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How to Make the Most of MozCon (and Stay Motivated Once it’s Over)

How to Make the Most of MozCon (and Stay Motivated Once it’s Over)

Posted by Kirsten_Barkved

Show of hands if the following scenario has ever happened to you:

You make it to a conference. You sit through three to four days of amazing content, network like a boss, fill up on coffee and donuts, and cover page after page of notes â€” your wrist is dangerously close to being diagnosed with carpal tunnel. The energy in the room is contagious and everyone leaves the conference with the promise of new strategies, connections, and ideas that have the possibility to transform the way you think about business.

Photo credit: Turk Photos

At least, that’s the dream. The reality? Once the conference is over, you’re back to the grind, no longer surrounded by that vibrant “we can do anything” energy that had you so inspired and hyped just days before. The buzz is now a dull hum. Your notebook is full of scribbles that you can no longer decipher, and you have a daunting to-do list to catch up on while you nurse a sugar hangover from eating three-days worth of donuts.

You’ve lost the fire. The conference motivation is gone. You, my friend, have the post-conference scaries.

With MozCon fast approaching, the excitement is building. But so is the anxiety: you know there’s going to be a ton of insightful talks and takeaways to write home about — how do you keep all that goodness going after MozCon?

We’ve all been there! And we want to make sure you’re set up for success. So myself and our Subject Matter Experts whipped up an extensive and effective guide to ensure you can put all the goodness you’ve absorbed at MozCon to work straight away. Read on to see what Britney MullerRob Bucci, Cyrus ShepardDr. Pete, and Miriam Ellis have to offer!

Get your tickets before they’re gone!

Before you head to MozCon, though, make sure you do these things first

We know this isn’t your first rodeo. But on the off chance that it is, or if you need a reminder before you set foot in MozCon, make like the Boy Scouts of America: Be prepared.

Because I’m a keener (remind me to tell you about the time I waited for 24 hours to be first in line for The Fellowship of the Ring movie) with a tendency to overprepare (remind me also to tell you about my first day of school where I packed all my favorite Nancy Drews, my best pencil crayons, a raincoat, and a pair of extra socks), I spend quite a chunk of time ensuring I have everything I need before an event. 

You don’t need to be as prepared as my eight-year-old self, but here’s a brief checklist of things to do before you pack your bags and set sail for MozCon:

  • Study the agenda — You’ve likely already glanced at who’s speaking. Take another skim to get an idea of who is speaking and what topics will fulfill an educational gap. Even if a topic isn’t related to your area of work, it’s still worthwhile to listen — who knows what you’ll uncover. 
  • Set goals for what you’d like to learn — Whatever your game plan looks like, flesh it out to flesh out. Show up ready to learn.
  • Prepare your note-taking tools — There is no such thing as too many pens, not at a conference like MozCon. You’ll be taking a ton of notes, so prepare your note-taking tools, whatever they may be — charge your laptop or tablets, pack a spare notebook and some well-inked pens, or practice your telepathy if you plan on sending takeaways to your team via your mind.
  • Subscribe to the Moz blog — We have oodles of content for you to sink your teeth into and there’s something for everyone, from basic SEO to local search to the nitty-gritty technical. Plus, we’ll be doing conference recaps after each day, so even if you couldn’t make it this year, you’ll get all the juicy details straight to your inbox when you subscribe.
  • Make connections â€” There is ample opportunity at MozCon to network and meet new people but it never hurts to get a lay of the digital land before you step foot in Seattle. Follow the hashtag #mozcon on Twitter to stay up to date with MozCon goers and ask important questions of our speakers, like this:

You can also join the Facebook group to find out when people are arriving and pop in on conversations to get your name and face out there. If you know of people you want to reconnect that will be attending, now is a good idea to reach out and reconnect. Set up a time to chat over a coffee or maybe make plans to sit together at our Birds of Feather table.

At the conference

It’s Day One of MozCon and you’ve successfully found the coffee. Now what?

Attend every session…

And we mean every. Single. Session. 

The great thing about MozCon is that it’s a single track session, so you don’t have to pick one talk over another. That also means, though, that the temptation can be high for skipping one or two. 

“It may be tempting to sleep in on a morning session, but so much magic happens when you aren’t there. You never know what nuggets of insight you’ll miss.” — Cyrus Shepard

“I often find I have some of my best ideas at conferences, even if they’re not related to anything the speaker is talking about. Capture those ideas, too, and add them to your action plan.” — Dr. Pete

…But don’t be afraid to mingle in-between sessions

“Take breaks if you feel like it and spend some time meeting people out in the lobby. New MozCon friends can help hold each other accountable after the conference. I’ve met some of my closest industry friends in the lobby of conferences during a session — hi, Cyrus!” — Britney Muller

Remember what you learn

There’s a lot of information to digest and chances are that your hurried note-taking isn’t going to make a ton of sense once the MozCon high is over. To make deciphering your notes easier once you’re back at the office, add three key takeaways or any follow up you want to do on the topic after each session.

You can also create a page dedicated to takeaways that you think are worthy. While I’m definitely taking notes during each session, I reserve a separate page for any ideas, theories, or strategies that I think are valuable to explore.

Make sure you’re keeping your goals in mind, too. If you had planned on learning new things at MozCon, keep your ears open for any topics that piqued your interest.

“Write down at least one topic that grabbed your interest but that you felt could be studied further and commit to doing that study at your business and publishing your findings. Don’t forget to ping the original presenter when you do, letting them know their talk inspired your further investigation.” — Miriam Ellis

“At the end of each conference day, I also like to schedule emails to myself (a few weeks out) as reminders to attempt the things I learned about that day.” — Britney Muller

Keep tabs on live tweeters

MozCon has some pretty prolific live tweeters that know just how to distill all the right takeaways into 280 characters (which, IMO, is quite a feat). Some of our past MozCon live-tweeters have included: 

You can also keep up with the conference goers by following the conference hashtag, #mozcon.

“Also, follow Cyrus Shepard on Twitter and do everything he says!” — Britney Muller

Take note of any free templates, tools, or spreadsheets

Much like parents who want nothing but the best from you (and also to sometimes show off your life successes on the family fridge), the speakers want you to excel in life after MozCon. Which is why you’re bound to find a plethora of downloadable templates and spreadsheets during their talk. Take note of any that you’d like to try back at the office. Make sure to also follow the speakers on Twitter for any updates or insider tips on how to make the most of their new resources.

Download the talks

I’m sure you already know, but on the off chance you didn’t know, you’ll be able to download all the speaker’s slide decks once their talks are over. So if there was something you missed, wanted to share with the team at home base, or needed clarification on, you can do so with one click of a button once they’re available.

After the conference

Write about it

I know the last thing you want to do right after three days of learning and writing is to go and do more writing. But Future You will be so happy that Past You did this one thing. 

The second you’re done MozCon-ing, write everything down. Get it all out of your brain and onto paper. Because otherwise, you’ll forget why you underlined a word or phrase three times or the cool new project ideas you had while chatting at dinner. You won’t mean to, obviously. It’s just one of those unfortunate facts of life. Kind of like drifting off to sleep with a really great idea for a band name — you’ll tuck it away in a pocket of your brain, certain you won’t forget about it in the morning. But you will. And the world will never know of They Might Be Little Pigeons

So, write everything down the second you can.

“I’m one of those people who takes notes like, “Cheese fritters + SEO = YES!” and am very excited about it and have no idea what it meant a week later. So: Re-copy your notes or write a summary, ASAP, while it’s still fresh in your mind— even if it’s on the flight home.” — Dr. Pete

Schedule thinking time

The first week back at the office, block out some time in your calendar to percolate over what you learned at MozCon. I can’t stress this one enough: When we get back into the real world, we dive right into our list of to-dos, at home and at work. And the longer we delay the thinking and brainstorming process, the bigger the chance we’ll lose motivation or get bogged down by more projects. 

Carve out some thinking time for yourself in your calendar the second you’re back at your desk to ask yourself some questions:

  • What really stood out for me?
  • What do I want to apply right away?
  • What is going to be effective short term vs. long term?

I like to ideate to-do lists from these questions — maybe that’s a follow-up email with the speaker or a task to read further resources from their talk. Or maybe it’s to set up a meeting with my team to try out a new strategy. The point is: if I take this time now to marinate, the better chance I have of helping out future me — and future me really appreciates that.

“It’s so easy to go from hundreds of ideas to doing nothing concrete, and as soon as you return to your desk, you’re going to be buried in emails and requests. Commit to something actionable before you open up your inbox.” — Dr. Pete

Review your action items

Now that you’ve done your big thinking, it’s time to turn those takeaways and actions items into, well, action. 

Think back to the goals you outlined before you set foot inside MozCon — did you meet any of them? How well did the topics address your questions? And how will you apply your action items? When I’m looking over my notes for any new ideas we can execute on, I like to make a table with two columns: 1) Things that we don’t do but could and 2) Things we’re currently doing but could be doing better.

Got a lot of action items and feel a tad overwhelmed? Just remember: If you apply just one action item a week, even if it’s small, that’s still fifty small changes you’ve made in one year. And they can all add up to one big change.

You’ll want to prioritize them like so:

  • Strategic initiatives to implement right away
  • Processes you can improve
  • Areas for future learning

“A week after the conference, review your “action items” — either by yourself or with your team. Prepare a presentation for the top things you learned and share with any team members that didn’t attend.” — Cyrus Shepard

“Pin yourself down to three specific to-dos for the month after the conference.” — Dr. Pete

Stay inspired

Remember that anything in life worth having (relationships, bangs, product launches, puzzles) requires more than just an idea — it takes time and work. Rather than let all that enthusiasm you had at MozCon fade away, keep the momentum going by reading and learning new things. A good place to start is by subscribing to daily industry reads that can fuel your inspiration. Here is just a sampling to get you started: 

“Having a go-to list of daily industry reads is a really good way to keep the sense of inspiration up.” â€” Rob Bucci

Use your connections

What good was all that networking if you don’t put it to use — especially if, like me, you’re a Level-12 Introvert?

Make sure all those hard-earned connections don’t go to waste. Chances are, if you saw them at MozCon, you’ll be seeing them at the same tracks and conferences, so it’d be good to set some sort of foundation

All it takes is a LinkedIn message or an email. And they’ll appreciate you following up — bonus points if you make it personal. I’ve made several follow up emails after conferences and almost all blossomed into successful working relationships thanks in large part to emails that began as though we were continuing the conversation we had at MozCon. It doesn’t have to be the same as “Hi, how’s your dog, is she still afraid of traffic cones?,” but a nice “Hi, how is life after MozCon — are you settling back into the 9-5, yet?” goes a long way.

“It’s great to collect business cards, but it’s better to form life-long relationships. If you haven’t connected with those you met at MozCon, now is the time to do so. At a minimum, email everyone you enjoyed meeting with and let them know that you can be a resource for them.” — Cyrus Shepard

Takeaways

MozCon only comes once a year — like International Pancake Day or 7-11’s Free Slurpee Day â€” so make sure you’re prepared so you can keep that MozCon fire burning all year round.

Grab my MozCon ticket now!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

New Things I’ve Learned About Google Review Likes

New Things I’ve Learned About Google Review Likes

Posted by MiriamEllis

Last time I counted, there were upwards of 35 components to a single Google Business Profile (GBP). Hotel panels, in and of themselves, are enough to make one squeal, but even on a more “typical” GPB, it’s easy to overlook some low-lying features. Often, you may simply ignore them until life makes you engage.

A few weeks ago, a local SEO came to me with a curious real-life anecdote, in which a client was pressuring the agency to have all their staff hit the “like” button on all of the brand’s positive Google reviews. Presumably, the client felt this would help their business in some manner. More on the nitty-gritty of this scenario later, but at first, it made me face that I’d set this whole GBP feature to one side of my brain as not terribly important.

Fast forward a bit, and I’ve now spent a couple of days looking more closely at the review like button, its uses, abuses, and industry opinions about it. I’ve done a very small study, conducted a poll, and spoken to three different Google reps. Now, I’m ready to share what I’ve learned with you.

Wait, what is the “like” button?

Crash course: Rolled out in 2016, this simple function allows anyone logged into a Google account to thumbs-up any review they like. There is no opposite thumbs-down function. From the same account, you can only thumb up a single review once. Hitting the button twice simply reverses the “liking” action. Google doesn’t prevent anyone from hitting the button, including owners of the business being reviewed.

At a glance, do Google review likes influence anything?

My teammate, Kameron Jenkins, and I plugged 20 totally random local businesses into a spreadsheet, with 60 total reviews being highlighted on the front interface of the GBP. Google highlights just three reviews on the GBP and I wanted to know two things:

  1. How many businesses out of twenty had a liked review anywhere in their corpus
  2. Did the presence of likes appear to be impacting which reviews Google was highlighting on the front of the GBP?

The study was very small, and should certainly be expanded on, but here’s what I saw:

60 percent of the brands had earned at least one like somewhere in their review corpus.

15 percent of the time, Google highlighted only reviews with zero likes, even when a business had liked reviews elsewhere in its corpus. But, 85 percent of the time, if a business had some likes, at least one liked review was making it to the front of the GBP.

At a glance, I’d say it looks like a brand’s liked reviews may have an advantage when it comes to which sentiment Google highlights. This can be either a positive or negative scenario, depending on whether the reviews that get thumbed up on your listing are your positive or negative reviews.

And that leads us to…

Google’s guidelines for the use of the review likes function

But don’t get too excited, because it turns out, no such guidelines exist. Though it’s been three years since Google debuted this potentially-influential feature, I’ve confirmed with them that nothing has actually been published about what you should and shouldn’t do with this capability. If that seems like an open invitation to spam, I hear you!

So, since there were no official rules, I had to hunt for the next best thing. I was thinking about that SEO agency with the client wanting to pay them to thumb up reviews when I decided to take a Twitter poll. I asked my followers:

Unsurprisingly, given the lack of guidelines, 15 percent of 111 respondents had no idea whether it would be fishy to employ staff or markers to thumb up brand reviews. The dominant 53 percent felt it would be totally fine, but a staunch 32 percent called it spam. The latter group added additional thoughts like these:

I want to thank Tess Voecks, Gyi Tsakalakis, and everyone else for taking the poll. And I think the disagreement in it is especially interesting when we look at what happens next.

After polling the industry, I contacted three forms of Google support: phone, chat, and Twitter. If you found it curious that SEOs might disagree about whether or not paying for review likes is spam, I’m sorry to tell you that Google’s own staff doesn’t have brand-wide consensus on this either. In three parts:

1. The Google phone rep was initially unfamiliar with what the like button is. I explained it to her. First, I asked if it was okay for the business owner to hit the like button on the brand’s reviews, she confirmed that it’s fine to do that. This didn’t surprise me. But, when I asked the question about paying people to take such actions, she replied (I paraphrase):

“If a review is being liked by people apart from the owner, it’s not considered as spam.”

“What if the business owner is paying people, like staff or marketers, to like their reviews,” I asked.

“No, it’s not considered spam.”

“Not even then?”

“No,” she said.

2. Next, here’s a screenshot of my chat with a Google rep:

The final response actually amused me (i.e. yeah, go ahead and do that if you want to, but I wouldn’t do it if I were you).

3. Finally, I spoke with Google’s Twitter support, which I always find helpful:

To sum up, we had one Google rep tell is it would be fine and dandy to pay people to thumb up reviews (uh-oh!), but the other two warned against doing this. We’ll go with majority rule here and try to cobble together our own guidelines, in the absence of public ones.

My guidelines for use of the review likes function

Going forward with what we’ve learned, here’s what I would recommend:

  1. As a business owner, if you receive a review you appreciate, definitely go ahead and thumb it up. It may have some influence on what makes it to the highly-visible “front” of your Google Business Profile, and, even if not, it’s a way of saying “thank you” to the customer when you’re also writing your owner response. So, a nice review comes in, respond with thanks and hit the like button. End of story.
  2. Don’t tell anyone in your employ to thumb up your brand’s reviews. That means staff, marketers, and dependents to whom you pay allowance. Two-thirds of Google reps agree this would be spam, and 32 percent of respondents to my poll got it right about this. Buying likes is almost as sad a strategy as buying reviews. You could get caught and damage the very reputation you are hoping to build. It’s just not worth the risk.
  3. While we’re on the subject, avoid the temptation to thumbs-up your competitors’ negative reviews in hopes of getting them to surface on GBPs. Let’s just not go there. I didn’t ask Google specifically about this, but can’t you just see some unscrupulous party deciding this is clever?
  4. If you suspect someone is artificially inflating review likes on positive or negative reviews, the Twitter Google rep suggests flagging the review. So, this is a step you can take, though my confidence in Google taking action on such measures is not high. But, you could try.

How big of a priority should review likes be for local brands?

In the grand scheme of things, I’d put this low on the scale of local search marketing initiatives. As I mentioned, I’d given only a passing glance at this function over the past few years until I was confronted with the fact that people were trying to spam their way to purchased glory with it.

If reputation is a major focus for your brand (and it should be!) I’d invest more resources into creating excellent in-store experiences, review acquisition and management, and sentiment analysis than I would in worrying too much about those little thumbs. But, if you have some time to spare on a deep rep dive, it could be interesting to see if you can analyze why some types of your brand’s reviews get likes and if there’s anything you can do to build on that. I can also see showing positive reviewers that you reward their nice feedback with likes, if for no other reason than a sign of engagement.

What’s your take? Do you know anything about review likes that I should know? Please, share in the comments, and you know what I’ll do if you share a good tip? I’ll thumb up your reply!

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Google Probably Won’t Be Turning Off Any Other Search Console Features

Google Probably Won’t Be Turning Off Any Other Search Console Features

Google’s John Mueller hinted this morning that no additional legacy Google Search Console features will be turned off. He said “If we thought it wasn’t important, we would have turned it off already.” That kind of implies that the remaining features that are in the old Search Console will some how, in some way, be migrated to the new Search Console.

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