This year was my first MozCon, and it was a blast: 26 talks over three days + unlimited snacks and LaCroix. I have no snacks for you, but here are key takeaways for organic search, search engine results pages (SERPs), and content.

SEO: Optimizing for Organic Search 

Out of all the SEO talks, a few themes emerged: Owning your presence in the SERPs, showing up in local search, and focusing on quality, authority, and authenticity above all else. Here are the highlights:

  • People are searching more, but clicking less. Google searches continue to grow, but 49% of organic searches don’t result in a click. Why? Because about half of searchers are finding the information they need directly on Google. So, instead of optimizing your website for search, you have to optimize your presence in SERPs.
  • Optimize pages that deserve to rank. Before you spend time trying to rank a sub-par page or website, ask yourself, “Is this the best page on the internet for [insert topic here]?” Instead of trying to finesse a top ranking for an underserving page or site, put that time and effort into creating something that truly deserves to rank. 
  • Local search comes down to relevance, prominence and proximity. Because search results differ depending on where you are, even down to the zip code, succeeding in local search is everything. To be relevant, make sure platforms clearly explain your products and/or services. To be prominent, you need to be an established authority in your space through a good number of reviews and a trustworthy website. Proximity is left up to Google, and it’s very fluid. Google considers whether or not your business is close enough to be a good answer for the query, and this depends largely on the query and the competition.

Google: Optimizing for zero-click searches

With the growing number of organic searches that don’t end in clicks, it’s becoming clearer than ever that your homepage is the SERP. Potential customers and clients start forming opinions before they even reach your website, and some may never get there if they don’t like what they see. Here’s how our digital strategists can help build a better SERP presence:

  • Own your knowledge panel. The knowledge panel is the box of information listed for your business on the right side of the Google SERPs. It’s mostly tied to your Google My Business profile, and if this isn’t optimized, you’ve already made a bad first impression. To have a fully functional knowledge panel, you need to populate and optimize just about everything you can. 
  • Prioritize your Google My Business (GMB) profile. This is your new homepage, and your knowledge panel largely relies on how well you fill out this profile. Signals from Google My Business are a major ranking factor in local search, and increased by 34% last year. 
  • Answer questions. You can either answer pre-existing user questions, or you can pose your own questions and then answer them. This doesn’t take long in most cases, and the impact is far-reaching and long-lasting.

Content: Optimizing for people

Creating good content is costly and difficult, but worth it. Here are the top content takeaways:

  • Go beyond keyword research: Research, rethink, and remix. Writing good content requires more than just keyword research. To uncover better content ideas, we need to research, rethink, and remix our information to provide useful answers and insights. For research, we need to understand the audience we’re trying to reach by studying the channels they’re using, or by studying how the content you deliver on each channel is received by users. Then, we need to rethink how we deliver something new and refreshing to the audience by better understanding the channel.
  • Stop using ableist language. One of my favorite talks of the whole conference, How to Audit for Inclusive Content, encouraged us to use more thoughtful language and word choices. For too long, we’ve used words that imply a disability to describe something undesirable, even though there’s always a more descriptive word or phrase available. For example, “That’s so lame!” could easily be “That’s absurd!” Or, “Don’t leave your sales team flying blind,” could be “Don’t leave your sales team to operate without guidance.” These small microagressions may not seem like a big deal, especially if we don’t think we’re trying to insult anyone. But for those who are slighted or marginalized by these comments over and over, it’s a big deal. And it has to stop. The next time you see or hear microagressions, challenge yourself or someone else to find a better word. Even better, audit your website and/or your client’s websites to make sure your language is inclusive for everyone.

You can view the full MozCon schedule to see the full list of speakers and download presentations. With MozCon 2019 officially in the books, I’m already planning for next time.