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There’s No Place Like… MozCon 2018

purple gradient background with M | Moz Con logo and text underneath reading "Exceptional speakers. Actionable tactics. Fist bumps for all."

It’s been a whirlwind of a month for me, what with travelling to Calgary, back to Edmonton, and then off to Grande Prairie for the FCA Roadshow— but July also includes my favourite reason to travel in the summer: MozCon. MozCon is a 3-day digital marketing conference in Seattle, WA that is hosted by Moz, a software-as-a-service business that creates SEO products. This was my fourth time attending this conference, and second favourite visit overall–only beat out by my first experience. Before we jump into my biggest takeaways for this year, I wanted to touch on my first experience (since I’ve never had really had a chance to talk about until now), so that you can understand why this particular conference really stands out from the rest.

MozCon changed my outlook on my career.

This is a drastic statement to make, but my first MozCon truly made me look at my career and this industry–both automotive and digital marketing–in an entirely different light. I used to go to anywhere from 4-6 conferences a year, trying to glean as much information as I possibly could to bring back and apply to my own digital strategies for my stores. One of my friends mentioned that she was going to this digital marketing conference in Seattle, and that her boss, who was a speaker that year, had another discounted ticket that I could use if I was interested. I cautiously took a chance on a new non-automotive conference, despite having had poor experiences at many of the other non-auto conferences I’d attended.

Upon arrival on the first day, the very first talk opened by discussing the struggles of being the marketing team that tried to do their very best (and was doing all of the right things on the marketing side) for an un-named company who seemed to consistently have issues with customers who had bad experiences at their business, and took to the internet to scream from the digital rooftops about those bad experiences. When they spoke to the client, the response was, “well, that’s [insert other department]’s problem.” (Does that story already hit home for you? It hit home for me, and I worked for great dealerships!) She then touched on how the marketing that this company put out (promising a great and wonderful experience) didn’t always match the real-life customer experiences that were delivered when they got there, and that it made it really hard to keep working with that client because they just needed them to do the right thing for the customer in order to help the whole picture come together.

Slide deck still image from Dana DiTomaso’s presentation at MozCon 2015 of white text on a red background reading “Good marketing feels right” and a Kick Point logo in the lower left-hand corner
Dana DiTomaso, “How To Make Your Marketing Match Your Reality,” MozCon 2015

From the early outset, it was established that this conference was not about showing us the latest-and-greatest tactics to trick our customers into wanting to do business with us, but rather that our entire goal as marketers–whether in-house or agency, SEO or paid advertisers, content marketers or salespeople–is to make sure that what we’re putting out into the digital world feels right and focuses on creating a positive user experience and then living up to that promise. And from that very moment, I felt like I was in a room full of “my people” who wanted to do this the right way.

My Highlights of MozCon 2018

Now that we’re done our trip down memory lane, let’s chat about this year’s conference. Where the topics in past years have been a little more varied and “for all levels” approach, this year’s conference did have a far more “technical and local SEO” and “intermediate level”-feel to the talks. While it would be entirely unnecessary to go over every single talk from the conference (because a lot of what we learned will affect internal development and product roadmaps here at Strathcom), I wanted to touch upon a few specific concepts that really stood out to me over the course of the three days I spent in the Washington State Conference Center (with an -er, not an -re) as being important to share, understand, and take action on as a Canadian car dealership.

Cindy Krum is the woman I need helping me pick my Lotto numbers every Friday.

Every year, MozCon brings Cindy Krum of MobileMoxie back to the stage, not only because she’s bloody brilliant, but because all of her predictions about upcoming shifts in Google’s evolution of mobile search have come true (and they really, really have). Let’s recap:

Slide deck still image from Cindy Krum’s presentation at MozCon 2018 of her past predictions about Google’s changes in mobile search, including Mobile SEO, Mobile Friendliness, App Indexing, and Mobile-First Indexing all becoming realities.
Cindy Krum, “Mobile-First Indexing, or a Whole New Google,” MozCon 2018


Google understands ideas and concepts whether they do or don’t have a website, and this makes complete sense since the introduction of Google Home and other screenless devices that rely solely upon search results that can be read aloud and don’t include links to your website (because you wouldn’t be able to read them anyway!). Cindy refers to these ideas and concepts as entities, which is a much better way to articulate what we’ve been trying to describe to dealers as “things that populate the knowledge graph other than your Google My Business listings.”

“An entity is an idea or concept. It’s primary to keywords. Keywords describe entities, but entities can exist without keywords. A blue chair is a blue chair, no matter what language you describe it in. Google has a listing of entities that are worthy of being understood.”

This year’s presentation was focused around the concept of entity-first indexing, and that’s because Google understands the differences between those entities and is working through a manner of organizing them. It is increasingly more important to make sure that you’re doing the minimum of what you can to help Google recognize your dealership’s entity within their own products, and building out your entity online. You can do this by ensuring that you are engaging users both on your website as well as on other non-website platforms, creating content that can be consumed and understood without a screen, and cleaning up your information to make it clear-cut for Google to connect all of the associated pieces of your dealership’s entity online. For car dealers, your minimal starting point will be building out and optimizing (including utilizing all of the available tools) for your Google My Business listings, Google+ brand pages, and anything that shows up for your dealership in the Knowledge Graph. (And if you don’t know how to do this, I hope you e-mail me and ask how!)

The uncomfortable reality is that nobody really cares about our blogs.

This is an intentionally inflammatory statement (and one that I absolutely appreciate the irony of sharing from a blog post), but Taylor Coil of Tortuga hit the nail on the head with the remark that:

“People may care about the answers or benefits that we’re putting out there, but they aren’t coming to our company sites to our blogs to peruse–and that’s why they all fall flat.”

But this makes perfect sense. Even when we look through the Google Analytics for the Strathcom blog, we know that most of you didn’t get here by going to our homepage, finding the drop-down menu, and clicking “Blog.” Most of you are here because you made a query and Google delivered you this page as a result, or because it was intentionally shared with you as something valuable that you might be able to make use of. So why do we (and every other ‘blog’ out there) link it from the navigation, or lay it out like someone is really going to click through every post we make in the order that we make them? This (completely logical, totally data-based) fact makes us rethink the need to show a reverse-chronological feed page for dealership blogs as we currently do, and instead perhaps take a different approach to laying out the resources that we are building:

Slide deck still image from Taylor Coil’s presentation at MozCon 2018 of the Tortuga Backpacks blog homepage.
Taylor Coil, Why ‘Blog’ is a Misnomer in a 2018 Content Strategy” MozCon 2018

What did give us that warm fuzzy feeling inside, is knowing that we’ve built the right content to deliver a great user experience to your customers who are searching for it (and that they are actually finding it in a search result). But now we’ve got a better way to deliver it to them when they’re already on your website.

“Reports should tell you if you’re meeting your goals.”

As a returning attendee, I was sad to not see Dana DiTomaso of Kick Point presenting at MozCon in 2017 because her talks are always relatable and actionable, and her return to the speaker lineup this year didn’t disappoint. Reporting generally seems to be the bane of all marketers’ existence, and it’s because “as an industry, our reporting sucks.” We fill a few pages of a PDF or provide an online link that spits out data (from a Google Analytics or AdWords account they have the login for), send it to the client, and subconsciously think:

“Here is a bunch of crap and we hope that something in this report that makes you feel good so you keep paying your bills, goodbye!”

But our clients are not paying for data. Hell, they can get it for free themselves using the very tools we set up for them. Our clients are paying us to monitor and analyze that data and provide them with the insight they need to make the right decisions to continue driving their strategies and help them achieve their goals–not just to to send them a PDF affirming that we are monitoring the data “and here it is!” We’ve always made a point of providing recommendations based on the data we want to bring to your attention, but we were able to see some great examples of how we can better express those recommendations. It was great to have that reminder of what ‘true north’ really is when it comes to reporting: making sure we understand and acknowledge together what the goals are, what we’re doing to achieve them, and how close we are to achieving those goals.

Though, in true Dana-fashion, she also dropped this bomb on us, because we still have one major problem when it comes to setting goals:

Slide deck still image from Dana DiTomaso’s presentation at MozCon 2018 of white text on a blue gradient background reading “We measure what’s important to the company, not the customer” and a Kick Point logo in the lower left-hand corner
Dana DiTomaso, “Focused Reporting: Fewer Reports that Do More,” MozCon 2018

In automotive, we still care more about whether or not we’re getting the click as opposed to whether or not the user is finding what they were looking for on our websites. We focus on getting the conversion more than the fact that the question they asked in that lead form on a vehicle description page was, “Can I book a service appointment for Tuesday morning at 7am?” We care inherently about “just get the customer into the store” instead of answering the question in our response back about “has this vehicle ever been in an accident?” As an industry, we don’t always show pictures of the vehicle, we don’t always list prices, we actively withhold information for fear that the customer will take that information and go to our nearest competitor–instead of actively making an effort to help the customer get what they were looking for. Until we get better at helping the customer not only find but also understand the information we have for them, we will continue to see our customers resist us, express in surveys that they dread coming into our stores, and leave negative reviews afterward indicating that they don’t feel they had all of the information.

Slide deck still image from Dana DiTomaso’s presentation at MozCon 2018 of white text on a blue gradient background reading “Without understanding, we lose accountability and trust” and a Kick Point logo in the lower left-hand corner
Dana DiTomaso, “Focused Reporting: Fewer Reports that Do More,” MozCon 2018

I had a chance to chat with Dana (for the first time in a few years) at the end of the conference over karaoke renditions of Sia’s “Chandelier,” and to thank her for her half-price ticket from 2015. Without it, I wouldn’t have had that first experience that keeps me coming back every year to re-light a fire under my backside, or to learn more things that I can continue to share with my team and with our Canadian dealers so that we can continue to move this industry forward in a way that ultimately focuses on helping to create a better experience for car buyers in the future.

If you’re interested in learning more about more of the talks that I saw at MozCon 2018, please don’t hesitate to reach out by e-mail – I want you to be just as excited about your digital strategy as I am!

Event Recap, MozCon

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