Top 4 Takeaways: MozCon 2014


Each year, marketing analytics giant Moz welcomes subscribers, industry gurus, thought-leaders, eccentric geniuses and other beautiful minds to MozCon — an intense, a three-day inbound marketing conference in Seattle.

This year, our own thought leader — Ryan DiMillo (pictured below, right), Vice President of Operations here at Quinlan — made the trip to the Emerald City for MozCon 2014 from Monday, July 14 through Wednesday, July 16.

Ryan DiMillo at MozCon 2014

“Last fall, when I was at SearchLove San Diego, I had a conversation with Darren Shaw and Paul May about the best SEO conferences, and where they hoped to speak next,” Ryan said in a recent interview. “Without any hesitation, they both agreed it was MozCon — the Super Bowl of SEO speaking gigs. After I heard this, I was sold.”

So were 1,300 other conference attendees — a sellout at the Washington Convention Center. Featuring 29 of the industry’s top marketers, MozCon offered engaging sessions on search engine optimization, social media, community building, content marketing, brand development, conversion rate optimization, the mobile landscape — a marketing agency’s wonderland, essentially.

MozCon is not your typical multi-track, lecture-after-lecture conference. With a single track, dozens of meetups, a MozCrawl and tons of food, Mozzers know how to create an experience to remember.

While Ryan was able to enjoy the atmosphere and comradery, he also managed to learn a few things. Here are his top four takeaways:

1. Focus on user experience first

Wil Reynolds at MozCon

Wil Reynolds, Founder of SEER Interactive, led a powerful presentation on the importance putting user experience first and SEO last — kind of shocking for a conference built and branded by some of the biggest SEO wonks in the world.

“You know what matters more than links?” Reynolds asked. “Customers.”

Throughout his presentation, Reynolds emphasized the importance of understanding the “why” behind specific requests.

  • Your customer wants 30 links, but why?
  • Your most important client needs 10 blog posts a month, but why?

Reynolds urged attendees to develop a true understanding of a client’s business objectives. When a client demands certain tactics and you — as the marketer — know that smarter or more effective solutions exist, ask the hard questions.

“What if I could grow your business without 10 blog posts a month—is that a fail?”

Engaging with customers and building relationships has much more value than focusing on blog frequency and monthly linkbuilding reports. Look beyond all these trees — there’s a forest out there!


While SEO experts often focus on the first steps of the search marketing process, we need to focus more on the bottom line. Receiving 30 links is an output — but ultimately growing your customer base and making clients happy is an outcome.

SEO is important (obviously), but so is shareable content. By focusing on people rather than numbers and measuring our customer’s experience with our brand rather than the rankings, we are will successfully achieve both goals. #RCS

2. Create a community.

Rich Millington Feverbee

With the user experience in mind, it’s also just as important to create a community. Rich Millington, Founder of Feverbee, spoke on the importance of beginning with a small, core group of 15 people.

“Every big online community began as a small online community,” Millington noted. “Too often, we try to skip that.”

Instead, many organizations see a mature community and focus on growing at a fast pace — which, in turn, steamrolls the core group of active members who would have stayed loyal to your brand. Organizations need to acknowledge the community lifecycle (Inception, Establishment, Maturity, Mitosis) to establish realistic expectations for their community strategy.


Millington advises brand builders to focus on communities that begin with 10 to 100 members. Create a culture and convert these people into active participants. Then, and only then, focus on growth.

“Organizations fail their communities when they use silly hashtags instead of having a fun experience,” he says. “The challenge is to create a group of like-minded peers we can bond with. People that are like us. This keeps us always coming back for more.”

For more info, pick up a copy of Rich’s book “Buzzing Communities.

3. Context is king.

Stacey Cav at MozCon

Stacey (Cavanagh) MacNaught, Search Director at Tecmark, believes the best way to waste time and money in content marketing is not understanding your audience.

Although content is important, context is crucial. At the conference, MacNaught spoke on the importance of consumer personas.

“Many organizations understand their buyer personas, but fail to truly analyze their content consumer personas,” MacNaught says. “The two can often be different.”

By targeting our customers’ influencers, for example, rather than customers themselves, a key step can be missed.

MacNaught believes that by using tools like Facebook’s graph search queries, content marketers can successfully analyze and understand their audience.

“We’re in a really competitive content landscape,” she says, “and the best content in the world would struggle if the creator had misunderstood the audience. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to understand your goals, and audience, inside out.”

4. Repeat your experiments.

Rand Fishkin - Moz

After a day one, deep-dive into A/B testing from Optimizely’s Kyle Rush, Moz founder / industry legend Rand Fishkin closed out the conference with “Mad Science Experiments in SEO and Social Media.” During his presentation, Rand discussed the importance of testing theories related to guest blogging, anchor text, internal links, Google authorship and more.

Most recently, in Rand’s Whiteboard Friday video series, he explained how to successfully run SEO tests on your website:

  1. Remember that experiments need control groups.
  2. Every test should be repeated multiple times.
  3. Rankings have to be part of a test, but not the only part.

If you test one set of results using one single control group, can you feel confident that the results will stay true for all groups and pages tested?

Let’s take the ghost link effect, for example.

Within your website, you point a link to a particular page and see your search rankings go up. A few weeks later, you remove that link — yet it takes months for your rankings to go down.

Why is the page rank not decreasing immediately? That’s the ghost link effect — search engines complicate link-based testing and can show misleading information.

This helps show why it is crucial to test multiple times, several control groups and multiple sections–not just one single instance.

“Many companies skip testing — but they miss out mostly on being innovators, early adopters and early beneficiaries of marketing that may have limited lifespans,” says Fishkin. “Take the early days of Google+, for example. Those who built networks (despite the naysayers) benefited tremendously by being visible. Today, it’s much harder to build a network than it was two years ago because so many are investing in the platform.”

He also told us that early adoption may mean failure and false starts, but it can also yield tremendous benefits.

This stuff’s not made up!

Every word spoken by the presenters was based on work from the field. The knowledge shared wasn’t hypotheses — these were theories crafted from real-world industry experience.

We hope you find these takeaways useful—and if you ever have the chance to attend Moz’s conference, Ryan highly recommends going.

Women in tech, and why it matters to the ad industry


UPDATED: A Twitter user mentioned to us that a Girl Develop It meetup was actually held in Buffalo on the night this blog was published, and suggested that we include GDI info in this post. Good call, @aadrian. The next Girl Develop It event is Intro to Web Concepts and is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 20 at D!G Buffalo. You can RSVP online now.


One of our clients — Trocaire College — is making a strong effort to attract more women to its technology programs. Over the past month, we’ve been deeply involved in creating digital content and elements for an online campaign slated to roll out later this summer.

Working on this project has given my content / inbound marketing team (consisting of Kristin Sullivan, our inbound marketing strategist. and Grace Gerass, our digital content intern) an opportunity to take a closer look at some of the tech / gender issues that have been making headlines in recent months.

Some interesting stats:

  • Women currently hold more than 51% of all professional occupations in the U.S., and approximately 26% of the 3,816,000 computing-related occupations.
  • Women comprise 34% of web developers; 23% of programmers; 37% of database administrators; 20% of software developers; and 15% of information security analysts.
  • According to, 90% of software developers are men.

Less women = problems for the economy, education system

Girls Who Code, an organization dedicated to educating girls about opportunities in programming-related fields, reports that “The U.S. Department of Labor projects that by 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer specialist job openings. Yet U.S. universities are expected produce only enough qualified graduates to fill 29 percent of these jobs.”

Additionally, the Public Broadcasting System’s Newshour claimed in February that “tech’s diversity problem may start… as early as high school,” noting that “statistics from the 2013 Advanced Placement, or AP, exam in computer science show that three U.S. states had no female students participate in the high school test, according to data released by the College Board last month. And in states where women did take the exam, female participation ranged from as low as about 4 percent in Utah to only as high as 29 percent in Tennessee.”

So why are women underrepresented in tech professions?

A Psychological Science study hypothesizes that a multitude of career choices, coupled with a lack of female-in-tech role models, could turn young women away from the field.

A 2011 investigation from the Level Playing Field Institute claimed that “IT workplaces, including tech startups, can create hostile or unpleasant environments for women and people of color, leading to those employees seeking out other companies or even other industries for work.”

These are unsettling conclusions, of course. The former speaks to a self-perpetuating cycle of ambivalence, and the latter identifies an even darker side — that women are uncomfortable, or even unsafe, in tech environments. As programmer and diversity advocate Ashe Dryden told MPRNews:

“Many companies are 80 or 90 or more percent men. They don’t necessarily understand that some of the language they’re using or some of the things they are doing might be turning people off and account for a lot of the attrition we see in the industry. Right now we have a problem, where 56 percent of the women in tech leave within 10 years. That’s twice the rate of men.

It’s a really damning statistic. A lot of men don’t necessarily understand the causes of that and have a hard time empathizing because they don’t have many people to relate to that aren’t like them…Get to know people that aren’t like you. Empathy is the key to changing this issue.”

Why women in tech matters to the ad industry

Two reasons, really:

  1. Agency work increasingly depends on the ability of programmers to bring our ideas to life in digital and mobile environments. If agencies struggle to find candidates because a huge segment of our population simply does not participate in the field, the entire industry is going to pay for the dearth of talent. Literally pay, that is.
  2. Advertising doesn’t always have a great track record in terms of gender equity. Only three percent of creative directors are women, and women tend to make less and leave the industry earlier than men.

There are some bright spots. From Newsweek:

Google has committed $50 million to Made with Code over the next three years. The massive project includes collaborations with nonprofits and opportunities for girls to learn from a legion of professional women who utilize coding in film, music and fashion. The tagline: “The things you love are made with code.”

Organizations like Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, Women In Technology and Iridescent, among several others, are helping to promote the cause. High-profile publications like Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” push the issue of gender equality in the tech industry into the public conversation. Studies and exposes, like Whitney Wolfe’s Tinder lawsuit, force underlying issues, like sexism and “bro”-ism, to be addressed.

What can we do on a personal level?

  • Hiring? Actively recruit and interview female candidates for tech positions in your company. Pay fairly and equitably.
  • Make sure that the workplace is safe for all employees, regardless of gender, race, sexuality, etc. If this requires an investment in employee education, a sharpening of HR policies and / or some discomfort and real consequences for anyone whose “jokes,” “compliments” or “misunderstandings” create hostile situations for coworkers, then so be it.
  • Check your own behavior and make sure that you are not contributing to any hostile situations, either tacitly or implicitly.
  • Are you a regular public speaker or your company’s rep for student expos, portfolio reviews or classroom visits? Spend some time talking about the need for women in tech positions in the ad industry.
  • Encourage your sisters, daughters, nieces and neighbors in their STEM-related interests.
  • Support organizations that promote women in technology.
  • Buy a girl in your life a Raspberry Pi.

More women in technology means more talent in the ad world. Here’s to a bigger, better and more profitable — and equitable — future for all of us.

Things You Need to Know: World Cup, Ad Tracking + More


Fourth of July weekend may have created an informational black hole in your life — it’s easy to get out of touch with ad industry info when you’re living the SBF (Sun, Beer, Fireworks) lifestyle. This long weekend felt like a country music song.

Five things you need to know (July 7 – July 11 version)

1.) There are four teams left in the World Cup. An estimated $520 billion was spent on advertising for the 2014 World Cup, and the end of the tournament will also mean the conclusion to some of the best athletic ad campaigns we’ve seen in a while.

The final four football squads are host Brazil — minus burgeoning international superstar / pitchman Neymar, who literally broke his back against Columbia — and its opponent, Germany, as well as The Netherlands and Argentina (powered by Nike’s Lionel Messi, probably the best-known foreign footballer in the United States).

Brazil and Germany play Tuesday at 4 p.m., while The Netherlands and Argentina face off on Wednesday. The championship match is slated for Sunday at 3 p.m. Given the ratings for the tournament, however, you already knew this.

2.) Nielsen is beta-testing an incredibly granular brand-tracking tool. From Ad Week:

 Ever wondered whether that ad you worked so hard on actually convinced somebody to buy your product? Now Nielsen can tell you, down to the individual ad buy.
The ROI-centric approach has been a major point of contention among marketers who are tired of buying age and sex blindly or trying to cook up data acquired from third parties; now, thanks to partnerships with Acxiom, Experian and of course Nielsen’s ROI-data joint venture Nielsen-Catalina, Nielsen can cross-reference transaction records with viewer habits (all white-listed, of course) and tell you what’s working with your digital strategy.

Nielsen’s newest product is going by the slightly unwieldy title multi-touch attribution, or MTA, but what it can do with marketing and purchaser data is the realization of longtime ambitions both in the measurement space and among clients and buyers.

It’s not perfect — John Lewis of Nielsen is quoted as saying that “…we’re in the front edge of this business,” while noting that light is starting to shine on once hard-to-track advertising categories like television. “It’s not so opaque anymore,” Lewis said. “It’s not a trust-me kind of thing; it a test-and-learn mentality on the client side.”

3.) Americans like to drink. The average American will drink the equivalent of 253 cans of beer, 162 shots of liquor and 83 glasses of wine in 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. The average American clearly does not work at an ad agency.

Wall Street Journal infographic on alcohol consumption

The study from Euromonitor International claims that Americans are drinking less beer but more wine and booze. Considering that brewers spent over $1 billion on TV advertising alone in 2012, these fluctuations can have a major impact on the ad world.

4.) What’s at the top?  The top movie last week Transformers 4: Age of Extinction, which brought in $36.4 million. Not great, as many outlets are reporting. The top song of the week is “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea with Charlie XCX, which feels like it has been out forever. The top YouTube video at the moment is “Kids React to Game Boy,” which basically shows present-day youngsters trying to figure out what an old-school Nintendo Game Boy is all about. This hilarious video has 1.3 million views. In other news, we will never reclaim our lost youth. Sigh.

5.) Border Patrol says “Stay Home.” To wrap this up on a somber note, the U.S. Border Patrol has unveiled a new billboard and video campaign in Central American countries that essentially tells families to stop encouraging their children to illegally immigrate.

U.S. Border patrol poster

Daily Beast reports:

In one 60-second video, which will be aired on television in Honduras, a young man is seen writing a letter to his uncle in the United States, notifying him that he is planning to cross the border. After hugging his mother goodbye, the young man is seen lying dead in the desert.

Good Lord.

Have a great week, everyone.