SES San Jose 2009 Observations
Thanks to a press pass from Website Magazine, I attended my first SES conference in a few years and SES San Jose 2009 was everything I expected. Networking with industry friends and associates, some really good sessions and bad lunches. What is it about conference food anyway? Oh well, that's all I will say about that.
When I am not speaking at them, I attend conferences for two reasons - to re-connect with other search marketers I've had the great pleasure of meeting and getting to know over the years and to catch up on the latest and greatest research and development others are so willing to share. As I suspected, I was rewarded with both the knowledge that I am still on track and deepened social relationships that just cannot really be found online.
I will start with the connections. Although we try to meet between conferences locally in San Diego, sometimes conferences are the only times I actually get to see my San Diego colleagues and SES San Jose 2009 was no exception. The San Diego Search Mafia (phrase coined by Tim Ash) as well represented by Jamie Smith and Brian Lewis (Engine Ready), Dana Todd (Newsforce), Ron Weber (SDInteractive), Catfish (Ray) Comstock and Aaron Kahlow (Business Online & the Online Marketing Summits), Tim Ash (Site Tuners), Lee Mills (MojoPages) and I even met someone who I didn't know before, Gerry Whites (HeartsPM.com).
I was pleased to get to spend some time with Brooke Schumacher (BLine Marketing & former co-host eMarketingTalkShow) who moved from San Diego to Oakland a few years ago, as well as with industry friends Amanda Watlington, Matt VanWagner, Heather Lutze, Kathleen Fealy, and Carrie Hill.
One of the first sessions I attended was on the future of search. It is my belief that mobile is still a virtually untapped frontier here in the United States and Stephan Spencer (aka Professor Spencer) surprised me by taking it one step further and suggesting that not only is mobile going to play a bigger role in search, it will be coupled with voice recognition - no more thumb fatigue! It was also suggested that as social media defined Web 2.0, semantic search will define Web 3.0 and reasoning in search engine algorithms will define the intelligent Web 4.0 as they attempt to understand user intent. Noticeably absent from this panel was Michael Marshall who has been helping SEO marketers understand latent semantic indexing for years.
As I suspected there were several sessions on social media marketing (SMM) and the biggest take-away is transparency. We were reminded that it's really about connecting with your target audience in a "birds-of-a-feather" type settings and becoming a part of those communities. It's not about delivering sales and/or marketing messages. Charleene Li, author of Groundswell, delivered an excellent keynote where she talked about building a strong connection foundation with your "sharers" and "watchers". Encouraging conversations will develop "commenter's", "producers" and "curators". She encouraged us to directly interact with our audience such as Starbucks does with MyStarbucksIdea.com as well as integrating Social Media directly into our websites by providing ways for people to bookmark as well as sign on to the various sites such as Facebook.com. Final take-away's; Prepare to tap into the "chain of intent" and "Be ready to give up control".
A special mega session with Google provided additional insight into the new AdWords interface not the least of which is the capability to add local business information to your ads. Google Analytics continues to grow with event tracking and an API for creating custom reports. Did you know that Google Website Optimizer now allows "auto-disabling" which will automatically disable poorly-performing variations of your test. Auto-disabling is available for any Website Optimizer experiment with more than two variations. If you want to know more about using Google's Website Optimizer to test your web pages, Google offers a free pdf download here: http://websiteoptimizer.blogspot.com/2009/03/introducing-techie-guide-to-google.html.
One final session I found to be very valuable and am glad I stayed for was specifically for Independent SEMs and focused on insurance and liabilities. This session solidified the fact that although we are independent consultants we must still protect ourselves in the event something happens either within or beyond our control. Although they are beginning to understand what we do, most attorney's and insurance companies still do not fully understand and it is really up to us to educated them so we receive the correct insurance and coverage.
Last and not least, since I would like to do more in-house training, I attended the In-House session and was richly rewarded with detailed information from both Laura Lippay of Yahoo and Jessica Bowman with InHouseSEO.com. Both ladies provided me with additional structure to supplement what I have already developed. Jessica also encouraged ongoing quarterly training to keep everybody up to date on current techniques and strategies which is also a good strategy to keep the relationship on-going. Thank you Jessica!
In a nutshell SES San Jose 2009 was a very good conference which I know left at least one "newbie" with information overload (a common malady; had it myself after the first day at my first SES) and "seasoned veterans" with nuggets ready for immediate implementation.
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