July 20, 2017 | Sarah Danks

MnSearch Summit 2017

Once again, the MnSearch board didn’t fail to deliver: this year’s annual MnSummit was another day of fantastic speakers, great insights, wonderful attendees, and above all a sense of camaraderie and friendships forged.

Nearly 400 search marketers converged on the River Centre in lovely downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, on June 23rd for another event for the books.

Just like last year, there were three tracks, along with keynote speakers at morning, afternoon and closing:

  • Krista Seiden of Google (morning keynote)
  • Ayat Shukairy of Figpii
  • Clay Collins of Leadpages
  • Christi Olson of Microsoft
  • David Mihm of Tidings
  • Gene Hammett of Leaders in the Trenches Podcast
  • Jason Dailey of Facebook
  • Jeff Sauer of Jeffalytics
  • Jenny Halasz of JLH Marketing Inc.
  • Michelle Robbins of Third Door Media + Marty Weintraub of Aimclear (afternoon keynote)
  • John Doherty of Credo
  • Maddie Cary of Point It Digital Marketing
  • Manny Rivas of Aimclear
  • Max Prin of Merkle
  • Mike Arnesen of UpBuild
  • Rob Bucci of STAT Search Analytics
  • Ross Simmonds of Hustle & Grind
  • Cyrus Shepard of Fazillion — formerly at Moz (closing keynote)

This year, while some of us were busy shooting (ahem), others were relied upon to take some notes of the sessions attended. To that effect, what follows is a mere snippet of information gleaned from that day’s data, humbly offered up by our very own Mary Lundblad, the account manager here at ThinkSEM.

Krista Seiden

Moving from a Web to a Mobile World

Krista came to us all the way from Google, where she’s an Analytics advocate. She spoke to us about working in the analytics realm for the past 10+ years, and how she’s now using that background to work within the mobile app world.

She focused on optimization of customers’ mobile experience by paying attention to metrics that matter most.

Here are some notes from her session:

GA – Firebase – 500 events – 25 parameters each

People use Google to: know, go, buy or do something

Engagement Metrics –

  • User/foreground
  • Screen Views

Business Drivers – Avg Rev/User, In-app purchases

First open attribution – source, LTV

Ad Exposure – est. rev

Cohort Reporting

App Info – create audience to convert to latest version

AMP – Accelerated Mobile Pages – time stamped in SERPs

Unfortunately Krista didn’t share her slides with MnSearch; if she does we’ll update with the link here so you can see her full presentation.

Ayat Shukairy

The Conversion Optimization System: a 12-step Process to Create Repeatable, Sustainable Increases in Conversion Rates

Ayat is the co-founder of Figpii the “first all-in-one growth hacking platform.” In Ayat’s session, after telling us how challenging it can be working alongside your husband (ahem. this author knows just what she’s talking about!), she brought her audience through her processes of conversion-oriented marketing plans, including testing and understanding the data behind it all.

Here are the notes from her presentation:

CRO – interested in participating in survey go to: invespcro.com/s17

convert@invesp.com for trial program

An experience of a lifetime: Commodities…Goods…Services…Experiences

How can we provide for our customers – all experiences– all instances?

Understanding the analytics – Repeatable & Sustainable growth in your bottom line – follow a system.

CRO process pyramid, bottom up: 1. knowledge, 2. system 3. implementation


  1. Heuristic Analysis – visitor paths, identify issues – 6 methods photo – users that use site search tool are more likely to convert
  2. Qualitative Research – polls, survey, interviews, focus groups. What is preventing you from making a purchase/decision/choice…
  3. Quantitative Research, funnels, source/medium, new/returning, mobile/desktop all reporting linked to KPI. Segment or die! Segment by new/returning, by behavior, by visitor type
  4. Competitive analysis – SWOT, how are cos different, compare SEO, PPC, EM
  5. ID problems – visitor videos, heatmaps, surveys, polls to ID problems – affect visitor exp
  6. Conversion Framework – personas, sales complexity, control VX
  7. Prioritize Problems – Potential CRO lift, enhance CX
  8. Create conversion roadmap – group by page, prioritize for the website, use conversion framework
  9. Create hypothesis – “we saw qual & quan data, we expect, that change x will cause y impact, we’ll measure this using data metric.”
  10. Create new designs – use hypothesis to create new designs
  11. Conduct A/B test – sample size, est run time, implement test, monitor data, validate results
  12. Post Test Analysis – learn, what were assumptions, what were results, etc.

See more details of Ayat’s presentation.

David Mihm

The Difference Making Local Ranking Factors in 2020

David’s the founder of Tidings, startup that will assist companies in acquiring local customers. He’s also a man after my own heart, who believes incoming links are of vital importance in determining authority online — even, and especially, as they pertain to local search.

Here are some notes from his preso:

Local Search

Test primarily on mobile.

Google localizes always

All search designed for mobile

50% use Amazon for product search first step

20% of searches in 2016 were already in voice

Personalized results – history

Proximity targeting – save places and share with friends

Rank brain from strings to things – more direct results

Answers without leaving Google – less organic traffic going through to sites

Wiki answers – within Google without going to websites

Mayo clinic symptomatic details in Google (without going to website)

Transaction – ads directly, not to website

Paid Ad Placements

Hotels – book in Google

Appointments from knowledge panel – doctors, restaurants, etc.

Fewer organic click-throughs, affecting website rankings

2017 Local ranking factors: Engagement, Local Data & Traditional SEO

Local Bus listings – contribute to entity authority. Citations need to evolve. Keep people talking about it.

You – reviews, mention products/services, CTR (click-through rate), general traffic, branded searches, knowledge panel

interactions, real-world visits and transactions.

Engagement democratizes links – expect by 2020 engagement will be that much more important –reviews, social and behavioral (go to business, spend $$)

Knowledge box/onebox/snippets will be increasing – especially with Voice.

Expect fewer opportunities for organic engagement.

Diversify offerings – snippets study, use website as an API – for knowledge panels, start looking at local in FB, Amazon Echo, Apple Siri results; On-page SEO will not be enough.

Immediate short term for gains – reviews! Get 5 Stars, volume/velocity with regularity, comments have power.

Citations – Enterprises, location pages CRO, still value, possibly declining as Google will get more info from users rather than directories.

FB – recommendations, reviews, build lists

Change from domain authority to entity/brand authority – Nextdoor

Local ranking in other geo areas – in review use of “Mpls” can help Maple Grove business

Minneapolis Efforts

Location pages – unique content, testimonials, rich snippets, photos, reviews by location

Future – events, hosting, location/check in, training sessions, multiple widespread locations, then consider separate social accts.

New – Google Posts in GMB – coupons, articles, will show on knowledge panel, take advantage.

See David’s entire deck.

After this session, everyone took a break to hork down some om-nommy taco goodness and chat about their favorite aspects of the day (thus far).

Then it was back at it, with the afternoon keynote address!

Keynote – Marty Weintraub & Michelle Robbins

Machine & Man: A Candid Conversation Amongst True Frenemies

Michelle, Vice President of Third Door Media, joined Marty, co-founder of Aimclear onstage to act out a parody of man vs machine: ultimately, who’ll win???

Here are some snippets (see what I did there?) of their tête-à-tête.

Platform enabled marketing – with baked in AI capabilities. Big data + machine learning = AI

AI; Any tool with predictive capability – discover, predict, recommend and automate without intervention.

Rank Brain – maturing constantly – AI crucial for Google’s success.

Current age of cognitive marketing – supports upcoming AI age

Albert – Algorithms –

Marketer –

Albert – learns test, repeats until KPIs are met, media buying, timing and channels

Persado – Cognitive Content Generation – LPs, EMs, CTAs, Subject line, Ads, FB posts, SMS and

app push messages

Lucy – scours every datapoint, segments audience, mines data on audience behavior.

(Dynamic search ads – Google creates ads, etc. – AI aspects)

Input dependent on humans

Take a machine learning class.

Neither man nor machine shared any presentation material, so unfortunately that’s all we have of this keynote.

Max Prin

What Does Technical SEO Look Like in 2017?

Max is the Head of Technical SEO at Merkle, the “nation’s largest and fastest-growing performance marketing agency.”

Here are some notes from his slides:

How to make sure your important pages are crawled –

  1. clean URLs, (no fragments, numbered, escaped fragment…) push
  2. Lead bots to valuable pages – crawl widget, internal linking is powerful, use <a href> elements, avoid “mega-mega” menus
  3. Accurate/up-to- date sitemaps (XMLor HTML) should include URLs that render a 200 Ok status code, have a self-referencing canonical tag (or no tag)
  4. Properly handle duplicate content and low-value pages – parameterized URLs sorts and facet navigation – use canonical/noindex tags – non-indexable URLs are crawled less often
  5. Analyze your log files and crawl your site to find out if: bots not crawling some URLs, pages not properly internally linked, sitemaps contain non canonical
  6. Error pages

Make bots crawl more pages: Decrease load time – increased crawl rate – fast reliable server no 5XX errors, Content

Delivery Network

Rendering – requesting ALL resources – compression, minification, reduce the number of requests – redirects, icons, fonts, etc.

Optimize rendering patch

Use Http/2, multiplexing, binary headers, header compression, server push

Better engagement metrics – CloudFlare – lower bounce rate, higher time on site, site testing – try webpagetest.org


Google is leveraging a headless browser to fully render webpages – understanding user

Mobile-friendliness – all valuable content on mobile site rendition – or site may not rank well for key content.

Pages with intrusive interstitials may not rank as high – test

Progressive Web Apps – reliable, fast, engaging

Make sure Google can understand your pages – don’t block resources – robot.txt check daily – robots.txt testing tool on Merkle. Load content automatically. (vs loading content on user interaction) Tabs content, as well. Fetch and Render as any bot.


  1. Annotate semantics in order to retrieve relevant pages
  2. Optimize metadata
  3. Leverage structured data markup – 2 components, vocabulary (schema.org) Format 9

microdata – JSON-LD – mark-up everything. Enhance search results, product, reviews, ratings, events, music, movie, recipes, etc. Rich Snippet = higher CTR

Want to see Max’s entire presentation? See it here.

Christi Olson – Bing

Preparing Digital Assistants & a Zero UI/Screenless Search Experience
Intelligent Agents and Services

Christi is a Search Evangelist at Bing; she asks, “Are you prepared to capture traffic from voice search?” She says voice searches are far more likely to be local searches than those that’re typed in.

Here are some blurbs from her speech:

Local & Vocal – preparing for the future

Future – conversations between people and tech, bots and agents, new interfaces and devices for engagement

Conversational, Commerce, virtual commerce


MS Graph – business data and insights, customer data, device insights

Intelligent Services – business data, device & personal

By 2020 50% of search will be voice generated

Optimize for images – alt ext, file name, shopping feeds and everything else

Products – visual search – find similar images and find related products.

Longer term bets with IA – bot framework, skills framework (train first for skills)

IoThings connected device.

How customers engage – voice search, interesting and easy to use

Chatbot in search results – enabled in bing – make chatbot easy to use.

Use bots to automate process for FAQ qnamaker.ai

Teach Cortana to interact with your brand, product, services

Write content to answer visitors’ questions.

Catch Christi’s slides here.

Cyrus Shepard

What’s New, What’s Different, and What’s Stayed the Same About SEO in 2017

For those of you who’re super-new to search — and those who aren’t but have been living under a rock during the past decade — Cyrus is kind of a big deal (albeit super down-to-earth and highly approachable). After doing astronomical things with content over at Moz, Cyrus decided to jump (space)ship and start Fazillion Media, a business “serving the greater good.”

Very enigmatic!

Here are some excerpts from Cyrus’s presentation:

2.6 % of ads shown are clicked on.

Link paradox – link building, but no rankings change. Is Google ignoring links?

Build links, double down on relevancy + intent, re-avow old links?

Speed – >88 – AMP is increasingly necessary

AMP – not a ranking factor but affords additional visibility

Winning carousel = additive traffic +27% mobile traffic

AMP + Rich Cards = additive traffic

Increased engagement for PWAs Progressive Web Apps – mz.cm/krum-pwa set up your own PWA

See Cyrus’s presentation slides.

Thank You, MnSearch Board!

Once again, I’d like to thank the awesome board members for all their hard work, great ideas, and dedication to the organization. Without them, there wouldn’t be a MnSummit!

(This image is of present and past board members; we’re missing some — most notably Ward Tongen and our very own Clint Danks — but this is what we could scrape together in the chaos of the day!)

Whew. Speaking of chaos, we know we missed a LOT of the valuable information shared that wondrous day; how can any one person (or even two?) think they can possibly record all that knowledge? Hopefully next year we’ll have more notes to share from even more of the awesome speaker sessions!

While we dutifully count down the days ’til next year’s conference, here’s some more light reading for you from past MnSearch Summits:

Feel free to tell us all the good stuff we missed in the comments!


And, if you’re interested in soaking up more MnSearch goodness throughout the year, become a member!



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