The Top Takeaways for SEOs & Marketers from MozCon 2023
Sam Jenkins is an SEO Lead at PMG.
Meghan Tunic is an SEO Senior Associate at PMG.
Sam Callender leads PMG's performance content practice, working across the SEO team to level up organic search and content strategies for clients across PMG's entire portfolio. With over 15 years in roles spanning FedEx, Amazon, and R/GA, Sam relies on his deep industry experience and technical expertise across digital and product marketing to support B2B, tech, ecommerce, and retail brands.
This year's MozCon in Seattle, Washington, featured speakers from across the advertising industry, with topics spanning artificial intelligence (AI), SEO, and the future of search.
Some of the most popular sessions at the event focused on the importance of understanding your audience, how search has moved beyond text, and the growing influence of AI in advertising and online content. In this article, we've outlined the top takeaways from our favorite sessions at MozCon 2023 and what these topics signify for the current state of SEO and search marketing.
Keep your audience at the center of your strategy. Speakers encouraged SEOs to think more like marketers to deliver long-term customer value by focusing less on reacting to the latest algorithm update.
The long-standing organic search paradigm of websites and search engines is shifting as video and social platforms emerge as popular alternatives for many types of searches.
AI represents a critical technology in the industry that SEOs should embrace. AI readiness means planning for subtle changes to the SERP and incorporating AI into strategic work, SEO, and content workflows.
Several sessions at MozCon 2023 focused on the hidden value of understanding your customer. Industry experts like Andi Jarvis outlined how SEOs should first prioritize users instead of Google in their efforts, and success will surely follow, as Google has the same user-first priorities. To build a lasting marketing strategy that stands the test of time, Jarvis encouraged conference attendees to think about the certain needs of the customer that won't change over time, rather than hopping from trend to trend. Lastly, he reminded us that while customer feedback can be incredibly useful, marketers must pay special attention to what customers do more so than what they say.
Lily Ray shared a similar perspective. In her session, Ray outlined how core updates have historically changed Google’s understanding of search intent as these developments take a closer look at changes in user behavior, world events, and intent switching, such as whether a search term is transactional or informational. Ray implored marketers to create content that meets all types of searcher intent. She also said to leverage performance data before and after updates are made to Google's algorithm, so marketers can better understand the impact of these changes.
Industry expert Chris Long took it one step further in his session, where he argued that SEOs need to start playing offense instead of defense. By first understanding the needs of your users, marketers should feel empowered to take a more proactive approach to crafting content that provides real value. Define your audience, find content gaps, and create content to fill them, or your competitors will beat you to it. Understanding the size of a brand's addressable audience is just as important. In other words, if you don't meet search demand, competitors will, representing a large opportunity cost for your brand.
Publishing text-based content is no longer enough, as users seek out more engaging content experiences. This requires marketers to work harder in analyzing how different audiences consume various content types. Users are also increasingly turning to channels other than Google to begin their search journeys as they value quick, authentic perspectives to answer their queries.
In her MozCon session, SEO Carrie Rose recommended the use of cross-platform content strategies, as growth shows no signs of slowing down across platforms like Amazon and TikTok. To be clear, new consumer behavior, like the rise in non-search-engine-based searches, doesn't mean marketers should abandon SEO but instead leverage SEO tactics across these new and emerging channels.
Harnessing the power of video can be a great way to capture more search traffic, according to the Head of SEO Communications from the popular web publishing platform Wix, Crystal Carter. As users prefer more engaging rich media, Google is evolving search results to meet this demand. Users love video, and Google has tapped into the success of TikTok and other video platforms by increasing the prevalence of videos in the SERP by 45 percent year-over-year.
If you want to be successful, Carter recommends that brands use a high-quality video format, keywords in your script, and YouTube for on-site video, as it's the platform that appears most frequently in search results. Finally, Carter challenged attendees to follow SEO best practices on their video web pages. Optimized titles and copy are not only valuable for ranking on-site video pages, but for providing a better user experience as well.
Similarly, Azeem Ahmad shared how marketers can effectively measure performance across different types of content. He recommended that brands segment reporting by markets and demographics to better understand how audiences engage with content formats, like audio and video, versus written content.
Generative AI is one of the most popular topics in marketing today, with Google's Search Generative Experience (SGE) poised to be the most transformative change the search industry has ever seen. Several speakers hypothesized what we can expect in the months to come around this technology. And while perspectives differed, it was increasingly clear that this transformative era presents a unique opportunity—and responsibility—for brands and SEOs.
SEO Tom Capper highlighted that SGE is constantly evolving and that while things are changing, SEOs should remember that the principles of good content haven't; content must be created for humans—not algorithms. SEO Ross Simmonds outlined how SEOs should strategically embrace AI as a tool rather than a technology that can simply automate your job.
AI tools like ChatGPT can help summarize research, write schema, draft social copy, and other tasks to help you instead focus more of your time on strategic thinking. Simmonds encouraged SEOs to adopt a test-and-learn mindset and find new ways for AI to help enhance workflows and content creation processes, rather than ignoring the value AI could bring to your organization.
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SEO is always changing, and this year's MozCon offered new perspectives and fresh thinking into how SEOs can best navigate the current state of SEO and prepare for whatever comes next. We had a great time at the 2023 conference and can’t wait for next year’s!
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