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