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SMX Advanced Seattle Search Marketing Expo

Updated: See Seattle SMX post

Updated: The SMX Advanced Seattle 2007 Agenda has been updated. One interesting thing I did not see before: Matt Cutts and Michael Gray on the same panel, discussing Google’s use of personalization, considering whether or not it is a threat to webmasters….. Hmm…. that could get colorful. I suppose it’s up to Michael just how colorful it gets?

I also see Greg Bozer and his brother Todd are running a session together (again). They’re presenting two sides of an issue “Is SEO Bull?”, but I only see Greg and Todd. Who’s presenting the other side? Maybe it’s a mystery guest?

Anyway I see that I am ranking highly with this post for “SMX Seattle” and “SMX Advanced” and that doesn’t seem like the best thing for Google users since I didn’t even link out to the conference website initially. So in the interest of helping Matt Cutts and the Spam Quality Team at Google deliver comprehensively helpful SERPs, here are the updated links for the SMX Advanced Seattle 2007 Agenda:

(nofollows in place since I have never met this Danny Sullivan guy… and after last week’s disclosures, best not cause Google to think these are paid links, eh?).

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I have been considering attending Search Marketing Expo (SMX), mostly because it’s here in Seattle. For some reason I thought differently of it than SES, but now that I see the agenda I’m getting deja vu. I feel very much the same way I felt all those times I considered attending SES (and chose not to). I’m thinking it’s pretty expensive at $1200+ for shy of 12 hours of content (over $100 per hour). It also doesn’t seem to really be for SEOs?I see the conference is billed as for “advanced” search marketers:

SMX Advanced is for the experienced search marketer who wants to enjoy sessions conducted at a high-level and continue to stay ahead in the fast changing world of search. If you’re fluent in search marketing, SMX Advanced is where you can converse with others who speak your native language.

I’m not a cheapskate but I am very particular about where I drop $1200 just for registration for a 2 day industry event that schedules concurrent sessions. I initially thought I would like to participate, but the open topics don’t really fit my core interests so that’s out. Am I alone in this view that SMX is not for experienced SEOs?

Looking at the agenda, and describing my thoughts:

Organic Track: Duplicate Content Summit
More and more, SEOs are growing concerned about duplicate content issues. Does syndicating your content in feeds mean you give up being seen as the original source? Is content scraping that’s out of your control going to knock you down in the rankings? In this session, search engines outline how they currently handle duplicate content detection, followed by lots of time for the audience to suggest and explore future directions.

Duplicate Content is a very logical issue, but very well covered over the past few years in SEO world. I don’t agree that “more and more” SEOs are concerned these days, although I will agree that “more and more” SEO web sites write about it these days. SEO web sites write about what gets traffic, and not what’s important (this is billed as an “advanced” conference, remember?). People want to know how to avoid dup content because they have heard it mentioned so much over the years. In my circles, duplicate content is less and less an issue these days (partly because it’s so easy to understand the core issues, and easy to avoid the big problems). I also find duplication less of a problem these days when it comes to impact on rankings (fewer 302 problems, for one thing).

I do agree that the search engine companies could present interesting material regarding how they handle duplicate content, if they are willing to disclose more than what Google already discloses. But in the SMX blurb, they don’t say much about which or how many search engine companies will participate. Plus, they emphasize “followed by lots of time for the audience to suggest and explore future directions.” I really don’t want to hear Ask.com or Microsoft to tell me how they handle duplicate content. I’m also not keen on paying over $100 per hour in registration fees to listen to the audience ponder the unpredictable future that exists at the whim of the search engines.

Organic Track: SEO, Meet SMM
SEO has a lot to gain from SMM, social media marketing. Getting your content into the major social media sites does more than provide an initial traffic jump. It can generate links or provide rankings you might not be able to tap into with your own site. In this session, SMM essentials that SEOs need to know.

Now I know social media had to be in there to satisfy the SocialMediaOptimization people (and their prospective customers), but is social media marketing really SEO? It’s search marketing, yes. But search optimization? I think not. It’s a traffic source, and data on the value of that traffic (perhaps relative to organic SEO traffic) could be interesting. Will such data be exposed? Generate links… yes, just like with any web site, getting coverage on a social web site can generate links. But “provide rankings you might not be able to tap into with your own site“? Really? Separate from the impact of those links? Hmm. the SEO in me is thinking “cool… someone’s going to actual discuss the impact of user tracking on SERPs” and then I check myself. Not in an hour, and not in a session entitled “SEO meet SMM”.

Organic Track: Personalized Search: Fear Or Not?
Google’s change earlier this year to make personalized search results more prevalent has many SEOs wondering — is it game over when everyone has their own unique search results? This session looks at the shift, tips on staying high even with personalization and what might come in the future.

Reading this one my gut feelings are reinforced. It sounds like overview coverage of the potential impact of the concept of personalization. Again, the language of the snippet suggests it’s newbie coverage, not advanced search marketer stuff. Of course I could be wrong… that’s why I am writing this on my blog! But if I were organizing a session that was truly advanced coverage, I’d mention the topics so people would know .. like stats on penetration, utilization, effectiveness. But then this is included in the “organic” track (?). If the conclusions suggest that social marketing, encouraging bookmarking, feed listing, etc is a way to maintain rank in the face of personalization (such as might be suggested) then I will be disappointed because I believe social marketing is marketing and not SEO. The “fear or not” part of the session title doesn’t help me either. That’s a title aimed at clients and newcomers, if you ask me.

Organic Track: Penalty Box Summit Had a site hit the search engine penalty box? In this session, search engines share the latest on how they give you official signs of this, along with re inclusion procedures. The session includes lots of time for audience-driven discussion on penalties and how procedures might be improved.

Now here’s another example were my SEO alarms go off. In SEO, penalty recognition is either very easy or very hard. Those who can definitively identify a not-easy-to-identify penalty situation are very much in demand these days, and they are not likely to give away their secrets at a public session like SMX Seattle. The rest of the penalty situations are fairly easy to see (and correct). “Re inclusion procedures” is clearly newbie territory. And, once again, that mention of “lots of time for audience-driven discussion on penalties” makes me cringe… $100 per hour to listen to do-it-yourself search marketers explain their seemingly unfair penalizations. Nope.

Organic Track: Better Ways To Do The Boring Stuff
Keyword research. Link building. Page titles. Yawn. You know the fundamentals of SEO cold, and c’mon — they aren’t always that exciting. This session gets creative, opens your eyes to new ways to make the drudge work less drudgery.

Okay I see some value in that one, as long as it’s not just a pitch session for commercial SEO products or tools.

Organic Track: Give It Up!
No more secrets time. In this session, our panel of noted SEOs all share some of their favorite and largely overlooked SEO tips. Then we turn to the audience for more sharing. Attendees vow not to blog what’s discussed (on your honor now!). Matt Cutts and his mighty notebook might be barred from the room. Alternatively, any search reps found lurking have to give up a secret of their own or head for the hallway.

What panel? Who are the “noted SEOs”? Really… that is *everything* for an “advanced” session like this, because not many of the talking heads of SEO these days actually reveal meaningful “secrets”. I would expect an inaugural meeting to proudly proclaim the headliners for such an “expert” driven session, but I don’t see it here. Zero-day secrets are a lot of fun and don’t last long, so they tend to be more entertainment than anything else. I guess when it comes to “advanced search marketer” stuff, I’m simply not sold.

Advertising Track: Paid Search Roundtable
Get updated on the latest from the major paid search providers, then fire off questions on paid search topics to the panel of representatives during the ample discussion period.

Not for me. Paid search management is a trade, not a profession. It’s owned by the search engines, and infinitely dynamic because the networks can update their behavior at any increment. This one’s for PPC practitioners.

Advertising Track: Paid Search & Tricky Issues
Trademarks, duplicate listings, quality scores, match types, getting fast support — these are just a few of the tricky issues with paid search. This session covers such topics and solutions to make your life with paid search easier.

Again, a session for those in the PPC trade who don’t already have contacts to answer the questions. Not for me.

Advertising Track: Getting Vertical With Paid Search
As search goes vertical, so too have the ad opportunities. Local search ads and mobile search ads are just two vertical search marketplaces now out there. This session looks at some key verticals with tips and opportunities. Don’t miss out on these new frontiers of paid listings!

For the same reasons that PPC is not interesting to me, this is not interesting to me.

Advertising Track: Pump Up Your Paid Search!
In this session, tips and techniques designed to help pros get even more out of their paid search campaigns.

Again, more for the PPC practitioner. It’s not SEO, and PPC is a profit-managed enterprise, so anything spoken aloud to an audience of hundreds at an industry event like this is not of value to me. If you’re managing your own PPC or learning to be a manager of PPC, or perhaps are already a small PPC manager, fine, but then why is this for the “advanced” search marketer?

Advertising Track: Paid Search: The Giant Focus Group “I wish….” or “If only they would….” If you’ve thought it, now’s your chance to say it to representatives from the major search ad providers. What should they fix? What new features should they provide? Come lobby for the changes you want, with others to take up your cause, if you’ve got that great idea.

The day I willingly pay over $100 per hour to be in someone else’s focus group, please shoot me in the head.

Advertising Track: Beyond The Majors
Still seeking paid search traffic? Then you might want to look beyond the major players and toward some of the smaller networks out there. This session provides an update on options beyond the majors, as well as tips and strategies.

Of minor importance in my book.

Debate: Is SEO Bull?
Want success in SEO? You don’t need no stinkin’ SEO! Just read the search engine help files, have good content, and the traffic will flow. That’s the bull argument. The no bull side says SEO is indeed a skill set that not everyone has time or aptitude to learn, one that can deliver those targeted visitors. We let the sides go at it through a traditional debate, followed by audience discussion.

I can see this as a great opportunity for the people on the panel, provided the audience is full of potential clients on the fence about SEO (but not for “advanced search marketers” attending in the audience). It also might be very entertaining.. but I can’t tell because I don’t know who is on the panel. I’ll have to pass.

Debate: Is Bid Management Dead?
With it harder to know what the competition is paying plus quality scores that make it difficult to know where you’ll rank, are things shifting away from automated bid management and more toward the human touch? Both sides square off in a traditional debate, followed by audience discussion.

Again, PPC is a managed profit game, so the answer to this is “duh!”. ANY technological approach to optimization will be neutralized eventually if it removes profits from the networks or presents a recognized challenge to the other market players. If you are serious about PPC you pay the best to deploy the best tools today for your cause, and thus manage your risk. If you’re not serious, PPC is a very wasteful spend IMHO, so just manage the budget/risk as you see fit. I can see learning just how bad it is right this moment, or hearing what others are doing, but that is not for me.

To be fair there are two 45 minute sessions still listed as “TBA” which I assume means “to be annouced” but also, to be fair, the price increases to the full $1200 on April 2nd which is not far off. I can’t assume those two will be killer sessions that make it all worthwhile, with no such promotion, can I?

So SMX Seattle looks to me like it’s more for clients of SEOs than experienced SEOs, and more for inexperienced search marketers than experienced search marketers, except as an opportunity to present or otherwise impress and recruit clients. Since I am not presenting (and this post is not likely to get me any invitations!), it’s not for me.

Of course I recognize I have not at all considered this for it’s social networking value (which might be where all of the value is). That said, what does SMX Seattle add that PubCon and SES don’t already provide?

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10 Responses to “SMX Advanced Seattle Search Marketing Expo”

  1. Dustin Woodard Says:

    John,
    You make some valid arguments. Having a major search event in Seattle run by Danny Sullivan is quite convenient for us Seattlites (cuts down on the cost of travel). It’s the networking that I find most valuable and I know this event will attract some of the brightest minds in search.

    Unfortunately for me, I have to decide between going to this event and going to the Webby Awards (can’t beleive they are on the same two days). Do I hang with my SEO peeps, or chit chat with the founders of some amazing websites? I’m trying to decide by April 2nd as well.

  2. john andrews Says:

    @Andrew:

    Wow… seems I touched a raw nerve there. Sorry if I criticized your AdWords devotion. But I don’t think it’s as you say.

    Those quotes you attributed to me are what, made up? You know, where you quoted “shouldn’t be in the program” about PPC. I never said that. I addressed SMX as whether or not it was for SEOs. Try reading it again. Let me know if you see me say PPC shouldn’t be in there, or isn’t advanced. Oh, and by the way, I didn’t call anyone on any panel a newbie. Is that your politics background finding it’s way in here? Re-stating things as “what he said” so as to spin them in your favor? Sorry. Take care or don’t comment, but don’t carelessly comment, ok?

    As for your valid points… the ones about supply and demand, and Google making huge profits from PPC. Yes and Yes. But that wasn’t my beef. Cater to the basic SEM market all you like, but don’t label it as “advanced” unless it is. And go ahead and do PPC, and take a share of Google’s billions. But I’m an SEO. First paragraph, last line: “It also doesn’t seem to really be for SEOs?” it was a question.

    I see you’re a PPC Consultant and sell 2 ebooks on making money with PPC. Why the need to trash an alternative opinion that doesn’t find PPC a cost-effective approach to search marketing? Is the PPC market so fragile? Is this the start of another of those SEO vs PPC flame wars? As I recall, the last one was started by a PPC fan as well. Geesh. Lighten up and enjoy *your* conference.

  3. Jill Says:

    [b]Organic Track: Give It Up![/b]
    What panel? Who are the “noted SEOs”? Really… that is *everything* for an “advanced” session like this, because not many of the talking heads of SEO these days actually reveal meaningful “secrets”. I would expect an inaugural meeting to proudly proclaim the headliners for such an “expert” driven session, but I don’t see it here. Zero-day secrets are a lot of fun and don’t last long, so they tend to be more entertainment than anything else. I guess when it comes to “advanced search marketer” stuff, I’m simply not sold.

    I am sure Danny will be announcing the speakers soon. He’s only just invited and confirmed them this week. For what it’s worth, I’m speaking on that panel, although I am wracking my brain to come up with some secrets that I haven’t already told 25,000 people before.

    Personally, I don’t think there is such a thing as “advanced SEO” but I understand the value of using the phrase to sell seats to your conference.

    John, I do hope you show up at least after hours. I’d love to buy you a beer/coffee or whatever your beverage of choice is.

  4. Paul Bliss Says:

    I totally agree – I want to know that Bruce Clay is going to give me a “trick up his sleeve” to get listed in DMOZ, or how Eric Ward will tell me precisely how to get linked from an authority site.

    Those would certainly be worth paying for – otherwise, those true “secrets” will remain in their heads and only used when a client pays for that expertise.

    Just my $.02

  5. john andrews Says:

    And this sort of thing propagates… http://forums.seroundtable.com/showthread.php?t=1652

  6. Danny Sullivan Says:

    Difficult to know really where to begin, John. You’ve never been to an SES; it doesn’t sound like you’ve been to a Pubcon; I’m not clear on whether you’ve been to a conference at all before on search and would see the value in them. Some people don’t. SEOmoz recently covered reasons why some do here:

    http://www.seomoz.org/blog/the-value-of-attending-conferences

    Since you haven’t been to an SES — or perhaps other conferences — it’s probably harder for you to understand why SMX Advanced I expect will be much different and, yes, definitely good for the advanced search marketer.

    First, many events have concurrent sessions. It’s GOOD to have them. It means if you don’t like or are interested in one session, you’ve got an alternative rather than than thinking great, I paid this money, but there’s nothing to go to. I can’t stress enough how common this.

    Duplicate content is a huge concern. If you’ve got it all sorted out, know the workaround, great. But understand the focus of this session isn’t to talk about the workarounds you and others know and have had to deal with. The focus is for advanced search marketers like yourselves to be have a conversation with the search engines on how duplicate content issues SHOULD be handled. I those coming to the session know the solutions but are sick to death of them. If you want to help shape some future direction here, this is an opportunity.

    As for the companies participating — you’ll see the confirmations all go up shortly. Google and Yahoo are confirmed so far for that and many other sessions. You read Matt’s blog — he actually already said he’d be at the show. But getting the info posted will help you and others.

    As for social media as SEO, lots of advanced people are failing to understand the impact social media can have on rankings. You got it covered, great. If not, check out the articles here:

    http://searchengineland.com/guides/social_media_optimization.php

    You set on all that, hey, I’m with you. Any of that makes you think “oh” or wow, maybe there is search activity going on at these places I’ve dismissed, the session might be helpful to you.

    On personalization — you want stats on penetration, effectiveness, utilization of personalized search? When only one major search engine has really shifted to having it for all of like two months? Folks are still digesting things — but plenty of advanced people are indeed freaking out about how personalization might change the landscape for them. If you think bookmarking is social and not SEO, then you’re making a huge mistake. That’s because bookmarking is a key factor on whether Google is going to rank your pages for various individuals. That is just one of the things we’ll be discussing — and yes, it sounds like you’d get something out of it.

    The penalties session is again a summit oriented thing where search marketers can help drive how they’d like penalties better handled. People know work arounds or ways to guess at what problems might be. Are there better things they’d like search engines to do. I’ve conducted many summits like these — and search marketers in them have helped shape the emergence of stuff like the NOODP tag. That’s the opportunity here — if you’re advanced, if you consider yourself a leader, you can come lead in a session like this.

    As for pitch sessions — no, none of the sessions will be product pitches. I don’t have a reputation for doing conferences like this, but I’ll work to make that clearer.

    On Give It Up, plenty of noted SEOs that will be posted later this week. You don’t see names simply because I’ve been busy with the SES event this past week. I agree names are important to those who, like you, may not be familiar with my reputation in producing search conferences. So you can check them out shortly.

    Paid search doesn’t seem to be your thing, so I won’t get into those sessions. But sounds like it’s a good think I’m running those concurrent sessions. And of course SEO is not PPC. They are two separate parts of search marketing as a whole. Some people do all of one; some do all of other; many go between. That’s why we are running two tracks.

    As for the debate, no, the audience really won’t be potential clients. Actually, most of those people are probably going to be sick of having to argue and defend their profession to the outside world. The debate is meant to be both fun yet educational and generate some buzz. I can’t promise it will match what seems to be your “Is it worth $100 per hour” criteria for each and every session. I can only tell you that I do believe many people will find the conference experience as a whole to be well worthwhile.

    I hope you find the comment helpful. Your comments definitely help me think more about what I need to explain to those who might not understand the value of this particular new show. If you don’t make it, well, I’ll hope the reviews might convince you next time.

  7. john andrews Says:

    Yes, Danny I have been to search conferences over the years, although I was in stealth mode as an SEO from ’97 up until 2006. I only went full-time as an independent SEO in late 2003. I was actually at SES NY many years ago, but not as a registered participant. I was dragged into the after-hours activities by some Adtech acquaintances (I lived in NY at the time). No matter.

    Competition is good. I think SES and SMX and PubCon and SEO Days and many small SEO roundtabel-like seminars are all good as options, and I look forward to someone actually making a conference that is valuable for “advanced” SEO topics. All this activity should make SEO more accessible, and perhaps help weed out the nonsense, helping the good stuff get the higher profile it deserves.

  8. Gilad Says:

    from a month “after” perspective – It was great meeting you John, I guess you didn’t change much of your overall conference critic…

  9. john andrews Says:

    No Gilad… I got a free pass from Danny and discovered the hard way that it was.. shall we say, “limited access”. It would have been more comfortable for me, the security guy, the show manager, etc. if they had just been up front about it not being a full-access pass as Danny had said it would be. Eventually I got a hand written note to show every time a guard stopped me (and that happened a lot!) so i could actually eat, attend the sessions, bah blah blah. I stuck it out, though, and I really enjoyed hanging with you. I never did blog about the actual conference experience — I was tryng to be gracious.

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