MozCon 2015 Recap: How Can We Think About the End Game Differently?

It’s Thursday morning. We’re wheels up on the way back to Dallas from Seattle. The view from seat 12D is outstanding: “extra legroom,” a country/hip-hop playlist going on Spotify, Evernote download of session notes, a Diet Coke, and—thankfully—my Bose noise-canceling headphones (best purchase ever). I’m catching up on a week out of the office and cranking out my thoughts on MozCon 2015.

I simply can’t say enough about my experience. The vibe of the conference, the helpfulness of the Moz team, the food, evening events, networking, and everything in between… The entire MozCon crew went above and beyond. And then there’s Seattle in July—so, so amazing.

What set Mozcon apart from other conferences for me was the sense of community and collaboration. Everyone’s in this together, fighting the same battle, and rowing in the same direction. Everyone’s all-in on creating better—better marketing; better strategies; better outcomes for our clients, customers, and the consumer.

My biggest conference takeaway wasn’t based in tactics, but in perspective: how can we at Rogue simply do differently? How do we learn, evolve, and think about the end game differently?

Our approach in terms of tactics remains the same. But as far as our process, how we get from A to B? Thanks to MozCon, my thinking is shifting somewhat. Some ideas I’m mulling over:

Disrupting Yourself

Disruption was a major topic of discussion throughout MozCon, beginning with Moz CEO/founder Rand Fishkin’s opening remarks. One of the best quotes I heard all conference was Rand quoting the “little red book” Facebook employees receive: “If we don’t create the thing that kills Facebook, someone else will.”

Brands need to constantly innovate and find ways to “break themselves” before the competition does. Google dominates search at 90% of global and 80% of US searches—but even Google is trying to out-Google Google. Google is willing to upend display advertising to create a better form of advertising, putting paid results right alongside its own suggestions. Incremental improvement isn’t enough; Google wants to disrupt itself. As Rand said, “Things that don’t stay relevant don’t even get the luxury of getting ruins.”

Redefining Message

As you are building your brand, remember that your brand is your promise to your consumers, urged Dana DiTomaso of Kick Point Inc. in “How to Make Your Marketing Match Your Reality.” Your brand says to customers, “Choose us and [result] will happen.”

The bottom line of customer satisfaction and retention is whether or not you deliver on that promise. Often what goes awry in building a consistent brand is that entire organizations operate in silos, with teams working separately from each other and putting out mixed messages. Companies need a unified brand strategy to succeed, and digital marketers should lead that charge.

Your brand strategy should start with your core values as a company. Run a serious SWOT analysis, understanding that your brand is like a person, and people are flawed. You have to take the good with the bad. Know your strengths and weaknesses.

Define your particular voice and tone as part of your brand strategy—but that’s only one piece of the strategy puzzle. Brand strategy extends all the way to hiring decisions. Keep consistent across all of your channels and integrate your brand strategy into the entire culture of your company. It should evolve as your company does: think of it as a living document.

In the beginning, a small company’s brand identity may be its founder. As companies evolve – building the brand needs to supercede the individual—for instance, building Facebook’s brand can’t be about the building of Mark Zuckerberg’s personal brand.

Strategizing Content

“Put ten people in a room and ask them to define content strategy, and you’ll likely get 10 different answers,” said Brain Traffic founder/CEO Kristina Halvorson in “How to Do Content Strategy (Probably).”

Start by asking yourself, “Who is it for?” If it’s for “everybody,” then it’s for nobody; you’re not reaching anyone in any meaningful way. Also consider the what, why, how, when, for whom, by whom, with what, where, how often, what next of your content. “What next” is the big one here: once your content is out in the world, what happens next? Without a content plan in place, that content will just pile on top of your other content, dying on the vine.

Strategy is the core of what Kristina calls “the quad”: substance, structure, workflow, and governance. Your content strategy should guide your decisions about your content in these four areas.

Tracking Beyond Views

Everyone wants to make awesome content, but in reality some content is going to turn out great and some not so great. But how do we know when content is working?, asked Adrian Vender (iMarketing Inc. Director of Analytics) in “Tracking Beyond the Pageview.” The answer is content analytics.

Standard Google analytics don’t give a full picture of the success of content. They’re really just tracking pageviews. How can we track people actually engaging with content—reading, downloading, navigating it?

Adrian suggests Google Tag Manager—a simple piece of code to add to your site—to help track engagement events. Set up specific tags to fire when specific events occur; for instance, tags can be triggered by content scrolling, outbound link clicks, Youtube and Vimeo views, and much more. Create dashboards and shortcuts to help you view all of your Google Analytics event reporting in one place. Analyzing this data with Google Analytics’ Custom Segments can help you track a particular user path or sequence of user behavior, which can help increase conversion rates.

Prioritizing Audience over Channel

“Disruption is all around us,” warned Wil Reynolds of SEER Interactive in his presentation “The Time to Do the Web Right Is Incredibly Short.” We’re watching companies fail everywhere because they are thinking about the wrong thing, focusing on the wrong efforts, and forgetting about their customers. If you’re prioritizing the channel over audience, you have a problem.

As marketers, Wil believes “We are the people who help people who are lost find answers. When people find the content you build, do they feel relieved?” Build marketing that wins over the hearts and minds of your users. Use emotion as a starting point rather than technical SEO. You have the opportunity to make people feel great…or to make them feel manipulated.

Breaking Down Facebook Search

In “Astoundingly Useful Applications of Facebook Search for Marketers,” David Mimh (Moz’s Director of Local Search Strategy) discussed how to hack Facebook’s own search function to generate content topics, audience stats, persona development, and influencer leads. Because Facebook is competing with Google as a sort of one-stop shop for information with a billion search queries a day and because it drives 90% of social media referrals, harnessing the reach of Facebook is crucial.

Facebook’s basic search tool is geared toward a particular structure of query (“people who like X” where X is a venue, app, or company). But you can refine and narrow search using syntax. Build queries with subjects/objects, modifiers, verbs, and set relationships, e.g, “People who like Justin Spieth and Under Armour,” “People who used Yelp and like [your business name].”

You can construct undefined queries as URLs using /str parameter, as in this search for current Google employees: “www.facebook.com/search/str/google/pages-named/employees/current/intersect”

Shortcut: Intelligence Software’s widget can create a URL for you.

Facebook is about halfway through its rollout of Graph Search (another two-plus years to go); the search function will only get more robust in coming years. Facebook already allows a level of insights not found on any other platform—the intersection of search, behavior, and demographics.

Taking a Step Back

I love being around all of these great digital marketers. At the same time, I think sometimes we drink our own Kool-Aid. We need to step back and realize that we’re in the top 1% of digital users. 65% of US consumers do not download new apps on a monthly basis, and a strong majority of app users have a standard set of apps they use habitually (including Facebook). To most effectively connect with users, we need to remember how they’re using digital. Like Wil Reynolds said, marketers should prioritize the audience over the channel.

Great week and amazing content from Rand Fishkin, David Mihm, Lexi Mills, Marty Weintraub, Mary Bowling, Mig Reyes, Pete Meyers, Ruth Burr Reddy, Wil Reynolds, and many, many others.

One more hour until we hit Dallas; I can feel the 100+ degree temperatures already. Time for one last episode of True Detective.

See you on the flip side, MozCon.

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