MozCon 2019: Everything You Need to Know About Day Three

If the last day of MozCon felt like it went too fast or if you forgot everything that happened today (we wouldn’t judge — there were so many insights), don’t fret. We captured all of day three’s takeaways so you could relive the magic of day three. 

Don’t forget to check out all the photos with Roger from the photobooth! They’re available here in the MozCon Facebook group. Plus: You asked and we delivered: the 2019 MozCon speaker walk-on playlist is now live and available here for your streaming pleasure. 

Cindy Krum— Fraggles, Mobile-First Indexing, & the SERP of the Future 

If you were hit with an instant wave of nostalgia after hearing Cindy’s walk out music, then you are in good company and you probably were not disappointed in the slightest by Cindy’s talk on Fraggles.

26.2 B2B Marathon Marketing Lessons

Collage of six images of marathon runners.

Collage of six images of marathon runners.

Racing a marathon and running a successful marketing campaign have a surprising number of similarities — in fact, here are 26.2 things they share in common, and the lessons they can teach us.

I’ve been running marathons since 1998 and working in digital communications and marketing since 1984 — two pursuits I’m passionate about that may initially seem quite dissimilar, but which really do have much in common when you begin to look closely.

The Importance of Pre-Race Planning

The marathon isn’t a race you want to run with no training or on a whim — and even if you did, the notoriously unforgiving distance has a way of giving runners back just what they put into it. Skimping on training usually spells disaster when it comes to marathon running.

Similarly, successful marketing is usually the result of putting in the necessary planning the way runners pack in the marathon training miles.

Let’s begin our 26.2 mile marketing marathon with our first steps and lesson number one.

Mile 1’s Lesson: Have a Great Training Plan

Marathon runners along canal image.

A time-tested training plan is a vital part of preparing for a marathon — whether it’s one of the popular multi-week plans from Hal Higdon, Pete Pfitzinger, J. Daniels, or a custom variation you’ve tailored to your own style of running.

Similarly in marketing, a proper and well thought-out plan is important when it comes to tackling any new campaign.

A good training plan in both running and marketing will help you get the most of our your race or campaign, starting out by setting benchmarks and goals to hit along the way as you build up to the big race or campaign launch.

In marathon running it’s often said there’s no substitute for getting in the miles, and with marketing too there’s no magical elixir or great secret about what needs to go into a top-caliber campaign, so it’s a matter of finding what works and making a concerted effort at every step of the journey.

A marathon training plan will usually cover the period of between eight and 16 weeks before your target race, and by analyzing how you handle the daily prescribed workouts, you’ll be able to gauge how prepared you are when race day comes around.

[bctt tweet=”“If the marathon if a part-time interest, you will only get part-time results.” — Bill Rodgers @BillRodgersRACE ” username=”toprank”]

In marketing, how detailed and dedicated you are in following the planning process will have a direct effect on what happens on the day of the big campaign launch.

The runners and coaches who’ve devised top marathon training plans are similar to the marketing industry pioneers, experts and influencers who we can look to for guidance when mapping out a big new B2B marketing initiative.

Both marathon training and marketing planning benefit from relationship building, as runners will want to forge relationships with other runners using the same training plan, or sometimes even the author of the plan themselves.

Similarly, marketers will want to interact and learn from as many of the experts as possible who have devoted their careers to the powerful marketing methods that go into creating a successful pre-launch campaign plan.

[bctt tweet=”“If you want your content to be great, ask influencers to participate.” — Lee Odden @LeeOdden” username=”toprank”]

The experience and credibility of the people you learn from and follow during both marathon training and marketing planning has a direct impact on how your training and campaigns will perform, so it’s important for runners to build relationships with people who have had marathon success.

For B2B marketers, it’s ideal to work with and learn from those who have planned and executed highly-successful and award-winning campaigns.

Congratulations! You’ve passed one of the biggest obstacles of running a marathon or creating a great marketing effort — getting started with those first steps. Let’s move on to another lesson as we reach mile two.

Mile 2’s Lesson: Know Your Running & Marketing Training Paces

Marathon training plans spell out the workouts that will best help prepare you for race day, with some days set aside for long runs, some for mid-speed tempo workouts, and others for faster interval repetition sessions.

Successful marketing plans also focus on specific aspects of bringing a campaign to the starting line, with preparations including the long-run equivalent of creating strong content or digital assets, a tempo-like initiative of finding and working with the right industry experts, and an interval-like burst of effort to plan for both organic and paid promotion.

[bctt tweet=”It’s easy to get excited about a big name or an influencer with a large following, but neither of those will necessarily translate to your ultimate goal of delivering results to your organization. @martinjonesaz” username=”toprank”]

Well done! You’re already approaching mile three and a new running and marketing lesson.

Mile 3’s Lesson: Warm Up Before Running or Marketing

Marathon runners image.

Especially at the top level of marathon running, a carefully planned pre-race warm-up is an important part of training, and chronologically the last piece of the puzzle before the starting gun goes off.

Elite marathoners work hard to keep their body at an optimal temperature up to the last possible moment, and during the 15 minutes before race time you’ll find them running their warm-up routines.

For top marketing performance, before a campaign begins it’s not the physical warm-up routine that will help during an imminent launch, but the psychological boost that comes from having reviewed all of the planning you and your team have done, and ensuring that you’re in the most positive state of mind when launch time arrives.

The Right Race Equipment & Marketing Tools

Marketers and runners both need equipment to have the best performance possible, so let’s take a look at some of the lessons we can learn from our running and marketing equipment, as we move along to mile four.

Mile 4’s Lesson: The Shoe Hits the Pavement

For 99.9 percent of marathon runners — unless you’re Abebe Bikila who won gold sans shoes at the 1960 Olympics — wearing the right shoes will be an important part of your training and racing.

The time to learn which shoe works best for your feet is during training, keeping in mind that you should never allow yourself to make the rookie mistake of wearing brand new shoes on race day, even if they’re the same model you’ve used in your marathon build-up. Slight construction variations in shoes, along with wear patterns specific to your foot strike, mean that you should always race in a shoe you’ve trained in for at least a week or more.

The marketing tactics you’ll use in your campaigns represent similar important choices, and you won’t want to be trying unplanned and untested methods once your big campaign has launched — the time to test them is during your pre-launch planning phases.

Test your marketing tools and services on example campaigns, and use your team to uncover any shortcomings in the lead-up to launch, rather than in the days after your effort has gone live.

What’s that ahead — can it be the five mile marker already?

Mile 5’s Lesson: Wear Comfortable Shorts

Marathon runners on bridge image.

Finding the perfect running shorts for your marathon is another seemingly insignificant equipment choice that can have a surprising impact on the outcome of your race.

Shorts that have too many seams or other uncomfortable construction methods are likely to make you more and more uncomfortable as the miles go by.

As with shoes, the time to try out different shorts is in the weeks and months before your race, so resist the temptation to race in those flashy new shorts you just got at the marathon expo the day before the race.

Marketers too need to find the methods that work best for them over the long haul of a modern digital marketing campaign — one that is likely to last substantially longer than even an ultra-marathon.

Try to find and use the marketing solutions that augment and work alongside your strengths, and hold off on those that just aren’t in-line with the way you and your team work, or your desired campaign goals.

Mile 6’s Lesson: Use Tried & True Socks & Techniques

You might think that something like the choice of which socks to wear — or whether to wear any at all — during a marathon is insignificant, however in distance running as well as in marketing, even the smallest details can over time and miles add up to being either great assets, or debilitating troubles.

Race in socks you know well from training, with the right amount of padding, wicking abilities, and other performance features for your needs.

Similarly with marketing, don’t neglect the small details with campaign components such as proof-reading, testing, private trial runs to gather feedback, and other aspects of strong project management that your competitors may be skipping over.

Mile 7’s Lesson: Wear a Race-Worthy Singlet

The shirt or singlet you race your marathon in should be comfortable, with a minimal number of potentially abrasion-causing seams, made from modern wicking materials, and since it’s such a visible part of your race-day gear, you may want to choose one that speaks to your own personal fashion style.

Elite marathoners are usually required to wear the singlet featuring their sponsors’ logos, but at all other levels you’ll have great freedom to choose in this area.

Some runners use an easy trick to give themselves a small but powerful edge during the marathon: simply use a permanent marker to write your name on the front of your singlet. I did this one year running Grandma’s Marathon in my hometown of Duluth, Minnesota, and I got more encouragement from supporters lined up to watch the race than I’d had in all my previous marathons combined.

In marketing, how you package your campaign is similar to the choice of which singlet to wear. Certain B2B campaigns will require you to use very specific sponsorship images and messaging, while other campaigns will allow you to have nearly free reign over how your efforts will look when entering the digital world, whether it’s social media video and messaging, paid search advertising, or the new audio branding possible with podcast marketing.

Mile 8’s Lesson: Utilize Timing Chip & Marketing Tech

When I first started running marathons in 1998, the ones I ran hadn’t yet adopted timing chip technology, where a small plastic clip containing an RFID chip is attached to a shoe, but not long after that nearly every marathon was using them, making it easy to record official times at checkpoints along the marathon course, and also helping family and friends wanting to track a racer’s progress during the marathon.

In many marketing campaigns, making it easy for customers and fans to share your digital asset and messages is also important — whether it’s a full-blown interactive big top experience like the one we recently launched for Content Marketing World — or a more traditional blog article or infographic.

Check out the full interactive experience by clicking on the image below:

Well done, marketers — the nine-mile marker is already in sight ahead!

Mile 9’s Lesson: Energize Along the Way

Fueling before, during, and after a marathon is an important piece of the racing puzzle, and also one you’ll want to work out and master before race day comes around.

Smart marathoners know which variety of energy gel or bars will be available at the aid stations along the course, and will either learn to run fueled by them during training, bring along their own favorite racing energy food sources, or have family and friends positioned on the course to have them ready.

A savvy marketing effort will also benefit from having pre-planned boosts of digital energy to invigorate and re-fuel a campaign as it progresses, which can come in the form of:

  • Daily or weekly social media promotions
  • Special events rolled out to coincide with your campaign
  • Contests and polls that are scheduled throughout your efforts

Could it be mile ten already? Why yes, there it is now, along with another marketing lesson from marathon running.

Mile 10’s Lesson: Get a Phone or Watch Advantage

Runners touching colorful shoes together image.

I ran my first marathon using a GPS training device in 2003, when I set my then state-of-the-art Garmin Forerunner 201 to help keep me on pace for my goal time.

Its tiny low-resolution black-and-white screen showed a rudimentary stick figure and noted whether you were ahead or behind goal pace. That day I saw only one other person wearing a GPS device.

Today however, it’s hard to find a marathoner who isn’t using one — whether it’s a sport-specific watch or pod, or a cellphone in an armband using a dedicated running app such as iSmoothRun, my personal favorite.

In the same way, successful digital marketers are always adopting new technologies to improve their efforts.

[bctt tweet=”“The most successful digital marketers are always adopting new technologies to improve their efforts.” — Lane R. Ellis @lanerellis” username=”toprank”]

Some tools are built to help keep your campaign efforts on pace to reach your goals, just as in marathon running, while others are focused on planning or post-campaign data mining and analytics.

Finding the right marketing tools in an ever-expanding sea of choices can be daunting, however we’ve done plenty of research and in the following articles dig in to some of the most powerful utilities available for B2B marketers:

Mile 11’s Lesson: Don’t Forget Your Hat

A good hat is another piece of marathon running equipment you’ll likely want to have on race day, if not to keep out the sun, at least to soak up the sweat a race-effort marathon will produce on all but the chilliest days.

Another seemingly minor decision, hats have been known to play a factor in the outcome of a marathon. During the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon trials, famed runner and now top coach Alberto Salazar went to a level of preparation not previously seen, when on an exceedingly hot race day he provided his runner Galen Rupp with new dry icy cool hats at various points along the course. Rupp went on to win the race, and ultimately earned a medal at that year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

[bctt tweet=”“In today’s fiercely-competitive marketing world, a fanatical attention to the minute details can be all that separates a Cannes award-winning campaign from one relegated to the digital dustbin of marketing history.” @lanerellis” username=”toprank”]

Mile 12’s Lesson: Marketing So Bright You’ll Need Sunglasses

Sunglasses can of course help runners block out sun, but they can also help inspire and provide motivation, through the use of the many varieties of colorful lenses available.

For several years I reserved a special pair of sunglasses with yellow-tinted lenses for marathon day, and knew that when I was seeing the world through them that it was time to focus all my hard training on the immediate task ahead: hitting my mile splits, one at a time, through to the finish line.

In marketing, we may not have special sunglasses, but when campaign roll-out day comes, we can utilize a wide variety of special means of encouragement to help us focus on our goals.

For some this may be waking earlier than normal, doing extra exercise, eating in an especially healthy manner, or simply using music that energizes and encourages you to do your best work.

Mile 13’s Lesson: Your Unique Identification Number

In each marathon’s pre-race package you’ll find a number bib to pin to your singlet — a unique identifying number for race officials and spectators alike to track and chart your progress during the race.

Without a number bib a racer would be what’s known as a race bandit — someone who’s jumped in the race without paying.

Marketing campaigns also have their own unique names and numbers, whether it’s an internal company code name, an official campaign effort name, or one of the identification numbers used by the various tools we use to track campaign performance against goals.

Whether you’re the top-seeded racer wearing the #1 from winning the previous year or #22839, it’s your job in both running and marketing to make the most of what you have from the position you’re starting in.

Marketing efforts can cause formerly small clients to achieve skyrocketing success when done very well, and for marathon runners one of the great unifying aspects is that everyone starts running at the same time and, theoretically, even someone at the back of the pack could win. There have even been cases where elite marathoners have shown up late to a race and gone on to catch up to the leaders after passing thousands of runners, something also sometimes possible in marketing.

On Your Mark — Get Set — Go!

via GIPHY

Now that you have your training, planning, and equipment lined up and in order, let’s move on to strategy for actually hitting the starting line in both marathon running and marketing.

Mile 14’s Lesson: Starting Line’s Launch Day!

This is it! The months and seemingly endless miles of training are complete. Every pre-race ritual has been attended to, and you’re completely prepared to run the best marathon you can for the day.

While the starting line is a place to focus on the difficult task ahead, don’t forget to at least give some acknowledgement to all the effort you’ve made to reach this point, and to think of all those who have helped you along the way.

The energy and excitement at the starting line of a marathon, whether large or small, is one of the most amazing experiences in all of running, and smart runners won’t block it out entirely, but learn to feed on and draw energy from these magic moments.

Launch day for marketers is similar, as a time to focus intently on the efforts ahead, to recall the expert planning you’ve done to give your campaign the best chance of digital success, and to think of and thank the people who have helped you reach launch day.

Mile 15’s Lesson: Keep To Your Plan & Don’t Zoom Out

Going out too fast is one of the most common mistakes new marathon runners make on race day, as the pre-race excitement and pent-up emotions all let loose when the starting gun goes off, and hundreds of runners all around you dart speedily onward.

Knowing that most runners will start too fast, smart runners hold back and work hard to stick to their predetermined mile-by-mile pacing plan, whether it’s through using the virtual training partner on your phone or smart watch, sticking to a pacing group, or simply by starting out running at a pace that feels too slow compared to those around you.

[bctt tweet=”“Motivation remains key to the marathon: the motivation to begin; the motivation to continue; the motivation never to quit.” Hal Higdon @higdonmarathon ” username=”toprank”]

Most marathons have runners line up in sections corresponding to their goal finishing time, with elite runners on the actual starting line, and others positioned at spots set aside for those expecting to finish in three, four, five or more hours.

B2B marketers can also learn pacing lessons from marathon runners, as during campaign launches it’s important to not unleash more than you have allotted for launch day.

Mile 16’s Lesson: Hydrate & Nurture Your Body & Campaign

As the marathon progresses, smart runners will know exactly where every water and sports drink aid station is, from studying official pre-race information, and they’ll follow the plan they’ve carefully laid out and used on long runs in training.

Knowing how to best hydrate your body with water and sports drinks, and how to keep it cool using the sponges and shower misters on hand at many marathons, are also areas savvy runners will have learned and perfected in training.

As marketers we need to hydrate our campaigns too, by doing everything possible to keep our careful plans on track, with the skill to make quick adjustments on-the-fly as needed. Keeping up on the latest industry trends can help keep your marketing skills nimble, and here are three recent article we’ve published to help in that regard:

Mile 17’s Lesson: Utilize Aid Stations & Social Platforms

Marathon runners racing image.

More than just tables to grab water from, marathon aid stations represent the important passage of miles along the course — just like the official mile markers — often festooned with colorful and fun markings such as balloons or even particular themes.

Many marathons have aid stations that are run by various non-profit or corporate organizations, each with their own unique style and flair, sometimes including radio stations with live bands. There are also usually many unofficial aid stations along big marathon courses, with supporters offering runners everything from strawberries and candy to beer and tequila.

In marketing, the social media platforms your campaign will nearly always use also each have their own unique rules, features, and strengths, and it’s up to you as a smart marketer to know how to get the most from each one in the grand scheme of your marketing efforts.

We’re explored some of the best ways to achieve success using the top social platforms in the following recent articles:

Mile 18’s Lesson: Get a Boost From Your Fellow Racers

Even the most focused marathon runner will see and interact with fellow racers during the hours spent running, and these runners can provide valuable inspiration during the race if you leave yourself open to the connecting moments each race brings.

I remember running a marathon where a runner dressed in a full official U.S. Postal Service mail carrier outfit passed me mid-race, complete with a letter bag and black leather shoes. He drew cheers from the crowds and fellow runners alike, and ended up setting a fastest-known-time record for a marathon run in a full postal outfit.

Other years there have been people running marathons carrying full-size flags, and there always seen to be runners who race in costumes, such as Elvis impersonators or dinosaurs.

[bctt tweet=”“Everything you ever wanted to know about yourself you can learn in 26.2 miles.” — Lori Culnane ” username=”toprank”]

A difficult aspect of marathon running to prepare for includes the inevitable runners you’ll encounter who are having a much worse day than you hopefully are — balled up in agony on the side of the road as severe cramps make them cry and moan.

Seeing these runners is a humbling experience, as each one was previously out there faster than you until the wheels fell off or they became sick or injured. Taking lessons from them can help you appreciate that fact that you are still moving ahead, even if you may not be precisely on your goal pace.

Sometimes you’ll even pass one or two elite runners who have for whatever reason been slowed to a walk or jog, and this too can serve to help you reflect on the small victories you’ve had within the marathon itself — a lesson that also applies to marketing.

Some marathon runners thrive on camaraderie during training and while racing, while others prefer to train and run alone.

As marketers, we can universally benefit from relationship building, whether it’s through using industry experts in a campaign, or the interaction with new clients brought about by smart and well-planned marketing efforts.

Mile 19’s Lesson: Renew with Your Cheering Section

via GIPHY

Having your own family and friends along the marathon course or at the finish will undoubtedly provide helpful cheering and encouragement during the race, so if you’re lucky enough to have them, take the time to thank them for coming out and supporting you on race day — if not during the race itself, once you’ve finished.

This holds true for marketers too of course, as the influencers, fans, clients, mentors and associates who’ve helped you and your campaign to succeed should also all be thanked, either in public, in private, or both.

Mile 20’s Lesson: Prepare For & Overcome Rough Patches

In running, hitting a rough patch is often called bonking, and in marathoning this can often happen around mile 20, especially with new marathon runners.

[bctt tweet=”“No marathon gets easier later. The half way point only marks the end of the beginning.” — Joe Henderson” username=”toprank”]

It’s important to have alternate plans and time goals in place, and the flexibility to adjust your desired outcome depending on how badly you may be bonking, or worse yet, dealing with an in-race injury.

On race day, smart runners will also adjust their pacing and finish goals when Mother Nature throws difficult weather conditions into the mix. A rainy, especially hot and humid, or particularly cold day will see experienced marathoners adjusting their goals to meet the conditions at hand — a task experienced B2B marketers will also perform when unexpected elements out of their control strike a campaign.

Having a plan b or plan c are parts of planning that will help should the need ever arise.

Mile 21’s Lesson: Precisely Monitor Time & Campaign Splits

Runners image.

Throughout your race, and especially as you near the final 10K of a marathon, keeping track of the time splits you reach for each mile — which will show how far ahead or behind your time goal you are running — is an important task, and one that gets progressively difficult as your energy levels fall during the later stages of a marathon.

Before smart devices and phones, I used a pen to write my goal time splits on my palms. Later, running companies began offering wristbands with goal mile splits for various finish times from around a 2:45 marathon up to 5:30 or so.

Today, it’s easier than ever to track your mile splits during a marathon, so there’s little excuse for not knowing whether you need to try picking up the pace, or dialing it down a notch in order not to burn out.

As smart marketers we also note and celebrate important milestones during campaigns, and use tools to measure progress throughout the life-cycle of our marketing efforts, whether it’s audience engagement, reach, or other performance benchmarks. Here are several recent articles we’ve put together to help you with these important marketing tasks:

Mile 22’s Lesson: Work with Groups and Influencers

Many larger marathons offer pacing groups to help runners reach specific time goals. The folks behind the CLIF bar helped pioneer marathon pacing groups, and for several marathons I ran alongside one of their excellent pacers — runners usually carrying a sign showing the pace group’s goal time, and sometimes also flags or balloons. Although their particular team is no longer in operation, others have taken up the slack.

It’s reassuring to be able to stick with your pacing group as planned, and equally frustrating to watch them fade into the distance ahead of you if you’re having a bad day on the marathon course.

As marketers we use influencers, industry experts, clients, customers, and sometimes fans to help us keep important campaigns on pace for hitting performance goals.

Mile 23’s Lesson: Marathon Mind-Tricks & Marketing Mantras

via GIPHY

During the many hours spent running while training for a marathon, some runners develop subtle psychological practices to help them get through difficult patches. Some of these include:

  • Thinking of (or actually listening to, if you’re in a marathon that allows headphones…) an inspiring song
  • Repeating a personally-inspirational mantra, saying, or phrase
  • Making note of an upcoming tree or signpost and focusing only on making it that far, and then repeating the process again and again

Marketers too can benefit from focusing, keeping a positive attitude, and mindfully working to build up and keep the energy needed when launching and running a modern digital marketing campaign.

[bctt tweet=”“If you feel bad at 10 miles, you’re in trouble. If you feel bad at 20 miles, you’re normal. If you don’t feel bad at 26 miles, you’re abnormal.” @deek207 ” username=”toprank”]

Mile 24’s Lesson: Track Those Marathon & Marketing KPIs

Every marathon and marketing campaign will have certain very important key performance indicators (KPIs). For the marathon, these usually come at the 5K, 10K, half-marathon, and 20-mile marks.

Making your time split goals at these mileposts can be especially important in a runner’s mental efforts to stay on-track with reaching an overall race time finishing goal.

Similarly in marketing, hitting important KPI levels at various predetermined points along the campaign journey is especially important when it comes to reaching our overall goals.

Finish Line Fulfillment — Not the End But A New Beginning

You’ve come a long way now, and the end is nearing, so let’s take a look at how to get the very last drop of performance from your marathon and marketing efforts, and savor the hard-earned moment.

Can you believe that mile 25 is just up ahead now?!

Mile 25’s Lesson: Finish Line Celebrations

via GIPHY

There’s nothing like the first glimpse of the finish line in a marathon, as it seems to induce your body’s final, hidden stores of energy to release — a boost that only seems to come out when the body knows its work will soon thankfully be done.

If a runner is ever going to feel a euphoric sense of elation, it’s most likely going to come while approaching the finish line of a marathon, knowing that nothing is going to stop you from crossing that line.

[bctt tweet=”“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.” — Emil Zatopek ” username=”toprank”]

It’s a great time to savor the moment and celebrate the weeks or months of hard training and planning, and the same can be said for the end of a successful marketing campaign.

Mile 26’s Lesson: Take Time To Recover & Learn

After the many strong emotions of the finish line, whether they’re for celebrating a goal that’s been met, or disappointment in falling short despite your best efforts, the time will come when you can learn a great deal by examining in detail how your race went — what worked well and what failed.

Some runners like to write down their memories from a marathon as soon as possible after the race finishes, and marketers too can benefit from taking a look back once the campaign ends at what worked and what didn’t.

Having this first-hand analysis of our performance can be invaluable when the time comes to launch the next similar marketing initiative, or to run another marathon.

[bctt tweet=”“You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can’t know what’s coming.” — Frank Shorter ” username=”toprank”]

Mile 26.2’s Lesson: Go The Final Distance & Win Awards

With hard work and fanatical training, a successful marathon may involve setting a new personal record, winning an age-group award, or at the highest level even winning an overall race medal outright.

In marketing, a great campaign can continue on long after it’s officially concluded, by providing a variety of opportunities for derivative works through re-purposing, or even entering and winning various industry awards.

Running marathons can help elevate our lives, enhance fitness, and bring newfound depth to each day, and great marketing can do the same as we boost our marketing fitness.

[bctt tweet=”“The marathon never ceases to be a race of joy, a race of wonder.” — Hal Higdon @higdonmarathon” username=”toprank”]

Thanks for coming along for this 26.2 mile marketing marathon, and I hope you’ll find value in the lessons of each step we’ve shared on the journey together.

I’ll leave you with a link to a short video of the finish of one of the greatest races of all time, with running legends and former marathon world record holders Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia and Paul Tergat of Kenya battling to the very end during the last lap of the 2000 Olympics 10,000 meter final.

[bctt tweet=”“Ask yourself: ‘Can I give more?’ The answer is usually: ‘Yes’.” — Paul Tergat ” username=”toprank”]

The post 26.2 B2B Marathon Marketing Lessons appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.


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26.2 B2B Marathon Marketing Lessons

Collage of six images of marathon runners.

Racing a marathon and running a successful marketing campaign have a surprising number of similarities — in fact, here are 26.2 things they share in common, and the lessons they can teach us.

I’ve been running marathons since 1998 and working in digital communications and marketing since 1984 — two pursuits I’m passionate about that may initially seem quite dissimilar, but which really do have much in common when you begin to look closely.

The Importance of Pre-Race Planning

The marathon isn’t a race you want to run with no training or on a whim — and even if you did, the notoriously unforgiving distance has a way of giving runners back just what they put into it. Skimping on training usually spells disaster when it comes to marathon running.

Similarly, successful marketing is usually the result of putting in the necessary planning the way runners pack in the marathon training miles.

Let’s begin our 26.2 mile marketing marathon with our first steps and lesson number one.

Mile 1’s Lesson: Have a Great Training Plan

Marathon runners along canal image.

A time-tested training plan is a vital part of preparing for a marathon — whether it’s one of the popular multi-week plans from Hal Higdon, Pete Pfitzinger, J. Daniels, or a custom variation you’ve tailored to your own style of running.

Similarly in marketing, a proper and well thought-out plan is important when it comes to tackling any new campaign.

A good training plan in both running and marketing will help you get the most of our your race or campaign, starting out by setting benchmarks and goals to hit along the way as you build up to the big race or campaign launch.

In marathon running it’s often said there’s no substitute for getting in the miles, and with marketing too there’s no magical elixir or great secret about what needs to go into a top-caliber campaign, so it’s a matter of finding what works and making a concerted effort at every step of the journey.

A marathon training plan will usually cover the period of between eight and 16 weeks before your target race, and by analyzing how you handle the daily prescribed workouts, you’ll be able to gauge how prepared you are when race day comes around.

“If the marathon if a part-time interest, you will only get part-time results.” — Bill Rodgers @BillRodgersRACE Click To Tweet

In marketing, how detailed and dedicated you are in following the planning process will have a direct effect on what happens on the day of the big campaign launch.

The runners and coaches who’ve devised top marathon training plans are similar to the marketing industry pioneers, experts and influencers who we can look to for guidance when mapping out a big new B2B marketing initiative.

Both marathon training and marketing planning benefit from relationship building, as runners will want to forge relationships with other runners using the same training plan, or sometimes even the author of the plan themselves.

Similarly, marketers will want to interact and learn from as many of the experts as possible who have devoted their careers to the powerful marketing methods that go into creating a successful pre-launch campaign plan.

“If you want your content to be great, ask influencers to participate.” — Lee Odden @LeeOdden Click To Tweet

The experience and credibility of the people you learn from and follow during both marathon training and marketing planning has a direct impact on how your training and campaigns will perform, so it’s important for runners to build relationships with people who have had marathon success.

For B2B marketers, it’s ideal to work with and learn from those who have planned and executed highly-successful and award-winning campaigns.

Congratulations! You’ve passed one of the biggest obstacles of running a marathon or creating a great marketing effort — getting started with those first steps. Let’s move on to another lesson as we reach mile two.

Mile 2’s Lesson: Know Your Running & Marketing Training Paces

Marathon training plans spell out the workouts that will best help prepare you for race day, with some days set aside for long runs, some for mid-speed tempo workouts, and others for faster interval repetition sessions.

Successful marketing plans also focus on specific aspects of bringing a campaign to the starting line, with preparations including the long-run equivalent of creating strong content or digital assets, a tempo-like initiative of finding and working with the right industry experts, and an interval-like burst of effort to plan for both organic and paid promotion.

It’s easy to get excited about a big name or an influencer with a large following, but neither of those will necessarily translate to your ultimate goal of delivering results to your organization. @martinjonesaz Click To Tweet

Well done! You’re already approaching mile three and a new running and marketing lesson.

Mile 3’s Lesson: Warm Up Before Running or Marketing

Marathon runners image.

Especially at the top level of marathon running, a carefully planned pre-race warm-up is an important part of training, and chronologically the last piece of the puzzle before the starting gun goes off.

Elite marathoners work hard to keep their body at an optimal temperature up to the last possible moment, and during the 15 minutes before race time you’ll find them running their warm-up routines.

For top marketing performance, before a campaign begins it’s not the physical warm-up routine that will help during an imminent launch, but the psychological boost that comes from having reviewed all of the planning you and your team have done, and ensuring that you’re in the most positive state of mind when launch time arrives.

The Right Race Equipment & Marketing Tools

Marketers and runners both need equipment to have the best performance possible, so let’s take a look at some of the lessons we can learn from our running and marketing equipment, as we move along to mile four.

Mile 4’s Lesson: The Shoe Hits the Pavement

For 99.9 percent of marathon runners — unless you’re Abebe Bikila who won gold sans shoes at the 1960 Olympics — wearing the right shoes will be an important part of your training and racing.

The time to learn which shoe works best for your feet is during training, keeping in mind that you should never allow yourself to make the rookie mistake of wearing brand new shoes on race day, even if they’re the same model you’ve used in your marathon build-up. Slight construction variations in shoes, along with wear patterns specific to your foot strike, mean that you should always race in a shoe you’ve trained in for at least a week or more.

The marketing tactics you’ll use in your campaigns represent similar important choices, and you won’t want to be trying unplanned and untested methods once your big campaign has launched — the time to test them is during your pre-launch planning phases.

Test your marketing tools and services on example campaigns, and use your team to uncover any shortcomings in the lead-up to launch, rather than in the days after your effort has gone live.

What’s that ahead — can it be the five mile marker already?

Mile 5’s Lesson: Wear Comfortable Shorts

Marathon runners on bridge image.

Finding the perfect running shorts for your marathon is another seemingly insignificant equipment choice that can have a surprising impact on the outcome of your race.

Shorts that have too many seams or other uncomfortable construction methods are likely to make you more and more uncomfortable as the miles go by.

As with shoes, the time to try out different shorts is in the weeks and months before your race, so resist the temptation to race in those flashy new shorts you just got at the marathon expo the day before the race.

Marketers too need to find the methods that work best for them over the long haul of a modern digital marketing campaign — one that is likely to last substantially longer than even an ultra-marathon.

Try to find and use the marketing solutions that augment and work alongside your strengths, and hold off on those that just aren’t in-line with the way you and your team work, or your desired campaign goals.

Mile 6’s Lesson: Use Tried & True Socks & Techniques

You might think that something like the choice of which socks to wear — or whether to wear any at all — during a marathon is insignificant, however in distance running as well as in marketing, even the smallest details can over time and miles add up to being either great assets, or debilitating troubles.

Race in socks you know well from training, with the right amount of padding, wicking abilities, and other performance features for your needs.

Similarly with marketing, don’t neglect the small details with campaign components such as proof-reading, testing, private trial runs to gather feedback, and other aspects of strong project management that your competitors may be skipping over.

Mile 7’s Lesson: Wear a Race-Worthy Singlet

The shirt or singlet you race your marathon in should be comfortable, with a minimal number of potentially abrasion-causing seams, made from modern wicking materials, and since it’s such a visible part of your race-day gear, you may want to choose one that speaks to your own personal fashion style.

Elite marathoners are usually required to wear the singlet featuring their sponsors’ logos, but at all other levels you’ll have great freedom to choose in this area.

Some runners use an easy trick to give themselves a small but powerful edge during the marathon: simply use a permanent marker to write your name on the front of your singlet. I did this one year running Grandma’s Marathon in my hometown of Duluth, Minnesota, and I got more encouragement from supporters lined up to watch the race than I’d had in all my previous marathons combined.

In marketing, how you package your campaign is similar to the choice of which singlet to wear. Certain B2B campaigns will require you to use very specific sponsorship images and messaging, while other campaigns will allow you to have nearly free reign over how your efforts will look when entering the digital world, whether it’s social media video and messaging, paid search advertising, or the new audio branding possible with podcast marketing.

Mile 8’s Lesson: Utilize Timing Chip & Marketing Tech

When I first started running marathons in 1998, the ones I ran hadn’t yet adopted timing chip technology, where a small plastic clip containing an RFID chip is attached to a shoe, but not long after that nearly every marathon was using them, making it easy to record official times at checkpoints along the marathon course, and also helping family and friends wanting to track a racer’s progress during the marathon.

In many marketing campaigns, making it easy for customers and fans to share your digital asset and messages is also important — whether it’s a full-blown interactive big top experience like the one we recently launched for Content Marketing World — or a more traditional blog article or infographic.

Check out the full interactive experience by clicking on the image below:

Well done, marketers — the nine-mile marker is already in sight ahead!

Mile 9’s Lesson: Energize Along the Way

Fueling before, during, and after a marathon is an important piece of the racing puzzle, and also one you’ll want to work out and master before race day comes around.

Smart marathoners know which variety of energy gel or bars will be available at the aid stations along the course, and will either learn to run fueled by them during training, bring along their own favorite racing energy food sources, or have family and friends positioned on the course to have them ready.

A savvy marketing effort will also benefit from having pre-planned boosts of digital energy to invigorate and re-fuel a campaign as it progresses, which can come in the form of:

  • Daily or weekly social media promotions
  • Special events rolled out to coincide with your campaign
  • Contests and polls that are scheduled throughout your efforts

Could it be mile ten already? Why yes, there it is now, along with another marketing lesson from marathon running.

Mile 10’s Lesson: Get a Phone or Watch Advantage

Runners touching colorful shoes together image.

I ran my first marathon using a GPS training device in 2003, when I set my then state-of-the-art Garmin Forerunner 201 to help keep me on pace for my goal time.

Its tiny low-resolution black-and-white screen showed a rudimentary stick figure and noted whether you were ahead or behind goal pace. That day I saw only one other person wearing a GPS device.

Today however, it’s hard to find a marathoner who isn’t using one — whether it’s a sport-specific watch or pod, or a cellphone in an armband using a dedicated running app such as iSmoothRun, my personal favorite.

In the same way, successful digital marketers are always adopting new technologies to improve their efforts.

“The most successful digital marketers are always adopting new technologies to improve their efforts.” — Lane R. Ellis @lanerellis Click To Tweet

Some tools are built to help keep your campaign efforts on pace to reach your goals, just as in marathon running, while others are focused on planning or post-campaign data mining and analytics.

Finding the right marketing tools in an ever-expanding sea of choices can be daunting, however we’ve done plenty of research and in the following articles dig in to some of the most powerful utilities available for B2B marketers:

Mile 11’s Lesson: Don’t Forget Your Hat

A good hat is another piece of marathon running equipment you’ll likely want to have on race day, if not to keep out the sun, at least to soak up the sweat a race-effort marathon will produce on all but the chilliest days.

Another seemingly minor decision, hats have been known to play a factor in the outcome of a marathon. During the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon trials, famed runner and now top coach Alberto Salazar went to a level of preparation not previously seen, when on an exceedingly hot race day he provided his runner Galen Rupp with new dry icy cool hats at various points along the course. Rupp went on to win the race, and ultimately earned a medal at that year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“In today’s fiercely-competitive marketing world, a fanatical attention to the minute details can be all that separates a Cannes award-winning campaign from one relegated to the digital dustbin of marketing history.” @lanerellis Click To Tweet

Mile 12’s Lesson: Marketing So Bright You’ll Need Sunglasses

Sunglasses can of course help runners block out sun, but they can also help inspire and provide motivation, through the use of the many varieties of colorful lenses available.

For several years I reserved a special pair of sunglasses with yellow-tinted lenses for marathon day, and knew that when I was seeing the world through them that it was time to focus all my hard training on the immediate task ahead: hitting my mile splits, one at a time, through to the finish line.

In marketing, we may not have special sunglasses, but when campaign roll-out day comes, we can utilize a wide variety of special means of encouragement to help us focus on our goals.

For some this may be waking earlier than normal, doing extra exercise, eating in an especially healthy manner, or simply using music that energizes and encourages you to do your best work.

Mile 13’s Lesson: Your Unique Identification Number

In each marathon’s pre-race package you’ll find a number bib to pin to your singlet — a unique identifying number for race officials and spectators alike to track and chart your progress during the race.

Without a number bib a racer would be what’s known as a race bandit — someone who’s jumped in the race without paying.

Marketing campaigns also have their own unique names and numbers, whether it’s an internal company code name, an official campaign effort name, or one of the identification numbers used by the various tools we use to track campaign performance against goals.

Whether you’re the top-seeded racer wearing the #1 from winning the previous year or #22839, it’s your job in both running and marketing to make the most of what you have from the position you’re starting in.

Marketing efforts can cause formerly small clients to achieve skyrocketing success when done very well, and for marathon runners one of the great unifying aspects is that everyone starts running at the same time and, theoretically, even someone at the back of the pack could win. There have even been cases where elite marathoners have shown up late to a race and gone on to catch up to the leaders after passing thousands of runners, something also sometimes possible in marketing.

On Your Mark — Get Set — Go!

via GIPHY

Now that you have your training, planning, and equipment lined up and in order, let’s move on to strategy for actually hitting the starting line in both marathon running and marketing.

Mile 14’s Lesson: Starting Line’s Launch Day!

This is it! The months and seemingly endless miles of training are complete. Every pre-race ritual has been attended to, and you’re completely prepared to run the best marathon you can for the day.

While the starting line is a place to focus on the difficult task ahead, don’t forget to at least give some acknowledgement to all the effort you’ve made to reach this point, and to think of all those who have helped you along the way.

The energy and excitement at the starting line of a marathon, whether large or small, is one of the most amazing experiences in all of running, and smart runners won’t block it out entirely, but learn to feed on and draw energy from these magic moments.

Launch day for marketers is similar, as a time to focus intently on the efforts ahead, to recall the expert planning you’ve done to give your campaign the best chance of digital success, and to think of and thank the people who have helped you reach launch day.

Mile 15’s Lesson: Keep To Your Plan & Don’t Zoom Out

Going out too fast is one of the most common mistakes new marathon runners make on race day, as the pre-race excitement and pent-up emotions all let loose when the starting gun goes off, and hundreds of runners all around you dart speedily onward.

Knowing that most runners will start too fast, smart runners hold back and work hard to stick to their predetermined mile-by-mile pacing plan, whether it’s through using the virtual training partner on your phone or smart watch, sticking to a pacing group, or simply by starting out running at a pace that feels too slow compared to those around you.

“Motivation remains key to the marathon: the motivation to begin; the motivation to continue; the motivation never to quit.” Hal Higdon @higdonmarathon Click To Tweet

Most marathons have runners line up in sections corresponding to their goal finishing time, with elite runners on the actual starting line, and others positioned at spots set aside for those expecting to finish in three, four, five or more hours.

B2B marketers can also learn pacing lessons from marathon runners, as during campaign launches it’s important to not unleash more than you have allotted for launch day.

Mile 16’s Lesson: Hydrate & Nurture Your Body & Campaign

As the marathon progresses, smart runners will know exactly where every water and sports drink aid station is, from studying official pre-race information, and they’ll follow the plan they’ve carefully laid out and used on long runs in training.

Knowing how to best hydrate your body with water and sports drinks, and how to keep it cool using the sponges and shower misters on hand at many marathons, are also areas savvy runners will have learned and perfected in training.

As marketers we need to hydrate our campaigns too, by doing everything possible to keep our careful plans on track, with the skill to make quick adjustments on-the-fly as needed. Keeping up on the latest industry trends can help keep your marketing skills nimble, and here are three recent article we’ve published to help in that regard:

Mile 17’s Lesson: Utilize Aid Stations & Social Platforms

Marathon runners racing image.

More than just tables to grab water from, marathon aid stations represent the important passage of miles along the course — just like the official mile markers — often festooned with colorful and fun markings such as balloons or even particular themes.

Many marathons have aid stations that are run by various non-profit or corporate organizations, each with their own unique style and flair, sometimes including radio stations with live bands. There are also usually many unofficial aid stations along big marathon courses, with supporters offering runners everything from strawberries and candy to beer and tequila.

In marketing, the social media platforms your campaign will nearly always use also each have their own unique rules, features, and strengths, and it’s up to you as a smart marketer to know how to get the most from each one in the grand scheme of your marketing efforts.

We’re explored some of the best ways to achieve success using the top social platforms in the following recent articles:

Mile 18’s Lesson: Get a Boost From Your Fellow Racers

Even the most focused marathon runner will see and interact with fellow racers during the hours spent running, and these runners can provide valuable inspiration during the race if you leave yourself open to the connecting moments each race brings.

I remember running a marathon where a runner dressed in a full official U.S. Postal Service mail carrier outfit passed me mid-race, complete with a letter bag and black leather shoes. He drew cheers from the crowds and fellow runners alike, and ended up setting a fastest-known-time record for a marathon run in a full postal outfit.

Other years there have been people running marathons carrying full-size flags, and there always seen to be runners who race in costumes, such as Elvis impersonators or dinosaurs.

“Everything you ever wanted to know about yourself you can learn in 26.2 miles.” — Lori Culnane Click To Tweet

A difficult aspect of marathon running to prepare for includes the inevitable runners you’ll encounter who are having a much worse day than you hopefully are — balled up in agony on the side of the road as severe cramps make them cry and moan.

Seeing these runners is a humbling experience, as each one was previously out there faster than you until the wheels fell off or they became sick or injured. Taking lessons from them can help you appreciate that fact that you are still moving ahead, even if you may not be precisely on your goal pace.

Sometimes you’ll even pass one or two elite runners who have for whatever reason been slowed to a walk or jog, and this too can serve to help you reflect on the small victories you’ve had within the marathon itself — a lesson that also applies to marketing.

Some marathon runners thrive on camaraderie during training and while racing, while others prefer to train and run alone.

As marketers, we can universally benefit from relationship building, whether it’s through using industry experts in a campaign, or the interaction with new clients brought about by smart and well-planned marketing efforts.

Mile 19’s Lesson: Renew with Your Cheering Section

via GIPHY

Having your own family and friends along the marathon course or at the finish will undoubtedly provide helpful cheering and encouragement during the race, so if you’re lucky enough to have them, take the time to thank them for coming out and supporting you on race day — if not during the race itself, once you’ve finished.

This holds true for marketers too of course, as the influencers, fans, clients, mentors and associates who’ve helped you and your campaign to succeed should also all be thanked, either in public, in private, or both.

Mile 20’s Lesson: Prepare For & Overcome Rough Patches

In running, hitting a rough patch is often called bonking, and in marathoning this can often happen around mile 20, especially with new marathon runners.

“No marathon gets easier later. The half way point only marks the end of the beginning.” — Joe Henderson Click To Tweet

It’s important to have alternate plans and time goals in place, and the flexibility to adjust your desired outcome depending on how badly you may be bonking, or worse yet, dealing with an in-race injury.

On race day, smart runners will also adjust their pacing and finish goals when Mother Nature throws difficult weather conditions into the mix. A rainy, especially hot and humid, or particularly cold day will see experienced marathoners adjusting their goals to meet the conditions at hand — a task experienced B2B marketers will also perform when unexpected elements out of their control strike a campaign.

Having a plan b or plan c are parts of planning that will help should the need ever arise.

Mile 21’s Lesson: Precisely Monitor Time & Campaign Splits

Runners image.

Throughout your race, and especially as you near the final 10K of a marathon, keeping track of the time splits you reach for each mile — which will show how far ahead or behind your time goal you are running — is an important task, and one that gets progressively difficult as your energy levels fall during the later stages of a marathon.

Before smart devices and phones, I used a pen to write my goal time splits on my palms. Later, running companies began offering wristbands with goal mile splits for various finish times from around a 2:45 marathon up to 5:30 or so.

Today, it’s easier than ever to track your mile splits during a marathon, so there’s little excuse for not knowing whether you need to try picking up the pace, or dialing it down a notch in order not to burn out.

As smart marketers we also note and celebrate important milestones during campaigns, and use tools to measure progress throughout the life-cycle of our marketing efforts, whether it’s audience engagement, reach, or other performance benchmarks. Here are several recent articles we’ve put together to help you with these important marketing tasks:

Mile 22’s Lesson: Work with Groups and Influencers

Many larger marathons offer pacing groups to help runners reach specific time goals. The folks behind the CLIF bar helped pioneer marathon pacing groups, and for several marathons I ran alongside one of their excellent pacers — runners usually carrying a sign showing the pace group’s goal time, and sometimes also flags or balloons. Although their particular team is no longer in operation, others have taken up the slack.

It’s reassuring to be able to stick with your pacing group as planned, and equally frustrating to watch them fade into the distance ahead of you if you’re having a bad day on the marathon course.

As marketers we use influencers, industry experts, clients, customers, and sometimes fans to help us keep important campaigns on pace for hitting performance goals.

Mile 23’s Lesson: Marathon Mind-Tricks & Marketing Mantras

via GIPHY

During the many hours spent running while training for a marathon, some runners develop subtle psychological practices to help them get through difficult patches. Some of these include:

  • Thinking of (or actually listening to, if you’re in a marathon that allows headphones…) an inspiring song
  • Repeating a personally-inspirational mantra, saying, or phrase
  • Making note of an upcoming tree or signpost and focusing only on making it that far, and then repeating the process again and again

Marketers too can benefit from focusing, keeping a positive attitude, and mindfully working to build up and keep the energy needed when launching and running a modern digital marketing campaign.

“If you feel bad at 10 miles, you’re in trouble. If you feel bad at 20 miles, you’re normal. If you don’t feel bad at 26 miles, you’re abnormal.” @deek207 Click To Tweet

Mile 24’s Lesson: Track Those Marathon & Marketing KPIs

Every marathon and marketing campaign will have certain very important key performance indicators (KPIs). For the marathon, these usually come at the 5K, 10K, half-marathon, and 20-mile marks.

Making your time split goals at these mileposts can be especially important in a runner’s mental efforts to stay on-track with reaching an overall race time finishing goal.

Similarly in marketing, hitting important KPI levels at various predetermined points along the campaign journey is especially important when it comes to reaching our overall goals.

Finish Line Fulfillment — Not the End But A New Beginning

You’ve come a long way now, and the end is nearing, so let’s take a look at how to get the very last drop of performance from your marathon and marketing efforts, and savor the hard-earned moment.

Can you believe that mile 25 is just up ahead now?!

Mile 25’s Lesson: Finish Line Celebrations

via GIPHY

There’s nothing like the first glimpse of the finish line in a marathon, as it seems to induce your body’s final, hidden stores of energy to release — a boost that only seems to come out when the body knows its work will soon thankfully be done.

If a runner is ever going to feel a euphoric sense of elation, it’s most likely going to come while approaching the finish line of a marathon, knowing that nothing is going to stop you from crossing that line.

“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.” — Emil Zatopek Click To Tweet

It’s a great time to savor the moment and celebrate the weeks or months of hard training and planning, and the same can be said for the end of a successful marketing campaign.

Mile 26’s Lesson: Take Time To Recover & Learn

After the many strong emotions of the finish line, whether they’re for celebrating a goal that’s been met, or disappointment in falling short despite your best efforts, the time will come when you can learn a great deal by examining in detail how your race went — what worked well and what failed.

Some runners like to write down their memories from a marathon as soon as possible after the race finishes, and marketers too can benefit from taking a look back once the campaign ends at what worked and what didn’t.

Having this first-hand analysis of our performance can be invaluable when the time comes to launch the next similar marketing initiative, or to run another marathon.

“You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can’t know what’s coming.” — Frank Shorter Click To Tweet

Mile 26.2’s Lesson: Go The Final Distance & Win Awards

With hard work and fanatical training, a successful marathon may involve setting a new personal record, winning an age-group award, or at the highest level even winning an overall race medal outright.

In marketing, a great campaign can continue on long after it’s officially concluded, by providing a variety of opportunities for derivative works through re-purposing, or even entering and winning various industry awards.

Running marathons can help elevate our lives, enhance fitness, and bring newfound depth to each day, and great marketing can do the same as we boost our marketing fitness.

“The marathon never ceases to be a race of joy, a race of wonder.” — Hal Higdon @higdonmarathon Click To Tweet

Thanks for coming along for this 26.2 mile marketing marathon, and I hope you’ll find value in the lessons of each step we’ve shared on the journey together.

I’ll leave you with a link to a short video of the finish of one of the greatest races of all time, with running legends and former marathon world record holders Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia and Paul Tergat of Kenya battling to the very end during the last lap of the 2000 Olympics 10,000 meter final.

“Ask yourself: ‘Can I give more?’ The answer is usually: ‘Yes’.” — Paul Tergat Click To Tweet

The Real Impact of Mobile-First Indexing & The Importance of Fraggles

While SEOs have been doubling-down on content and quality signals for their websites, Google was building the foundation of a new reality for crawling — indexing and ranking. Though many believe deep in their hearts that “Content is King,” the reality is that Mobile-First Indexing enables a new kind of search result. This search result focuses on surfacing and re-publishing content in ways that feed Google’s cross-device monetization opportunities better than simple websites ever could.

For two years, Google honed and changed their messaging about Mobile-First Indexing, mostly de-emphasizing the risk that good, well-optimized, Responsive-Design sites would face. Instead, the search engine giant focused more on the use of the Smartphone bot for indexing, which led to an emphasis on the importance of matching SEO-relevant site assets between desktop and mobile versions (or renderings) of a page. Things got a bit tricky when Google had to explain that the Mobile-First Indexing process would not necessarily be bad for desktop-oriented content, but all of Google’s shifting and positioning eventually validated my long-stated belief: That Mobile-First Indexing is not really about mobile phones, per se, but mobile content.

I would like to propose an alternative to the predominant view, a speculative theory, about what has been going on with Google in the past two years, and it is the thesis of my 2019 MozCon talk — something we are calling Fraggles and Fraggle-based Indexing

 I’ll go through Fraggles and Fraggle-based indexing, and how this new method of indexing has made web content more ‘liftable’ for Google. I’ll also outline how Fraggles impact the Search Results Pages (SERPs), and why it fits with Google’s promotion of Progressive Web Apps. Next, I will provide information about how astute SEO’s can adapt their understanding of SEO and leverage Fraggles and Fraggle-Based Indexing to meet the needs of their clients and companies. Finally, I’ll go over the implications that this new method of indexing will have on Google’s monetization and technology strategy as a whole.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

Fraggles & Fraggle-based indexing

The SERP has changed in many ways. These changes can be thought of and discussed separately, but I believe that they are all part of a larger shift at Google. This shift includes “Entity-First Indexing” of crawled information around the existing structure of Google’s Knowledge Graph, and the concept of “Portable-prioritized Organization of Information,” which favors information that is easy to lift and re-present in Google’s properties — Google describes these two things together as “Mobile-First Indexing.”

As SEOs, we need to remember that the web is getting bigger and bigger, which means that it’s getting harder to crawl. Users now expect Google to index and surface content instantly. But while webmasters and SEOs were building out more and more content in flat, crawlable HTML pages, the best parts of the web were moving towards more dynamic websites and web-apps. These new assets were driven by databases of information on a server, populating their information into websites with JavaScript, XML or C++, rather than flat, easily crawlable HTML. 

For many years, this was a major problem for Google, and thus, it was a problem for SEOs and webmasters. Ultimately though, it was the more complex code that forced Google to shift to this more advanced, entity-based system of indexing — something we at MobileMoxie call Fraggles and Fraggle-Based Indexing, and the credit goes to JavaScript’s “Fragments.”

Fraggles represent individual parts (fragments) of a page for which Google overlayed a “handle” or “jump-link” (aka named-anchor, bookmark, etc.) so that a click on the result takes the users directly to the part of the page where the relevant fragment of text is located. These Fraggles are then organized around the relevant nodes on the Knowledge Graph, so that the mapping of the relationships between different topics can be vetted, built-out, and maintained over time, but also so that the structure can be used and reused, internationally — even if different content is ranking. 

More than one Fraggle can rank for a page, and the format can vary from a text-link with a “Jump to” label, an unlabeled text link, a site-link carousel, a site-link carousel with pictures, or occasionally horizontal or vertical expansion boxes for the different items on a page.

The most notable thing about Fraggles is the automatic scrolling behavior from the SERP. While Fraggles are often linked to content that has an HTML or JavaScript jump-links, sometimes, the jump-links appear to be added by Google without being present in the code at all. This behavior is also prominently featured in AMP Featured Snippets, for which Google has the same scrolling behavior, but also includes Google’s colored highlighting — which is superimposed on the page — to show the part of the page that was displayed in the Featured Snippet, which allows the searcher to see it in context. I write about this more in the article: What the Heck are Fraggles.

How Fraggles & Fraggle-based indexing works with JavaScript

Google’s desire to index Native Apps and Web Apps, including single-page apps, has necessitated Google’s switch to indexing based on Fragments and Fraggles, rather than pages. In JavaScript, as well as in Native Apps, a “Fragment” is a piece of content or information that is not necessarily a full page. 

The easiest way for an SEO to think about a Fragment is within the example of an AJAX expansion box: The piece of text or information that is fetched from the server to populate the AJAX expander when clicked could be described as a Fragment. Alternatively, if it is indexed for Mobile-First Indexing, it is a Fraggle. 

It is no coincidence that Google announced the launch of Deferred JavaScript Rendering at roughly the same time as the public roll-out of Mobile-First Indexing without drawing-out the connection, but here it is: When Google can index fragments of information from web pages, web apps and native apps, all organized around the Knowledge Graph, the data itself becomes “portable” or “mobile-first.”

We have also recently discovered that Google has begun to index URLs with a # jump-link, after years of not doing so, and is reporting on them separately from the primary URL in Search Console. As you can see below from our data, they aren’t getting a lot of clicks, but they are getting impressions. This is likely because of the low average position. 

Before Fraggles and Fraggle-Based Indexing, indexing # URLs would have just resulted in a massive duplicate content problem and extra work indexing for Google. Now that Fraggle-based Indexing is in-place, it makes sense to index and report on # URLs in Search Console — especially for breaking up long, drawn-out JavaScript experiences like PWA’s and Single-Page-Apps that don’t have separate URLs, databases, or in the long-run, possibly even for indexing native apps without Deep Links. 

Why index fragments & Fraggles?

If you’re used to thinking of rankings with the smallest increment being a URL, this idea can be hard to wrap your brain around. To help, consider this thought experiment: How useful would it be for Google to rank a page that gave detailed information about all different kinds of fruits and vegetables? It would be easy for a query like “fruits and vegetables,” that’s for sure. But if the query is changed to “lettuce” or “types of lettuce,” then the page would struggle to rank, even if it had the best, most authoritative information. 

This is because the “lettuce” keywords would be diluted by all the other fruit and vegetable content. It would be more useful for Google to rank the part of the page that is about lettuce for queries related to lettuce, and the part of the page about radishes well for queries about radishes. But since users don’t want to scroll through the entire page of fruits and vegetables to find the information about the particular vegetable they searched for, Google prioritizes pages with keyword focus and density, as they relate to the query. Google will rarely rank long pages that covered multiple topics, even if they were more authoritative.

With featured snippets, AMP featured snippets, and Fraggles, it’s clear that Google can already find the important parts of a page that answers a specific question — they’ve actually been able to do this for a while. So, if Google can organize and index content like that, what would the benefit be in maintaining an index that was based only on per-pages statistics and ranking? Why would Google want to rank entire pages when they could rank just the best parts of pages that are most related to the query?

To address these concerns, historically, SEO’s have worked to break individual topics out into separate pages, with one page focused on each topic or keyword cluster. So, with our vegetable example, this would ensure that the lettuce page could rank for lettuce queries and the radish page could rank for radish queries. With each website creating a new page for every possible topic that they would like to rank for, there’s lot of redundant and repetitive work for webmasters. It also likely adds a lot of low-quality, unnecessary pages to the index. Realistically, how many individual pages on lettuce does the internet really need, and how would Google determine which one is the best? The fact is, Google wanted to shift to an algorithm that focused less on links and more on topical authority to surface only the best content — and Google circumvents this with the scrolling feature in Fraggles.

Even though the effort to switch to Fraggle-based indexing, and organize the information around the Knowledge Graph, was massive, the long-term benefits of the switch far out-pace the costs to Google because they make Google’s system for flexible, monetizable and sustainable, especially as the amount of information and the number of connected devices expands exponentially. It also helps Google identify, serve and monetize new cross-device search opportunities, as they continue to expand. This includes search results on TV’s, connected screens, and spoken results from connected speakers. A few relevant costs and benefits are outlined below for you to contemplate, keeping Google’s long-term perspective in mind:

Why Fraggles and Fraggle-based indexing are important for PWAs

What also makes the shift to Fraggle-based Indexing relevant to SEOs is how it fits in with Google’s championing of Progressive Web Apps or AMP Progressive Web Apps, (aka PWAs and PWA-AMP websites/web apps). These types of sites have become the core focus of Google’s Chrome Developer summits and other smaller Google conferences.

From the perspective of traditional crawling and indexing, Google’s focus on PWAs is confusing. PWAs often feature heavy JavaScript and are still frequently built as Single-Page Apps (SPA’s), with only one or only a few URLs. Both of these ideas would make PWAs especially difficult and resource-intensive for Google to index in a traditional way — so, why would Google be so enthusiastic about PWAs? 

The answer is because PWA’s require ServiceWorkers, which uses Fraggles and Fraggle-based indexing to take the burden off crawling and indexing of complex web content.

In case you need a quick refresher: ServiceWorker is a JavaScript file — it instructs a device (mobile or computer) to create a local cache of content to be used just for the operation of the PWA. It is meant to make the loading of content much faster (because the content is stored locally) instead of just left on a server or CDN somewhere on the internet and it does so by saving copies of text and images associated with certain screens in the PWA. Once a user accesses content in a PWA, the content doesn’t need to be fetched again from the server. It’s a bit like browser caching, but faster — the ServiceWorker stores the information about when content expires, rather than storing it on the web. This is what makes PWAs seem to work offline, but it is also why content that has not been visited yet is not stored in the ServiceWorker.

ServiceWorkers and SEO

Most SEOs who understand PWAs understand that a ServiceWorker is for caching and load time, but they may not understand that it is likely also for indexing. If you think about it, ServiceWorkers mostly store the text and images of a site, which is exactly what the crawler wants. A crawler that uses Deferred JavaScript Rendering could go through a PWA and simulate clicking on all the links and store static content using the framework set forth in the ServiceWorker. And it could do this without always having to crawl all the JavaScript on the site, as long as it understood how the site was organized, and that organization stayed consistent. 

Google would also know exactly how often to re-crawl, and therefore could only crawl certain items when they were set to expire in the ServiceWorker cache. This saves Google a lot of time and effort, allowing them to get through or possibly skip complex code and JavaScript.

For a PWA to be indexed, Google requires webmasters to ‘register their app in Firebase,’ but they used to require webmasters to “register their ServiceWorker.” Firebase is the Google platform that allows webmasters to set up and manage indexing and deep linking for their native apps, chat-bots and, now, PWA’s

Direct communication with a PWA specialist at Google a few years ago revealed that Google didn’t crawl the ServiceWorker itself, but crawled the API to the ServiceWorker. It’s likely that when webmasters register their ServiceWorker with Google, Google is actually creating an API to the ServiceWorker, so that the content can be quickly and easily indexed and cached on Google’s servers. Since Google has already launched an Indexing API and appears to now favor API’s over traditional crawling, we believe Google will begin pushing the use of ServiceWorkers to improve page speed, since they can be used on non-PWA sites, but this will actually be to help ease the burden on Google to crawl and index the content manually.

Flat HTML may still be the fastest way to get web information crawled and indexed with Google. For now, JavaScript still has to be deferred for rendering, but it is important to recognize that this could change and crawling and indexing is not the only way to get your information to Google. Google’s Indexing API, which was launched for indexing time-sensitive information like job postings and live-streaming video, will likely be expanded to include different types of content. 

It’s important to remember that this is how AMP, Schema, and many other types of powerful SEO functionalities have started with a limited launch; beyond that, some great SEO’s have already tested submitting other types of content in the API and seen success. Submitting to APIs skips Google’s process of blindly crawling the web for new content and allows webmasters to feed the information to them directly.

It is possible that the new Indexing API follows a similar structure or process to PWA indexing. Submitted URLs can already get some kinds of content indexed or removed from Google’s index, usually in about an hour, and while it is only currently officially available for the two kinds of content, we expect it to be expanded broadly.

How will this impact SEO strategy?

Of course, every SEO wants to know how to leverage this speculative theory — how can we make the changes in Google to our benefit? 

The first thing to do is take a good, long, honest look at a mobile search result. Position #1 in the organic rankings is just not what it used to be. There’s a ton of engaging content that is often pushing it down, but not counting as an organic ranking position in Search Console. This means that you may be maintaining all your organic rankings while also losing a massive amount of traffic to SERP features like Knowledge Graph results, Featured Snippets, Google My Business, maps, apps, Found on the Web, and other similar items that rank outside of the normal organic results. 

These results, as well as Pay-per-Click results (PPC), are more impactful on mobile because they are stacked above organic rankings. Rather than being off to the side, as they might be in a desktop view of the search, they push organic rankings further down the results page. There has been some great reporting recently about the statistical and large-scale impact of changes to the SERP and how these changes have resulted in changes to user-behavior in search, especially from Dr. Pete Meyers, Rand Fishkin, and JumpTap.

Dr. Pete has focused on the increasing number of changes to the Google Algorithm recorded in his MozCast, which heated up at the end of 2016 when Google started working on Mobile-First Indexing, and again after it launched the Medic update in 2018. 

Rand, on the other hand, focused on how the new types of rankings are pushing traditional organic results down, resulting in less traffic to websites, especially on mobile. All this great data from these two really set the stage for a fundamental shift in SEO strategy as it relates to Mobile-First Indexing.

The research shows that Google re-organized its index to suit a different presentation of information — especially if they are able to index that information around an entity-concept in the Knowledge Graph. Fraggle-based Indexing makes all of the information that Google crawls even more portable because it is intelligently nested among related Knowledge Graph nodes, which can be surfaced in a variety of different ways. Since Fraggle-based Indexing focuses more on the meaningful organization of data than it does on pages and URLs, the results are a more “windowed” presentation of the information in the SERP. SEOs need to understand that search results are now based on entities and use-cases (think micro-moments), instead of pages and domains.

Google’s Knowledge Graph

To really grasp how this new method of indexing will impact your SEO strategy, you first have to understand how Google’s Knowledge Graph works. 

Since it is an actual “graph,” all Knowledge Graph entries (nodes) include both vertical and lateral relationships. For instance, an entry for “bread” can include lateral relationships to related topics like cheese, butter, and cake, but may also include vertical relationships like “standard ingredients in bread” or “types of bread.” 

Lateral relationships can be thought of as related nodes on the Knowledge Graph, and hint at “Related Topics” whereas vertical relationships point to a broadening or narrowing of the topic; which hints at the most likely filters within a topic. In the case of bread, a vertical relationship-up would be topics like “baking,” and down would include topics like “flour” and other ingredients used to make bread, or “sourdough” and other specific types of bread.

SEOs should note that Knowledge Graph entries can now include an increasingly wide variety of filters and tabs that narrow the topic information to benefit different types of searcher intent. This includes things like helping searchers find videos, books, images, quotes, locations, but in the case of filters, it can be topic-specific and unpredictable (informed by active machine learning). This is the crux of Google’s goal with Fraggle-based Indexing: To be able to organize the information of the web-based on Knowledge Graph entries or nodes, otherwise discussed in SEO circles as “entities.” 

Since the relationships of one entity to another remain the same, regardless of the language a person is speaking or searching in, the Knowledge Graph information is language-agnostic, and thus easily used for aggregation and machine learning in all languages at the same time. Using the Knowledge Graph as a cornerstone for indexing is, therefore, a much more useful and efficient means for Google to access and serve information in multiple languages for consumption and ranking around the world. In the long-term, it’s far superior to the previous method of indexing.

Examples of Fraggle-based indexing in the SERPs 

Knowledge Graph

Google has dramatically increased the number of Knowledge Graph entries and the categories and relationships within them. The build-out is especially prominent for topics for which Google has a high amount of structured data and information already. This includes topics like:

  • TV and Movies — from Google Play
  • Food and Recipe — from Recipe Schema, recipe AMP pages, and external food and nutrition databases 
  • Science and medicine — from trusted sources (like WebMD) 
  • Businesses — from Google My Business. 

Google is adding more and more nodes and relationships to their graph and existing entries are also being built-out with more tabs and carousels to break a single topic into smaller, more granular topics or type of information.

As you can see below, the build-out of the Knowledge Graph has also added to the number of filters and drill-down options within many queries, even outside of the Knowledge Graph. This increase can be seen throughout all of the Google properties, including Google My Business and Shopping, both of which we believe are now sections of the Knowledge Graph:

Google Search for ‘Blazers’ with Visual Filters at the Top for Shopping Oriented Queries Google My Business (Business Knowledge Graph) with Filters for Information about Googleplex

Other similar examples include the additional filters and “Related Topics” results in Google Images, which we also believe to represent nodes on the Knowledge Graph:

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Google Images Increase in Filters & Inclusion of Related Topics Means that These Are Also Nodes on the Knowledge Graph

The Knowedge Graph is also being presented in a variety of different ways. Sometimes there’s a sticky navigation that persists at the top of the SERP, as seen in many media-oriented queries, and sometimes it’s broken up to show different information throughout the SERP, as you may have noticed in many of the local business-oriented search results, both shown below.

Media Knowledge Graph with Sticky Top Nav (Query for ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’) Local Business Knowledge Graph (GMB) With Information Split-up Throughout the SERP

Since the launch of Fraggle-based indexing is essentially a major Knowledge Graph build-out, Knowledge Graph results have also begun including more engaging content which makes it even less likely that users will click through to a website. Assets like playable video and audio, live sports scores, and location-specific information such as transportation information and TV time-tables can all be accessed directly in the search results. There’s more to the story, though. 

Increasingly, Google is also building out their own proprietary content by re-mixing existing information that they have indexed to create unique, engaging content like animated ‘AMP Stories’ which webmasters are also encouraged to build-out on their own. They have also started building a zoo of AR animals that can show as part of a Knowledge Graph result, all while encouraging developers to use their AR kit to build their own AR assets that will, no doubt, eventually be selectively incorporated into the Knowledge Graph too.

Google AR Animals in Knowledge Graph Google AMP Stories Now Called ‘Life in Images’

SEO Strategy for Knowledge Graphs

Companies who want to leverage the Knowledge Graph should take every opportunity to create your own assets, like AR models and AMP Stories, so that Google will have no reason to do it. Beyond that, companies should submit accurate information directly to Google whenever they can. The easiest way to do this is through Google My Business (GMB). Whatever types of information are requested in GMB should be added or uploaded. If Google Posts are available in your business category, you should be doing Posts regularly, and making sure that they link back to your site with a call to action. If you have videos or photos that are relevant for your company, upload them to GMB. Start to think of GMB as a social network or newsletter — any assets that are shared on Facebook or Twitter can also be shared on Google Posts, or at least uploaded to the GMB account.

You should also investigate the current Knowledge Graph entries that are related to your industry, and work to become associated with recognized companies or entities in that industry. This could be from links or citations on the entity websites, but it can also include being linked by third-party lists that give industry-specific advice and recommendations, such as being listed among the top competitors in your industry (“Best Plumbers in Denver,” “Best Shoe Deals on the Web,” or “Top 15 Best Reality TV Shows”). Links from these posts also help but are not required — especially if you can get your company name on enough lists with the other top players. Verify that any links or citations from authoritative third-party sites like Wikipedia, Better Business Bureau, industry directories, and lists are all pointing to live, active, relevant pages on the site, and not going through a 301 redirect.

While this is just speculation and not a proven SEO strategy, you might also want to make sure that your domain is correctly classified in Google’s records by checking the industries that it is associated with. You can do so in Google’s MarketFinder tool. Make updates or recommend new categories as necessary. Then, look into the filters and relationships that are given as part of Knowledge Graph entries and make sure you are using the topic and filter words as keywords on your site.

Featured snippets 

Featured Snippets or “Answers” first surfaced in 2014 and have also expanded quite a bit, as shown in the graph below. It is useful to think of Featured Snippets as rogue facts, ideas or concepts that don’t have a full Knowledge Graph result, though they might actually be associated with certain existing nodes on the Knowledge Graph (or they could be in the vetting process for eventual Knowledge Graph build-out). 

Featured Snippets seem to surface when the information comes from a source that Google does not have an incredibly high level of trust for, like it does for Wikipedia, and often they come from third party sites that may or may not have a monetary interest in the topic — something that makes Google want to vet the information more thoroughly and may prevent Google from using it, if a less bias option is available.

Like the Knowledge Graph, Featured Snippets results have grown very rapidly in the past year or so, and have also begun to include carousels — something that Rob Bucci writes about extensively here. We believe that these carousels represent potentially related topics that Google knows about from the Knowledge Graph. Featured Snippets now look even more like mini-Knowledge Graph entries: Carousels appear to include both lateral and vertically related topics, and their appearance and maintenance seem to be driven by click volume and subsequent searches. However, this may also be influenced by aggregated engagement data for People Also Ask and Related Search data.

The build-out of Featured Snippets has been so aggressive that sometimes the answers that Google lifts are obviously wrong, as you can see in the example image below. It is also important to understand that Featured Snippet results can change from location to location and are not language-agnostic, and thus, are not translated to match the Search Language or the Phone Language settings. Google also does not hold themselves to any standard of consistency, so one Featured Snippet for one query might present an answer one way, and a similar query for the same fact could present a Featured Snippet with slightly different information. For instance, a query for “how long to boil an egg” could result in an answer that says “5 minutes” and a different query for “how to make a hard-boiled egg” could result in an answer that says “boil for 1 minute, and leave the egg in the water until it is back to room temperature.”

Featured Snippet with Carousel Featured Snippet that is Wrong

The data below was collected by Moz and represents an average of roughly 10,000 that skews slightly towards ‘head’ terms.

This Data Was Collected by Moz & represents an average of roughly 10,000 that skews slightly towards ‘head’ terms

SEO strategy for featured snippets

All of the standard recommendations for driving Featured Snippets apply here. This includes making sure that you keep the information that you are trying to get ranked in a Featured Snippet clear, direct, and within the recommended character count. It also includes using simple tables, ordered lists, and bullets to make the data easier to consume, as well as modeling your content after existing Featured Snippet results in your industry.

This is still speculative, but it seems likely that the inclusion of Speakable Schema markup for things like “How To,” “FAQ,” and “Q&A” may also drive Featured Snippets. These kinds of results are specially designated as content that works well in a voice-search. Since Google has been adamant that there is not more than one index, and Google is heavily focused on improving voice-results from Google Assistant devices, anything that could be a good result in the Google Assistant, and ranks well, might also have a stronger chance at ranking in a Featured Snippet.

People Also Ask & Related Searches

Finally, the increased occurrence of “Related Searches” as well as the inclusion of People Also Ask (PAA) questions, just below most Knowledge Graph and Featured Snippet results, is undeniable. The Earl Tea screenshot shows that PAA’s along with Interesting Finds are both part of the Knowledge Graph too.

The graph below shows the steady increase in PAA’s. PAA results appear to be an expansion of Featured Snippets because once expanded, the answer to the question is displayed, with the citation below it. Similarly, some Related Search results also now include a result that looks like a Featured Snippet, instead of simply linking over to a different search result. You can now find ‘Related Searches’ throughout the SERP, often as part of a Knowledge Graph results, but sometimes also in a carousel in the middle of the SERP, and always at the bottom of the SERP — sometimes with images and expansion buttons to surface Featured Snippets within the Related Search results directly in the existing SERP.

Boxes with Related Searches are now also included with Image Search results. It’s interesting to note that Related Search results in Google Images started surfacing at the same time that Google began translating image Title Tags and Alt Tags. It coincides well with the concept that Entity-First Indexing, that Entities and Knowledge Graph are language-agnostic, and that Related Searches are somehow related to the Knowledge Graph.

This data was collected by Moz and represents an average of roughly 10,000 that skews slightly towards ‘head’ terms.

People Also Ask Related Searches

SEO STRATEGY for PAA and related searches

Since PAAs and some Related Searches now appear to simply include Featured Snippets, driving Featured Snippet results for your site is also a strong strategy here. It often appears that PAA results include at least two versions of the same question, re-stated with a different language, before including questions that are more related to lateral and vertical nodes on the Knowledge Graph. If you include information on your site that Google thinks is related to the topic, based on Related Searches and PAA questions, it could help make your site appear relevant and authoritative.

Finally, it is crucial to remember that you don’t have a website to rank in Google now and SEO’s should consider non-website rankings as part of their job too. 

If a business doesn’t have a website, or if you just want to cover all the bases, you can let Google host your content directly — in as many places as possible. We have seen that Google-hosted content generally seems to get preferential treatment in Google search results and Google Discover, especially when compared to the decreasing traffic from traditional organic results. Google is now heavily focused on surfacing multimedia content, so anything that you might have previously created a new page on your website for should now be considered for a video.

Google My Business (GMB) is great for companies that don’t have websites, or that want to host their websites directly with Google. YouTube is great for videos, TV, video-podcasts, clips, animations, and tutorials. If you have an app, a book, an audio-book, a podcast, a movie, TV show, class or music, or PWA, you can submit that directly to GooglePlay (much of the video content in GooglePlay is now cross-populated in YouTube and YouTube TV, but this is not necessarily true of the other assets). This strategy could also include books in Google Books, flights in Google Flights, Hotels in Google Hotel listings, and attractions in Google Explore. It also includes having valid AMP code, since Google hosts AMP content, and includes Google News if your site is an approved provider of news.

Changes to SEO tracking for Fraggle-based indexing

The biggest problem for SEOs is the missing organic traffic, but it is also the fact that current methods of tracking organic results generally don’t show whether things like Knowledge Graph, Featured Snippets, PAA, Found on the Web, or other types of results are appearing at the top of the query or somewhere above your organic result. Position one in organic results is not what it used to be, nor is anything below it, so you can’t expect those rankings to drive the same traffic. If Google is going to be lifting and representing everyone’s content, the traffic will never arrive at the site and SEOs won’t know if their efforts are still returning the same monetary value. This problem is especially poignant for publishers, who have only been able to sell advertising on their websites based on the expected traffic that the website could drive.

The other thing to remember is that results differ — especially on mobile, which varies from device to device (generally based on screen size) but also can vary based on the phone IOS. They can also change significantly based on the location or the language settings of the phone, and they definitely do not always match with desktop results for the same query. Most SEO’s don’t know much about the reality of their mobile search results because most SEO reporting tools still focus heavily on desktop results, even though Google has switched to Mobile-First. 

As well, SEO tools generally only report on rankings from one location — the location of their servers — rather than being able to test from different locations. 

The only thing that good SEO’s can do to address this problem is to use tools like the MobileMoxie SERP Test to check what rankings look like on top keywords from all the locations where their users may be searching. While the free tool only provides results with one location at a time, subscribers can test search results in multiple locations, based on a service-area radius or based on an uploaded CSV of addresses. The tool has integrations with Google Sheets, and a connector with Data Studio, to help with SEO reporting, but APIs are also available, for deeper integrations in content editing tools, dashboards and for use within other SEO tools.

Conclusion

At MozCon 2017, I expressed my belief that the impact of Mobile-First Indexing requires a re-interpretation of the words “Mobile,” “First,” and “Indexing.” Re-defined in the context of Mobile-First Indexing, the words should be understood to mean “portable,” “preferred,” and “organization of information.” The potential of a shift to Fraggle-based indexing and the recent changes to the SERPs, especially in the past year, certainly seems to prove the accuracy of this theory. And though they have been in the works for more than two years, the changes to the SERP now seem to be rolling-out faster and are making the SERP unrecognizable from what it was only three or four years ago.

In this post, we described Fraggles and Fraggle-based indexing for SEO as a theory that speculates the true nature of the change to Mobile-First Indexing, how the index itself — and the units of indexing — may have changed to accommodate faster and more nuanced organization of information based on the Knowledge Graph, rather than simply links and URLs. We covered how Fraggles and Fraggle-based Indexing works, how it is related to JavaScript and PWA’s and what strategies SEOs can take to leverage it for additional exposure in the search results as well as how they can update their success tracking to account for all the variabilities that impact mobile search results.

SEOs need to consider the opportunities and change the way we view our overall indexing strategy, and our jobs as a whole. If Google is organizing the index around the Knowledge Graph, that makes it much easier for Google to constantly mention near-by nodes of the Knowledge Graph in “Related Searches” carousels, links from the Knowledge Graph, and topics in PAAs. It might also make it easier to believe that featured snippets are simply pieces of information being vetted (via Google’s click-crowdsourcing) for inclusion or reference in the Knowledge Graph.

Fraggles and Fraggled indexing re-frames the switch to Mobile-First Indexing, which means that SEOs and SEO tool companies need to start thinking mobile-first — i.e. the portability of their information. While it is likely that pages and domains still carry strong ranking signals, the changes in the SERP all seem to focus less on entire pages, and more on pieces of pages, similar to the ones surfaced in Featured Snippets, PAAs, and some Related Searches. If Google focuses more on windowing content and being an “answer engine” instead of a “search engine,” then this fits well with their stated identity, and their desire to build a more efficient, sustainable, international engine.

SEOs also need to find ways to serve their users better, by focusing more on the reality of the mobile SERP, and how much it can vary for real users. While Google may not call the smallest rankable units Fraggles, it is what we call them, and we think they are critical to the future of SEO.