Self-proclaimed SEO Geeks from far and wide gathered in St. Paul at the 2019 MnSearch Summit, including the Lake One Team. A non-profit organization founded for and by search marketing geeks, MnSearch aims to speak directly to the search marketing professional and raise the standards and awareness of search in Minnesota.
Didn’t attend the conference? We’ve got you covered in the best TLDR summary of the summit; our key takeaways.
Rachael’s MnSearch Favs
I’ve attended conferences in the past where keynotes were snoozefests and sessions turned out to be not very relevant to my role. However, as a MnSearch first timer, I’m thrilled to say, that was not the case with the Summit. Here are my top 3 takeaways from the day.
#1. SEO is a Long-game
I attended the Search Presence Intelligence session with Stephan Bajaio and he opened the session with an analogy comparing Paid Media and SEO to day trading and a 401k. It’s relatable and easy to understand which is precisely why it makes my list.
Here’s why that analogy makes sense:
- SEO is long-game just like retirement.
- Your odds of retiring off of day trading alone isn’t very high and neither is achieving all of your digital marketing goals with paid media alone.
In our work as digital marketers, our clients’ SEO knowledge ranges from beginner to advanced and this analogy is a great one to add to our toolbox when explaining the law that is Google to clients.
#2. Tie PR Activities to Branded Keywords
Often times when reviewing organic keywords and traffic, we pull out the brand-related terms because we are focused on additional keyword terms and phrases related to the buyer’s journey, product offering, etc. However, Will Scott brought up a great point about using branded keyword traffic patterns to help attribute PR efforts.
Of course, we all know that when it comes to PR, merging offline media mentions, mentions without linkage, and other digital efforts can get a little messy and sometimes difficult to attribute. But Will Scott said something impactful. When using branded keyword traffic (or insert any metric here) if there is a significant enough of a correlation in the data, then you can infer causation. So for example, if you are quoted on the local tv news talking about a brand offering and you see a significant spike in direct traffic for that time frame and on the topic of the mention – you can infer causation. Because likely what’s happening is that a user is hearing your brand/offer and typing it directly into Google.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about UTM parameters, but in the event that a custom link wasn’t placed or it’s not part of the deal, a branded terms breakout is a helpful tip.
#3. Personas Simplified
Personas. You either love them or you hate them. If you don’t buy into the naming, the persona stories, etc. Kevin Indig had a super simple way of explaining personas and getting down to the nitty-gritty in 3 sentences (or less, depending on your phrasing ;))
I am a ……
Who wants to ….
So I can …..
For example: I am an HR Recruiter who wants to attract and retain top talent to my company so I can reduce turnover and fill open positions quickly with quality candidates.
The above is the bare bones. At Lake One, we prefer to go a little deeper with our personas to fully understand their pain and questions, but for those who can get lost in the weeds, start with the easy guide.
Danielle’s MnSearch Favs
#1. Google Your Company and Specific Pages
It’s hard to atribute this takeaway to any one speaker. Almost every single one touched on it in some way or fashion. You should be Googling your company, and not just for the reasons you think like rankings. Run searches on your individual blog posts to look at your meta descriptions and how your post appears in the results.
By doing so, you’ll see what your posts and pages look like in the search results. There might be something awry in how it displays. An abbreviation from “do not” to “do”, for example, can turn an intelligent blog to utter nonsense at first glance in the results.
Also, by searching for your specific pages, you can see if your results appear anywhere else in the results that is not a standard blue weblink. You might have gotten the Snippet position, showed up in the map pack, or potentially even lost your #1 seat to a barrage of other knowledge graphs and Google answers. The best way to find this out is to run the searches yourself.
And don’t forget to do it on mobile too!
#2. Intent Rules the Roost
As marketers, it’s easy to get caught up in keyword volume and the opportunity therein. So it was nice to have a refresher on search intent with Jenny Halasz. Search intent is the difference between searching “Cardiology” and “Cardiologist.”
Cardiology = Intent to find answers on the topic: the profession, procedures, or definitions. Results will likely be pages similar to WebMD.
Cardiologist = Intent to find a medical professional “near me”. Results will likely be a map pack and clinics/specific doctors.
So, when ideating for your keyword targets, make sure to take intent into consideration. Your results will be more relevant and have a higher possibility of ranking when you’re matched with the answer the user hopes to find.
Furthermore, we also learned about considering Google’s intent. In almost every session I attended, the speakers addressed how Google is shifting from being a search engine to an answer engine. Their intent is to provide an answer to the user as soon as they can without navigating off of the SERP page. For marketers, that means creating content that serves this purpose
#3. Make Conversions Easy
The last breakout session I attended was with Roger Dooley, author of FRICTION. He talked about removing friction from the buyer’s journey at every step. In short, the easier it is to convert, the more likely people are to do it. Furthermore, when something can be done easier than the other options available, loyalty is built. An example of this is 1 click buying through Amazon or having to sign into a lengthy registration page to buy the same thing from another retailer.
The inbound way usually has an offer (eBook, checklist, webinar, guide…) gated behind a form. We trade contact information for access to our content. So before you blow up your forms with every little nice-to-have piece of information, think about the UX. Do you really *need* to know company size and revenue and favorite color in that awareness ebook form? Probably not. Scrap it and remove the friction to converting. Read more on that, here.
Ryan’s MnSearch Favs
Sometimes “Advanced SEO” means focus on the essentials
Portent CEO Ian Laurie ran a session on advanced SEO. Rather then a bunch of techno mumbo jumbo he pointed out that being advanced often means focusing on the essentials. He outlined 8 principles of advanced SEO. These were my faves:
#1. Just Fix It
rel= canonical, 301, 302 redirects, url exclusions and so on often are band-aids for seo hot messes. Or, as Ian puts it – abstractions. Essentially they’re an attempt to tell Google:
Instead, Ian argues JUST FIX IT. Novel idea – right?
#2. Find a Source of Truth
We all like to consider ourselves data-driven marketers. We come bearing our tools and data ready to wield insights and put together strategies. Ian points out that when it comes to search, some of the tools don’t quite measure up. When trying to diagnose major problems, you can’t argue against the source of truth. He shared some great methods at reviewing log files. More on that here.
#3. Look at The SERPs
Lastly, you just can’t beat looking at how actual search results are showing up. With how rich the results are now between links and snippets, taking some time to look to see what kind of information Google is actually choosing to share for your query can help inform your overall strategy.
To be honest, throughout several sessions the “Look at the SERPs” was a constant and present reminder.