I just got back from Danny’s new SMX Advanced conference and it was great. Everyone asks me about the conferences and which are the best to attend, so I’m going to start writing up conference reviews. Here is the first one…
Score: Thumbs Up
Why should in-house SEMs go:
- There weren’t a lot of consultants trying to sell you.
- Access to Googlers because it was smaller.
- Your chances of finding other in-housers to network are higher than SES and Pubcon because the consultant to in-house ratio seemed smaller.
Prioritization of the conference: If I could go to only one conference a year, this probably wouldn’t be it because it’s only 2 days and expensive. But, if you can do two or three a year, this is a good one to add to your itinerary.
Who should not attend: Those only in search for one or two years, unless you’re really good. The problem is that you’ll ask questions that are too basic and ruin it for other attendees. The speakers assumed knowledge and didn’t explain many of the concepts like they do at the other conferences.
Atmosphere: Casual and friendly. You saw more into the personalities of the speakers than you do at other conferences. Humor was well injected into the sessions. The engines definitely ripped on each other, it was hilarious to see. The height of the show was day one… Matt Cutts had Danny stripping to casual attire. For the first time, Danny was in shorts during the show (unless you count the time Danny sported Thomas Bindle’s lederhosen).
Food: Superb! The person in charge of food deserves a raise. Warm meals, no boxes and loads of cakes at every meal. Refreshments between sessions consisted of drinks of every kind (except of alcoholic) and munchies (Malted Milk Balls, salt water taffy, granola bars, etc.). You didn’t feel the need to make other arrangements for lunch at this conference.
Parties: Always the most important question by those in the industry. They were great and all-inclusive so no one was left out (definitely becoming an issue at the other shows). I found they were much tamer than SES, but I left the party scene earlier at this show than normal – it may have gotten crazy after hours.
Access to Googlers: Everywhere you turned Googlers were there. Someone commented that they were surprised Google was in every session, we don’t see that at the other conferences. The likely reason is that it was smaller and there was only one organic track. I did find it was much easier to get your questions asked, probably because it was a group of advanced search marketers who weren’t queuing for basic questions.
- Summits were interesting, but I won’t be paying to go to them again. The good news, Danny doesn’t want to have them again! It was great for the industry to be able to give ideas, but I know a few of them that the search engines expressed interest in were pitched over a year ago (with the exact same expressed interest). But, reinforcement of the points never hurt.
- I spoke with one person who said he attended one or two sessions at SES and PubCon, but felt the need to attend every single session at SMX advanced – and loved every single one.
- Based on feedback from those I spoke with, the sessions were well received.
- My thoughts – they were very good, but they could be better. The challenge is for the speakers to be enticed to offer up good advice.
Take-aways: The types of take-aways were different than other conferences, more insightful and more strategic. However, there were fewer of them. I realized that it is because the conference is so much shorter and I have now been in search for a while now. I fear that the shortness probably limited others’ take-aways and that could taint opinions when they consider returning or recommending to others.
Vendors: It wasn’t who I expected. I would have been interested in exhibits from tools for the advanced search marketer, such as Hitwise, AdGooroo and Trellian’s Competitive Intelligence. I’d love to see reputation management tools and things that new search marketers are overwhelmed with, but experienced search marketers are ready to add to their toolbox.
Areas for Improvement:
- As a speaker, I know it’s hard to get your presentations done in advance, but I would like to see Danny review them. The conference isn’t cheap, we don’t want duplication of content between speakers, nor recommendations/information that we can’t go back and act on to boost our search traffic.
- Such an irony in the industry, but the content needs to be unique for SMX. The biggest joke among attendees was that the Duplicate Content Summit had far too much duplicate content (who presented? Google, Yahoo, MSN and ASK). I also felt the conference had just a bit too much duplication from SES, I believe one person actually used the same exact PowerPoint at SMX advanced as they did at SES NYC 2007. It should be a requirement that presentations need to be different and more advanced than what you presented at other shows.
- For the Give It Up session, all search engines need to be banished to the Expo Hall. There was Matt Cutts, front and center with his little black book… probably with smoke coming from the paper and him fully wired with a feed straight to a Googleplex conference room where engineers were rapidly coding algo changes that launched before the photographer snapped the good-bye photo. I love ya Matt and crew, but can’t we pass along some juicy secrets in private??
- Have speakers focus on advanced tactics and solutions. A couple of attendees suggested advanced clinics that rapidly go into specific sites’ problems would be good. The challenge is you need an excellent moderator that can keep the pace going. Also, perhaps attendees could submit their specific issues, then the panel selects good examples that address the variety of questions people have.
- Can we download the presentations? I haven't looked yet and don't remember it being announced. For this conference I definitely want to download a few.
- One suggestion, I think it came from Truman Hedding, was for the Give It Up session to have a reward of several thousands dollars to the speaker who gave the best advice. Who chooses the winner? The audience! Once we banish the search engines and offer up an award, we'll start getting some really great stuff!
Speaker that had me writing far too fast: Stephen Spencer (great info!) I forgot to give him my card for his presentation, so I'll be hunting him down later this week.
Best Catfight: Matt Cutts vs. Tim Mayer. Matt cut on Yahoo left and right (no pun intended), and Tim didn’t sit idle. The funniest was when someone in the audience commented that you couldn’t actually search all of Matt Cutts’ blog on Google Search because much of it is supplemental, to which Tim said that you could search Matt’s entire blog with Yahoo Search.
My Request for the Press: Don’t post everything, particularly on the Give It Up session. There were a few things that we don’t want everyone to know! Hint, hint, Jim.