MozCon Virtual 2021 Interview Series: Dr. Pete Meyers

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Resident Moz search scientist 

Question: 2020 was quite a year, how was this year for you? Did you have any favorite projects?

Dr. Pete: Honestly, there were a lot of days this past year when it felt like just staying alive and sane were our main project (and I’m not sure I completed the sane part). Here at Moz, the Product team and I have been hard at work on an upcoming suite of competitive analysis tools, and I’m excited to finally get the first part of that out to the world. We should have news at MozCon and a limited beta going out in the next couple of months.

Question: What key trends are you noticing in the SERP right now? What should brands pay attention to when competing for features?

Dr. Pete: It’s been a challenging year in SEO, as the volatility of the SERPs in many ways matches the volatility of the world. It’s been a big year for e-commerce and a bad year for brick-and-mortar, for obvious reasons, and as we return to a new normal, we really need to stay on top of things and monitor how changing consumer behavior is impacting SERPs, both because Google is changing to adapt and because search behavior itself is changing. SERP features are becoming more and more niche, and I think it’s really important to know your own industry and SERP space. There are a lot of features now that might only impact 1% of us, but for that 1% the impact is massive. There’s no one-sized-fits-all advice in 2021.

Question: How do you think the SERPs will evolve over the next year?

Dr. Pete: In just the past month, we’ve had two Core Updates (which is unprecedented) and the beginning of the Core Web Vitals (CWV) ranking updates. While I believe that CWV as a ranking factor is pretty low-volume right now, Google is clearly signaling to us that they want fast, user-friendly sites, and that’s something that all of us should be working toward anyway, regardless of our SEO. We need to be aware of the entire searcher experience and the SERPs as a journey, not a static collection of rankings and features.

Question: You’ll be talking about how to turn data into competitive insights at MozCon. What inspired you to tackle this topic in 2021?

Dr. Pete: I’ve actually been working on this particular project for at least four years, and generally questioning how we do competitive analysis and how we can improve that process. One thing the pandemic really drove home is that the “competition” isn’t a single or static set of companies — our competitive landscape is constantly changing. So, the idea of being able to re-evaluate that landscape and not just treat it as a one-and-done report took on new life in 2021.

Question: What are the biggest challenges brands face when conducting competitive analysis?

Dr. Pete: First, it’s incredibly time-consuming. Second, what you end up with after a ton of work is usually a giant spreadsheet of keywords or link prospects that’s ultimately not very actionable. No one is going to take a competitive analysis with tens of thousands of keywords and write a thousand unique, well-researched pieces of content. So, I think the big challenges are making the process both easier and more focused.

Question: What’s your #1 tip for conducting effective competitive analysis?

Dr. Pete: Don’t assume you know who your competition is or that they’re just one set of businesses. Your online/SERP competitors may look very different from your brick-and-mortar competitors, and the competition is always evolving. At the same time, you might have content competitors and product competitors and even partner-competitors, and those groups might not overlap much or require the same strategies to compete with.

Question: What are the key takeaways you want viewers to walk away with?

Dr. Pete: I hope people walk away with a better sense of how to evaluate their competition and turn that analysis into an actionable content strategy that considers not just keywords, but their target competitors’ content and their own historical content. While I’m going to be teasing some of our upcoming product features, I’ll also be demonstrating how to do some of this work with Google (including some tips and tricks with advanced search operators).

Question: Who in the MozCon line up are you most excited to watch this year? Anything else you are looking forward to?

Dr. Pete: I’m really behind where I want to be on Natural Language Processing (NLP) work, so I’m excited to see Miracle Inameti-Archibong’s talk. I’ve been a big fan of some of Miracle’s work over the past year or two. Excited to see Jackie Chu speak, too, and hear more about her role at Uber. I always value hearing from in-house SEOs at big brands, since so many of my own contacts are agency folks. Always eager to see my returning favorites, too, like Wil Reynolds. Of course, I’m probably most excited to watch my boss, Tom Capper, because he’s brilliant and very handsome and did not at all make me say that.