MozCon 2014 Recap: What I Learned

July 23, 2014 | Sean McQuaide


A holistic industry transformation was the tone at MozCon this year and Erica McGillivray and team did a fantastic job getting speakers that supported this theme. Those chosen for the conference are experts in their fields, pushing conventional wisdom and challenging us with new ways to tackle old problems. Each spoke on different topics, but to the same point.

MozCon started with a presentation from our fearless SEO leader, the Wizard of Moz himself, Rand Fishkin. Rand started off the conference by reflecting on the past year in search and framing his vision for the future. He highlighted 5 big trends from the past year.

Rand’s Takeaways

1. We may be on the verge of regulation. Several things point to this being very close to happening. First, the EU is implementing “Right To Be Forgotten”. Right To Be Forgotten states that: someone who wants information about them taken out of the index will have to apply to Google, which will then have to weigh whether it is in the public interest for that information to remain.

Secondly, the FTC has already released disclosure guidelines for digital advertising. The U.S. came very close to legislation in May, which may have slipped by most marketers. One of the reasons cited that this did not happen is that Google has become the second largest lobbying spender in the U.S. “While Google has the clout, money, & lobbyists to influence the government, the search marketing field is not nearly so well armed or organized.”

2. “Inbound Marketing” as a terminology is losing to “Content Marketing”.  Most in the industry know the difference between these two – inbound marketing relies on earning attention rather than interrupting while content marketing is about producing content to earn customers – but those outside of our industry use them interchangeably. Last year Rand predicted that Inbound Marketing would be the winner of this race. Not so much.

3. Google’s penalties have taken a toll on spam, but have hurt many businesses too. Google used to tell us to let them worry about spam, we should focus on the customer experience. Now we are required to stay vigilant for spam that points back to our sites, even if we weren’t the ones that created the spam.

4. We are nearing the end of SEO as a job title. This point was supported by LinkedIn job post data where only 17K jobs contained SEO in the job title compared to 512K job postings that listed SEO as part of the job description.

5. Google is shortening the searchers journey. On the surface this appears to hurt publishers, but in reality, may be more complicated. Google needs to create and feed search addiction; instantaneous answers allow for more searches per searcher per day. While instant answers means less clicks per query, more people searching could mean a bigger pie for the industry.

To combat this trend, Rand sees only two logical strategies:

  1. Diversify your traffic channels.
  2. Become more important to Google searcher’s than Google is to your traffic.

Beyond SEO

Of the 5 trends Rand outlined, I found the fourth to be the most compelling.

We are nearing the end of SEO as a job title.

We are to become more analytical, more strategic, and more forward thinking than we have ever been. We will need to be our clients’ doctor during algorithm updates, their adviser when they’re developing a marketing strategy, and a philosopher when looking to the future.

For years we have been able hide behind the curtain and waft smoke at clients as their sites ranked for top keywords. It was magic. But as Google continues to restrict the way in which sites are able to market themselves and as the knowledge graph grows beyond common queries, we as marketers will need to adapt by diversifying our skills beyond SEO.

We will need to use data, along with our in depth understanding of how search engines work, to tell a story about our clients’ customers and use that to drive real value to our clients’ bottom lines. As Will Reynolds put it, we need to focus on “Real Customer Shit”.

After the Click – Output vs Outcome

When is the last time we cared about what happens after they click on your listing? What if we cared more about the amount of conversions we get from clicks and viewed rankings as a secondary metric? Wil Reynold‘s point was this; what got us from A to B will not get us from B to C.

If we could grow a clients’ business without 10 blog posts this month, is that a fail? No! So why do we continue to focus on output when we should be focused on outcomes? It’s our job to challenge the way clients think about SEO so that we can achieve real results in search.

Broken Brand Promises

Wil’s “after the click” pep-talk was supported by Kerry Bodine two days earlier when she explained the customer journey and how it affects consumer experience both on and offline. Kerry threw out some great statistics to support good customer experiences.

  • 81% of customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience.
  • 70% have stopped buying goods or services from a company after experiencing poor customer service
  • 64% have made future purchases from a company’s competitors after poor customer service

Kerry’s presentation was titled “Broken Brand Promises” and it was more than just making sure customers are getting to your shopping cart happily. It was about coming to terms with who your brand REALLY is, not how you want to be perceived. Then once you’ve figured out who you are, you need to set expectations with your client by aligning your marketing goals with the areas in your customers’ journey that make them happy.

Her best example was the kitten for your birthday example. If your parents tell you that they’re getting you a kitten for your birthday (ignoring that your parents are terrible at surprises) you will be expecting a live kitten. If instead they get you a stuffed kitten, they would have then unnecessarily set you up for disappointment.


As a LunaMetrician, Wil and Kerry’s presentations were music to my ears. We have an industry leading analytics department that helps us spot after the click problems. But we shouldn’t stop at identification. We need to take the data and do something with it.

Tell the Story

Speaker Marshall Simmonds spoke passionately about the industry’s need to take our data back from Google and use it to create a story clients can understand. Use everything at your disposal to paint the most reliable picture possible. Go beyond Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools and start analyzing log files.


Then take all that information and write the story. Use that story to drive conversations about conversion optimization and the customer journey.

Finally take action. That action could be setting up an A/B test (see Kyle Rush’s presentation PDF), or testing a new content idea (see Dr. Pete’s presentation PDF), or maybe you need better engagement (see Richard Milligton’s presentation PDF). You can see all speakers and presentations on the MozCon website.

Whatever it is, take the first step, analyze, and adjust. Use the insights from success and failure to develop your story and affect further change.