Our Favorite MozCon 2019 Sessions

Kyle Freeman, SEO Team Lead

Caleb Cosper, Evan Hall, Zac Heinrichs, Amanda Putney, and I attended a full three days of sessions at MozCon 2019 in our hometown of Seattle. We not only got to meet a great group of fellow SEOs, but we also got to enjoy a fantastic lineup of speakers. There were sessions from Rand Fishkin, Christi Olson, Cindy Krum, Luke Carthy, Wil Reynolds, Andy Crestodina, Britney Muller, and so many more.

There was so much we learned, and we left with some awesome takeaways from the 26 sessions we attended. We’ve put together a list of our top five, and we want to share them with you!

Esse Quam Videri: When Faking it is Harder than Making it

Presented by Russ Jones, Principal Search Scientist at Moz

See Russ’s Presentation Deck

Russ Jones closed out day one with his session, which started by telling us he was a liar and then proving it by sharing very compelling stories and explaining that he was, yes, lying!

Russ conducted a poll on Twitter, and he found that 64% of SEOs state that they are willing to or have promoted content that was no doubt not the best answer to the query.

Screenshot of Twitter Poll from Russ Jones

As an industry, we are spending more effort deceiving users (and Google) to convince them that our site is the best answer for their query than we are actually working to be the best answer for the searched query. However, that ROI is diminishing, and those practices will not be sustainable with the way Google is improving.

“Be the best answer. Don’t fake it. Be it.” We can have ethical standards and not sacrifice being smart, resourceful, and cut-throat.

Understanding Human-Readable Quality Signals

Presented by Ruth Burr Reedy, Director of Strategy at UpBuild, LLC

See Ruth’s Presentation Deck

Machine learning has come a long way. Therefore, optimizing for users as opposed to search engines is an SEO challenge.

So, how can we create high quality in content that is both human- and machine-readable?

  • Site performance. A site that loads fast is an excellent experience for humans and crawlers.
  • Clearly, concisely, and accurately answering a question results in content that’s high quality for humans and machines.
  • Google’s Natural Language Processing tool can help you analyze what a piece of content is about like a robot does.
  • Google’s Quality Raters’ Guidelines are written by humans for humans. They’re not a part of the algorithm, but they likely help train the algorithm.
  • If you’re trying to create expert content on a topic, you need to have an expert create that content.

Screenshot of Tweet from Ruth Burr Reedy about human-readable quality signals

Running Your Own SEO Tests: Why it Matters & How to Do it Right

Presented by Rob Ousbey, VP at Distilled

See Rob’s Presentation Deck

We go around the web, read a bunch of SEO articles to tell us what we should be doing. We then go to conferences and hear what has worked for other people. Later, we take all the vast amounts of tips and tricks we receive and start implementing them on our websites. In return, you get an increase in rankings. However, you don’t know what the result of the increase in ranking is. What if something you implemented is actually hurting your website, and you’re still not reaching your full potential? To answer that question, you would need to do some A/B testing for SEO.

You should isolate every change you make to a website/webpage to determine if the change was, in fact, valuable. Start by benchmarking your visitors and compare the difference after the implementations. Don’t forget to consider industry seasonality or the fact that maybe Google has decided to take your industry over during that time.

  • Take a group of pages that serve the same purpose on your site (product pages, category pages, blog posts, etc.)
  • Split these similar pages into two groups (A & B)
  • Make the changes to your variant group and compare to your control group

Three things that might happen:

  1. The test is positive! If so, roll out these changes to the whole site
  2. The test is negative. Revert the pages to how they were originally
  3. Null test. Make an informed decision on how you will move forward

Redefining Technical SEO

Presented by Paul Shapiro, Head of SEO at Catalyst

See Paul’s Presentation Deck

The phrase “Technical SEO” has long been used to describe the practice of optimizing website infrastructure and search engine accessibility. But, like a lot of things in SEO, it has been oversimplified.

According to Paul Shapiro, Technical SEO can be split into four different and distinct types:

  1. Checklist Technical SEO: Does the site utilize canonical tags? Circle one: Yes / No
  2. General Technical SEO: Internal linking analysis, untangling spider traps, etc.
  3. Blurred Responsibility SEO: CRO, UX, structured data, etc.
  4. Advanced, Applied Technical SEO: Testing, NLP, automation, etc.

And, with (more than) a little bit of Python or JS expertise, Technical SEO can be applied to all SEO!

  • Link building
  • On-page optimization
  • Content ideation
  • Redirect mapping
  • Semi-automated writing of meta descriptions
  • Keyword research
  • Dashboard and reporting automation
  • A/B testing

Screenshot of slide from Paul Shapiro's presentation that says "all SEO can be technical SEO"

So, invest in and hire Technical SEOs (not just Technical SEO) because coding is a fundamental skill for advanced Technical SEO!

Content, Rankings, and Lead Generation: A Breakdown of the 1% Content Strategy

Presented by Andy Crestodina, Chief Marketing Officer at Orbit Media

See Andy’s Presentation Deck

Even if your blog content is driving a notable amount of traffic to your website, those users likely don’t have the intent to purchase. Look for yourself by viewing the conversion rates of your blog post landing pages.

If the user lands on a sales page, they’re 50 times more likely to become a lead. However, it is unlikely that people link to your sales pages; they are more likely to link to useful articles (your blog). In short, you should create valuable content to get people to link to those blog pages so that you can then interlink to a service page, which will gain a higher authority, rank higher, and generate qualified leads.

Create Original Research

  • 75% of articles don’t get organic traffic
  • Authoritative, well-researched, and evidenced content wins
  • Include strong opinions and original research
  • Original research crushes all other forms of content because that website becomes the primary source for that information


  • Get contributor quotes: Never write without a contributor quote
  • Expert roundup topics
  • Deep dive interviews
  • Want links and mentions? Give other people links and mentions

Publish Everywhere

  • Publish your articles on other sites
  • Put your articles in front of a new group of people
  • Write for other websites
  • If you’re not making friends, you’re doing it wrong

Update Older Content

  • When rankings start to decline for an older article, then update that content
  • If rankings are where they should be for all articles, then write something new
  • It takes 80% of the time to rewrite a blog than it does to write a brand new one
  • Do not change your URLs. Keep your URLs simple so that you can repurpose them later


  • Update content into visuals
  • Updated high performing content is better than new content
  • Creating videos, images, ad presentations is better than writing articles
  • Diagrams + Contributions = Links

Wrap Up

These were our team’s favorite takeaways from MozCon 2019. We’ve already geeked out over loads of information we received during the three days, talked about the latest trends, and discussed how we can apply what we’ve learned to drive results for our clients.

We look forward to learning more as we apply and test these new ideas and mindsets, and we can’t wait for next year’s MozCon. See you there!

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