CRM? Is it attached to an email marketing automation system? 

💡 Pro tip: Leverage the 5 Why's to identify the root problem of your marketing program.

2) Re-evaluate How You View Your Content Strategy

Now more than ever, you want to put out meaningful content to your audience. It’s time to re-evaluate what you’re sharing and how you plan to share it. 

Sharing new and novel ideas aren’t just important to your content strategy. Andy Crestodina dives into what it means to be a thought leader, and how it affects search rankings in his presentation, "Thought Leadership and SEO: The 3 Key Elements and Search Ranking Strategies". 

To be considered a thought leader you must take a stand, have a personal brand and create original research, new ideas, books.

In order to be considered an expert you should create: 

  • Original research 
  • New/novel ideas that are opinion forming
  • Books

When taking a stand like when Jason Fried, CEO of Basecamp called out Google Ads on Twitter, ask yourself:

  • What do you believe that most disagree with?
  • What do you think will happen in the future that most people will think is unlikely?
  • What questions are people in your industry afraid to answer?

Content is [still] key. A tweet isn’t just a tweet. A Youtube video isn’t just a video.

In his presentation, "Designing a Content Engine: Going from Ideation to Creation to Distribution", Ross Simmonds defines content as the foundation of culture and the internet. It is readily available and it’s important to ensure you have a content culture to create assets that the audience wants and embraces.

In order to make great content you need to: remix, revise, remove and redirect your content portfolio.

  • If the content generates x # of backlinks or traffic and needs work, revise it.
  • If the content generates x # of backlinks or traffic and doesn’t need to be revised, redirect it.
  • If the content doesn’t generate x # of backlinks or traffic, but is still valuable, republish it.
  • If the content doesn’t generate x # of backlinks or traffic, but isn’t valuable, remove it. 

💡 Pro Tip: Check out our guide to auditing your site's content based on the top SEO factors.

Not only is content key, but distribution is too.

Sites fail not because of bad content but because of bad content promotion. 

According to a BuzzSomo + Backlinko study, 94% of blog posts receive 0 backlinks with only 2.2% receiving at least 1 link. 

With 70 millions blog posts published a month on Wordpress alone (a 46% increase in content in the last 4 years), it’s getting harder than ever to get content seen, shared, or linked to.

Brian Dean recommends leveraging the right strategies for your marketing plan by splitting time 80% promoting and 20% creating content.

Here are a few strategies he shared in his presentation, "How to Promote Your Content Like a Boss":

  • Create content for the “linkerrati” aka the bloggers and journalists in your industry
  • Share native content along with links in social media posts.
  • Post original content specific to subreddits that are considered niche communities

💡 Pro Tip: Leverage SparkToro audience intelligence to identify who your audience is, who they follow, etc.

3) Understand Your Audience and Their Journey

Audience research is always evolving, it’s not a one and done process.

We market to people -- it’s important to have that at the forefront of any strategy we implement, having accurate audience data allows us to market better.

Alexis Sanders dives into what it means to “find an audience”, she describes it as an art and a science (qualitative and quantitative data), multi-faceted, always evolving, and universally important to all divisions at a company.

In her presentation, "The Science of Seeking Your Customer", Alexis recommends defining your audience through key areas:

  • Personal core: What are their motivators? What do they value and see as a self-concept?;
  • Product related information: What do they want out of the product? How do you win them over?;
  • Relationship with technology: Where are they engaging online? How do they interact with your website?

💡 Pro Tip: Start with the audience data you already have at your disposal

Following suit, Dr. Pete starts his presentation, "Moving Targets: Keywords in Crisis" with reminding us nothing about this year was predicted. 

Understanding user behavior through trends has been one key component for SEOs weathering this market shut down. Dr. Pete discusses leveraging keyword data to measure user behavior shifts with a few tools we know, but may have not tested:

  • Google Trends
  • Pinterest Trends
  • Advanced Twitter Search

💡  Pro Tip: Leverage Reddit and Google Search Console to identify trends without MSV

4) Impressions Don’t Mean Impressed

If we learned anything from Shannon McGuirk’s presentation, "Great Expectations: The Truth About Digital PR Campaigns" it would be to not chase virality.

As a Digital PR, Shannon battles between the chase of virality and consistent well-performing campaigns. She left the audience with three takeaways to combat this: 

  • Take the pressure of yourself-- you will experience a campaign fail
  • Understand how steady performers can impact KPIs for SEO-- it’s important to keep consistency and quality in mind
  • Analyze and define the success of past campaigns-- review trends using a content success matrix

According to Phil Nottingham, there are flaws in our current approach to “brand awareness”: great websites are a commodity, blogs are oversaturated, PR campaigns are meant to amplify brands (not build them), and social media doesn’t drive central preference and consumer relationship. 

He said it best:

The number of impressions is not the number of people impressed.

In his presentation, "How to Build a Global Brand Without a Global Budget", Phil walk us through creating valuable, far reaching campaigns without the large marketing budget by focusing on “brand affinity”-- the amount of time a consumer spends with your brand. 

Working with clients across several industries, Robin Lord stresses that attribution isn’t taking into account offline events and that there are lags in tracking brand awareness which causes the funnel to erode.

To have accurate and inexpensive data, Robin shares a tactic that allows you to get granular at the product and city level of any brand. 

In his presentation, "Whatever You Do, Put Billboards in Seattle – Getting Brand Awareness Data from Google", Robin shows you how to get the most of Google’s data by leveraging Google Trends, Adwords, and census data you’ll get deeper insights into how your brand is resonating with consumers.

5) We Can All Leverage Automation

With so many moving parts in our industry, it’s best to find ways to get some of your time back.

Doing tasks manually allows you to have more control but it’s a high commitment and requires tons of time and effort while competing against not just your competitors but Google. 

In Francine Rodriguez’s presentation, "Let It Go: How to Embrace Automation and Get Way More Done" she walked through PPC strategies we are able to automate:

  • Maximize clicks
  • Target impression share
  • Maximize conversions
  • Target CPA
  • Target ROAS
  • Ad Copy
  • Display Ads
  • Smart Shopping campaign
  • Keyword match types

💡  Pro Tip: Still on the fence about smart PPC? Read the 8 terrible reasons to avoid it, and 8 reasons you're crazy NOT to use it 

Francine recommends embracing the future of pairing keywords to audiences vs. match types because the match types we used to know just aren’t the same.

Following suit, Britney Muller wants to make one thing clear: automation and machine learning is accessible to every SEO, if you are able to shift + enter, you can complete the tasks she is going to show you throughout her presentation, "Accessible Machine Learning Workflows for SEOs".

Using Colab (a Google owned two-cell block, free/cloud-hosted platform for users to run languages such as Python), Britney shared step by step how to automate everyday SEO workflows:

  • Extracting Entities from URLs (understanding how Google perceives entities)
  • Forecasting Time Series
  • Keyword Research
  • Text Summarization (BART) 

Britney shared a resourceful notebook of the code attached to each workflow here.

In Conclusion

More than ever, consumers are connecting and purchasing with brands who care.

After reveling in our MozCon notes, we learned one thing, as marketers we have access to data, insights, and tools for us to do our jobs better. There's nothing stopping us.

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Caloua Lowe
Caloua Lowe
Manager, Marketing