A Non-SEO’s View of MozCon: Day Two

I’m not an SEO. Until MozCon, I didn’t realize SEO (Search Engine Optimization) could be used as a job title. I knew that keywords and links are important for building site traffic, but meeting over a thousand people at MozCon whose entire careers center on keywords, clicks, and links blew my mind.

I had a lot to learn about the world of inbound marketing and all the data and analytics behind it. In this short series of blog posts on MozCon, I’ll review the speakers and content that most stood out from my non-SEO perspective. I won’t cover every detail, but I’ll hit highlights regarding the “micro” marketing that can help you drive traffic to your (or your client’s) site. If something I write whets your interest, you can dig deeper by checking out the speakers’ slide decks from the MozCon agenda. Videos will be posted later, and I’ll add links when they’re available. (edit: MozCon videos are now available, though you need to be a subscriber to view them)

See more about MozCon and my reviews of the first and third days of the conference:

YouTube: The Most Important Search Engine You Haven’t Optimized For: Phil Nottingham


Phil Nottingham is right: Bendyworks has not optimized for YouTube. That’s largely because we don’t have YouTube content – we host our videos on Vimeo and embed them in our site. Nonetheless, I was fascinated about his talk on what works for YouTube versus what works for the rest of the internet. Spoiler alert: they’re not the same thing.

This was the talk I couldn’t stop talking about at dinner that night. Sorry, dining companions. I bet you didn’t think we were meeting to talk about YouTube strategy.

My Tuesday night dinner conversation, based on Phil’s advice:

  • Keep your YouTube channel lean and mean.

  • Cultivate “home” and “hero” content
    • Eighty percent should be “home” content: the sort of content that you can create over and over again, like Blendtec’s “Will It Blend” campaign (a series of videos with the same challenge applied to different objects, including iPhone 5s and Transformers).
    • Twenty percent should be hero content: big investment pieces that promote the brand message.
  • Great stories are better than great production. It’s okay to have a wobble in your video if your message is good.

  • Provoke strong emotions. People share videos when the videos assert their own brand message. See: Pantene’s Not Sorry video, if you’re not one of the millions who already have. I’m personally a fan of this Like a Girl video, and, anecdotally proving Phil’s point, I did indeed share this video with my sisters as soon as I saw it.

  • Create content relevant to the audience rather than content relevant to the product. Pantene’s hair products have nothing to do with saying sorry. Standing up against gender discrimination has nothing to do with selling menstruation products. The videos succeed, however, because they speak to the values and personal brand of their audiences.

  • Be a troll: create ads targeted at your competition’s customers and choose to advertise via TrueView (which allows viewers to choose the ads they watch) to your competitor’s channel.

There’s so much more about creating YouTube channels, calls to action, playlists, and strategies in Phil’s talk. If you manage YouTube content for your company or for a client, definitely go through the slides!

How to Never Run out of Great Ideas: Dr. Pete Meyers


Dr. Pete was the actual opener on the second day of MozCon with a talk on how to continually generate content that delivers value and fresh perspective to your audience. His core guidelines:

  • Save the best for first. Delaying kills passion. Invest early on and earn interest (you can always update as you know more.)
  • Build a muse. There’s data everywhere – take it and give a fresh perspective on that data.
  • Become an expert. Don’t worry that if you give your expertise away you’ll run out. Once you establish expertise in an area, people will send you relevant data. The trick to speaking from your expertise is to know what you know that others don’t. Identify the gap and speak from it.
  • Harness a system. See: dinosaur comics, Julie and Julia, Whiteboard Friday. Create a repeatable process that creates consistency for yourself and sets expectations for your audience. Deliver unique flavor to each iteration of that pattern.
  • Flex your brain. Writers write, creators create, says Dr. Pete. As a writer, I approve this message. Find ways to practice the craft each day, whether it’s writing captions or short stories. There are people out there will gladly take the writing assignments you don’t prioritize.

Dr. Pete argued that technical SEO has diminishing returns, and that the industry needs to focus on creativity and content. As someone who is decidedly stronger on creativity and content than technical SEO, I welcomed this sentiment.

For more advice on how to make any industry interesting and how to build a writing habit, check out Dr. Pete’s talk.

Scaling Creativity: Making Content Marketing More Efficient: Stacey Cavanagh McNaught


Nicely paired with Dr. Pete’s talk was Stacey Cavanagh MacNaught’s talk on how to efficiently generate new ideas.

Stacey started out with a word of caution: the best way to waste time and money is to produce great content for the wrong audience. I think about this a lot on the Bendyworks blog. Who do we write for? We can drive plenty of traffic with posts like Chris’s on Raspberry Pi, but do those readers drive business? It’s doubtful that a CTO of a large company is reading about how to use Raspberry Pi. Then again, is a CTO of a large company reading many blog posts at all? Those who do read the posts see our domain knowledge and, we hope, spread the word and give us those referrals that keep projects coming our way.

(It occurs to me now that implementing Mike King’s audience tracking strategies might be a great way to analyze the questions above.)

To generate content ideas, Stacey’s team turned to Bernd Rohrbach’s 6-3-5 brainwriting practice. Six people sit down, write down three ideas for content, pass their paper around, take a look at the ideas their neighbor wrote, and write three more. Thirty minutes later, the group has 108 ideas. Then the team puts it through the NUF test, asking whether the idea is:

  • New?
  • Useful?
  • Feasible?

Once they decide to turn an idea into content, Stacey recommends field testing the story before investing big money into it. Her talk has more information on how she goes about doing that.

Google+ Game of Thrones: Claiming Your Kingdom for Brand Dominance: Mark Traphagen


By the time Mark Traphagen’s talk came up, I had already asked the team back at the Bendy office to set up a Bendyworks Google+ account. Mark recommended pulling in experts to participate in Google Hangouts. If you’re an expert in software development or design (specifically in our languages of choice), we’d love to have you join us!

Bad Data, Bad Decisions: The Art of Asking Better Questions: Stephanie Beadell


Stephanie’s talk covered how to create surveys that give you accurate results that you can use to calculate:

  • Averages
  • Correlations
  • Regressions
  • Distributions

She had an incredible amount of information on survey writing in her talk. We don’t use surveys for our customers, but we do a lot of internal surveys to measure trends at Bendyworks and make decisions for the future. I now know to:

  • Use five or seven point scales. They allow for degrees such as “agree” v. “strongly agree” and also, as odd numbers, allow for neutral middle responses.
  • Ask questions that reveal segments. If your survey is anonymous, but you want to compare value perception across large clients against value perception across small clients, you’ll need to ask some questions that reveal those demographics.
  • Randomize your question order. Asking “How important is project management?” and then immediately asking “How much will you invest in project management this year?” compels people to exaggerate their response to the latter based on their response to the former.
  • Ask personal questions last. Build trust throughout the survey.

Again, so much more in the talk. If you do surveys of customers, employees, or any other group, check out her talk.

More Than Words: Localizing Your International Content: Zeph Snapp


Zeph’s talk covered how to convert your content into content appropriate for international audiences. It’s fairly obvious that computer translations are a terrible idea, but Zeph recommended finding a marketing company in the area you’re targeting to translate your content. Not only should they know the language (preferably it’s their mother tongue) but they know how to market to your audience in that language.

Other notes:

  • In different cultures, your audience personas are likely to change. The people who have the money for your product might be an older generation. You might appeal equally across genders in the United States and yet appeal more to women in another country. Do your research.
  • You’ll also find that different cultures respond differently online. In Latin America, Zeph said, people respond more to contact form submissions, and it’s easy to connect with people by submitting a form. Instead of commenting on a blog post, Zeph said Latin Americans are more likely to turn to social media to hold the conversation. (Hey, that’s how we run comments on this very blog!)

Dare to Fail: How the Best Lessons Come in the Form of Defeat: Jeremy Bloom


I didn’t see this talk from Jeremy Bloom coming. When Jeremy was a kid, he told his parents he was going to ski in the Olympics and play for the NFL. His parents told him he’d have to work hard to achieve his dreams, and so he “attacked his dreams” and ended up skiing in the Olympics twice and playing football for the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers. He then got an MBA and founded a marketing company, Integrate.

That sounds a whole lot more like success than failure, but Jeremy’s story wasn’t perfect. He didn’t medal in the Olympics, even though he was skiing well enough to have done so. When the last Olympic run was over, Jeremy was not headed to the podium. He headed to his room and broke down. And then he got back up.

After failure, “some people bounce, some people splat,” Jeremy notes. What’s the difference? Mental strength, for one. If you can’t handle roller coaster rides, don’t start a company. Success is not linear, it’s “up and down, pull and tug.” You have to be able to fail, fall apart, pick yourself back up, and move forward.

Jeremy’s talk was incredibly motivating. Another attendee told me his own approach was more of “collaborate with my dreams” instead of attacking them, but I think I’m with Jeremy. Or I aspire to be. I probably won’t be waking up at 3 am for physical training, but I hope that I always have the courage to stick myself out far enough to fail and the strength to stand back up.

Supercharging Your Digital Analytics: Justin Cutroni


We talk a lot about how many people are reading our content, but Justin argues that it’s also important to measure how many people actually start and finish that content. You can find out by including multiple data points based on event actions in Google Analytics to see where people are dropping off, whether that’s after page load, at the start of an article, at the end of the article, or at the bottom of the page.

The same works for e-commerce actions: track each action to see where would-be customers stop, and segment by device and type of visitor. For example, you can see how often a user gets from product view to checkout, and how this compares for desktop versus mobile. This also requires implementation, and to be honest, I have research to do to figure out how to get the level of detail that Justin covered in his talk.


Whew! By the end of the second day, I was ready for a long walk through Seattle to recharge for day three. My views on that final day of talks will be coming up soon, and in the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on YouTube search optimization, content ideation, and digital analytics. Success stories? Lessons learned? Tweet them @bendyworks or @river_rach.

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