EXCERPT: Search Engine Strategies is a good conference for many reasons. However, with that, I have always had a love/hate type of relationship with it. I've been attending SES conferences dating back to 2003, and have at times publicly criticized the quality of its sessions, speakers, and overall agenda. This year, however, was a good year.
Last week I was able to get away for a few days to attend a Search Engine Strategies conference with All Web's GM, Michael Roebuck. The conference was a 3-day event that took place at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Chicago. Being located only 1.5 hours west of the city, Michael and I were able to travel by Amtrak, which I must say is quickly becoming my preferred way to travel to and from the city. Taking the train is super easy, enjoyable, and more importantly allows me to work quite comfortably while traveling.
Search Engine Strategies is a good conference for many reasons. However, with that, I have always had a love/hate type of relationship with it. I've been attending SES conferences dating back to 2003, and have at times publicly criticized the quality of its sessions, speakers, and overall agenda.
This year, however, was a good year. I felt that SES Chicago 2012 featured quality keynotes and panel discussions, and a great lineup of sessions on industry relevant topics. In fact, I'm confident in saying that this was one of my favorite conferences in the past few years.
Here are some more of my thoughts:
Keynotes & Panel Discussions
SES Chicago had 4 keynotes/panels slotted throughout the 3-day conference. While I wasn't able to attend the first day's morning keynote with Avinash Kaushick due to travel, the feedback I've received has all been positive. I'm sure it was a great session, and being a fan of Avinash's blog I'm really sorry to have missed it.
The remaining 3 panel discussions were quite good as well. In fact, my favorite was the "SEO 2013: The future of Search" discussion that took place between Bruce Clay, Dan Cristo, Andrew Delamarter, and Anne Kennedy. In this session, the panel outlined their ideas and opinions for how search will continue to grow as an industry and play an even bigger part in a company's overall marketing efforts.
Here are 3 key takeaways for this panel:
"SEOs are to be the QB of marketing. Everything should go to and through them first."
"SEOs will need to be skilled in PPC, social marketing, and email marketing both vertically and horizontally."
"Search in the future will be less about keywords and more about 'objects'. Future searches will be object base through bar code scans, Google glasses, Siri, etc."
I feel that those in charge of selecting this year's topics and speakers were dead on in terms of relevance and timing. Seriously... a great job indeed. Additionally, I found the scheduling of each session-block to really work well with my interests. Normally, I'll find two or more interesting sessions in the same time slot, but not this year. I was able to attend every session that I wanted to without a scheduling issue.
My favorite session of the entire conference, and quite possibly of any conference I've ever attended previously, was the "Link Building in a Post-Penguin World" session with Jon Ball of PageOnePower. Jon was an outstanding speaker and presenter, and his advice and insight on building quality links was amazing. In fact, I begin jotting down everything Jon was saying at first, but realized that it would be easier to simply download his presentation afterwards. For those that attended the conference, but missed this particular session... do yourself a big favor and do the same.
Sadly, I have mixed feelings on this year's expo hall. While one part of me thought that this year's vendors were relevant, not only to my needs but to the industry as a whole, while another part of me believes that it was quite small in size. The expo hall consisted of only a couple dozen vendors total, which was sort of a letdown.
This is something that I've actually commented on several times before. Learning about new tools, companies, and services relating to my industry was always something that I greatly enjoyed about attending SES. However, now, not so much.
Overall, SES Chicago 2012 was a great conference. As always, it was nice to get out of the office for a bit and learn something new within a conference-type setting. Additionally, being in Chicago this time of year is always fun. It wasn't too hot, nor cold, which makes getting around the city on foot very enjoyable.
If interested, you can view my SES conference photos on Flickr.