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
Compare & Contrast Ad Program Strategies / Ads in A Quality Score World
With recent changes at All Web Promotion, I am now in a position where I'll once again be heavily involved with our company's Paid-Search marketing efforts. With that, I decided to check-out numerous PPC related sessions throughout the conference, including "Compare & Contrast Ad Program Strategies" and "Ads in A Quality Score World". Both sessions were really good, and helped bring me back-to-speed with regards to techqines and strategies. In fact, the panelists included Mona Elesseily, Kevin Lee, Jonathon Mendez, Joshua Stylman, and Andrew Goodman, who respectively covered a variety of PPC topics and issues. I especially enjoyed talks of PPC trademark guidelines, editorial guidelines, and of course a lesson on how to improve ones quality score.
One interesting piece of information that was shared by Kevin Lee of Did-It:
"Using 'negative matches' increases your quality score"
The concept does make sense, however I never would have thought to test it. Kudos to you Kevin! So, if you're looking to increase your quality score, give using "negative keywords" a try. Even if the result is a slight change... it's no doubt worth every bit of it.
The last event on my schedule for the day was a SEMPO membership meeting. I first joined SEMPO with All Web Promotion a year ago, and really wanted to see what the meetings were all about. To my surprise, it was actually pretty cool. Some of key take-a-ways included:
Preliminary results of the recent SEMPO Search Survey
Not much here, but it was fun to take a preliminary look at what the results are hinting too. Future updates should definitely be interesting.
An introduction to SEMPO educational courses
The organization is putting the final touches on "certification" program, taught similar to that of a college course, for both Pay Per Click and Search Engine Optimization.
An update to International SEMPO Launches
Apparently there's been a huge push to form chapters of SEMPO in various countries throughout the world, and the results have been quite successful thus far.
Day 2 Notes
Bulk Submit 2.0
My day kicked off with the "Bulk Submit 2.0" session. The panel included Amanda Camp of Google, Todd Friesen of Range Online Media, and Eric Papczun of Performics. The group covered the basics of the Google Sitemaps and Yahoo! Site Explore products, and of course the new Sitemaps.org project which is currently in place. I found the session to be very educational.
Project Panama Demo
I skipped lunch and instead attended a live demonstration of Yahoo!'s upcoming Paid Search update - currently referred to as "Project Panama". Panama will be a mandatory system update for all Yahoo! Search Marketing advertisers, and will feature such additions as:
- A New User-Interface.
- A Time-Zone Setting.
- An Extremely Enhanced and Better Geo-Targeting Feature.
- A/B Testing Options.
- Budgeting on Both an Account Level and Campaign Level.
- Alerts and Customizable Alerts.
- A New Ranking Algorithm Based on an Ad's Performance.
Some other highlights concerning the Panama release:
- US upgrades to the new system have begun.
- Sign-Ups to move forward one's upgrade date will soon be available.
- Random invitations to upgrade will continue to be sent over the next few months.
- Data will not be backwards compatible. Accounts will begin a new set of stats.
The conference's exhibit hall opened at 10am to which I made several stops throughough the day. However, to be perfectly honest, I wasn't at all impressed with size of it. It was actually smaller than previous year's conferences and didn't feature many new vendors, or at least any that I really wanted to meet and chat with.
Day 3 Notes
Web Analytics & Measuring Success
My first session happen to be "Web Analytics & Measuring Success" which has been a hot topic in our office as of late, and so I was pretty eager to sit in on this one. The panel consisted of Laura Thieme of Bizsearch and Matt Williams of Prominent Placement, both of which I felt did a great job in explaining the importance of measuring website conversions and unique monthly visitors. In fact I thought Matt did a stellar job in presenting, and actually influenced me to begin monitoring and measuring much of the activity that takes place on this site and Blog. Thanks Matt!
SMO: Social Media Optimization
The next session I attended was "SMO: Social Media Optimization". This was by far the best session that I attended today as it featured an all-star panel, including Andy Hagans, Neil Patel, Rand Fishkin, Todd Malicoat, and Lee Odden. Together the group outlined countless ways one can use social media sites, such as Wikipedia, Digg, Delicious, and YouTube, to reach a very targeted audience and to improve their own search results in the process.
Auditing Paid Listings & Click Fraud Issues
Immediately following the lunch break, I hit the "Auditing Paid Listings & Click Fraud Issues" session, which was very similar in a lot of ways to the previous one that took place months earlier in San Jose. Much of the conversation was heated (as sessions featuring a clash in opinions typically are), but on the flip side the panel provided some great information as well as a little bit of entertainment. Ok, it provided a lot of bit of entertainment. The main issue as to why these sessions do sometimes become heated comes down to methodology. One person / company believes and uses one tactic to do something, and another person believes and uses another tactic to do that same something... which of course leaves both sides having to defend why their process is better.
Usability & SEO. Two Wins For The Price Of One
My last session for today was "Usability & SEO. Two Wins For The Price Of One", headed up by Shari Thurow and Matt Bailey. Aside from being quite humorous, they both provided some great examples of what to and not to do as far as building a user-friendly and search-friendly website. This too was one my favorite sessions for today.
Day 4 Notes
Ad Copy & Landing Page Clinic
My first session was the "Ad Copy & Landing Page Clinic" which featured Joe Agliozzo of BetterPPC and Brad Geddes of LocalLaunch.com. Together the two examined actual ads and landing pages offered up by volunteers from the audience, and suggested changes that may improve click-through rates and conversions. Overall, I'd say this was a good session; however, I did hear some suggestions that conflicted with what others had been saying on other panels, as well as with what I know to be true, but that's to be expected I guess.
My second and last session of the day was another "Site Clinic" which again took volunteers from the audience and examined their websites live to provide them with general feedback on how to gain more traffic from search engines. Why another "site clinic" you ask? Well, in addition to being SEO related, this session also featured my good-friend and Yahoo! Store expert Rob Snell. Rob is the author of a Yahoo! Store Design and Marketing Book and is always equipped with great tips and tricks for bettering e-commerce websites. This was a great session, and I learned lots!
If interested, I've published more 2006 SES Chicago Conference Photos on Flickr.