MozCon is one of the biggest organic search conferences here in the US, attracting very enthusiastic SEOers who travel from all over the world to attend:
As a result, the conference is often the bellwether of change in the industry, and this is particularly true of the 2016 iteration.
Moz has gone through some big changes of late, with a renewed focus on organic search tools and services. Products including Followerwonk have been removed from the product suite, some staff have been laid off, and the company’s focus has gone back to basics. “More wood, fewer arrows”, as Moz summarized their approach in the opening speech.
This was reflected throughout the agenda, which remained varied but kept a clear focus on the core facets of SEO performance: technical, content, links and cross-device user experience.
The quality of the speakers and presentations was exceptionally high, and you can find them all here: https://moz.com/mozcon#schedule
Below, we’ve summarized the main trends that linked the presentations and conversations across all three days.
Understand the human mind; understand your customers – and Google..
As the search engine that dictates so much of what we do, where we go, what we think, continues to increase in sophistication, so do the strategies required to succeed within its results.
The aim of turning Google into a ‘machine learning first’ company is predicated on the objective to mimic the functioning of the human brain. As such, we have a pretty good insight into where this industry is going.
“Concepts over keywords” has therefore been a popular phrase here and it is understandable that this should be the case. We think in semantically- and thematically-related concepts, so Google is training its machines to replicate this functioning and thereby get closer to giving us the results we want, faster.
However, the move towards concepts over keywords is a tricky one in praxis for the SEO industry. Search trends are deeply entrenched, as are the user journeys we have built into our sites, so it is a large undertaking to re-do this work.
To start this process with research around particular categories or industries, the revamped Moz keyword explorer is well worth a look.
The next stage towards implementation is to build your site hierarchy around these ideas, rather than keeping your related content in separate sections of the site.
Joe Hall gave some guidance on what this could then look like at a high level:
The core objective here is to prepare a site to grow organically through interrelated concepts, without becoming a patchwork quilt of blog sections and unnatural internal links to keep the whole thing together.
Links still matter
Links can still be the driving force behind improved rankings. However, the old manual outreach tactics are at best out-dated and at worst, entirely ineffective. The steps towards success are still similar, at a conceptual level:
However, smart marketers are investing their time on the research and production of content, and they ensure their links go to content users genuinely want to read. Google is assessing clickstream data more than ever and more intelligently than ever, so any attempts to ‘trick the algorithm’ simply won’t work.
This approach is far from easy, and Moz’s framework for earning high-quality links sustainably looks like this:
Mobile users are not mini-desktop users
‘Mobile-first’ isn’t always the best way to approach strategy, and it needs to be more than a buzzy mantra to have a meaningful impact. The mobile mindset is often entirely different to that of a desktop user and it is not only our on-site content that should be tailored to reflect this. Options to call, pin or save for later tend to perform particularly well, and this needs to be measured on each page.
As a result, UX and CRO tools and skills are increasing in importance within the SEO industry. Until we embrace this shift, the gap between mobile and desktop conversion rates will refuse to close.
Don’t be afraid to test
SEO can be a slow-moving industry. We research, we plan, we launch, and we gather data for weeks or months before conclusions are convincingly drawn.
But this needn’t always be the case.
Before launching a new site architecture, ring-fence and trial one section of the site. Trial new content formats and distribution methods with smaller portions of your monthly budget. Try to earn links through new media, like Slideshare, Reddit or Vimeo.
The key is to set expectations accordingly and make sure we learn from our experiments – whether they succeed or fail.