And just like that, it’s time for another go-round. It’s hard to absorb the fact that it’s been a whole year since I was last in this room at the Washington State Convention Center that MozCon graces with its presence every July, but despite the décor change (one I described on Instagram thusly), I know for certain that I’m back. In fact, the first day of MozCon 2015 honestly felt for all the world like it could have been Day 4 of last year’s; nothing about the spirit of the event seems to have changed one bit, not even given the passing of another four seasons. It still feels guided and unified only by the desire to do marketing better, meaning not just with greater efficiency and smarter use of tools, but with better intentions, better ethics, and more ambition, which I think (despite my admittedly limited point of view, having not yet attended a conference outside the Pacific Northwest) is probably the chief thing that distinguishes it from other marketing conferences of similar size. There’s a code of honor at work at MozCon, as at Moz itself, and that continues to draw me in like a beacon. And although there is, with no false modesty, less that I can be taught now after another year spent steeped in this line of work, I still couldn’t imagine walking away from Day One without feeling eager to share some practical learnin’s, so without any further ado, I proudly present the Five Things I Learned at MozCon 2015: Day One!
- Over the last five years, searches, searchers, and searches per searcher have all grown, but the percentage of total web traffic sent by organic search has gone down.
Rand Fishkin’s very own opening address gave us this gem, which was sourced from RKG’s quarterly report. This means that no matter how fast and furiously organic search has been growing, the other traffic media have been growing faster. Even if we allow for a little bit of pollution of other media in the form of dark search, this still seems to be a trustworthy general principle. The single most significant factor behind this appears to be the rise of Facebook as a traffic-driver; Search Engine Land told us in January that the big blue social behemoth now drove 25% of all referral traffic, mostly coming of the heels of a surge in Q4 2014, so that’s most definitely a force to be reckoned with. But remember: people aren’t searching any less. They’re just doing more other stuff. [Skip to Thing #5 for one good idea about how to target a selected audience using search and Facebook in combination.]
- People are starting to trust branded content.
Just a few years ago, “Sponsored Stories” or “Partnered Stories” links began appearing on popular news sites and blogs, sometimes in the sidebar, sometimes in the footer, and sometimes (to those willing to pay a premium), directly in the blogroll. The story here is as follows: amid the onset of content fatigue in the general public, content creators began looking for a way to get their signals to cut through an unprecedented volume of noise. Sensing growing demand for this kind of sorcery, companies like Outbrain began to crop up, offering a perhaps obvious but effective means to this end: auction off a few prized lots of webpage real estate on a few popular websites to the highest bidder (i.e. buy, sell, and regulate web content “space” in much the way that web ad space has traditionally been governed). When this kind of content was nascent, people still met it with the same degree of skepticism with which they met ads, but in just the last years, people have proven more willing to give it an honest chance. Examples include the New York Times’ story about business travel that was created as part of a partnership with Cathay Pacific (and branded as such), and the NPR story “The Science Behind Baking Your Ideal Chocolate Chip Cookie,” which was created per a partnership with The Salt, both of which got shared just as much as any organic story that either outlet produced in a 12-month span. There are any number of different potential ways to spin this information, but if you’re a brand content manager, the only way to take it is optimistically; just tell a good story and people will pull up a chair to hear it, no matter what your business card says. We have Matthew Brown, also of Moz, to thank for this one.
- Moz Content is coming.
This was a special reveal that the aforementioned Mr. Brown had in store for us: Moz is releasing what is undoubtedly going to be the best content audit and optimization tool yet to grace the planet, and it will be here very soon; today’s unveiling was an announcement that the product is now available in a special beta just for MozCon attendees with Moz accounts (but will hit wider release soon). It seems to distill the best attributes of nTopic and Alchemy into a single tool, and it comes with the bonus of a user interface, so you don’t have to run everything through an HTTP request client hooked into an API. This has the chance to transform the semantic optimization game the way Open Site Explorer revolutionized link-building. There’s no other company I’d place more trust in to make that happen.
- Event tracking through Google Tag Manager allows you to measure interaction with embedded videos (e.g. from YouTube or Vimeo) on your website.
This came from analytics guru Adrian Vender, who gave one of the truncated Community lectures about advanced analytics tactics made easy with Google Tag Manager. Now, I was previously aware of 1. the general principle that many different modes of page interaction can be measured with Event Tracking, and 2. the idea that Event Tracking configuration can be simplified dramatically by use of Google Tag Manager. What I didn’t know was that the advents of Google Tag Manager and Universal Analytics have combined to create new Event Tracking possibilities that didn’t exist in any way before, and that among the most useful of these is the performance of videos from YouTube or Vimeo that you’ve embedded on your site. This will allow you to determine which videos get the most and the fewest views, and how far into each video the average visitor got before checking out. Same goes for SoundCloud, which is of particular interest to me as a member of bands and curator of their websites. How about them apples?
- All retargeting is more effective if you set minimum income as a parameter.
Marty Weintraub of aimClear spoke a mile a minute about the virtues of combining Google Remarketing and Facebook Retargeting, then filtering and re-filtering, as a way of culling your audience into as many small segments as possible and marketing to each one individually for maximum impact. This is outside my discipline, strictly speaking, so some of the finer points were lost on me, but there was one tactic common to every anecdote he told about the power of this filtering: in each case, he did better by setting an income minimum for his targeted audience (varying according to case, of course), just to be sure that anyone he was trying to sell to was be someone who could afford what he was selling. This immediately seemed like one of those ideas that appears obvious once somebody articulates it, but that might escape the consideration of a first-time programmer of retargeting/remarketing (and from the way Marty emphasized it over and over, it kind of sounded like it had been escaping more seasoned programmers as well). I suppose this merits inclusion on this list because even though the value of a minimum income prerequisite seemed apparent to me, it didn’t necessarily seem like it would need to be an element of literally any and all retargeting efforts anyone might undertake. But now that you mention it, why shouldn’t it be?
And that wraps up Day One! You can now imagine you’ve seen the best that it had to offer, at least as far as my particular eyes could discern. This is the stuff I’ll be taking home to share in excited tones with my Anvil colleagues and my clients… or at least the start of it, because there are two days left to go and I know we’re nowhere near done. Stay tuned for another one of these at the same time tomorrow, and greetings from Seattle!