The evolution of digital marketing has brought search engines, and Google specifically, to center stage. It is not surprising that marketing conferences, like the recent MozCon, have several panels dedicated to search engine marketing and optimization. As organic listings have been losing their above-the-fold placement for paid search and knowledge graph results, search markers have taken a more holistic approach. It’s not all about on-page performance and incoming links anymore. It’s about content, building a brand, nurturing a community, and providing value to your audience. Typically, roundups of takeaways focus on the concrete. Instead, we’d like to share with you the top marketing trends we’ve seen at MozCon.
It’s no secret that the search marketing industry is in a constant state of flux. While it’s a tired saying, it still rings true and depicts where the industry stands today. Like the industry they work in, search engine optimizers’ job is always changing. SEO managers need to keep up with the ever changing search engine algorithm updates to ensure their inbound and outbound efforts are efficient. There was a time when the focus of SEO was entirely data-driven – with keyword analysis, site structures, sitemap XMLs, metadata and link building at its core. Today, the focus of search engine optimization has pivoted from technical to more creative. This year’s MozCon conference was all about the disruption of a primarily technical industry towards a more creative one, bringing content marketing to center stage.
Content marketing has had the fastest growth rate over the last few years. Fifty percent of B2C marketers plan to increase their content marketing budget in 2015, and nearly 30 percent of of marketers state that content marketing a fundamental step in driving results. Rand Fish explains during his opening remarks that while SEO comes in second, it’s by no means slowing down. Rather than replacing SEO, content goes hand in hand with the company’s search engine marketing and optimization efforts. In the past, all we needed to generate traffic was to build our sites correctly and buy enough inbound links, now we must prove that we are relevant to the market and subject matter. The focus has shifted from site structure and metadata to value and relevancy.
This leads us to our second trend. With the change in focus in search marketing, content is king again – especially creative content. According to Matthew Brown, there are over 2.5 million blog posts published every day and 67 percent of marketers say blog posts are the most effective form of content, in terms of traffic, brand awareness and ultimately conversions. His talk, fittingly called “An SEO’s Guide to the Insane World of Content” took us through the evolving world of marketing towards content centricity, where he explained that over three quarters of marketers reported that their companies are opting into branded content. The returning emphasis on content marketing raises a very interesting question: what is good content?
Good content has three pillars: it is targeted, relevant, and trustworthy. If your content strategy is targeted towards everybody, then it’s meant for nobody. Content strategists must think about their targets, create personas and tailor the content around the reader’s interests and needs. You don’t just create content to generate traffic, you use it to position your brand and establish a community. Similarly, native ads – like sponsored Snapchats and tweets, recommended articles, as well as Pocket’s Product Tour – adhere to the same rules. Native advertising is all about tailoring sponsored content to a platform’s look, feel, audience, and conduct.
Falling in line with our two previous trends, embracing diversity refers to the diversity of the marketing industry. At MozCon we experienced first-hand how fluid different roles in digital marketing have become. While MozCon is essentially a search marketing conference, only some speakers were SEO experts. There were content strategists, social media strategists, community managers, project managers, and designers all emphasising the current challenges in the search marketing industry. No one discipline can succeed alone. Success in marketing relies on a wide variety of components and the key is to involve the entire company in establishing a brand, generating awareness and nurturing a community. Beyond that, half of MozCon speakers were women. How’s that for embracing diversity?
Nurturing a Community
Finally, our last big trend has to do with the exceptional community MozCon has built over the years. When you embrace diversity the way MozCon has, you begin building a community around that. This year, MozCon’s gender neutral restrooms were the talk on Twitter. Conference attendees lauded the progressive statement that affirmed that Moz truly knows its audience and was going to cater to their need no matter what.
During his talk, Rich Millington, Founder of FeverBee.com, explained that the key to creating a successful online community is to build it around people’s opinions, experiences, or challenges . The key is understanding your target audience, which is something we firmly believe in. At Jumpshot, we’re able to understand consumer behavior at its deepest level by tracking the entire consumer journey down to each click. Armed with this information, brands can connect to and serve their customers in the most valuable way. Similarly, by building its brand through this progressive theme that reflected its progressive audience, MozCon was able to connect and engage its community on an emotional level, which is at the heart of good marketing.
Bottom Line: MozCon captured the zeitgeist of the disruptive marketing industry with its emphasis on content, community and diversity. The move towards a more holistic marketing encapsulates where the marketing industry stands today. Of course, the data-driven component has been ever present, but it doesn’t stand alone anymore. Google, Yahoo!, Yandex and Baidu will always be part of the conversation, but what we can do as humans is so much more valuable. As Wil Reynolds once said, “Understanding how people make decisions is a skill that is undistributable. That is a greater skill than understanding how Google works.”