Hi guys! As the sun sets on day two of MozCon 2015 (OK, not literally; I’m so far north that it looks like early afternoon from my hotel window), I have pulled together the six insights from the day’s lectures that I found most tantalizing (and I hope you’ll agree).
You’ll notice that I sourced these six points from only three of today’s speakers; this isn’t because none of the others had anything to say (far from it), but because my dual interests in 1. the web’s larger trends, and 2. the tactics I can use on behalf of my clients tends to keep these posts cleaved to the hard-data stuff, and there were only three talks today that seemed to place hard data in the foreground.
Also, a sense of MozCon 2015’s overarching theme is beginning to jell in my head, and this theme was more palpable in the talks I haven’t been citing in these posts — the ones that were less rigorous and more anecdotal, wistful, pleading, or some combination of the three — but I’m going to wait out tomorrow and see whether it adds to or subtracts from this impression before I make any kind of ruling (you know, to wait until I have all the hard data). For today, it is enough to share these points, because in combination with yesterday’s, they give us more than enough to occupy ourselves with. So behold: 6 Things I Learned at MozCon 2015: Day Two!
- The point of “mobilegeddon” was to significantly improve the quality of the sites ranked in mobile search results, and it did exactly this… just not in the way we were expecting.
This point of view was first offered by Moz’s very own data scientist extraordinaire, Dr. Pete Meyers, in the first talk of the day, and independently affirmed in the opening sentences of our second talk by mobile SEO expert Cindy Krum of Moxie Mobile: that the mobile-friendly algorithm had exactly the intended effect of improving the mobile-friendliness of the web as a whole, which is best measured by Dr. Pete’s own mobile search results big data revealing that the percentage of URLs in mobile search results bearing the mobile-friendly tag increased from 66% in February to 78% in June. But the engine for this improvement wasn’t a cataclysmic algorithm change: it was the promise of a cataclysmic algorithm change, and the fear that this promise instilled in webmasters and SEOs. I mean, think about it… if you’re Google and you’re looking to improve mobile site experiences as far and wide across the web as possible, as fast and with as little effort as possible, which tack would you choose: investing hundreds of hours of R&D in the (risky) task of dramatically changing the mobile algorithm, or telling the whole world of webmasters and SEOs that they’d better get their mobile ducks in a row by a certain date or they’ll get dinged? This was basically a psy-op and it worked exactly as planned. Diabolical. I only regret not having been cynical enough to suspect it from the moment they announced the mobile-friendly algorithm in the first place, when I and the rest of the SEO community raised our eyebrows and asked each other “since when does Google announce algorithm changes in advance?”
- No more than 3% of Google queries return a traditional, ten-blue-links SERP anymore.
Based on the 10,000-keyword sample set that drives Dr. Pete’s big data analyses, 97% of basic web search queries on Google now return one or more of the following enhanced SERP features: AdWords ads, shopping ads, news results, image results, in-depth article results, knowledge panels, knowledge cards, featured snippets, video thumbnails, mega-videos, review stars, expanded sitelinks, local packs, local one-boxes, and snack packs. These figures are based on data gathered between July 2014 and June 2015, so they couldn’t be more current. The conclusions that can be drawn from this are manifold, but let’s start with:
- Don’t focus blindly on organic rankings; look at the layout of the typical SERP for your prized keywords and see how many different opportunities for visibility it might have to offer (some of which you might have to pay for, but likely not all);
- Don’t just look once; check back with these SERPs every few weeks or months to see if Google has changed anything about the layout;
- Since featured snippets (think of when Wikipedia pages are scraped and their contents splattered onto an answer card, with the linking URL at the bottom) are awarded automatically by the Hummingbird algorithm based on its impression of which result is most relevant to the user’s question, hone your pages so that each one answers the best possible question in the best possible way (Dr. Pete calls the featured snippet box “position zero”).
- By the way: The Good Doctor intimated that the core algorithm still has jurisdiction over which organic results make Page One, but that among the pages ranked on Page One, any one of them has a chance of being chosen for the featured snippet. It’s a semantic relevance game at that point. Give the best answer to the best question.
- For many mobile queries, search results on Google will differ according to the speed of the user’s connection.
This one is almost embarrassing for me to admit ignorance of because chances are good that I’ve actually experienced it firsthand and just failed to make a note of it, but, according to Ms. Krum: among the many, many user variables that can sway Google mobile search results from one user to the next is connection speed, and what connection speed governs is the richness of the results served. Are you connected over the Edge network, or on spotty wifi? Your mobile search results won’t include apps, for instance (which are on the cusp of seeing their presence multiply dramatically in mobile search), or any rich snippet heavy with images. You’re going to get something that looks a lot more like, well, ten blue links. The joke she subsequently made was that mobile results are different for people who live in basements; speaking as someone who resembled that description for a few years myself, basement-dwellers aren’t usually seeking out new reasons to be grumpy.
- The Google Analytics team is aware of the referral spam problem, and they’re working on it.
This was out of the mouth of Adam Singer, a member of the GA team who was blindsided with this one during Q&A. This is neither deep nor actionable information; I only include it because it’s a huge comfort to know that our complaints are not falling on deaf ears.
- According to SimilarWeb, almost 33% of all outbound traffic on the web goes to YouTube. According to Define Media Group, 0.001% of that traffic comes back.
This came from Define’s Marshall Simmonds, a guy who specializes in climatology-like big data analyses that reveal larger patterns of behavior on the web (which, I have to say, sounds like a really neat job). YouTube is a one way street: traffic goes in and does not come back out. If you’re using YouTube as part of your marketing efforts, make sure you’re using it to reinforce your brand experience, because a traffic-driver it ain’t, and anyone you send there from your site is a goner.
- There’s a new social sharing button in town: WhatsApp.
WhatsApp is taking off as a sharing platform so rapidly (400 million users and 50 billion messages per day were the figures that Mr. Simmonds quoted), USA Today added a WhatsApp share button to its sports section articles and saw an 18% traffic increase in two weeks. In Marshall’s words, “if that isn’t reason enough to take down your Google+ share button, I don’t know what is.” I’ll have to pester my UX friends on the question of how many share buttons is too many, because I’m not ready to give up on Google+ yet, but these kinds of numbers are, you know, kind of persuasive.
And with that, Day Two of MozCon 2015 is in the refrigerator. Come back tomorrow for the final blast and hit me up on the Twitters if you want to bat any of these ideas around!