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SES Boston

 2:34 am on Mar 9, 2003 (gmt 0)
Things are so good, I'm embarrassed. (Noel McMichael -MarketLeap)
The bottom line from SES Boston is best summarized in a word by Anne Kennedy of BeyondInk: credibility.

This was a very different kind of SEM/SEO conference. It was the largest conference SEM/SEO industry has ever put together. From corporate marketing crowd to the mom & pop seo's, there was a diversification present we have not seen before.

In the past, these conferences were occasions for SEO's came to pay homage to the search engines - the SEO's were the side show. It was as if we all came to say we were sorry for riding the search engine gravy train and vowed to give up spam.

This time it was the search engines that were the side show. Just walking down the isles from booth to booth, it was real clear people came to talk to those in marketing services. Companies such as Trellian, PositionTech, and GoToast had busy booths from the start to finish.

This focus on the service providers and seo's was never more apparent than when we went to lunch with a search engine on Tuesday. We didn't spend the hour quizzing them on their products, they were more interested in quizzing us.

SEO conferences are generally a male bonding ritual with beer flowing freely and even the occasional poker game. This time there were dozens upon dozens of women present. The class and caliber of the women present had the guys all talking about it. Jessie Stricchiola of Alchemist Media said, "I looked out into the audience once and it was mostly women. It wasn't just the numbers either, they were asking informed questions".

Freebies: The quality of booth giveaways this year was outstanding. Everyone was remarking about how good the giveaways were. While various trinkets are the norm at these things, several vendors were dishing out fairly expensive items for trade show exhibitors.

After hours: Overture, Fast, and GoToast all held quality mixers. Overture, with it's pregame warmup email before the conference was the largest. Fast had a great turn out at Pravda while giving away dinners and dvd players. GoToast also had a large crowd at a local bar.

Hotel: The hotel conference center and main ball room were a big hit - the rooms were not. "I kept expecting Jack Nicholson to come walking down the hall with an axe like in The Shining." (-John Herd)

Top buzzwords: Space and Organic. From marketing materials to presentations, Organic was everywhere at the conference. (Organic was coined just last fall by our own WebGuerrilla). Although Space has been used to describe various markets since the 60's, it's usage at the conference was numbing. Hardly a single presentation I heard did not include "space" in some reference to SEM/SEO.

VC's. Who would have guessed there would be venture capitalists wandering around both looking for stock tips, and flashing cash at a show like this? Who would have further guessed they wanted to talk with WebmasterWorld - nuff said for now.

Tips: Credit for NFFC's discovery of "-link:domain.com" on Google a few months ago was taken by no less than 4 people (we tried to set them straight NFFC).

Hello World: Quietly gaining strength over the last few months, multi media engine Singingfish made a big splash at the conference.

Mad Props: While speaking of some site during his presentation, Tim Mayer of Fast referred to it as, "The WebmasterWorld of it's space".

The Buzz: Many insist there is yet a bigger deal being worked on that makes the recent acquisitions look small. Yahoo, Overture, and Microsoft continue to be the names mentioned. I think it's pretty clear there is something in the works there.

Best War Story: Hands down, Mike Grehan. While racing to projectile vomit up some bad lobster, Mike tripped and hit his head. He spent the next day in the hospital recovering from a concusion. Hope you are back in game shape soon Mike.

Cheap Stunts: Every conference has one or two college prank stories - I was responsible for this years. Every morning I would switch the four Yahoo booth computers to either WebmasterWorld or AskJeeves as the home page. The most humorus thing about it? They had to call the tech guy to fix it. (sorry Yahoo - lol). Someone got the last laugh though, because as I opened my laptop for last time before leaving, the homepage was cnet.

All-in-all, a fantastic three days.

Related Threads:

From top down: Danny Sullivan, Position Tech Crew (Jeremy, Chris, David Turner), Dave Carlson of GoToast, Google rep Barry Schnitt, Jonathan Glick of Altavista, and the Yahoo Reps.



 2:45 am on Mar 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

Cheap Stunts: Every conference has one or two college prank stories - I was responsible for this years. Every morning I would switch the four Yahoo booth computers to either WebmasterWorld or AskJeeves as the home page. The most humorus thing about it? They had to call the tech guy to fix it. (sorry Yahoo - lol).

ROFL! Excellent. Organic, VC's, women in mass (being one of the women SEM myself) - sounds exciting.

Hey, we're the main attraction now? About time!

jeremy goodrich

 2:52 am on Mar 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

Excellent summary, Brett.

It is great to hear that the conference was such a success. VC money for WebmasterWorld, hu? Now that sounds a bit odd. Will be interesting to see how this story unfolds.


 4:42 pm on Mar 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

I noticed a big change too. I was on the Site Clinic panel where we review audience members sites and provide advice.

In the past, I've attended this session and most sites were small mom and pop sites, usually barely professional and hardly complete.

This time the sites asking for advice were Ebay, Scientific American, Johnson & Johnson, Hallmark, and Microsoft.

I was very surprised to say the least. It seems that SEM is really starting to come into it's own.


 5:13 pm on Mar 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

The most excellent freebie had to be the glow-stick pens from Google (those must have cost an arm and a leg)!

Runner-up was the pocket etch-a-sketch from adMarketplace.

Freebies aside, what a valuable way to spend a Tuesday (or Wed or Thurs)! Can't wait for the next one. Don't think I'll be in Sydney, though. ;)

Can't remember who it was, but at the beginning of the first advertising track session on Tuesday, one of the speakers led off with one of the fundamental but sometimes forgotten truths of what we do . . . "conversion starts on the search results page." So applicable to pay-per-click, "organic" (buzz buzz), writing titles, descriptions, relevancy, etc. That one line set the tone of the conference for me. One of those "seeing the forest for the trees" moments.

Thanks to all who made it possible and worthwhile, organizers and attendees alike.

Robert Charlton

 6:05 pm on Mar 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>VC money for WebmasterWorld, hu? Now that sounds a bit odd. Will be interesting to see how this story unfolds.<<

I can already see threads about the rumors of an IPO. Move over Google. ;)


 6:33 pm on Mar 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

Nice round-up Brett,

Organic search engine marketing,

ok I could find something on that, but where does "space" as buzz-word fit in related to Search engine promotion?

Ok, i'll look it up in a glossary.


 6:49 pm on Mar 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

Wow, Brett a very nice writeup on the conference. I was hoping for just that when I first got wind the conference was happening. Pictures made it nice reading, and inclusion of WebmasterWorld people was a great mixer. :P


 8:12 pm on Mar 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

Ummm..so what IS organic and what was space used in reference to?


 8:39 pm on Mar 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

Excellent summary!

Thanks a lot for the info. Good luck with the venture capitalists. If you are successful maybe you can give us some helpful pointers....


 8:57 pm on Mar 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

organic = not paid (not PPC, PFI, etc.)
space = area of focus, as in the "wireless marketing space"


 3:44 am on Mar 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

Sounds great! Wish I was there. Oh wait...I was! Unfortunately, I spend the first two days preparing for one of my sessions on the third day and missed out on most of the other sessions.

Had fun at the night-time things though. All in all, a very good conference!

(Hey Brett...where's all those pictures you took of me?!)

See you all at the pub conference next month!


 4:25 am on Mar 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

I had a great time except for the hangover following the Overture bash...come to think of it...my head hasn't hurt that much since the LAST overture mixer I went to...

Overall a great conference, I got a lot out of it, made some great contacts (Good seeing you again too Jill) and great to confirm that I've been doing things the right way as far as the search engines are concerned.


 8:41 am on Mar 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

>where's all those pictures you took of me?!

The fore/aft lights over and behind the stage just blew away most of my pics - I just couldn't get the right angle or cam setting to get the lighting right. I was either too low, too high, too far away, or too close. I took 300+ pics and I think there were a dozen usable.


Home grown, pure content.


catch all phrase meaning, "we'd give you a real definition of our target market if we could describe it in under a thousand words".

>buzz words

I forgot another one: 2d vs 3d. Which is the online persona vs real life persona.


 11:02 am on Mar 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

Is the next one going to be in Sydney? When will that be?



 2:45 pm on Mar 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

Just gotta watch out for those stray tounges at 2am. :) Had to be there


 8:58 pm on Mar 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

lets have one in Asia...you boys & gals can't have all the fun without us!


 2:12 am on Mar 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

HI All,

I am a student and could not be there at the conference.

I am interested in the "Meet the Crawlers" Session. Is there anyone who would want to share that with me?

I would appreciate the support. ALL forms welcome(Audio, Photocopies, Tape....).

Willing to pay the Mailing costs.

Thank You,


 2:45 am on Mar 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

Probably not any audio/video floating around but there will be a similar meet the crawlers at the Pub Conference. They talked about paid inclusion programs, Wisenut is planning to ramp up, Google made some comments mixed in with various threads here. Teoma explained a bit about how the engine works. Nothing earth shattering and no real "secrets" were revealed.


 4:18 am on Mar 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

Followup: have heard there is a case of flu going around many of the conference goers. I hope everyone is well soon. Sounds like it is that 24hr thing going around.


 5:06 am on Mar 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

Lets hope its not what our buddy Mike had.


 2:11 pm on Mar 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

Long Live Whiskey Park!


 4:41 pm on Mar 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

My one regret from the Boston SES show is that I got to the Google booth to late (Noon 1st day!) and didnt get a GoogleGlow pen!


 3:33 am on Mar 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

Just booked in for the Sydney event - is anyone else going? I hope Google ships some of their pens out!

Also, I'm amazed at the lack of security that allowed Brett (and others) to access eachothers computers. Credit due for pulling the stunt, but you'd think the pros would lock down their boxes.


 3:39 pm on Mar 12, 2003 (gmt 0)


It was a most excellent conference. The rooms were *packed* with people. I was shocked when I looked up from the stage and noticed this huge sea of faces.

And I was totally pleased when a bunch of folks came up after my session to ask really intelligent SEO questions. It took me over 20 minutes just to get out of there - and people were still hunting me down to ask questions the next couple days. Now, that's cool!

The bad news: I got sick, and lost my voice the first day. And I don't even want to talk about the huge cockroach I found in the tub....ugh...


 10:18 pm on Mar 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>Long Live Whiskey Park!

Oh my God, a witness...

I thought I nuetralized all of those. (I think I'm in the clear, but I'm worried about skibum)


 6:28 am on Mar 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

hehehe ;) whiskey park...was that the place [bar/club] with the really dark doors in the hotel?

Mikkel Svendsen

 8:44 am on Mar 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

> 24hr thing going around.

Nope, it wasen't just 24h! :)


 3:06 pm on Mar 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

I too attended the Search Engine Strategies event in Boston, and I must unfortunately say that I was not at all impressed by the event.

As the SEM industry continues to mature, and SEM becomes a concern to marketers of increasingly large stature (Fortune 1000 companies and the like), the SEM industry, as witnessed at SES, continues to talk only about tactics (i.e. how to get dynamic content pages indexed, how to write for the search engines, and so on). What any of this has to do with the concerns of real marketers eludes me. In truth, SES is really no different today (as exemplified by the Boston event) than it has always been: the same speakers, the same topics of discussion.

It's not that the largely "how to" information presented at SES has no value. It does. That said, none of this does anything to help real marketers, with real budgets, who could spend money on SEM, understand SEM. And, evidently, from what I gather, neither Danny Sullivan nor any of the attendees at the Boston event seem interested in changing SES towards this objective in the future. As long as this remains true, the SEO industry, in particular, will remain relatively small and unknown to most major marketers.



 4:22 pm on Mar 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

Lorraine, make sure to go to the keynotes some time. Tim Cadogans and Freds were both pretty good.

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