Top 4 Takeaways: MozCon 2014

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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.

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