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The day began with a light breakfast and coffee in the Minneapolis Convention Center. I grabbed a yogurt and poured myself a fresh cup of coffee, then made my way to the morning keynote.
On the walk there, I noticed a man wearing a red hat — similar to the “Make America Great Again” hat worn by Donald Trump. Upon closer observation, I noticed this one read, “Make SEO Great Again.”
The day got even nerdier yet. Keep reading for a recap of the SEO insights I gained from my favorite sessions from the 2016 MnSearch Summit!
My Day at the MnSearch Summit
The third-annual MnSearch Summit brought together marketers from across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota, New York, Michigan, California, and Oregon. The industry’s best and brightest minds came together to seek knowledge, gain insight, and connect.
Here were my three favorite sessions from the MnSearch Summit on technical SEO, Facebook ads, and local SEO.
1. “SEO: The Same As It Ever Was” by Michael King (@iPullRank)
The morning keynote kicked off with an informative and energetic talk on technical SEO, rap music, and House of Lies references from the managing director and agency founder of iPullRank, Mike King.
As a former web developer, Mike has diverse experience across search marketing, with knowledge of SEO, inbound marketing, and owned media. He pioneered the methodology of keyword-level demographics, which allows marketers to measure and target persona types.
Mike began by explaining how Google has rolled out Progressive Web Apps, which makes web apps act more like native apps — far more sophisticated and in real time. Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages help content load in milliseconds instead of seconds. Google is also pushing for machine learning (definition: field of study that gives computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed).
Despite all the new technologies and cool features that Google gives us, not much about SEO has changed.
SEO should still be baked into everything that you do.
Most of the time, your client won’t understand how SEO, link building, and content marketing work (or why they’re important). SEO requires technical experience. As a marketer, you should be measuring the right things, like leads and conversions, versus traffic and page views. Get a look at this post on metrics for a closer look at this.
The only thing rankings measure is opportunity; your reporting needs to be about outcomes. Look into how many people came to your site and whether they got what they wanted. Perform keyword research based on user intent and journey.
What keywords are driving traffic to your pages? What pages are performing better than others? Why is that?
Besides measuring the right things, you need to be attributing your success with the pieces of content and keywords that are pulling in the traffic. This will help you improve upon your success and generate content ideas for your client.
For more on Mike’s session, you can check out his SlideShare here.
2. “Competing and Winning in a Pay-to-Play World” by Will Scott (@w2scott)
The CEO of the New Orleans-based company Search Influence, Will Scott, taught us why Facebook is the only company Google is really scared of. With mind-blowing audience targeting capabilities, Facebook gives marketers the most insidious reach into a customer’s very soul.
We’re big fans of Facebook advertising here at 9 Clouds. In fact, we’ve shared Facebook ad targeting strategies with you several times before on our blog.
As an inbound marketer, you need to get the right content into the hands of people at difference phases of the buyer’s journey. Do this by promoting interesting content to the people who are interested, by engaging them on the path to purchase.
Audience optimization and SEO are key tactics to getting your content out there. Use authentic messages to humanize your content and show you’re there to help. With the help of targeting possibilities with Facebook advertising and Power Editor, you’re able to refine your targeting on a highly engaged social media platform.
In fact, every second there are:
- 180,000 posts posting on Facebook
- 6,000 tweets tweeting on Twitter
- 428 grams gramming on Instagram
- 117,986 videos publishing on YouTube
Also, be sure you’re replying to your comments on social media! Engagement after your post is published builds the relationship with your customer and the likelihood of conversion.
For more on Will’s session, you can check out his SlideShare here.
3. “Experiments in Local Search: Insights and Takeaways” by Darren Shaw (@darrenshaw)
Darren Shaw, the founder of Whitespark, is a master at local SEO.
He revealed some fascinating results in his talk. I learned a few new things about local search and which tactics tend to be more effective than others.
Darren showed us some experiments he has conducted with SEO tactics. One thing he tried was using keywords in customer reviews. He set up auto-responses to positive reviews with keywords in them. After monitoring results for eight months, he determined that this strategy wasn’t working. Google was too smart to fall for that trick.
He mentioned that local rankings across the city are trumped by proximity. He determined this by conducting the same search between himself and two coworkers located throughout one state. They each did the exact same search, attempting to find the exact same answer, but all received different results. Proximity played the biggest factor in pulling in relevant search results.
Darren recommends using https://moz.com/local to determine local listings.
This means that city/state SEO might not matter as much as we think. Instead, we should also focus SEO strategies on things like the following:
- Ordinal variables
- Followers on social media
- Average MozRank of citations
- Average citation backlinks
- Page authenticity score
- Domain authority
Essentially, when your business listings are correct and consistent online, new customers can discover your business easier. Your website and content become that much more visible.
For more on Darren’s session, you can check out his SlideShare here.
BONUS TALK: “The 2016 Local Search Ranking Factors Study” by Andrew Shotland (@localseoguide)
As Darren finished up, Andrew Shotland of Local SEO Guide (LSG) stepped up to complete the session. He got into how Google’s local algorithm really works and walked us through results of of one of the largest-ever statistical studies of local search ranking factors.
Over the past six months, LSG has studied the effect of over 100 factors on the ranks of 15,000 local business in a hundred different metros. Click here to learn more about the study.
I learned that while having consistent citations and online business listings are important, the volume doesn’t matter as much as the accuracy. You should still get your citations cleaned up, but focus your SEO efforts on higher-value work.
Keyword Usage and Words on Page — very traditional organic ranking signals — show that, despite claims that Google is moving to new and more sophisticated ranking methods, keyword usage and user engagement still matter.
Relevant, well-written pages with the right links and keywords — with the user’s intent in mind — is the best way to improve your SEO, attract new leads, and nurture current leads on the path to purchase.
For more on Andrew’s session, you can check out his SlideShare here.
Darren and Andrew both made it clear to us that the more words you have on your website, the better your SEO. Good content is still key.
Boom Swagger Boom
The swag I snagged from this event made me pretty happy too — a custom tote, coffee mug, EOS lip balm, notebook, pen, and phone charger all from the Minnesota Search Engine Marketing Association. Plus, Rocket55, a strategic and results-driven digital agency in Minneapolis, upped my style swag with a new pair of shades and rad T-shirt.
Thank you to MnSearch and all the keynote and session speakers for an awesome SEO day!
We love attending conferences and sharing our findings with you.