Pack Up the Big Top: Insights from MozCon Virtual 2021’s Grand Finale

This article was originally published on YouMoz Blog

And just like that, MozCon Virtual 2021 has come to an end. Over the past three days, we’ve seen incredibly insightful presentations on everything from content marketing, to machine learning, to new and exciting SEO tips and tricks. A big thank you to all our speakers, emcees, attendees, and volunteers in front of and behind the camera. It wouldn’t be MozCon without you!

Check out our recaps from day one and day two, and if you missed day three, read on for top-level takeaways! But to get the most out of this year’s MozCon content, make sure to access the video bundle when it goes on sale Friday, and stay tuned for details on MozCon 2022 —

— that’s right! We’ll be back live and in-person next year in Seattle. Can’t wait to see you all there!

Tom Capper — The Fast & The Spurious: Core Web Vitals & SEO

“What if I told you that Core Web Vitals, and this update, are a bluff?”

Tom sure did kick off day three by blowing our minds with his opening line — the update everyone has been obsessing over for the last year isn’t actually all it’s cracked up to be?

Well, sort of.

It turns out we can’t afford to call Google’s bluff, but we can “sort of cheat”. Tom went on to lay out the flaws of Core Web Vitals, which all add up to the fact that they actually encourage terrible optimizations.

So what’s taking so long? As we all know, this roll out has been delayed multiple times. Tom uses a brilliant example of the classic prisoner’s dilemma to explain why:

As it turns out, Google has been contradicting themselves when talking about CWV because they can’t actually roll out updates that undermine the quality of their services — they’re relying on us, the SEOs, to act as the prisoners in their big dilemma of rankings.

<So do Core Web Vitals actually matter? Should we care? Yes and no. Page speed continues to be something we need to worry about, but with CWV, the average increase in ranking for sites that don’t already rank won’t be very much at all.

Tom advised SEOs to take advantage of Google Discover, which is actually a massive, untapped traffic opportunity as it’s more responsive to speed than organic search.

Before he signed off, Tom reiterated:

  1. Prioritize high traffic pages

  2. Metrics can be gamed/optimized

  3. Don’t do any of this at the expense of speed

We won’t dig into the how for all of this here, so definitely check out his presentation in the video bundle!

Luke Carthy — The Ultimate How-To for Faceted Navigation SEO in E-Commerce

After an introduction that got the whole chat laughing (“Hi, I’m Morgan Freeman. Welcome to the afterlife.”), Luke Carthy showed us how he generated a 25% increase in organic traffic using faceted navigation.

Wait, what’s faceted navigation? You’ve definitely run into it if you’ve ever shopped online. Think about the stores that allow you to filter and sort your search. Behind that search is a faceted nav, defining, filtering, and sorting URLs on a website.

If it’s so common, what’s wrong with it? As Luke explains, faceted navs generate hundreds of long, parameterized, filtered URLs. It’s messy, it’s bloated, and bots can’t easily crawl them.

SEOs tend to counteract this bloat by “nofollowing the shit out of” faceted URLs. But when we do that, all of that long-tail gold disappears.

So what’s the solution? As Luke says, “It’s all about balance!”

(Side note: how cute is this photo??)

Luke shared some ways to “make facets sexy” by:

  • Understanding your site’s taxonomy
  • Using filters only to add granularity
  • Using “-” (dash) instead of “_” (underscore)
  • Filtering parameter URLs in GA to spot opportunities
  • Using a consistent structure
  • Limiting indexable parameter options

There were a bunch more actionable tips in this presentation, but we won’t spoil it all for you!

Miracle Inameti-Archibong — Harnessing the Natural Language Toolkit for More Productive SEO

In her quick presentation, MozCon newcomer Miracle walked us through ways to use Natural Language Processing to do our SEO tasks — like keyword research — and even shared some of her own resources to help us do it!

With Miracle’s comprehensive Natural Language Processor with Python, you can analyze up to 10,000 keywords with the click of a button and group them based on category, frequency, and search intent. Don’t worry — even if you aren’t a programmer, Miracle’s scripts are easy enough to plug and play so you can start analyzing immediately.

Miracle then walked us through how to get the script up and running step-by-step. The results were mind-bending. In just a few short clicks, she produced a wealth of keyword data sure to fuel some brilliant strategies and ideas.

To be honest, there was so much information in such a short time frame, this is one we’ll have to revisit again to absorb every tip possible, but click below to access Miracle’s scripts:

Amanda Milligan — A Live Guide to Finding & Filling the Gaps in Your Link Strategy

Amanda kicked off her first MozCon presentation by reiterating the importance of quality over quantity, to the tune of enthusiastic cheers from the MozCon chat box. In today’s climate, quality content is what will get you that authority and trustworthiness today’s marketers (and Google) crave. Quantity may give you a short term boost, but it won’t last and it won’t compound.

But Google is just a robot and they base their assumptions on links: Who owns them and who links to whom? If your competitors are ranking on time.com and you aren’t, then Google will see your competitors more favorably and rank them higher in the SERP.

Amanda reminds us that these gaps are opportunities. If your competitor can get a link on Time.com, then so can you!

Amanda jumps straight to Moz Pro’s Link Intersect — “This tool was made for this kind of analysis!” — measuring up Chewy.com to competitors Petco.com and Petsmart.com to reveal the places where Chewy’s competitors link, but Chewy doesn’t.

One such article on CNN.com links to Petsmart and Petco and features a very cute guinea pig in a suit of armor — is it possible for Chewy to obtain a link to CNN? Yes!

Developing the content is only half the battle. Once you have something you think will resonate, it’s time to start pitching, which is arguably “where many link builders fall short.” In the pitching process, Amanda offers a fool proof plan of attack: “Pitch your content exclusively at first, and then once published, you can begin to take it elsewhere.” Publishers love exclusive content because they can leverage it to drive more views to their own content.

Amanda also drives home another link building golden rule: make sure you research and position your pitches and tailor them to the publisher. Gone are the days of mass outreach, and that won’t serve you well in the long run.

Once you’ve done the work, it’s time to track and record your progress. Take note of all the places your content shows up (anchor text, images, etc.) or whether it is do-follow or not.

Check out Amanda’s Whiteboard Friday on crafting the perfect pitch email for more tips!

Lily Ray — From the Medic Update to Now: How the E-A-T Ecosystem Has Transformed Organic Search

Lily Ray has been studying the evolution of Google and E-A-T for a few years now, and in this presentation, she outlined key changes in how Google perceives content – specifically when it comes to the rise of misinformation.

Since 2016, and especially in the last year, more people turn to Google for information on things like politics, vaccines, COVID, and other important topics. This makes it increasingly necessary for Google to surface reliable information. In times of crisis, things become even more critical, and according to the data, Google begins to favor more authoritative sources versus relevant sources. We don’t know exactly how this is determined, but in her study, the data shows that Google favorably ranks content from reputable sources for potentially controversial keywords.

If there is one thing that Lily wants us to walk away with, it’s the “E-A-T matters in crisis”, and is Google’s quality standard for evaluating content, authors, and websites.

As a result of this, Google saw a sharp decline in search visibility for questionable news sources, which then expanded to include health and science sites, regardless of the technical optimization on those sites.

Lily digs into keyword comparisons, showing how more authoritative sites became increasingly more visible between 2018 and 2021.

Most of the sites that lost visibility were doing some questionable things including:

  • Leveraging questionable authors

  • Had poor reputations

  • Published deceptive content

  • Lacked sufficient sources

  • Published dangerous medical advice

  • Included hate speech

  • Included excessive affiliate or sales links

From there, Lily dug into 10 key ways Google has changed, and we encourage you to check out her slides and take a look for yourself.

What do all these changes mean for SEO? The landscape is more complex and competitive than ever, so it’s important to be reasonable with your organic search goals and always put E-A-T at the forefront of your SEO Strategy.

Kameron Jenkins — The Content Refresh: How to Do More With Less

Kameron Jenkins is no stranger to content. She manages multiple blogs and currently works for e-commerce powerhouse, Shopify.

When it comes to content, she knows that the best way to regain lost traffic and give your content new life is through a content refresh. In her presentation, she walked us through her exact process for identifying and updating old content. Surprisingly, most content marketers only dedicate 10-25% of their time to content refreshes, even though a content refresh can lead to more ROI in the long term.

How do you identify the content that could benefit from a refresh? Look at your Google Analytics Landing Page report alongside Google Search Console, and prioritize content based on goal conversions, trending topics, and business priorities.

Next, it’s time to refresh. When moving into the execution, you’ll want to ask yourself three key questions:

  • What’s table stakes?

  • What will give you the competitive advantage?

  • And what will maximize conversions?

Other content refresh opportunities to look out for are consolidation, query targeting, and internal linking.

How can you stand out from the competition in your content refresh? Incorporate original research and expert quotes to beef up the authority and originality of your post.

Lastly, maximize your conversions by testing out your CTA placement and make your offers relevant to your audience.

She left us with some wise words of wisdom, “SEO is like owning a car. Even when the car is paid off, you still need to conduct regular maintenance to keep that engine running.”

Wil Reynolds — The 3 Most Important Search Marketing Tools…Your Heart, Your Brain, & Your [Small] Ego

Wil brought the energy yet again for his ninth MozCon presentation, closing out the conference with a bang. His message was simple yet powerful: Your top three tools are your heart, your brain, and your small ego. But what does that mean, exactly?

Small ego

Wil began by introducing the concept of intellectual humility, or the recognition that some of the things you believe just might be wrong. He urged us to listen to the people around us who say there’s a better way — even brand-new coworkers or recent college grads whose ideas you might otherwise discount.

And don’t feel badly that you might be wrong — Wil posits that not knowing your own ignorance is just part of the human condition. He shared a quote from Upton Sinclair that was especially poignant:

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

Heart

A hundred years ago, no business needed SEO. They needed customers, profits, and sales. And as true then as it is now, they needed to know their customers.

One slide stood out loud and clear: The less you understand your customer, the more you spend to acquire them. And as Wil said, reports that lack dollar signs don’t land on real decision makers’ desks. Here’s where your brain comes in.

Brain

Wil presented a bit of a conundrum: making decisions based on your gut may be easy and comfortable, but it’s the data that gets you the insights you need to create and test hypotheses. However, exhaustive data — the kind of data where opportunity lives — is probably too big for your laptop to handle. What’s an SEO to do?

Of course he had answers! Wil’s suggestion was to harness the power of ngrams. With the help of a tool like PowerBI or BigQuery and using ngrams to examine all the search terms, you can find all your ranking results and see where your search term isn’t in the title.

There’s too much goodness to cram into a short recap, so you’ll definitely want to get yourself a copy of the MozCon video bundle when it’s ready for purchase. Until then, a few final suggestions from Wil:

  • Examining all your data is the only way to capture all your opportunities; resist the urge to pare it down to the top 20%. Every time you shrink your data down, you’re missing out on opportunities that someone else can see.

  • See every data set through a competitive lens: if all else is the same, how do you create value?

  • Combine your paid and SEO data together — get the dollar signs in those reports and get in front of key decision makers

  • Learn SQL. You’ll be able to search for exactly what you need within your own data, you won’t have to rely on others, and your hypotheses will benefit from your newfound data freedom.

  • Be brave enough to suck at something new. Stop doing the thing that you feel comfortable with. Run your own experiments and validate your hypotheses. It’ll be worth it in the end!

Thanks everyone for a wonderful show! And we’ll see you in person next year!

This article was written by Hayley Bowyer

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