Search Engine Strategies began in San Francisco on November 18, 1999, as a unique one-day event covering the ins and outs of search engine marketing, with the assistance of top experts in the field. It turned out to be quite valuable for webmasters, marketers, and representatives of the top search engines of the day: Excite, Infoseek, Google, Inktomi, and AltaVista. Now known as the SES Conference & Expo, the series continues to be an essential resource for professionals who navigate the increasingly complex and fast-changing world of search marketing.
“Social,” now a key component of every SES event, was nowhere to be found on the first agenda. This is just one example of how the search marketing landscape has been transformed. In response to the changes, SES has evolved to become the leading international search and social marketing event for webmasters, digital agencies, online marketers, and corporate decision makers.
In 1999, marketers were just beginning to learn how search engines work. SES, the first search event of its kind, used the opportunity to educate marketers about buying banner ad placements, writing meta tags, cloaking, submitting to directories, and other hot topics.
SEO tactics, whether for small business owners or large brands, have always been at the core of SES events. SES has taught the fundamentals for newbies as well as advanced topics for seasoned SEO pros looking to rank at the top of search engines.
International SEO, keyword research (or “search term research,” as it was known in 2001), and advice on designing search engine–friendly sites remain part of the SEO mix today. Over the years, SES has looked at optimizing Flash and other non-HTML content, addressed the ever-present issue of search-result spam, and chronicled how websites can drive traffic from RSS, news, forums, and blogs.
Link building has been on the SES agenda since 2000. Beyond introductory and advanced tracks, SES has followed trends including paid links, link spam, link baiting, and how to create linkable content.
Google’s increasing power and market share have caused quite a few headaches for SEOs and webmasters through the years, usually through major algorithmic changes such as Florida, Austin, Big Daddy, Vince, May Day, Caffeine, and Panda. Google is constantly tweaking the search experience itself: it has rolled out universal search, incorporated social signals, launched Google Instant, and created the +1 button and the Google+ social project.
SES’s focus on PPC advertising even preceded Google’s debut of AdWords. Google introduced its cost-per-click model with AdWords Select in 2002 (though the technology existed since 1998, thanks to GoTo.com, later known as Overture).
Beyond PPC, in its first years SES taught marketers about banner ads, paid placement, paid inclusion, and paid listings, later offering bidding, writing, and optimization strategies for PPC.
Analytics have evolved from the early days of counting clicks, incorporating such tools as log file analysis, position checkers, page analyzers, and traffic analysis. SES has provided in-depth coverage of all aspects of measuring and tracking, including usability, landing page optimization, testing, and tuning.
Social search gained a lot of attention in 2006, and social media optimization was born. Long before Facebook and Twitter would make their impact on Google’s organic and real-time results, there was Flickr, del.icio.us, Yahoo Answers, and Wikipedia. SES showed marketers how search engines were beginning to use social tagging, click-through tracking, voting, bookmarking, and search history.
Local audiences became a target for search engines in 2003, as Google and others sought ways to tie local searches to geography. SES demonstrated how marketers could benefit from online yellow pages and other sources. Mobile search was just about ready to mature in 2005, though we were still a few years away from the first iPhone. SES was on hand to help marketers get their content in front of users on the move.
SES was also there at the dawn of video search, offering strategies to be found in video search engines in the days before there were billions of video views per day and millions of hours of video uploaded daily. Marketers took notice of video in 2005, but video marketing has gotten immense in the years since Google acquired YouTube. Born in San Francisco, SES has grown every year, expanding globally to hold events in London, Toronto, Berlin, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Singapore, in addition to regular stops in New York City, San Francisco, and right here in Chicago.
Always at the heart of SES is the future of search. Where is search headed in 2012 and beyond? Wherever it ends up, the SES Conference & Expo will help get you there.
This column was originally published in SES Magazine, Chicago Preview, 2011.