I am happy to report that I was fortunate enough to attend the 4-day Search Engine Strategies (SES) conference this past week - a conference dedicated to the search marketing industry. The conference was held in Chicago, and I had an absolute blast taking in the sights, and catching up with a few of my colleagues. All in all, it was a great conference.
The following are a few of my conference notes and key take-a-ways:
Day 1 Notes
Searcher Behavior Research Updates
My first session was very disappointing, and to the point where I almost walked out. I attended the "Searcher Behavior Research Updates" and found the information to be very, very beginner. For example, Mark Neal of Galleon, actually tried to convince the importance of being listed at the top of the search engines, as if attendees didn't already understand this. This is why we are here Mark! Mark's entire presentation was this basic and general.
The following are a few worthwhile quotes from this session:
"90% of all visitors delivered from search engines are from the first page".
This was an interesting stat. I figured that the percentage would be high, but, not 90%.
Another statistic that caught my attention during that session was provided by Jon Stewart of Neilson Net Ratings and it was this:
"62 million searches typed a website name directly into a search box this year, representing 40% of the online universe"
So what does this mean? It means a large number of Internet users are simply typing "www.yahoo.com" or "www.google.com" into their browser's home page search box instead of navigating to the address bar. Very interesting!
Search Term Research & Targeting
My second session was "Search Term Research & Targeting" with Christine Churchill from KeyRelevance and Dan Thies from SEO Research Labs. This was a decent session with lots of good keyword research suggestions and tools.
Search Engine Friendly Design
After lunch I checked out the "Search Engine Friendly Design" session with Shari Thurow. I found her presentation and information to be amazing! However, it saddens me to say that I very much disliked her as a speaker. In my opinion, Shari came off as arrogant, which kind of ruined the session for me.
Ads Beyond Search
For the last session of the day I attended "Ads Beyond Search" presented by the ClickZ Forum. This session discussed several other marketing opportunities available to companies outside of search. I enjoyed this session.
Day 2 Notes
Keynote: Danny Sullivan
Attending Danny Sullivan's Keynote presentation was a must on my list of things to accomplish today. Danny is a great speaker and has incredible insight into the world of search. He gave a lecture on the state of search marketing - where it's been, where it is, and where he foresees it to be - to which I enjoyed very much.
News Search SEO
At 10:15 I attended "News Search SEO" with Greg Jarboe. News search is a new concept to me and so I found the session to be quite interesting. The panel offered several tips and tidbits for getting started in news search optimization, including way to distribute press releases across multiple sites at once.
Landing Page Testing & Tuning
After lunch I attended the "Landing Page Testing & Tuning" seminar which turned out to be pretty informative. This wasn't the first time I've attended this session as I've seen it once already in San Jose. As with last time, I found myself learning something new and of value that could be used to improve my client's optimization and design efforts. In fact Tim Ash of Site Tuners, who in my opinion is one of the better presenters at these shows, offered some great slides on what to do and what not to do in your website development. Ash provided ideas and concepts that I never thought about until he pointed them out. I recommend that future SES attendees sit in on one of Tim's sessions.
Meet The Blog & Feed Search Engines
I attended the "Meet The Blog & Feed Search Engines" session where Scott Johnson of Feedster unveiled their brand new an upcoming website redesign. I thought it was very cool for him to reveal it for the first time ever at the session. I am not all that familiar with the company or its products, but he introduced a few new search features that even I could appreciate. The new design should prove very useful among its everyday users.
Day 3 Notes
My SEM Toolbox
I very much enjoyed the "My SEM Toolbox" session. During this discussion, speakers Jim Boykin, Paul Bruemmer, Todd Malicoat, and others laid out some of their own personal tool sets and kits for saving time on many common SEM projects. In fact Todd Malicoat, author of one of my favorite search marketing blogs Stuntdubl, provided this link to his tool box: http://www.stuntdubl.com/tools. Enjoy.
Evening Forum: Danny Sullivan
I attended an evening forum presented by Danny Sullivan. This was a relaxing and humorous discussion-like session which allowed attendees to pose questions to Danny or directly to the audience. In fact a representative of Yahoo! Search was also attending and found himself on the spot answering many Yahoo! Search related questions.
Day 4 Notes
Organic Listings Forum
I attended the "Organic Listings Forum". This session featured such great presenters as Bruce Clay, Todd Friesen, and Mike Grehan. I very much liked this session. It was tremendous! The panelists discussed many of today's most popular SEO issues such as the Google Sandbox theory, duplicate content problems, and industry standards.
Bruce said something interesting during the session:
"Google has improved by about 95% in their ability to detect if an incoming link is 'good' or 'bad', (based on unknown criteria) and has actually created a list which is referenced before credibility or weight is given to the website."
In other words, SEO marketers can go out attain as many links as they desire, but Google may or may not consider them all for when determining ranking.
Meet the Crawler
I attended the "Meet the Crawler" session. At this presentation, representatives from Yahoo!, Google, MSN, and Ask Jeeves touched on a number of indexing and ranking issues. They also spoke individually about their abilities to crawl, index, and present Internet content.
Auditing Paid Listings and Click Fraud
My last session of the conference was "Auditing Paid Listings and Click Fraud". Very much like the last time I've attended this session which, the panel discussed the same click-fraud type issues, but reported no new ways of preventing it. Google and Yahoo! representatives claimed that they were not entitled to speak on many of the questions presented because of ongoing legal cases that their respective company's were involved in. That of course made for a very dry and boring session.
If interested, I've published my 2005 SES Chicago Conference Photos on Flickr.