A Reflection on MozCon 2014

“These have to be some of the smartest people in the world…”

That’s what I muttered to myself as I exited the Washington State Convention Center at the end of the conference’s first day. MozCon, the annual conference put on by the Seattle-based company Moz, lines up keynote speaker after keynote speaker (about 8-10 per day) for three days. There are no break-out sessions, there are no elective tracks. Just a couple dozen of the best and brightest stars in the digital marketing solar system.

This was my first in-person exposure to other digital marketing professionals outside of Evansville. I was familiar with some of the names on the docket from their appearances on Moz’s weekly web video series, White Board Friday, but I had no idea that they would be just the tip of the iceberg.

Zac and Roger at MozCon 2014

Moz brought together experts in search engine optimization, web analytics, public relations, online content creation, video production, and more. The technical and philosophical approaches and best practices for this still-growing industry were put on display with an openness and spirit of sharing that I truly did not expect.

Digital Marketing Expertise

If there were any secret sauces to what these subject matter experts were cooking with, they had no qualms with sharing all of them with the 1,300+ of us who were in Seattle to improve our own digital marketing recipes.

MozCon Auditorium

That was never more evident than with the last speaker of the first day, Mr. Mike King (@ipullrank). His presentation about how to aggregate and analyze the digital fingerprints of customers exploring different digital properties was a revelation. Instead of looking at all of the big data out there as something to fear (Hi NSA!), Mike made a compelling argument that we could flip the script and instead use this data to make better experiences for customers using our websites, apps, and custom software.

But it wasn’t just that Mike wanted to inspire us to figure out ways to use this data. He provided resource after resource after resource that we could utilize to do everything that he was doing, and maybe even more. After giving us this extensive list of resources, he asked (somewhat rhetorically):

“Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a tool that could do all of these things?”

Knowing that he was in front of the perfect audience to help him test out the functionality of a software like this, Mike announced that it would be free for the first 1,000 users to help him work out the bugs. Of course, I signed up online before I even left the building. (Depending on when you’re reading this, you might be able to as well.)

Only the beginning…

It was with this taste in my mouth that I uttered the “smartest people in the world” comment. Little did I know that I would spend the next 7 hours meeting software founders, Fortune 100 digital marketing directors, video production gurus, and others who would continue to expand my understanding of what is possible in this space.

It would be definitely impractical and possibly impossible for me to recap everything from every amazing presenter. But a special highlight for me was the opportunity to listen to Google Analytics Evangelist (his real title) Justin Cutroni (@justincutroni). We are kind of obsessed with Google Analytics here, so I knew that this would be something very special.

Justin Cutroni

Justin Cutroni speaking at MozCon 2014

I was not disappointed. Justin argued that some of the basic measurements that marketers use don’t accurately represent the actual behaviors of users that would actually be useful to improve things. Specifically, he showed us how we can insert code into our websites that will let us know if a visitor actually scrolls down to read longer content (like you have been doing just now) instead of just measuring if the page was loaded or not. You better believe that we will start implementing this for our optimization clients whom we are blogging for. 🙂

Truly, the amount of notes that I wrote down for the entire conference exceeded that of any other conference that I have ever attended. I can’t wait to see how our amazing team is going to roll with all of this information and strategy that we can use to improve our services for our customers.

All work and no play…

…makes Zac a dull boy.

We played hard each night as well. With an organized pub crawl on Monday night and a Bowling/Billiards/Karaoke party on Tuesday night, I was able to get to know a bunch of impressive, talented people in a different context, including this guy:

Justin Cutroni (L) | Zac Parsons (R)

Justin Cutroni and Zac Parsons

While I didn’t want to spend all night on my phone snapping pictures and taking video, I did manage to record a video of a giant game of Jenga during the pub crawl:

While I didn’t manage to get a shot of the grand Jenga finale, let me just tell you that it was spectacular. Big thanks go out to the team at UnBounce for sponsoring our evening at Capital Cider.

The Best Part of MozCon

It’s difficult for me to decide on what the most valuable part of the MozCon experience was for me. But if I had to choose one aspect, I would probably say that it was getting to connect with successful digital marketing professionals in person, whom I had previously just admired from afar. It’s easy to look at someone who is playing at the top of their game and think: “How can I do that?” But meeting and interacting with these folks gave me more inspiration than intimidation. Even though they are some of the smartest people in the world, I felt empowered by them. I felt that they wanted me to learn and grow in this field just as much as I want to.

Sarah and Rand at MozCon 2014

This happy shot of Moz CEO Sarah Bird and Moz Founder Rand Fishkin at my lunch table is proof of that.

You want a conference to help you to sharpen your tools, and it has definitely done that. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to take the rest of our digital marketing team with me.

And with that, I have a clear goal to shoot for next year.

Please let me know if you have any specific or  general questions about MozCon that I can answer for you in the comments.