Top Five MozCon 2018 Lessons

As you probably saw from the hype on social media and even here on Smokehouse during the lead up to the event and weeks after, this year’s MozCon was amazing!

The speakers were incredible, the lunch groups were great and, of course, there was no shortage of awesome information to be learned.



It would literally impossible to condense three days of awesomeness into one blog post so I won’t even try. Instead, I’m just going to list the top five things that stood out for me this year in no particular order:


5. Realize Your Data (Yes, YOUR Data) Is Wrong


On the second morning, Russ Jones started off by ruining everyone’s day by saying something that we all should have already known but nobody wants to hear, “Your Data Sucks”.

His talk, “Lies, Damned Lies and Analytics”, was about exactly how inaccurate even the best implemented Google Analytics and Search Console accounts actually are, some of the ridiculous quirks of tracking and labeling in analytics and how if you’re looking at the ranking positions in Search Console, you might as well just be making up stuff, it’ll be just as real.

He touched on some not-so-fun facts like how over 80% of crawled, not-indexed pages in the search console report actually are indexed, how Google analytics sometimes counts bots and crawlers as visitors and how search console calculates your ‘ranking position’ by impressions and not actual ‘positions’, though this last one shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who reads Smokehouse SEO. I’ve been telling you for months that there’s no such thing as ‘ranking first!’ anymore given all the personalization, localization, ads, local packs, knowledge graphs and everything else going on with the SERP these days.

But it isn’t just Google’s tools that provide inaccurate data. No, sir.

He then went on to break down the fact that famous backlink indexes like Ahrefs, Majestic, and even Moz’s own tool have awful and inconsistent data, so those are pretty much no help either. Use clickstream data instead? Sorry, that won’t help as he then showed the uselessness of that, so don’t look for that to save you either.

The best takedown by far is something that we all probably already knew: Google’s Keyword Planner. That thing is junk, garbage and next to useless. If you’re relying on that data for decisions, just stop. You’re better off with a magic eightball.

This talk was epic so you really need to download the slide deck for free on Mozcon’s website to learn more.


4. Content Marketing Isn’t Blogging And It’d Better Be Useful


There were so many great talks about content marketing this year from people like Taylor Coil, Stephanie Briggs, and Casie Gillette but my favorite one was from Oli Gardener from Unbounce called “Content Marketing is Broken and Only Your M.O.M. Can Save You”.

He started out with an epic takedown of a parking fine website that literally had one of the absolute worst customer experiences that I personally had ever seen, followed up by a not-so-honorable mention of someone in our own industry who shall remain nameless (but we all can figure out who it is) who has a site that is loaded with horrifying amounts of pop-ups, pop-unders,  fake call to action buttons that are just more commercials for himself and more ridiculousness. On a side note, I was glad he called this guy out because I thought I was the only one who wondered how the hell he stays in business and how his name got as big as it is in our industry – but that’s another story.



This all led up to one big revelation:

Content marketing is NOT blogging.

Content Marketing is every single content experience on your site. From the verbiage on your page to your checkout process, all of that is content marketing and you’d better get it right.

He summed up how most sites get it wrong in three points:

  • Content isn’t designed  with a purpose
  • There’s no meaningful data on the page
  • They don’t show the product/service being offered.


He then summed up the M.O.M. method for getting it right:

  • Start with purpose
  • Design with intent
  • Add meaning
  • Show the product
  • Make it personal

This is another must-download slide deck over on the MozCon site.

Another of my personal favorite content marketing moments came from Taylor Coil from Tortuga in her talk called “Why ‘Blog’ is a Misnomer in a 2018 Content Strategy” when she flat out said something I’ve been saying to brands for years.

Pay attention now because this is good:


That’s right, folks. Contrary to popular belief, ain’t nobody coming to your brand, corporate, sell-me-something blog to read flowery articles about whatever your writer thinks is interesting that day.

Your blog needs to be useful and focus on what people actually search for. Instead of writing six articles about ‘Top Five Cutest Cats In Philadelphia” for your pet store, you should be writing things like “Top Five Items You Need For a New Kitten” and “What To Pack For A Road Trip With Your Dog”.

You know, useful stuff.

You’re not Stephen King, kill the nonsense. People want useful content. Personally, I’ve only seen ‘storytelling’ work for one single brand, ever and more than likely, it won’t work for yours.

Save storytelling for your product launches, advertising and brand building, not your blog.


3. Shift Your Marketing Focus To One Of Customer Empathy


Here’s something that we as digital marketers can sometimes completely forget about and I’m personally guilty of this a lot.

Marketing – including digital marketing – is a human to human relationship. All B2B, B2C, C2C (Is that a thing? Can that be a thing?) all boils down to human to human.

We can fix all the site speeds and implement all the schemas and fix all the response codes and canonical all the things and everything else and at the end of the day, if you’re not speaking to your audience as a human being, you won’t make a single sale.

There were two really great talks on this topic at MozCon this year, one from Justine Jordan called “Email Unto Others: The Golden Rule for Human-Centric Email Marketing” and “Tools Change, People Don’t: Empathy Driven Online Marketing” from Ashley Greene.

These two epic talks really got back to the heart of what marketing really is and I can’t even begin to sum them up here so I’ll just tell you what I got out of them and then tell you to make sure you download these slide decks and study them.

First, you need to understand who your customers are as people. What are their problems? What do they want? What would make their lives better? What do they actually search for? How can your brand solve their problems?

Don’t try to sell someone a product just because you’ve got a product and you’d really like their money. Don’t try to ‘sell’ anything period.

Solve. Customers’. Problems.

If you don’t know what your audience’s current problems (not stuff from 10, 15 years ago!) are, you can’t sell anything.

Also, when it comes to email, basically don’t be obnoxious.

Don’t send 15 emails per week. Don’t send things with subject lines like ‘Thanks For Your Order!’ when they really didn’t buy anything.

And please, whatever you do, don’t buy lists of people who have no clue who you are, let alone want your garbage.

If you read nothing else, make sure you read these two slide decks.


2. Don’t Be A ‘Rock Star’, Be Collaborative


Jono Alderson from Yoast kicked off Mozcon with a speech called ‘The Democratization of SEO’ and I think it was one of the best themes to start with. It was basically about how we, as digital marketers and SEOs, need to stop trying to be the end all and be all of web marketing – something else I find myself guilty of and it is a problem in our industry if you honestly think about it.

Ever wonder why we end up fixing simple problems like busted 301s, wrongly implemented schema, horrible metadata and broken robots.txt files over and over again?

It’s because we don’t talk to anyone or take the time to teach people to do it the right way.




We sit back, let people do whatever horrible (from our standpoint) mess they want with the site and let it hemorrhage traffic and crush rankings until we have to swoop in and save the day.

How can we expect the IT team, the graphic designers or anyone else in the organization to know to implement certain things if we don’t tell them? How can they ever know what not to break if they don’t even know what it is in the first place?

We need to reach out to the IT team ahead of time and work with them to get things right the first time instead of trying to be the hero all the damn time. If they code something suboptimal for SEO and it creates a problem for us, it’s not their fault, it’s ours because we didn’t tell them why it’s important. Granted, a lot of times, the IT team will flat out dismiss us when we try to tell them something and that’s another story but I’m talking about the times when we didn’t even try.

Another thing Jono touched on that every single human being reading this in our industry needs to know about is something WordPress and Google are doing called Gutenberg that might be a game changer for how sites work with Google down the road. I’m not even going to try to explain it so here’s a link to a Yoast blog article about it.

This is a great lesson for all marketers, in-house but especially agency side because of one thing he said during the presentation:

“Rock stars don’t scale”.

Collaboration with other teams was something that was touched on by a lot of people like Amy Hebdon and Lisa Myers to various degrees at Mozcon this year and really, it just makes sense. You’ve heard me say here on Smokehouse that digital marketing does not and cannot exist in a vacuum. You can’t be siloed and expect success.




Yea verily, brethren, and on the eve of the second day of MozCon, all those who had no idea who Wil Reynolds of Seer Interactive was collectively learned. The sky opened up and rained forth a speech that none standing in the building will soon forget. This was arguably the most powerful and energetic speech of the entire event that basically brought the house down. Look, I can’t even put it in words but I’ll just say that it was a good thing that was the last speech of the day because nobody could follow that.

If you have to manage and report on large amounts of data, Excel ain’t gonna cut it. While this is something I’ve been saying for a long, LONG time, I never really gave a good alternative here but Wil sure did!

The solution? A tool by a little company called Microsoft called Power BI.

Yes, that Power BI.

I personally have never used it before (but I’ve already downloaded it and started the Seer video tutorials!) and I can’t wait to dig in. From Wil’s talk, it can combine all your data from online services like Facebook, files from your intranet, spreadsheets and more all in one place. You can import both your paid search data and your organic search data, do some relation setups and boom, everything you would ever need is flowing right into one place. I bet you can already understand how useful that can be!

In terms of reporting, it’s super powerful as well. You’ll be able to show your clients or your boss direct relationships between traffic and actual dollars, what terms people are converting on, what to increase your spend on and so much more. He broke down how to do TONS of competitive analysis, keyword research (if that’s your thing…), content planning and management, identifying and converting easy wins and a ton of other things.

Let me put it this way, the way he uses this free tool, you would expect to pay modern digital marketing suite prices for it. Right now, I can barely set up data feeds on it but I literally just started messing around with it but I’m going to keep at it and you should get his slide deck, watch his video tutorials on YouTube and check it out for yourself.


The Bottom Line:

MozCon 2018 was, as I said about twenty times by now, was an epic experience loaded with some of the best information for everyone in our industry from SEOs to Content Marketers to Email Marketers. There were super amazing deep dives into the technical side of the house that would make the non-SEO’s eyes glaze over by people like Dr. Pete, Britney Muller, Mike King and Alexis Sanders, amazing talks on local search by Mike Ramsey, Darren Shaw and Tom Capper and so much more.




If you couldn’t attend in person, definitely do yourself a favor and not only snag the free slide decks on the Mozcon schedule site (click the icon next to the title!) but also get your tickets for next year! I’m about to get mine in a minute…although I’ve always wanted to check out PubCon…haven’t been there yet.





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