In about six weeks, our SMX West search marketing conference returns to Silicon Valley, in Santa Clara, California from Feb. 10-12, 2009. The show features four tracks of sessions spread across three days and covers all aspects of search marketing. Below is a personal preview that I wanted to share with our readers about what to expect — plus for those who like to listen, a podcast preview that I taped is now available from download here.
Search Engine Land produces a number of subject-focused, two-day search marketing events, such as our twice-sold out SMX Advanced show for advanced search marketers that happens in June in Seattle, SMX Social Media Marketing that returns to New York this April and our new SMX Search Analytics show coming to Toronto this March.
Unlike these boutique shows, SMX West is one of the two “big” or “supermarket” events that we also run each year in the United States (the other is SMX East, which will return to New York next October). These shows are designed for search marketers of all levels, of all interests — we have so many sessions that there’s something for everyone. In fact, we’re so sure that you’ll find SMX West (or any of our events) valuable that we are unique in the search marketing conference space by offering a satisfaction guarantee.
Before I get into some of the specific sessions and tracks, let me also emphasize that while SMX West is one of our big shows, we still work hard to generate a strong networking environment. Before you arrive, you’ll be able to connect with people using our SMX Connect networking system — think of it as an easy-to-use, disposable Facebook tied into just this event.
During the show itself, special lunchtime “Meet & Eat” tables will be back, allowing attendees to network with each other and talk about specific topics. We have a “Meet & Greet” reception for attendees the night before the show starts, along with a networking reception at the end of the first day. On the second night, our “Search Bash @ SMX” party will happen, in conjunction with the good people over at WebmasterRadio.fm. Learn more about all these options by reading our SMX West Networking page.
Onward into sessions. For those new to search marketing, our SMX Boot Camp Track returns, offering five sessions starting on the first day of the show and into the beginning of the second. These are designed to bring anyone up to speed on the fundamentals of search engine marketing. Plus, you get a certificate when you’ve attended them all. They include:
- Keyword Research Tools & Techniques
- Copywriting For Search Success
- Paid Search Fundamentals
- Link Building Fundamentals
- Search Engine Friendly Web Design
The first day also offers a special “Offline-Online” track looking at the connection between online search efforts and offline sales. Sessions offered are:
- Integrating Search & Offline Marketing Campaigns
- Measuring Search & Offline Marketing Success
- Search & Reputation Management
- Search & Branding
Somewhat unusual for conferences I’ve programmed, a number of sessions focus on particular Google search properties. As Google has grown, so has the importance of its various “vertical” or specialized search engines. In particular, because of Google Universal Search, doing well with these vertical areas of Google can also help you do well on “regular” Google. That’s why for SMX West, I thought it worthwhile to devote entire sessions to some of these — plus a revisit to the often confusing “Quality Score” aspect of Google AdWords. Sessions include:
- Up Close With Google Maps & Local
- Up Close With Google Blog Search
- Up Close With Google AdWords Quality Score
- Google’s SearchWiki, Customized & Personalized Results
Vertical search isn’t just exclusive to Google, of course. That’s why we have a number of other sessions that look at doing better with specialized search across the spectrum of search engines. These include:
- Tapping Into Image Search
- What’s New With Social Media Marketing
- Local Search Marketing Tactics
- Ecommerce Search Marketing Tactics
Our SMX West show always has a strong turn-out by those interested in SEO issues — SEO being the way people generate traffic to their web sites for free via “natural” or “organic” or “unpaid” listings in the search engines (Paid Search or PPC is generating traffic from paid listings; SEM or search engine marketing is the umbrella term that compasses both SEO+PPC). Sessions include:
- 301 Redirect, How Do I Love You? Let Me Count The Ways
- Ask The Link Builders
- Ask The SEOs
- Ask The Search Engines
- SEO Site Reviews
The various “Ask The …” sessions are entirely Q&A, all PowerPoint-free. We get a lot out of Q&A with our SMX series because of the special way we handle questions. Each session has two moderators: a stage moderator and a Q&A moderator. The Q&A moderator reviews questions that the audience submits using an online form and selects the ones that seem most popular or interesting. Then the stage moderator works from these suggestions but is also able focus more on the answers from the panel, in order to do follow-ups. In addition, we get through lots of questions, since there’s no time wasted walking the mike around. It also solves the problem some conferences encounter when you get that one person who just keeps asking and asking away at their particular problem. Of course, we also go live to the audience as it makes sense. The SEO Site Reviews session is an example of this — people are able to volunteer their sites for an interactive live SEO review by the panel.
There’s also plenty for those who deal with paid search issues, with sessions including:
- Writing Killer PPC Ad Copy
- Ask The Paid Search Buyers
- Ask The Paid Search Reps
- Paid Search Campaign Reviews
One key theme of SMX West is that more and more, people are realizing that it’s not just about getting additional traffic but making sure the existing traffic you have is converting better. Understanding metrics, targeting visitors and doing lots of testing are key to doing better, and I’ve programmed a wide-range of sessions that cover these aspects for both SEO and paid search traffic:
- Landing Pages & Multivariate Testing
- Advanced Landing Page Strategies
- Analyzing & Converting Paid Search Traffic
- Analyzing & Converting SEO Traffic
- SEO Status Report Metrics
- SEO & Usability
As SMX West happens not too long after the New Year, we’ve also got a number of sessions designed to make you more productive through tools and tactics. These include:
- Tools, Glorious Tools
- Advanced Keyword Research Tactics
- Productivity Tips For The Busy Search Marketer
We also have some panels that take a broader look at strategies and issues, which include:
- Legally Speaking: Recent Legal News About Search
- Searchscape: Latest Stats About The Search Engines
- Just Behave, A Look At Searcher Behavior
The Developer Day session we tried for the first time at SMX Advanced last year proved a great success, so Developer Day returns for SMX West, especially designed to help those who deal with developers understand how to speak the right language. Developers themselves will enjoy it too. Sessions include:
- Technical SEO Issues For Developers
- Marketer to Developer Translation
- Diagnosing Web Site Architecture Issues
- Expert Technical Review of Your Website
Developer Day is open to anyone who attends the conference; you needn’t buy a special ticket. The same is true for our other “Day,” In House Day, which was a hit when we tried it at SMX East. It returns to provide a special focus for those who do search marketing in house. Session offered:
- I’m Responsible For SEO, Now What?
- Training The Company On SEO
- Get SEO Into All The Right Places Of The Development Life Cycle
- Reporting & Scorecarding For Management
All the sessions above are editorial sessions, which means people are speaking because we feel they have great information to offer. In other words, no one is speaking because they’ve bought their way onto a panel. We think that’s a crucial component of what makes our conferences great.
This is a good time to mention the programming team. As one of the conference co-chairs (Search Engine Land executive editor Chris Sherman is the other), I selected the sessions that made it to the overall agenda — with the exception of Developer Day and In House Day, where I worked with the outstanding experts in those areas, Vanessa Fox and Jessica Bowman respectfully.
Once the agenda was created, each session was assigned a “session coordinator” who is responsible for reviewing speaking pitches that have come in or reaching out to knowledgeable people and inviting them to participate. The session coordinator then works with all the speaking finalists to program a session where presentations support each other, rather than overlap. In most cases, the session coordinator is also the session moderator. My thanks to all those who are coordinating sessions or moderating at SMX West. The entire team:
- Sarah Bird
- Jessica Bowman
- Vanessa Fox
- Sara Holoubek
- Gord Hotchkiss
- Detlev Johnson
- Misty Locke
- Matt McGee
- Chris Sherman
- Greg Sterling
- Danny Sullivan
- Matt Van Wagner
Our SMX West sponsors and exhibitors do have great information to share with attendees, of course. That’s why we offer two unique ways to hear from them in addition to taking in two days-worth of exhibits on the expo hall floor.
The first through our SMX Theater Presentations. This allows anyone with a expo-hall only pass (as well as full conference attendees) to take in short presentations that are held within the expo hall. The second is through sessions that are part of the Sponsors & Partners Track that’s offered to full conference pass holders. At the moment, this includes:
Another unique feature is that those who want hands-on training can purchase a joint ticket that covers both SMX West and Bruce Clay’s SEOToolSet Training Course. You can learn more about the offer here.
Each day also starts out with a keynote. We’re thrilled that internet “father” Vint Cerf of Google will be keynoting on the second day of the show. We’ll be announcing our two other keynoters shortly.
Remember that when you come out to SMX West, you’ll be well fed. That’s part of the conference experience we aim for: great networking, great programming and food on plates, plenty to go around.
Ready to come? I hope so! You’ll find all the sessions listed on our easy-to-read At-A-Glance agenda. It even includes ski-run style codes as to whether a session is designed for beginners, intermediate or advanced people. Our “Early Bird” price is good through January 9; register by then to save.
See you in Santa Clara!