Hundreds of attendees from all over the country gathered at this year’s MnSearch Summit to learn from experts speaking on three different tracks: SEO, PPC and Cross-Channel.

Industry experts included John Mueller, Mike King, Ian Lurie, Kevin Indig and many more search marketing thought leaders.

We compiled 13 highlights from some truly awesome sessions. Here are our key takeaways:

Cindy Krum – Analytics & Mobile First Indexing

Cindy Krum, founder and CEO of MobileMoxie and the conference’s opening keynote speaker, shares her thoughts on the secret mobile data your analytics aren’t giving you.

1. News flash: Desktop & Mobile SERPs Are Not the Same

She started off with a couple fun facts about the differences between the mobile and desktop search landscapes:

  • 31% of desktop search results are not visible in the mobile SERPs
  • 11% of URLs keep their positions in both SERPs
  • 61.5% of mobile searches result in zero clicks vs 34.4% on desktop (à la Rand Fishkin)

Her advice to search marketers: When it comes to analytics, don’t bury your heads in the sand. If there’s a sudden fluctuation in organic traffic that can’t be explained by ranking positions, turn to the mobile SERPs:

  • Did the average number of featured snippets for your keywords increase?
  • Is the traffic drop attributable to a decrease in mobile CTR or an increase in paid CTR?
  • Did top keywords drop in search volume?

When it comes to the pressing analytics questions you should be asking yourself, consider mobile a priority.

“Technology changes, and we can’t go backwards. You have to change your game because the game has changed.”

Ian Lurie – Advanced SEO

Ian Lurie, founder of Seattle-based digital marketing agency Portent, shared his experience on advanced SEO with a delightfully sassy delivery.

Here are some of his tips on how marketers can skip the BS, and focus on what makes sense:

2. Use Screaming Frog’s Log File Analyser & Crawl Analysis Configuration

Lurie suggests using Screaming Frog’s Log File Analyser to provide a fast look at crawler behavior to immediately see how things have changed.

Check out his post for more details: portent.co/seo-logs

Screaming Frog’s Crawl Analysis Configuration can also help you revamp your site’s navigation to increase structural authority.

His pro tip: take a closer look at the footer navigation. Many times, businesses have unnecessary links that could be consolidated under one, effectively removing several links from every page of your site.

Take an especially close look if you have several links to “Our Company” pages. In Lurie’s words, nobody cares about those. Consolidate the heck out of ’em.

3. Algorithm Updates Are Not Penalties

To which we say, preach. Lurie admits that in his many years of SEO, he’s only seen five actual penalties from Google.

“Algorithmic loss of traffic is not a penalty, because SEO is not about penalties. It is a list of little things that are simple but not easy.”

He used Daily Mail’s 50% organic traffic loss in the June 3 update as an example. If you’re curious, just take a look at their site index on Google:

daily mail site index

Lurie uses this to prove his point: sites aren’t being randomly penalized – a flagrant lack of SEO best practices will generally result in poor performance in an algorithm update.

4. Look at the SERPs to Determine Intent (It’s Really Not That Hard)

Traditional keyword research tools show volume and related keywords, but that doesn’t help you determine user intent.

The SERPs will tell you all you need to know about intent. What looks like the perfect keyword for your company’s newest product page may produce a slew of articles or roundup posts – not what your company is creating.

You can’t know if you don’t look. Take the extra 60 seconds to save yourself the time and disappointment when your page just won’t rank.

5. Ecommerce Sites Should Prioritize Informational Content

Transactional and informational intent often play in the same playground. If you’re an ecommerce site, take advantage of the mixed SERPs and write about how to pick the right product that your target keyword is focused on.

Offer free information and your product may be a natural next step as a solution.

Jon Mueller – Q&A

John Mueller, well-known Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, spoke about recent and future Google trends and finished with a Q&A.

6. Avoid Separate Mobile URLs

When it comes to m-dot, just say no. However, Mueller does say they will continue to work. But frankly, if a Google Trends Analyst suggests not to do something, it might be a good idea to take that recommendation.

7. Make Way for High-Resolution Image Structured Data

In the future, Mueller said we can expect to see Google rolling out structured data that will allow them to pull your images in a higher resolution.

Considering that high-quality images at least 1,200 px wide are one of the two major factors in which pages get ranked in Discover, we can expect that this markup won’t be too far off.

8. Don’t Neglect Image Optimization

Google understands that the rise of Pinterest and Instagram shows that users are interacting with content in a highly-visual way.

“It’s easy to miss the connection to what the next generation is doing when we’re so busy focusing on keywords and blue links.”

Mueller said it wouldn’t surprise him if searches start becoming more visual, and searchers go to sites based on how high-quality and relevant their images are.

Marketers should keep this in mind as the search landscape continues to become more visual, and keep up-to-date with image optimization opportunities.

Q&A

Q: Will there be any future distinction between clicks on snippets vs blue links?

  • Mueller: Google could feasibly do this, but they don’t currently know.

Q: Will the indexing API be released soon to different verticals other than pages with job posting and livestream structured data?

  • Mueller: Google does not know when it will. They know it works really well for jobs, especially when deleting positions. Mainly, they have to ensure their technology is working well enough to justify rolling it out for other verticals.

Q: How long will it take for SEOs to ruin FAQ markup?

  • Mueller: Rich snippets won’t show up in the cases where they don’t make sense – SEOs won’t ruin it, basically they just will be completely ignored. It’s important to determine what you want to get out of the opportunity.

Kevin Indig – Microsites

Kevin Indig, VP of Content & SEO at G2, offered his take on why blogs are the wrong approach to grow relevance and authority in the content space. Instead, he suggests using microsites.

9. Use Microsites as Content Hubs to Drive Organic Traffic

The search landscape is oversaturated. We know this. Indig emphasized how much every piece of content counts, and we better make sure it’s high-quality.

Microsites, which can also be thought of as content hubs, are completely aligned for a specific topic. They’re sequential – they guide users content by content through the user journey.

Example: hotjar.com/grow-your-saas-startup/

Hotjar’s microsite focuses on the broad topic of how to grow a SAAS startup. This microsite includes sections like:

  • /product-positioning-and-branding
  • /operations
  • /hiring

All of these pages speak to the relevance of the first page, and the content structure is easy for both search engines and users to understand.

You, too, can create your own content hub. Indig shares 9 steps to develop your own microsite strategy:

  1. Identify the problem
  2. List solutions
  3. Create how to’s
  4. Help users compare products
  5. Define conversion touch points
  6. Choose the right format
  7. Select the main query
  8. Map to URLs
  9. Create and launch

I was curious about the CTAs on these microsite pages, so I asked what Indig recommends linking to from each page.

Indig suggested putting a set CTA on every page of the microsite and testing everything from location to copy. Then, test which pages your CTA has the highest conversions on. Test different CTAs until you find the right fit.

“With Google taking more and more from the SERPs, we need to be smart about the structure we use for our own content.”

Word, dude.

Dana DiTomaso – Better Reporting for Greater Success

Dana DiTomaso, President & Partner at Kick Point and the second keynote speaker, talks about the pitfalls of modern reporting and offered some tips on how to make better reports. Here’s one of our favorites:

10. Calculated Fields & Google Data Studio

Google Data Studio helps you turn your data into easy-to-read, comprehensive reports and dashboards.

But did you know: you can make your reports even easier for your clients using calculated fields to add unique perks (like hyperlinking your landing pages in the report).

See DiTomaso’s Whiteboard Friday on the topic for more details.

Mike King – Technical Content Optimization

Mike King, Founder & Managing Director of iPullRank and the final keynote speaker of the Summit, opened up our minds to his take on technical content optimization. Here are a few (of the many) great things he shared:

11. A/B Test Your Metadata

Google has an expected CTR for ads – so it stands to reason they could have the same for organic results.

King encouraged the audience to consider A/B testing our title tags and meta descriptions. We test everything else, why do we skip this step? He has a point.

12. Understand Semantic SEO to Develop More Optimized Content

We’ve been told to make great content (over and over again). King talks about what “great content” means to a search engine.

Essentially, search engines use statistical expectations to determine semantics and guess what’s going to be the next word in a given sentence.

For example, in an article on how to make coffee, you can expect to find the words:

  • beans
  • brew
  • water
  • mug
  • filter

The exclusion of these words from an article about coffee would indicate a lack of relevance.

This is why SEOs should focus on targeting topics, not keywords, within their content. King suggests using Ryte’s TF-IDF tool or SEMrush’s SEO writing assistant to identify semantic terms for a given keyword.

13. AI-driven content marketing is here

No, this isn’t a Black Mirror episode. This AI-generated marketing blog, cheekily referred to as This Marketing Blog Does Not Exist, is entirely written by natural language processing – even its author images are generated.

The progression of machine learning means we’ll likely see more and more computer-generated content, and in some cases, this writing may even be equal to a human’s.

At the end of the presentation, an attendee asked if using all this semantic language would cause articles to lose individuality. King had a mic-drop response:

“SEO is like poetry. In a haiku, you have to use 5-7-5. Just because there’s a set structure, doesn’t mean you can’t have a distinct voice. These constraints can actually help you be more creative.”

My hot take? One thing machines will never be able to do is tell stories. While that remains true, humans will always have a place in content writing.

MnSearch Summit 2019: A Great Success

All in all, this year’s Summit was jam-packed with informative search marketing tips and trends. We definitely learned a thing or two, and we hope this article helped you do the same.