My biggest takeaway from MozCon was more of a personal revelation, one that I have no problem admitting. I discovered that I was behind in my way of thinking, or rather, that I was stubborn, as I suspect is often the case among digital marketers. The moment SEOs form opinions and consider themselves experts on a subject or process, it seems as though their thinking is outdated. Still, it is sometimes difficult (for me, at least) to get rid of biases and previous opinions in order to have a completely open mind in this crazy industry, and to be able and willing to see things in a new light.
As SEO people, it is our job to convince clients to let go of their old habits and transition into the digital marketing realm. We tell them to be open-minded and flexible; but meanwhile we each have our own biases or preferred tools and processes for doing things. In reality, we are just as resistant to change sometimes as even the most frustrating of clients. For example, Google Analytics seems to be growing more and more difficult to crack, especially with the increasing number of “(not provided)” keywords. Was it really only 10 months ago that Google deprived us of organic keyword traffic for anyone logged into his or her Gmail account? That change rocked the SEO world, but it also forced us to adjust our strategy.
I think it can be easy to get comfortable with routine. So easy, that we and other SEOs tend to miss what’s often right in front of us. And specifically, I want to address our bias toward or against data-collecting tools and even how we then look at that data. We are so quick to judge something as useless or inadequate, that we don’t consider utilizing it in a new, unique way. We are looking at it all wrong; it’s all about finding value in those not-so-obvious places.
With that being said, here are just a few of a long list of tools that the industry leaders at MozCon discussed, that provide a lot more benefit than I had initially accredited them.
1. Google Plus: It’s actually pretty awesome (cringe).
I will admit that, pre-Mozcon I was a Google Plus hater, like I cringed a little when people talked about it. And I would imagine that a good chunk of you is probably the same way. There are a few common reasons that people are anti-Goog Plus like: “My friends aren’t on it,” or “It’s just another way Google is monopolizing the Internet.” In addition, we might not like it as an SEO firm, because people who use it stay logged in to a secure-search, meaning it is just fueling that dreaded (not provided) fire. But the thing is, it’s not going anywhere, and it actually provides some pretty awesome SEO benefit.
As Cyrus Shepard said at Mozcon, “it’s not a social network; it’s a knowledge network.” I never thought of it that way before. This is a perfect example of how we sometimes get stuck in one way of thinking and stop seeing the big picture. Stop thinking about Google Plus as the next Facebook; that may never happen. Instead, think of it as an SEO tool and a knowledge forum.
Some of the great features that Google Plus offers from an SEO perspective are as follows:
- Followed Profile Links: Any links that you put in your profile information, such a links back to your company site, are do-follow links.
- Followed Post Links: Posts become indexable content on the web, just like your own personal blog would.
- Rel=Author tag: This allows you to tag content as your own, and when this content comes up in SERPs, your photo and links to your other content appear.
- Allmyplus.com: This is a free tool that gives statistics on each Google Plus posts, like how many times it has been re-shared.
Just having a basic Google Plus profile can do wonders for your personal SEO. Not to mention the more obvious fact that because of Google Plus Local, every business is going to need a profile as well. My advice is to jump on the Google Plus bandwagon, even if it hurts a little.
2. Google Instant Results: A simple tool that provides so much value in no time.
I was initially turned off to using Google Instant results for SEO because it is very difficult to predict and utilize for content and keyword strategies. However, Will Reynolds made an excellent case for how to use it effectively. Use it for brand reputation and competitive analysis. Duh! I don’t know why I didn’t think of that strategy, which was literally right in front of my face.
So, here’s how to do it. Ready? This is really difficult. In the words of Will, “Don’t press enter.” That’s it. Type in your brand or competitor name and see what pops up. These results will usually tell you right away if your brand suffers from a bad SERP reputation, or if people are comparing you with competitors. You could probably get a general scope for your brand and competitive analysis in about two minutes.
3. Reverse Image Search: Who knew? This rocks!
I could be one of few that didn’t understand the SEO benefits of this function, because a good deal of the Mozcon speakers seemed to be quite fond of it. But regardless, my eyes have now been open to this very interesting link building tool. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a reverse image search is when you place an image in the Google search bar, whether it’s by clicking and dragging, or pasting the URL of the image. The SERPs then show results of where this image is hosted on the web.
From a link building standpoint, this is an easy way to get the scoop on which sites are hosting your competitors’ logo. This could signal partnerships or other relationships that are getting them links. As Will Reynolds suggested, try reverse image searching your competitor’s logo plus the word “sponsor.” This might reveal some interesting competitor sponsorships that will help generate link building ideas for yourself or your client.
Below you can see the result for a reverse image search I performed. After googling “j crew,” I pulled an image to my desktop, then dropped it to the Google Images search bar. It’s pretty amazing how many holes Google filled in for me!
4. Excel: It should be your best friend, not your scary enemy.
I will be the first to admit that I am pretty clueless when it comes to Excel’s nearly infinite capabilities, and that did a sufficient job of scaring me away from it. And here I was, thinking that was somehow okay, because I’m not some financial analyst who uses Excel for almost all of my everyday tasks. Boy, was Mozcon a slap in the face.
Excel should be my new best friend when it comes to collecting and presenting data to clients. After all, SEO is a data-driven industry, and screen shots of Google Analytics just aren’t cutting it. There are so many cheats and equations to plug in for SEO functionality that it is almost shameful that I wasn’t aware of them. Granted, I will need to spend some time learning it, but it is completely necessary. Mike Pantoliano’s Microsoft Excel for SEOs is going to be my starting point.
5. Google Analytics: The more you customize it, the more it will blow your mind.
Things are changing, and Google Analytics is becoming slowly more difficult to use to grab valuable data from. That sucks. It really, really sucks. Because clients want hard, fast data. They want to know what exactly triggered a conversion. Was it that Tweet that got them thinking about the site, that blog post that they read later on, or something that occurred entirely offline? Where specifically should the client be investing their time and resources the most?
There are so many ways that people interact with a company’s brand/products every day. And on top of that, Google’s secure search function, which occurs when people are searching while logged on to a Google account, makes it even more difficult to see that interaction. There was a point in time when people thought that the last page or the last click before a conversion was it; that’s what to attribute. And sometimes (rarely) that still is the best measurement. But by no means is it the end-all solution anymore. Today, it’s more of a guessing game than ever.
But one thing that I gathered from Mozcon is not to give up on Google Analytics. In a lot of ways, it is still one of the most useful tools we have as SEOs. We just need to customize it and make it our own. There is so much hidden data in there that only comes out when we put in the time to find it. A couple simple ways that Mike Pantoliano suggested are:
- Custom Channel Grouping: Putting incoming traffic channels into more specific buckets
- Mini-Modeling: Looking via channel-specific, putting keywords into buckets, and seeing which keywords bring conversions and which do not
You’ve heard it before, and you will hear it again: adapt or die. As SEOs and even clients, we need to get over our biases and think in new ways. It might be the hardest thing to do, to think of a new way for using the same tool, but that’s what the industry leaders are doing. If we aren’t, we will be left in the dust.
I could write for days about what I learned at Mozcon. It was a truly eye-opening experience for me. There is much, much more to learn a and honestly, considering how much this industry has changed in the short amount of time it’s been around, it’s quite humbling to understand that there is absolutely no such thing as an SEO expert. At least not for long. But one thing I can confidently say is that there are a lot of extremely smart people out there in this industry, and I am excited to be a part of it.
Other useful MozCon takeaways:
Written by Kristy Kuntz, the SEO Manager at Evolve. Find her on Twitter!