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May 31, 2007

Are SEM Conferences Still Worth Attending?

By Karl Ribas

A thought came to mind last night as I laid awake in my bed (yes... it's quite typical for me to think about work while trying to sleep)... are search engine conferences worth attending anymore?

This may seem like a pretty dumb question to some, but hear me out. Depending on whom you are and what your motives are for attending the answer can swing either way. Obviously for newer marketers looking to get a grasp on the industry, a trade show is well-worth the price of admission. The same can be said about those "do it yourself" / "let's learn what we can and bring it in-house" personalities.

However... where is the benefit for us veteran marketers? Surely I can understand the value in networking and maintaining strong business relationships and friendships with frequent face-to-face encounters... that's basic business. But, networking aside (as well as the occasional plugging of one's business objectives), I'm not too convinced that there's value in attending Search Engine Strategies, PubCon, or any number of these new, smaller conferences that are just recently starting to pop-up... at least from the moderate and advanced search marketer's point of view.

Let's face it... everything that is vital to search marketing, including techniques, strategies, news, updates, and announcements can and is learned absolutely FREE from the comfort of the office via industry blogs, articles, press releases, pod casts, videos, and forum threads. It is because of these mediums, as well as our increasing desire to create quality (and linkable) content, that we, as an industry, no longer have trade secrets. We expose everything literally minutes after learning it... and we don't think twice about doing so.

However, for arguments sake, lets say that a few of us still have an "SEM Secret" or two that isn't yet mainstream. I doubt very much that you, I, nor the speakers at these conferences are going to voluntarily share them with an audience full of competitors. It's in our best interest to keep such ideas of value to ourselves, and have the speakers at these events continue to force feed us the same regurgitated slide-show presentations show after show... and you know that they do. Where's the value in that?!

Even if (and this is a pretty big "even if") you come across a session where a speaker is throwing down the mother-of-all-trade secrets... it wouldn't take but five minutes from the time it was mentioned to the time Barry and Lisa publishes it for their respective audiences to read. That's the beauty of live blogging! That's also another validation of why search marketers no longer have a need to fork up $2k on a conference pass (not to mention other conference expenses). Anything worth mentioning at the conference will ultimately be mentioned again and again afterwards via industry bloggers and analysts.

So, with all that being said, let me ask you this... am I wrong in thinking that search marketers are no longer the target audience for search marketing conferences? Where exactly is the value, other than networking opportunities, for seasoned search marketers?



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...and that's why Danny has put together that one session at SMX-Advanced where he asks people not to blog the content. Whether his request will be respected will be something that we'll find out next week...

"Give It Up!
No more secrets time. In this session, our panel of noted SEOs all share some of their favorite and largely overlooked SEO tips. Then we turn to the audience for more sharing. Attendees vow not to blog what's discussed (on your honor now!)."

Oh man, just as I got my company to approve my going to San Jose!

Tink - You're going to get a heck of a lot more out of conference than who Karl's talking about :)

Trust me - I wouldn't have encouraged you to go to it, if I didn't think you'd get something from it.

Karl's talking about why should someone who does this every day for a living go to all the conferences (unless they were speaking). He's definitely got a great point! It's why I'm not going to SMX, can't justify the expense to my boss for a 2 day conference on 90% - 95% of the stuff I know and practice every day.

Pubcon though - that I see some value in as it's much more "Techy" and i'm always game for learning more technological web stuff that affects search. :)

Hey Simon, I'm actually attending SMX next week and I too am interested in seeing how the "Give It Up!" session plays out. We'll just have to wait and see if SMX changes my perspective on search marketing conferences... I’m thinking it will. I'm totally digging the idea of this being a conference for advanced marketers.

Hey Tink... so sorry to discourage you. As Li mentioned, there's a lot of value in attending search marketing conferences... that's if you're are among their targeted audience. The SES Conference in San Jose is a great show to attend and you'll know doubt get a lot out of attending. Unfortunately, I don’t believe veteran marketers will.

(said to the veteran conference attendee) It's always nice to travel in the name of business, especially if your employer is footing the bill, right? And if you meet up with some of your colleagues, that's a bonus. Of course, my philosophy is that you can always learn. Maybe it's a new spin or perspective, or perhaps it's from listening to what someone with less experience is asking to get their perspective of how they see SEO.

It can help you gauge the pulse of the market by seeing who is attending, what kinds of companies are looking to do SEO in-house, and what kinds of questions those who are learning ask so you know how to best tailor your marketing message.

- OldSchool

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