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Did you make it to MozCon this year? Here are my top 5 insights from the SEO conference.

With over 50% of searches happening on mobile, and 61% of those mobile searches not leading to clicks (reported by Rand Fishkin on the SparkToro blog), it makes sense that Google is focusing more on optimizing for mobile and voice search.

This year, the MozCon speakers covered local SEO, search intent, data accuracy (or inaccuracy), client relations and – of course – rank factors. What came out loud and clear was that with the recent shift to mobile-first indexing in combination with higher quality search results, and SERP features (e.g. carousels, knowledge graphs, rich snippets, etc), Google is becoming the front page of our businesses, providing users with better and enhanced answers directly in search results. As this is proving to reduce site traffic, there were multiple sessions covering how to optimize for this change, benefit from local tactics and measure “the right” data.

Here are my top five takeaways:

1. Entity-first indexing

Cindy Krum, CEO of MobileMoxie has a track record of predicting what’s next when it comes to mobile SEO. Last year she spoke about how mobile-first indexing leads to ranking without URLs. This year she’s taken it a step further, clarifying that Google has changed the way they crawl sites, not the way they are indexed. And that they are actually indexing entities – or concepts – first.

MozCon Cindy Krum - Entity-first indexing

What does this mean for brands? Google is not only becoming the presentation layer but also the transaction layer of the Internet. Pretty much making our sites redundant. Some examples of how Google is monetizing search results include the ‘Products’ tab in the local map pack, Google Shopping Actions available in the knowledge panel, through Product Listing Ads (PLAs), and ‘Watch Show’ and ‘Get Book’ tabs in knowledge panels for shows/movies and books, respectively.

MozCon Cindy Krum - Entity purchase options

Cindy recommends that we adapt our SEO strategies by building Google entities, optimizing or creating non-domain entity content and testing our content for entity classification.

Also of interest: Adapt your SEO strategy for featured snippets and voice answers with our free Technical SEO Checklist.

2. Optimize for local

At least one third of the content at this conference was related to local search! That’s incredible considering it was barely mentioned last year.

What to focus on in 2018:

  • The importance of a local strategy
  • Leveraging Google My Business features
  • Local pack ranking factors
  • Shopping opportunities in search results
  • Local strategy for global brands (online or with one location)
  • The importance of reviews
  • Reduced traffic implications due to rich results
  • Structured data implementation

One of the local search topics that interested me the most was how to optimize for local without physical premises. Tom Capper, Consulting Team Lead at Distilled, shared examples of e-commerce businesses that do this quite well, such as cars, real-estate and flower shops. To be successful, on-page copy should be useful and scalable. To understand your audience in each location it is important to grasp the type of purchases they make, how much they spend per item, and opening times of local branches. This will provide insight on how to adapt content for each location.

When companies skip steps and scale too fast, they are at risk of including nonsensical content, creating too many pages and potentially causing Panda issues (due to poor quality pages). Taking the time to implement a local strategy properly will have much better, higher quality results.

Here are Tom’s three tips to execute a solid local strategy sans premises:
MozCon Tom Capper - Local SEO without premises

3. Gutenberg & structured data

Jono Alderson, Special Ops from Yoast, spoke about the democratization of SEO, and how SEO professionals are constantly fixing problems after the fact instead of working with their colleagues to educate them so that things are done right the first time.

The recent beta release of Gutenberg by WordPress has brought change. The new editing interface is set up in blocks, so you can create content as required and repurpose those blocks throughout the site. Having your content built as such will make it much easier to implement structured data, and optimize your content for rich results. Jono also sees it as a great opportunity for the SEO community to participate and collaborate to Make WordPress even better, with their open source community, to report and contribute to the platform.

MozCon Jono Alderson - Gutenberg WordPress update

4. Are we using the right tools?

As marketers we rely heavily on data and tools. What if we are collecting the wrong metrics? What if we are pulling insights from incomplete data? Will our recommendations be valid? Several speakers discussed how our tools are not always accurate. And that we may be looking in the wrong places. Michael King, Founder of iPullRank, spoke about how we need to get back to the basics and relook at how we approach SEO. He also shared use cases for using several tools to optimize and measure content, including:

  1. Knime: Visual text processing tool that allows you to analyse natural language processing and mine text
  2. Ryte: The Content Success tool monitors your content’s performance and provides new topic ideas based on your audience. It also provides missing keywords, so you can easily adapt your content
  3. Searchmetrics: A content optimization tool that takes readability and entities into account
  4. Botify: A search analytics tool that digs deeper than Google Search Console

Michael shared findings from Botify that show that large websites with fast load times, get crawled more.

MozCon Michael King - Big sites get crawled more when fast

5. Machine learning for SEOs

Britney Muller, Senior SEO Scientist at Moz, made Machine Learning (ML) accessible and interesting. #Innovation! She provided real and relevant examples of how marketers can apply simple ML to automate monotonous and labour-intensive tasks such as writing meta descriptions for a website. She provided a simple recipe on how a developer can write the program to automate the process of summarizing the content on each page and populate it into a Google Sheet. This can potentially save hours and hours of work. See the example below of an ML generated meta description vs. the original.

MozCon Britney Muller - Meta description machine learning automation

Britney also shared some links to free training courses to get started and free tools to create simple Voice apps without using code for Google Assistant, using Google Actions Templates. I am pumped to create Bookmark’s first voice app.

MozCon Britney Muller - Google Actions for voice apps

MozCon ended a month ago and there have already been several Google algorithm updates. Things are moving fast. Optimizing for local, mobile and non-screen devices is where SEO is headed. With rich results grabbing searchers’ attention at the top of Google results, Product Listing Ads and Shopping options directly in the knowledge panel, why would anyone need to visit websites anymore? Quality no longer refers to on-page content and links only. It includes engagement with your brand beyond your website. Knowing this, we must adapt our content and SEO strategies, create content in a way that Google understands structured data and find ways to measure effectiveness through off-site engagement and conversions.

If you’d like to chat about the evolution of #SEO or #MozCon 2018, tweet me @joelleirvine.

Download full presentations here. Hero image provided by Moz