For years, I have devoted myself to educating individuals and companies in the ways of search engine optimization (SEO). When I started my career in search engine optimization in March 2003, I had helped to start an SEO firm after having sold advertising/business development deals for Lycos and AOL Time Warner.
Back then, I had to first learn what the heck it was that we were doing. While I knew search engine marketing fairly well from an advertising perspective and participated in usability studies at Lycos, I really had no idea what search engine friendly design meant and less understanding of what it took to rank organically in the search engines.
I had to educate myself. And, fast.
So, like many of you who understand search engine optimization, I used my inquisitive mind to learn a lot. "Why is this website ranking and yet our site was not?" I would have our team test methods out, monitor results, and - over the course of many, many SEO initiatives, came to learn best practices. I also read every column that I could. I participated in forums. And, when I was able, I attended conferences.
When I was asked to write for Search Engine Watch three years ago, I took the responsibility seriously. I wanted to provide common-sense instruction and education on search engine optimization.
While my goal in writing has remained the same, I do think that there are some things that simply cannot be covered by reading columns. You must gain practical experience, have one-on-one consultation regarding your particular challenges (perhaps an SEO audit), and attend a conference on search marketing on a regular basis.
It's Not Just What You Learn...
...It's who you get to know.
If you have never attended a search marketing conference, I highly recommend it. At least once. Chances are, if you attend, you'll be addicted like the rest of us and put these on your calendar every year.
At each of these events, you'll have the opportunity to hear some of the country's experts in search optimization, paid search advertising, social media, Web analytics, usability, and mobile search. Aside from the already great panels that are established, there are sometimes live clinics where you can submit a website for review by experts.
It's not just what can learn during the sessions, it's also who you meet and build relationships with. Folks from all over the world attend these conferences (SES is held internationally). There are usually plenty of networking opportunities outside of the daily schedule of sessions, and - at these - you might be surprised how much knowledge you can buy for the cost of a few drinks.
SES: What You Can Expect
Earlier this year, I was at SES New York. There were 194 speakers at this year's event. And, I'm not talking about any "Joe Schmo" speaking. For example, at the "News Search" session, which I moderated, we had John Shehata from Advance Internet (publications include 22 newspapers and Condé Nast magazines), Matthew Brown from The New York Times, Allison Fabella from The Atlanta Constitution Journal, and my good friend Lisa Buyer from The Buyer Group. When it comes to news search, you'd be hard pressed to find a more talented bunch.
You'll also find marketing experts like Greg Jarboe from SEO-PR, Maile Ohye from Google, and Dana Todd from Newsforce. At the upcoming SES in San Francisco, which takes place from Aug. 17-19, 2010, Dana will moderate a panel on day two that includes Brent Payne from the Tribune Co., Allison Fabella, Topher Kohan, SEO manager from CNN.com, and Eleanor Hong, lead editor, SEO, ABCNews.com.
If you have any interest in news search, there's a pretty good chance you would get a lot out of attending this session. SES has already done the hard work for you...the conference team found the best and brightest on a particular subject, brought them to you - in person - and you are spared the possibility of hiring a consultant who may not actually be the best in a particular subject matter. Again, there are multiple tracks and you can determine the sessions that you'd like to attend.
Total "retail" cost for the platinum passport - if you were to sign up at the event and not take advantage of early registration discounts and sign up on site - is $1,995 for an all access pass. If you register by the end of July 2010, pricing is $1,695 for the platinum passport. You can see pricing options here.
PubCon: What to Expect
I also attend (speak/moderate at) PubCon conferences. These are held regularly in Las Vegas and, in March 2010, the event was held in Dallas...my home town.
PubCon, the conference arm of WebmasterWorld, was founded by Brett Tabke. PubCon Las Vegas, which takes place November 8-11, 2010, will feature approximately 300 speakers at 145 sessions in Las Vegas. If you were to plan your days well, you could - taking into consideration that you can't physically attend every single session - attend about 16 to 24 hours worth of sessions in Las Vegas.
Price of admission: $1,499* for a gold pass for Las Vegas if you register on site and don't take advantage of early registration discounts. If you register by the end of July 2010, the price is $749. You can see pricing options here.
PubCon also brings out the best and brightest in our industry. PubCon is slightly tilted for a "geek" audience; you'll find more technical information than you might at a SES conference. PubCon is an off-shoot of WebmasterWorld, the definitive forum for Webmasters/SEOs/SEMs to discuss "the process of doing business on the Internet" (taken straight from the WebmasterWorld website). You obviously can't go to Las Vegas without having a little fun, so networking opportunities abound, including the traditional PubCon Classic (a designated get-together, typically held the day after the conference ends).
I realize that I sound a little bit like a paid advertisement for these conferences. I have not been asked to write about these conferences, nor paid to write about them. These just happen to be the ones that I attend and/or speak at, on a regular basis, and have since 2003. There are many more conferences out there, and perhaps one of those could be a better fit for you.
*This column has been updated; the pricing for the full access gold pass at PubCon was incorrect in an earlier version.
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Mark Jackson is the president and CEO of Vizion Interactive, Inc., a leading SEO company headquartered in Dallas, TX, with offices in Overland Park, KS and Clearwater Beach, FL. Mark joined the interactive marketing fray in early 2000 in business development with Lycos/Wired Digital and then AOL Time Warner. After having witnessed the bubble burst and its lingering effects on stability on the job front, Mark established an interactive marketing agency and has cultivated it into one of the most respected search engine optimization firms in the United States.
Vizion Interactive was founded on the premise that honesty, integrity, and transparency forge the pillars that strong partnerships should be based upon. Vizion Interactive is a full-service interactive marketing agency, specializing in search engine optimization, search engine marketing/PPC management, social media marketing, SEO friendly Web design/development, analytics installations/analysis, and other leading edge interactive marketing services, including being one of the first 50 beta testers of Google TV.
Mark is a member of the Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association (DFWSEM), the Dallas/Fort Worth Interactive Marketing Association (DFWIMA) and is a regular speaker at the Search Engine Strategies and Pubcon conferences.
Mark received a B.A. in journalism/advertising from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1993 and spent several years in traditional marketing (radio, television, and print) prior to venturing into all things "Web."
His columns can be found in the Search Engine Watch archive.
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