My one takeaway from Mozcon 2014? #RCS

Philip Cross, head of SEO at DGM has just got back from Mozcon, ‘The World’s Best SEO Conference’, and this is what he learned.

OK, so there was more than one takeaway from Mozcon (quite a few more if my 50 pages of notes are anything to go by) and these ranged from the super actionable to the inspirational.

But the one takeaway that really summed things up for me, that really put a banner over all the other great talks I’d witnessed, came on the morning of day three. It had been on the tip of my tongue, but it just needed a name…

#RCS… Real. Customer. Shit.

Feeling a little worse for wear after the Moz-party from the night before, on day three we all stumbled into the hall, coffee in hand. I need not have bothered with the coffee though – as soon as Wil Reynolds kicked off his presentation ‘You are so much more than an SEO’, I was wide awake… I knew there was a good reason they gave him the Wednesday morning slot.

I’ve summarised what, for me, were some of the key themes from Wil’s presentation and also how some of the other standout points from other folks’ presentations were driving the same message.

It’s about SUX – Search User Experience

“Relationships are fragile and multi-touch. Are you willing to fix that experience?”

SEO has taken quantum leaps forward in recent years, widening out its remit from simply concerning ourselves with ‘rankings’ and ‘traffic’ to looking at the whole user experience and how we can help shape things to optimise and add value at every stage. 

Kerry Bodine kicked things off on day one with her outstanding talk, ‘Broken brand promises: the disconnect between marketing and customer experience’. The stats thrown out really backed up her overall message, which was that from marketing to execution you need to deliver on promises and expectations (#SUX, right?):

  • 81% of consumers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience,
  • 70% have stopped buying goods or services from a company after experiencing poor customer service, and
  • 64% have made future purchases from a company’s competitors after experiencing poor customer service.

(Source: Oracle)

Brands need the people responsible for brand, marketing and CX to be on the same wavelength and align marketing with actual customer experience (Kerry provides some nice frameworks for auditing and evaluating this in her presentation). 

Kerry Bodine: “Keep your promises. Then make them.”


“When is your job done? When the customer is happy.” 

Mike King evangelised on the value of looking at ‘digital body language’. We know that customer profiling is one path to creating experiences that will create happiness and eventually lead to conversions. Find out what your customers really want/value and work around that, right? Mike took us through a process of using multiple big data sources to take audience profiling to the next level. Amazing/scary stuff! 

Of course the process doesn’t stop at profiling – but knowing your customers on a deeper level gives you a better chance of making them happy. 

Focus on outcomes, not outputs

“30 links is an output, growing a business is an outcome. We’ve been celebrating the first step – time to celebrate the last.”

This important point highlights a fundamental flaw in the way we sometimes treat our campaigns – which is focusing on ticking boxes day to day and high fiving each other over every little victory instead of focusing on the key outcome for our clients… “Follow the money”.

If we keep this fundamental goal in mind the rest of our strategy (focusing on user experience) should, in theory, follow. But how do we know what the best options are for maximising experience and/or revenue. 

Kyle Rush, in his talk, ‘Architecting great experiments’, expanded on how to use rigorous processes and structures to methodically and scientifically test what works and what doesn’t. We might think we know what content will click with our visitors, we may have a good idea about what’s broken in our conversion path, but without testing we are just guessing. So get your propeller hats on and your analytics logins out.


Ask ‘why’ five times

For example: “Do we need 30 links?”

Expanding on this point is the need to question the traditional ways of doing things in order to get to the desired outcome (happy customers and a profitable business). Clients may push back when you try to explain that they don’t necessarily ‘need’ those 30 links (or whatever they metric may be).

I loved the ‘ask why five times to get to the bottom of the real reason for doing something’ methodology that Reynolds mentioned.

That’s where Dana DiTomaso’s presentation, ‘Prove your value’ really shone – highlighting ways in which you can irrevocably prove the value of your approach to your client.

As I’ve mentioned, SEO has changed, but the focus on content can seem scary to some, harder to define, harder to measure, oh things were so much simpler when we could just talk about ‘getting links’. But the speakers really highlighted that it needn’t be scary – that you can demonstrate the value of content, Tweets, interactions… anything that plays into making your customers happy!


“Too often we don’t want to give the customer the content they want … We give them the content we want them to want.”

Several of the speakers focused on how we go about content creation, building on the foundations of adding value across the whole search user experience and advanced persona modelling to help us understand who our audience is and what they love.

Stacey MacNaught talked on ‘Scaling Creativity: Making Content Marketing More Efficient’, some of my favourite takeaways being:

  • Crap content isn’t the biggest waste – it’s creating awesome content for the wrong audience (such as showing South Park to your grandma),
  • the need to not just rely on one big content idea (because it might suck), and
  • tactics like the great ‘6-3-5 brain writing’ technique to generate a treasure-trove of potential ideas.

The real key for me was the lesson that we, as SEOs, need to take a step back, we need to pull ourselves away from the day to day, the firefighting, the reactionary tasks. We need to re-frame the way we think about delivering value to our clients and more to the point, get the clients to think about their goals, priorities and what ‘value’ means to them. And the foundation of all of this is thinking about how the brands we optimise for deliver relevance and value at every stage of their interaction with their customers, both online and off-line … how these brands deliver for real customer shit.

Philip Cross is head of SEO at online marketing agency, DGM.

Slide decks of the presentations mentioned in this post are available via the Mozcon agenda page.