Learning to Love Inbound Marketing at Mozcon

Jill  Vanoncini

August 05, 2014

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The Mozcon conference, held yearly in Seattle, focuses on inbound marketing-the activities that draw customers and prospects in, such as SEO, content marketing, and social media. At this year's conference, I expected to learn a lot about SEO, and I wasn't disappointed. From Cindy Krum's mobile SEO strategies to Rand Fishkin's "mad science experiments," the presentations offered great advice on link building and improving rankings. But what I found most compelling was the way many speakers questioned assumptions about the value of marketing and expanded their focus to include the broader customer experience. Here are a few highlights.

Moz's CEO hates marketing.

During her fireside chat on the last day of the conference, Sarah Bird admitted that she hates marketing. That seems like an odd statement from the CEO of a company that builds tools for tracking and improving your inbound marketing efforts in SEO, social media, and content marketing. But as Sarah explained, what she really hates is the intrusive, manipulative marketing of her youth.

Sarah talked about how Moz wants to be a voice for white hat marketers and bring integrity to marketing as a discipline. She discussed how important it is to present relevant content at the right time, which requires thought and care. Fortunately, more and more businesses understand that strong customer relationships require honesty and accountability, not shallow tricks and broken promises.

Links matter, but they are not your real goal.

In the pursuit of top rankings and traffic, it's easy to focus on output and lose track of the outcome, as Wil Reynolds discussed. Why are we doing all this SEO in the first place? To help our clients acquire and retain customers, increase sales, and grow their businesses.

Wil encouraged us to "stop celebrating the first step" of getting a top ranking and instead, focus on building solid, long-term customer relationships. That means paying attention to every touchpoint, starting with what users get when they click the link you worked so hard to move to the top of the search results page. Once a user actually visits, are you delivering the content you promised? Look at the bounce rate for your high-ranking pages, and find out if you're giving users the experience they want.

Be honest about what you actually deliver.

Kerry Bodine described what happens when there's a mismatch between customer expectations and customer experience. Like the child who gets a stuffed toy cat for her birthday instead of a real kitten, we're disappointed when companies deliver the same old mediocrity instead of the exceptional products and customer service their marketing promises.

As Bodine explains, it's better to promise the stuffed toy if that's all you can deliver. You'll build more trust with your customers if you "keep your promises, then make them." Map out the customer journey, talk to customers and employees, and get a clear view of the actual experience. Until you're able to make improvements, don't make promises you can't keep. You're not fooling anyone with that stuffed toy-everyone can see it's not a real kitten.

Publish better content.

"Go bigger with your content and stop publishing drivel," as Lindsey Wassell said, in one of my favorite quotes from the conference. If you're serving up the same "5 Tips You Won't Believe" as everyone else, then you aren't offering any new insights or thought leadership. As a result, you won't capture prospects' attention or help build your brand, even if you become a master at using Nathalie Nahai's techniques for writing persuasive headlines.

The best way to waste time and money in content marketing is not understanding your audience, as Stacey Cavanagh McNaught shared in her presentation on efficient content marketing. She gave some great advice on how to get to know your audience better, from using Facebook Graph Search to learn more about their interests to producing personas specifically for content consumers.

Learn more about Moz and Mozcon.

At Extractable, we use Moz Pro to audit and track our clients' inbound marketing efforts. We also point clients who want to learn more about SEO to their Beginner's Guide to SEO and Google Algorithm Change History.

Mozcon offers a broad range of topics and a diverse mix of speakers that's unusual in marketing and tech. I've spent most of this post talking about ideas and principles, but speakers shared lots of actionable tactics as well. If you're looking for ways to improve your inbound marketing results, I'd recommend taking a look at next year's conference.