A Season of Change: MozCon 2024 Takeaways for SEO and Content Marketing

  • Categories:

    Content Marketing, Search

  • Date:

    June 18, 2024

A Season of Change: MozCon 2024 Takeaways for SEO and Content Marketing

Content Marketing Search

A Season of Change: MozCon 2024 Takeaways for SEO and Content Marketing

The first half of 2024 has taken everyone in SEO land for a wild ride. It’s enough to make even the most unflappable search specialist’s head spin, from massive core updates and AI-powered search results to AI-generated content and leaked internal documents. So it felt like perfect timing when MozCon, one of the world’s best digital marketing conferences, kicked off in Seattle on June 3. I tuned in from the East Coast to hear speakers on topics ranging from AI Overviews, E-E-A-T and TikTok to volatile ranking factors and algorithm updates.

Despite what others might say about possible AI takeovers, Google missteps and other problems plaguing the industry, I’m not a doomsayer or an alarmist. But there’s no mistaking the gigantic impact of these developments on marketers and their audiences. Thankfully, MozCon delivered on its promise to help SEO and digital marketing professionals navigate even the most challenging obstacles in 2024.

Here are my top takeaways from an information-packed two days with MozCon’s phenomenal speakers.

Top 4 Takeaways From MozCon 2024

1. Integrate AI as a complementary tool, not a replacement for skilled human creators.

When it comes to content development, AI can be useful for outlining ideas, workshopping headlines and subheadings, and performing similar tasks. However, generative AI tools are poor proxies for skilled human content creators. MozCon speaker Britany Muller cautioned that while large language models (LLMs) are an incredible way to accelerate workflows and spark ideas, LLMs only know what they know. At the end of the day, generative AI tools are pattern-matching machines. We as users have to stay skeptical because we are the testing ground.

An overreliance on AI can lead to content getting penalized in search results. But it’s not just about the SERPs. AI-generated content is unlikely to foster user engagement, build relationships or deliver measurable value to businesses.

MozCon speaker Andy Crestodina gave a great talk about trust and quality in the age of AI-generated content. Unfortunately, some marketers have already passed much of their content development needs to AI technology. This could quickly commoditize businesses that had a unique value proposition but took shortcuts instead of telling the story in an authentic, user-centric way.

That’s not to say AI doesn’t have tremendous value for marketers. Responsible use of AI — think automating repetitive tasks or, as I said before, workshopping headlines or ideas — can free up teams to spend more time on high-level strategy, creative thinking, content creation and analysis. AI can also help identify weaknesses or gaps in existing content and suggest areas for improvement.

These are strange times, but great content (not just any content) is still king.

2. Prioritize business goals over individual SEO tactics.

    Massive algorithm updates. Increased keyword competition. The rise of AI (see above). Without question, the SEO landscape is weathering significant changes.

    To succeed at capturing the right organic traffic in this dynamic environment, marketers must adapt SEO strategies to prioritize the user experience and business value. But first, they have to understand the value they’re trying to gain from their SEO and content tactics. Identify specific, measurable, achievable and relevant goals — and track them.

    Meanwhile, the days of channeling SEO shortcuts, tricks and tools into organic search dominance are long gone. While every SEO team relies on tried-and-tested tools, their competitors likely use the same tools. That’s why MozCon speaker Lily Ray cautioned that relying on the tools to do everything will lead to homogenized strategies subject to penalization in search engine updates.

    3. Study the psychology behind how people search to create effective content.

      In 2024, search queries are becoming more complex. Many are full sentences instead of one or two keywords. That’s partly why the best content doesn’t rely on keywords alone. Instead, it speaks to user intent, considering how the intended target audience thinks about and searches for information on the topic.

      And that’s where psychology comes into play.

      Most people begin a search with a ton of subjective context. Even if the topic is unfamiliar, emotions, personal experience and preconceived notions play a strong role. This intuitive thinking blends with analytical thinking to produce, as MozCon speaker Garret Sussman put it, searcher cognitive bias. And because it influences how people structure longer search queries, we have more opportunities to incorporate cognitive biases into our SEO strategies.

      User behavior is often influenced by cognitive biases. Sussman said content and SEO specialists must consider these biases to craft content that resonates with their audience’s preconceived notions and expectations. Incorporating diverse perspectives and authentic subject matter expertise can also help provide more comprehensive information.

      Thinking about the psychology of how people search for information applies to how they consume information, too. Don’t stress about incorporating a ton of internal links into a piece of content just to check that box. Instead, think about how, when and why a user would want to dig deeper into the topic or a related topic. Let that decide which links to include and where to put them.

      4. Add user-generated content to your SEO toolbox.

      Online forums (think Quora and Reddit) can be valuable sources of information and insights because they’re fueled by people-first intent and lived experiences. Forums are a historic record of human interaction and opinions. Put another way, they’re a library of human-centric perspectives often lacking in AI-generated content. MozCon speaker Crystal Carter, who spoke about leveraging UGC to guide SEO and content marketing efforts, said studying forum discussions today can help us understand Gemini and AI Overviews tomorrow.

      Unconvinced? Consider that E-E-A-T, or expertise, experience, authoritativeness, trustworthiness, is a key factor in Google’s search algorithms. And UGC is E-E-A-T in real time.

      The state of SEO in 2024 is thrilling at best and turbulent at worst. But by focusing on the fundamentals, following tech updates and — perhaps most important — resisting the urge to launch into full-fledged panic mode, marketers can rise above the noise. As I urged recently in a post about Google’s AI Overviews (formerly known as Search Generative Experience), continue to lean into what makes your brand unique. Tell the stories that matter to your audience in a way no other brand can. And if you need a navigator for the complex road ahead, send us a note.

      Explore more articles from Wray Ward.