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August 3, 2009

10 Ways to Get the Most from SES San Jose

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The countdown to SES San Jose has begun! A week from today, the Bruce Clay, Inc. team (including this blogger) will be heading north to attend Search Engine Strategies, one of the biggest search marketing conferences of the year.

And all this week, the blog and Bruce Clay, Inc.’s weekly podcast, SEM Synergy, will feature interviews with several conference speakers. Q&As with Allison Fabella, Gina Poole, Kathleen Fealy and Michael Boland will be coming your way starting tomorrow.

As you’re preparing for the big week, you’ve got lots to think about in terms of how to make the show the most valuable experience possible. Last week Bruce wrote about the solution to poor understanding in the SEO community. And in the end, the best bet for correcting misconceptions about the goals, methodology and tactics that make up search engine optimization is experience and education. What else is a conference for but training and education?

If you’re one of the lucky ones attending Search Engine Strategies, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the most for your time and money. To help make that happen, here are ten ways to get the most from your SES San Jose experience.

Use our discount code: 20BRU

If you’ve decided that SES SJ attendance would be useful but aren’t sure how to swing the cost, it’s not too late to get a 20 percent discount with the code 20BRU. Along with attendance to more than 70 sessions in tracks ranging from SEM for small businesses to search for the C-suite and advanced PPC to search and analytics, you’ll also be able to check out keynotes, the expo hall and some promising special events.

Plan the sessions you want to attend beforehand

I find things tend to go more smoothly when there’s an action plan lined up before a task or event. An idea of what sessions, keynotes and even parties you’d like to attend will help you help you squeeze every last drop of value from the precious moments at SES. Knowing what obligations you have throughout the day will also help you plan for opportunities as they come up. An exciting potential partner asks when you’re free for a drink? With some advanced planning, you’ll already know when you’re free to meet! Your roadmap isn’t set in stone, of course, but it’s sure to help your decision making process as you weigh the many options presented to you each day.

Network your heart out

A good deal of the value of conferences like SES comes from the people you meet. You’d be missing out if you didn’t take advantage of the brilliant minds that surround you at the show. Talk to those around you before and after sessions. Introduce yourself to a table of strangers during lunch. And once the convention center closes, see who’s hanging out at the hotel bar. Other SES attendees? Image that! You never know who you’ll run into or what great relationships are just around the corner.

Pass out every single business card you can… and bring lots of them

As you meet new people, think of a way to make your mark. Whether it’s a business card or a sweet piece of swag, a memorable item or piece of info can go a long way in making a deep impression. Try to bring enough for everyone, and maybe even have a back-up plan, like a sticky or chuckle-inducing Twitter name. There will be a whole lot of people in attendance over the week-long event and the more people you can reach, the better your odds of creating lasting and meaningful connections.

Arrive early for Bruce Clay’s SEO training

The three-day conference kicks off on Tuesday, but on Monday Bruce Clay is teaching a full-day SEO training course based on his acclaimed three-day SEOToolSet training course.

Bruce condenses his lessons on white hat SEO methods and techniques into the day before SES sessions start, giving attendees a foundation for the rest of the show’s intense learning opportunities. Attendance is limited so you’ll want to reserve your seat in advance.

Consider the many forums and workshop events

As I mentioned earlier, there are a number of additional training and workshop opportunities which can extend your conference value. One of those events is a brand new forum brought to us by ClickZ, YouTube and Google. Social Media & Video Strategies will be held on Tuesday in conjunction with the rest of the conference. It features special sessions including “Effective Advertising via Social Networks” and “Conversational & Real Time Marketing”.

There are also several workshops, including the Web Analytics Association’s full-day workshop that teaches participants how to best leverage analytics in SEO campaigns as well as the Local Search Summit. Half-day workshops are also being presented by the Online Marketing Institute and the Direct Marketing Association. You can also stick around for Friday training events, including workshops dedicated to SEO, small business SEM, the YouTube and video marketing, enterprise search marketing, SEO and SEM management, and mobile marketing.

Visit the expo hall and ask exhibitors hard questions

If you’re attending SES and are looking for a top-notch service provider, the expo hall has a wealth of information. An expo-only pass is free if you register in advance and $50 if you register on-site. SES San Jose is one of the West Coast’s can’t-miss gatherings of search marketing professionals, so chances are the right agency for your businesses is there waiting for you.

Marketing firms specializing in nearly every online marketing service currently in existence, as well as those bright minds who will bring search marketing into the future, are all present in the Search Engine Strategies expo hall. Just be sure to have in hand your tough questions as well as concrete examples of your site’s pain points. If you’re around, say hi to Bruce and the crew who will be camped out at booth 102. They’re demoing some cool tools so be sure to ask for a peek.

Sign up for SearchBash and IM Charity Party

Without a doubt you’ll want to be on the invite-only list to get into the biggest party of the week — WebmasterRadio’s SearchBash! Ask anyone who’s gone to SearchBash before — WebmasterRadio throws a mean party. Only the first thousand people to sign up will be allowed in to Pearl Nightclub when the doors open at 8:30 on Tuesday night.

The week’s other hot ticket is the one that gets you into the IM Charity Party, which starts at 8:00 Wednesday. All proceeds for the event go to Doctors Without Borders and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Both events are currently looking for sponsors, as well, so be sure to consider the opportunity for some excellent exposure. [Check out the 15 reasons the IM Charity Party is better than sitting in your hotel room if you need convincing. --Susan]

Pay attention to developing news and announcements

There’s a good chance that some major headlines will come out of SES San Jose — news that could affect your site and search marketing efforts in the future. Remember SMX Advanced earlier this year? The news from Google’s Matt Cutts that the nofollow attribute was being treated differently created shockwaves across the industry.

Next week’s event will undoubtedly be the staging ground for a number of announcements about partnerships, new technologies and possibly even search engine behavior. If you’re at the show, take advantage of the ability to be an up-close-and-personal witness to the news and your ability to analyze the effects of such developments with other experts and seasoned professionals.

Be sure to read the live blogs of the sessions — especially ours!

The final tip on how to get the most out of your time at SES SJ is one that can also be enjoyed by those not attending the show. Wherever you are next week, if you’re in the search industry, you’ll want to keep up with the show through liveblog and podcast coverage. WebmasterRadio.fm will be broadcasting every keynote presentation live and will also be making them available for download in the conference coverage section of their site and on iTunes.

Those who aren’t attending will obviously benefit from such reporting, but so will those who are at the show. No one can be in two places at once. If you’re torn between sessions, knowing that a blogger will be reporting one of the sessions can give you peace of mind to attend the other, knowing that you can read up on the session later. Also, if you attend a session that’s covered by a blogger, the blog post can act as a helpful way of remembering that new technique you learned about or as a way of sharing the information with a colleague.

I’ll be covering the show and have posted my SES liveblog schedule. Please drop a note in the comments if you’ll be offering liveblogging coverage as well. Because SES San Jose is a party everyone can enjoy!





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