Lauren Fox

Who knew there would be so many awesome takeaways on content from an SEO conference?

We shouldn’t be too surprised, really.

Content is the link between you and your audience. It’s your ticket to the top of the SERP for your most relevant keyword. It can provide an exceptional first impression and keep readers coming back for more.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the goods…

Here are our top takeaways from MozCon 2019.

Read on for more details on each one and get inspired for your next great content endeavor:

MozCon 2019 top 12 takeaways

  1. Local search is an opportunity to convert before the click.
  2. Embrace the changes Google is making to SERPs.
  3. Always be testing.
  4. It’s never a waste of time to create the best content possible for your actual readers.
  5. It takes a village… for content marketing success.
  6. Protect your top performing content.
  7. Google is all about providing answers to searchers, and you should be too.
  8. Make your content more memorable with DIY imagery.
  9. Use People Also Ask (PAA) cards for content ideation.
  10. Original research FTW.
  11. Don’t just rely on keyword research to create content.
  12. Be, rather than seem.

1. Local search is an opportunity to convert before the click.

There were local search-focused presentations aplenty at MozCon this year and for good reason. It’s relatively new, quickly-evolving and there are plenty of opportunities for success.

Here’s what you need to know:

SERPs can vary depending by zip codes, within the same city, and by as little as half a mile. Because of this, there is no such thing as a “national query” anymore.

The future is local.

Start by filling out every section of your Google My Business account. This includes your Questions section. Monitor for new questions, too, because if you’re not there to answer important queries about your business, someone else will. And it won’t always be accurate.

Most important takeaway? Take advantage of local search before your competitors do.

2. Embrace the changes Google is making to SERPs.

Yes, Google is making dozens of changes to how SERPs display every single day. Yes, sometimes it feels like it’s impossible to keep up.

But instead of shying away from these changes, we need to embrace this new world we live in. It’s not just about the search traffic anymore.

Think of it this way:

Google’s SERP changes are a sign of their continuous effort to improve one thing: How successfully they answer a searcher’s query. This doesn’t always mean directing users away from the SERP to an outside source (like your website, for example).

Instead, zero-click searches continue to rise. In June 2019, they made up more than half of all searches.

This isn’t the end of the world for content marketers. We simply need to rework our expectations around how our content performs, and remember who we’re really creating it for.

Like Google, we’re also in the business of delivering the best answers to our searchers’ questions, so this shouldn’t change too much in how we approach the SERP of a target term.

Still not sure about that one query? Try Rand Fishkin’s framework for deciding if you should target a keyword with a zero-click SERP:

Can I benefit from ranking for this query even without traffic? Yes/No.

  • If no, go find other keywords.
  • If yes…

Is my team/client going to give me credit? Yes/No.

  • If no, go find other keywords.
  • If yes… start planning for on-SERP SEO.

3. Always be testing.

Testing was a big theme this year, and many presenters shared mic-drop-worthy mantras we should all live and die by.

For example:

“Great marketers have hypotheses daily.” – Wil Reynolds, Founder & Director of Digital Strategy at Seer Interactive.

Yup, every single day.

“You aren’t trying hard enough unless you’re breaking stuff.” – Britney Muller, Senior Search Scientist at Moz.

As long as you’re doing it in a controlled environment, yeah, go ahead and break some stuff.

These things are usually reversible as long as, according to Rob Ousbey, VP Operations for Distilled, “they are done one at a time, systematically with a control group and monitored closely to determine results before moving forward with another change.”

Breaking stuff (and testing) gives you a chance to learn what works and what doesn’t. This is also important because “no change has the same impact on any two sites.”

Different updates work for different sites so don’t assume that one update will work in favor for all sites.

Take best practices and recommendations with a grain of salt.

And remember this:

“The only thing that will work for your website… is the thing that will work for your website.” – Rob Ousbey, VP Operations for Distilled.

4. It’s never a waste of time to create the best content possible for your actual readers.

Putting users first was another big theme. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

How can I demonstrate quality in ways that are both human-readable and machine-readable? – Ruth Burr Reedy, Director of Strategy at UpBuild.
Don’t take shortcuts; they take too long. – Sonia Simone, CCO of Copyblogger Media.

Forget about chasing the algorithm and create content for the human user first. By understanding that Google (the machine) is the middleman between you (a human) and your target reader (also, a human), you’ll make better decisions when it comes to content creation.

Because nothing is more wasteful than creating a bunch of mediocre content.

Before you set out to create content for a specific topic, ask yourself, “Do I actually deserve to rank for this?” In other words, ask “Am I the most expert, authoritative and trustworthy source to be writing about this subject matter?”

If the answer is yes, then it’s time to get to work. The best content you can possibly create will be great for your readers, but Google will value it too, because it:

  • Is clear.
  • Is concise.
  • Is accurate.
  • Is to the point.
  • Avoids jargon.
  • Covers subtopics.

Optimizing for human-readable quality signals means even if something doesn’t turn out to be a ranking factor, you still haven’t wasted your time. #MozCon

— Ruth Burr Reedy (@ruthburr) July 15, 2019

5. It takes a village… for content marketing success.

Collaborative content marketing is the best way to not only create content you know your audience wants but then to amplify it once it’s published.

What does collaborative content marketing mean?

It’s the process of sourcing feedback, information and insights from your audience, your customers and prospects, and industry experts and influencers in real-time to create a piece of content.

By involving your audience in each stage of the content creation process, from idea to final product, they’ll be much more likely to care about that content and share it with their networks.

“Collaborative content marketing = more links, more engagement, more friends!” – Andy Crestodina, co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Orbit Media.

The impact of creating collaborative content? More people are aware of, actively engaged in, and likely to share the final piece.

For example:

  • Invite your Twitter followers to vote on your next Twitter Chat topic.
  • Ask your Instagram followers to send in questions in preparation for an upcoming live Q&A session.
  • Get relevant industry influencers to contribute quotes or interviews for a blog post.
  • Have industry experts take part in your original research.

Sharing is caring, especially when it comes to creating great content.

6. Protect your top performing content.

Why? Because it’s more efficient to improve what you already know works well (ranks highly, brings in a ton of search traffic, etc.) than to create something new on a hunch.

Source: Andy Crestodina.

Protect your top performing content with your life. Monitor it to make sure it’s not slipping in rank. Rework it if it is.

Because rankings change – it’s a part of life. Sometimes what searchers expect to find on a page changes. You need to adjust your content to appeal to those changing preferences.

If you’ve found an article that has dropped in rankings, understand why.

Ask yourself:

  • Did a competitor outrank you with a better post? Find out what they’re doing better than you.
  • Did the search intent of the query change? Compare the search results to the type of information you’ve provided.
  • Are you missing answers to important related questions? Check Google’s “Searches related to,” “People Also Ask,” and search suggestions to find content gaps.

At the end of this exercise, you’ll know what you need to change to compete. More importantly, you’ll be turning a good article into a great one. Which leads me to one of my favorite quotes from Andy Crestodina’s presentation:

“You don’t need 1,000 articles. You need 100 really great articles.”

Amen to that.

7. Google is all about providing answers to searchers, and you should be too.

Take a look at how SERPs look today versus 5 years ago:

A lot has changed with how information is displayed, and it’s because Google continues to improve how they provide answers to the searcher.

When it comes to creating content for your readers, you should be thinking more like Google.

Give them the answers they are searching for. Make those answers as clear and easy to find as possible.

Don’t make them scroll through a lengthy intro just to get to the meat of your blog post. Don’t publish stream-of-consciousness copy without any organization and assume your audience will be happy to spend time sifting through to find what they need.

What should you do instead? Some suggestions:

  1. Add a TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) to the top or bottom of your posts to summarize the main takeaways AKA what they will learn from reading your piece.
  2. Create a hyperlinked table of contents at the top of the page so readers can quickly navigate to the information most valuable to them.
  3. Use plenty of subheadings, bullet points, numbers and visuals so that it’s easy for readers to scan through to find what they’re looking for.

8. Make your content more memorable with DIY imagery.

One of the biggest takeaways from MozCon this year was a strong sense of empowerment, especially when it comes to creating visual imagery.

You’ve probably heard many times by now that using visuals in your content makes your brand infinitely more memorable.

But here’s the challenge: Not everyone has access to an awesomely talented graphic designer. And not everyone has time to learn how to use the Adobe Creative Suite.

Except, these days, these are not good excuses, especially with the existence of so many free and (more importantly) easy-to-use editing tools to help you do exactly that: create awesome visual content.

Here are some great recommendations provided by Casie Gillette, Senior Director of Digital Marketing at KoMarketing:

  • Pixlr.com – A browser-based Photoshop alternative.
  • Remove.bg – A tool for removing image backgrounds.
  • Snappa.com – An alternative to Canva.
  • Recordit.co – A tool to turn screenshots and recordings into GIFs.
  • Giphy.com – A gif-making tool.
  • Lumen5.com – A free social video maker.
  • Your phone – Take and edit screenshots, screen recordings, videos, photos, etc.

So go forth and create something new and visual today, share it, and see what happens. You can do it.

9. Use People Also Ask (PAA) cards for content ideation.

We’re always looking for the next best thing that will help us think up exciting new topics for our audience.

Not only are People Also Ask (PAA) cards popping up on nearly every (90%) SERP these days, they are a literal goldmine for topic ideation.

Try searching one of your top phrases:

Select one of the PAA options from the drop-down menu, and take a look at how many more appear:

Get excited, because you’ve just opened Pandora’s box for your next set of blog posts.

The best part about these question cards? They’re often hyper relevant to your audience. These are the important questions you need to be answering in your content.

10. Original research FTW.

There is nothing more valuable, in a world that places such a high priority on searching, questioning, researching and information-seeking, than being the primary source of that information.

Enter: original research.

Being the source of important information your industry needs will place you lightyears ahead of your competitors.

You’ll gain backlinks like nobody’s business.

Your information will be spread near and far on social, so you’ll grow your reach and brand awareness.

There’s a reason why, according to Hinge Marketing, “high-growth brands are 3x more likely to create original research.” Because it works.

But it’s not easy to create this type of content, and therefore not everyone is doing it.

Here’s a simple way to approach the task of creating OR (credit: Andy Crestodina):

Ask yourself these questions:

What do people in my industry say but rarely support with evidence?

  • Example: It takes a long time to write a blog article.

What do people in my industry ask that’s hard to answer because there are no statistics?

  • Example: What website features are standard?

Once you’ve got your question or unsupported claim, go find the answer. Find the evidence. Become the statistic!

How?

Poll your audience, analyze the results of the poll and share your findings. We’ve personally had success with this method.

Other ideas? Mine relevant data, review what you found, share your conclusions with the world. Let us know how it goes.

11. Don’t just rely on keyword research to create content.

Oftentimes we get stuck in a cycle of:

  • Do keyword research,
  • Write content based on keyword research,
  • Find more keywords to write for,
  • Rinse, repeat.

We rely on keyword research-based topics because those are the ideas that generate results.

But we forget that there are other ways to find content worth creating.

As we shared earlier (collaborative content creation, PAA cards and original research), we don’t always need to do keyword research for topic ideation.

Let that idea sink in for a moment… and let it set you free.

Here’s yet another great method for discovering new content ideas that your audience really wants (credit to Ross Simmonds, digital marketing strategist and founder of Foundation Marketing, for this method):

Figure out the channel where your target audience hangs out. Some examples:

  • A Reddit thread.
  • A Quora topic.
  • A Facebook group.

Once you’ve located your community, search for top* posts (*top = most shared, most liked, most up-voted, most viewed, etc.).

For example, let’s take a look at the Quora community topic on Content Marketing:

Posts with the most upvotes will be near the top. Hint: these are the most interesting topics to this audience.

You can also look at the most viewed writers in the forum:

Click further into their profile to see what they’ve answered that has generated the most engagement. These are the topics this audience is most interested in learning about. Now decide whether or not you can create expert-level content around that idea.

Bonus: Re-share your completed work with the community that sparked the idea. Chances are, they’ll love it!

12. Be, rather than seem.

And now for the final takeaway:

Stop trying to convince Google that you’re the best source of information and actually BE the best source of information on the web.

Wait, what?

SEOs and content marketers alike have been obsessed with ranking on page one since the dawn of time (an exaggeration, perhaps, but you get the point).

We’ve had “Rank-Centric” instead of “User-Centric” brains.

We’ve prioritized what our clients want, what we want, instead of what our users want. We’ve been deceptive. And every day Google is getting better at revealing that deception.

Soon (like, very soon), there will be more ROI from creating the best content possible than there will be from appearing to have the best content possible.

So, let’s promise that we will only create the best content that we possibly can from this point forward. Let’s actually be the best, instead of trying to convince Google that we are the best.

With these tips and takeaways, go forth and be the best content marketer that you can be! Your customers and readers will thank you for it.