Why You Should Attend SMX West 2010: A Personal Preview, From Danny Sullivan
In less than two months, Search Engine Land’s SMX West search marketing conference will happen from March 2-4 in California. Anyone who is even remotely connected to gaining visitors, customers and driving sales should be attending. Experienced search marketer? Newbie? Web developer? Designer? Involved in public relations? Traditional marketer? There’s good stuff for all these types of people and others. Here’s my virtual tour of what to expect and why you should be there.
This marks my 11th year of programming search marketing conferences. Along with my conference co-chair Chris Sherman — and working with our SMX West 2010 session coordinators & moderators — I think we’ve got one of our best shows ever organized. You’ll love it. That’s why we guarantee it.
The big news is that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is keynoting. I’ve been lobbying Microsoft for years to encourage Ballmer to speak at a search marketing conference. I’m thrilled he’s making his first ever appearance at one with SMX. I’ll be doing a conversation with him, covering what’s new with Bing and Microsoft’s challenges, efforts and achievements in search generally. The keynote happens on March 2 at 9am, kicking off SMX West.
Something For Everyone
Before I get into the rest of the program, first an overview of what SMX West is all about. This is one of the two “big” or “supermarket-style” events that we run each year in the United States (SMX East, held in New York during October, is the other). The show is large enough that we can offer sessions for people of all skill levels and interests. Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced with search marketing — interested in PPC, SEO, or social media — there’s plenty on the shelf for you.
To make your sessions choices easy, we even have a “ski run” key at the bottom of our Agenda-At-A-Glance page that indicates what sessions are suitable for anyone, sessions designed for those with intermediate skills and above, as well as experts-only sessions. You can also see which sessions are focused toward those interested mainly in the search engine optimization side of search marketing (working with “free” listings), the PPC side (paid search; buying listings) or both combined (SEO+PPC = search marketing).
Search engines are one of the primary ways people locate information. That means search marketing isn’t just a huge online marketing activity. It’s a huge and vitally important marketing activity period. If you know nothing about search — and are in a job that’s even remotely connected to driving sales, visitors, customers and so on — you need some understanding of the search space.
Our SMX Boot Camp is designed to get you up to speed. It happens on the first day of the show, March 2. In it, you’ll learn the fundamentals in these courses:
- Keyword Research Tools & Techniques
- Copywriting For Search Success
- Paid Search Fundamentals
- Search Engine Friendly Web Design
To help encourage and educate newbies, you can attend all of these sessions through a special low-cost SMX Boot Camp ticket, which includes admission to the morning keynote and the Expo Hall reception at the end of the day. You even get a completion certificate! If you decide you want to learn more, you can upgrade your ticket to a full pass and attend sessions on the second and third day of the show.
Aside from educating new people, let me add that the search marketing community is incredibly welcoming to new people. During the breaks, at lunch and the reception, you can connect with more experienced people who are often willing to share advice, tips and ideas. So don’t be shy. Come out and learn!
Real Time, Personalized & Social Search: Revolutionary Changes
In the past few weeks, Google’s results have been radically transformed with the introduction of real time listings. New social results and personalization also mean that everyone is seeing their own unique answers. Bing, Yahoo and others are also doing work with real time results. To help search marketers digest the changes and understand the impact, we have an entire Real Time, Personalized & Social Search Track devoted to this topic on the first day. Sessions include:
- Real Time Search & The Major Search Engines
- Real Time Search: Beyond The Majors
- Google’s Personalized Search Revolution
- The Current State Of Social Search
Keep Up On Local & Mobile Search!
Interest in local and mobile search remains high, so we’ve brought back the popular track that we ran at our SMX East conference. The space is constantly changing, however, so these sessions will feature plenty of fresh content. The Local & Mobile Search Track, which happens on Day 1, includes:
- Mobile Paid Search Ads: Real Opportunities
- Mobile Search Apps & Opportunities
- Ranking Tactics For Local Search
- Ask The Local Search Engines
Experts Only: SMX Advanced Track
SMX Advanced is our boutique show held during June in Seattle that always sells out (so buy your tickets early!). All sessions at SMX Advanced are exclusively designed for advanced search marketers. But SMX West also has plenty of experts-only content throughout the show. And on the first day, we’ve assembled an entire track of advanced content to give attendees a taste of what SMX Advanced is like. The SMX Advanced Track happens on the first day of the show. Sessions include:
- Search, Domaining & Direct Navigation
- Not Your Father’s AdWords: The New Google Ad Formats
- Keyword Research: Beyond The Ordinary
- Supercharging Your Descriptions With Sitelinks
Hey, You Got Your Social Media In My Search! Two Great Tastes….
A hallmark of SMX events is that we keep the focus firmly on search. Search is such a huge, important topic that it deserves all the sessions we can devote to it. But social media is so closely tied to search success these days that search marketers need to be up-to-speed on it. That’s why we have the Social Media Track running on the second day. It’ll ensure you’re doing well driving traffic and gaining links from Twitter and Facebook, plus you’ll learn the search-like aspect to Facebook ads. And if social media makes you feel overwhelmed, there’s a 60 minutes per day session to make it all easy:
- Twitter Marketing Tactics
- Free Ways To Market On Facebook
- Facebook Ad Tactics For Search Marketers
- 60 Minutes Per Day For Social Media Success
Tech Talk For Designers, Developers & SEOs
Working with designers or developers? Are you a designer or developer? Or are you an SEO who wants to ensure you’re up-to-speed on the latest technical aspects that can impact your SEO performance? The popular Technical SEO Track programmed in conjunction with Jane & Robot returns to SMX West. It has these sessions on the second day of the show, March 3:
- Diagnosing Technical SEO Issues
- Dealing With Domain Names, URLs, Parameters & All That Jazz – Technical SEO Tactics
- Industrial Strength SEO
- The Need For Speed: Google Says It Matters
Go Where No One Has Gone Before
Search marketers can get stuck focusing on the well-known paths. Our Overlooked Opportunities Track is designed to get you into areas that aren’t as well known, even though they should be. With YouTube being the second most popular search engine in the United States, many search marketers fail to tap into it. Well, we’ve got a session to fix that! We’ve also got one to introduce you to the unique opportunity for merchants that Bing offers through its Bing Cashback program. Plus, how to get into the first page of search results other than through a web page ranking through blended search. And feeling flabby? How about an SEM fitness plan to pump you up?
- Bring In The Bling Via Bing Cashback
- Your 90 Day SEM Fitness Plan
- Universal & Blended Search Opportunities
- Optimizing Your Content On YouTube
All Paid Search, All Track Long
Really interested in sessions on paid search? There’s plenty scattered throughout the conference, but we also have a special Paid Search Track on Day 2 just for you. Park yourself in one place and enjoy! One session looks at the dynamic between paid search and display advertising. Then we have two “Ask The…” sessions. No PowerPoint! Just lots of time to put your questions to a panel of expert paid search marketers and get answers. Then you can do the same to a panel of representatives from the major paid search networks. We’ve also left one additional session TBA. That lets us have space to do last minute programming for that always important breaking development. The sessions:
All SEO Search, All Track Long
That pure paid search track got those of you interested in SEO feeling all jealous? Don’t worry. There are plenty of SEO-only sessions throughout the conference. And on the third day, March 4, there’s also an entire SEO Track devoted to it. There’s a session on link building followed by three “Ask The…” sessions. Again, no PowerPoint. Just plenty of time to put questions to expert SEOs and link builders, along with reps from the major search engines. The panels:
Ya Gotta Know When To Analyze Them, Know When To Convert Them, Before They Walk Away & The Traffic’s Gone
OK, that subhead works better when sung to the tune of “The Gambler.” Don’t know the song? Doesn’t matter. What you should know is that just getting people to your web site is only half the battle. Once they arrive, what are they doing? How are they interacting with what they find there? Are they converting? If so, because of what — your copy? The keywords used to bring them in? Are they converting, but doing so offline and not being measured? You want — you need! — answers to these types of things. And our Analytics & Conversion Track on the third day of the show helps provide them. Sessions include:
- Landing Pages & Multivariate Testing To Increase Conversions
- Measuring How Search Ads Drive Offline Conversions
- Analytics Action Plans For PPC & SEO
- Conversion Ninja Toolbox – A Review of Tools & Technologies
In Housers, B2Bers & Reputation Managers
Involved with doing search marketing in house, for a company or organization? We’ve got two special sessions for you that focus on SEO and PPC on the third day of the show:
Need even more In House goodness? Those sessions are programmed by In House SEM Exchange, which will run a special event the day after SMX West ends, on March 5. There’s a discount if you buy a ticket that covers both SMX & In House SEM Exchange. Learn more here.
The In House sessions are part of the In House & Specialty SEM Track. So what’s the specialty part? We’ve got a session designed just for those who do B2B, to cover the unique challenges they face when doing search marketing. We also have a session for those who deal with online reputation management issues, looking at how social media can help or hinder their efforts in terms of search. These are:
Get The Big Picture
Much of SMX covers search marketing how-to tactics. But we also look at strategies, where the space is going and issues that search marketing faces. That’s especially the focus for our Big Picture Track. In it, we’ll look at the major changes expected to come as part of the Microsoft-Yahoo search deal that’s in the works. The track also covers legal issues that still challenge the industry, such as bidding on keywords that are also trademarks. One session focuses on something that’s often overlooked but at the very heart of search marketing — how searchers themselves behave. We’ve also reserved another session as TBA, for any late breaking developments. Sessions include:
- Microsoft + Yahoo: What’s It All Mean?
- Thorny Legal Issues: What’s Happening and Why Should You Care?
- Search Behavior: Using Research To Improve Results
Get Help At Clinics!
Not posted yet to the agenda are the four clinics that will happen on the third day of the show. But they’re happening, promise! The clinics allow you to show a small group of experts your site or campaign and get specific advice. Clinics are also a great place to learn by watching the advice being given to others. Clinics that will happen:
- Paid Search Clinic
- Link Building Clinic
- SEO Clinic
- Twitter Clinic
Over 50 Editorial Sessions & No One Buys A Speaking Slot
I mentioned the SMX programming team in the opening to this preview. Now’s a good time to explain just a bit more about how we do — and don’t — program our editorial sessions.
All the SMX sessions I’ve covered above are editorial sessions. That means people are speaking on them because we feel they have great information to offer. No one is speaking because they’ve bought their way onto a panel.
Each session is developed by 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 their speakers to program a session where presentations support each other, rather than overlap. In most cases, the session coordinator is also the session moderator.
Something Fresh For Everyone
It’s also worth mentioning how much time we spend deciding what sessions to include from previous shows and what gets cut. To make life easy, we could just run the sames sessions over-and-over again. We don’t.
Instead, we take a hard look at each session we’ve offered at a previous SMX event and ruthlessly cut to ensure we’re keeping things fresh and on the cutting edge. Over half the sessions at SMX West are different from what was offered at SMX East last October. The figure rises to over 2/3rds being new, when you consider that the clinics or “Ask The….” pure Q&A panels are never the same from event to event. Take away the SMX Boot Camp that we always offer to help newcomers, and 75% of the sessions are brand new. Even then, the remaining “returning” panels often have updated information within them.
Freebies: Expo Hall, SMX Theater & Sponsored Sessions
So far, I’ve covered our editorial sessions. Our sponsors & exhibitors also have great information to share with SMX attendees, of course. That’s why we provide three ways for you to hear from them.
During the first two days of the show, Sponsored Sessions will be offered. Unlike editorial sessions, these are created and produced by the company sponsoring them. That’s why we mark them as “Sponsored Sessions.” Despite being sponsored, they have lots of wonderful information. Sponsors know they’re competing to attract some attendees who are also considering high quality editorial sessions. That causes them to want to match the “high tide” of content being provided. Sponsored Sessions will be posted to the SMX agenda later. Check them out!
On the Expo Hall floor, SMX Theater Presentations are mini-sponsored sessions that are offered, lasting 20-40 minutes. They’re a great way to learn quickly about a company, product, service or topic. The full list of theater topics will be posted later this month to the SMX West site. Again, check them out!
Then there’s the huge Expo Hall itself, which is open for the first two days of the show, March 3 & 4. In it, you can get information from from exhibitors and sponsors about many products and services available to search marketers.
The Expo Hall is free for anyone to attend, as long as you register in advance. An Expo Hall pass also allows you to attend SMX Theater Presentations and Sponsored Sessions. And naturally, those with full conference passes can enter the Expo Hall, go to the SMX Theater or Sponsored Sessions, plus have access to over 50 editorial sessions.
Post-Conference Training Sessions & Workshops Want to dive deep and learn more about a particular aspect of search marketing? SMX has partnered with some great companies to allow you to get more intimate, focused attention. Training and special event sessions happen the day after SMX West ends, on March 5. They can be purchased independently or in conjunction with an SMX West pass (which saves you money). Sessions so far:
Network Like You’ve Never Networked Before
Here’s something I’ve never shared before. I’m actually pretty shy. I walk into a room of strangers? I don’t know where to begin. I always admire those people who can just thrust themselves into a conversation or walk up to someone they don’t know and start networking away.
I don’t want people at our SMX events feeling shy or hesitant about meeting others. We don’t want networking to be some random event where you hope to meet the right people. That’s why we’ve worked hard to provide plenty of organized networking.
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. It lets you find people with common work or personal interests. You can plan sessions you want to attend and see others who say they’re going. Connect with someone new during a session! Or plan to meet during a break!
The night before the show, we have a “SMX Meet & Greet” reception. Again, it’s a way to connect with people before the event even starts.
During lunches, we offer special “Meet & Eat” tables, where attendees can network with each other and talk about specific topics. Nothing works so well as an icebreaker than knowing you’re grouped with others who share a common interest.
In the evenings, we have a reception in the Expo Hall the night of the first day. In the works, a further event that event, details to come. It’s also likely there will be another event the evening of the second day of the show.
So don’t be shy. Don’t be worried about meeting people. You’re going to meet plenty of them. C’mon out — and when you’ve registered, be sure to tell the world using one of our I’m Going badges.
Food On Plates; WiFi In The Air; Bags You Keep
We want you to really enjoy your SMX experience. That’s why boxed lunches are a no-no. You’ll get a great lunch, on a real plate — and you’ll want seconds. You’ll also get refreshments during the day. People take pictures of the food we serve at our events, they’re so amazed and pleased. Honest!
We’ll also keep you connected, with free WiFi in the conference rooms. So Twitter and Facebook and email to your heart’s content — though consider shutting that laptop lid, lest you miss a great point one of our speakers is going to make.
Among the little touches, we’ll also give you a conference backpack — backpack, not a bag — that you’ll want to take home and use again and again.
But Wait, There’s More!
How could there be more? Well, on the second day, the winner of the second annual SMX Biggest Search Geek Contest will be announced. Marin Software, which sponsors the contest, again put together a challenging quiz. Who won?
We also have two additional keynotes that will be happening at SMX to kick off the remaining mornings. Stay tuned for more!
Go. Now. Register!
Register online or by phone at (877) 242-5242 before the conference and save off the on-site rate!
See you in Santa Clara, California!
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)
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