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December 8, 2006

SES Chicago Recap

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It’s sort of like the Friday Recap, only not.

So we’re back. The entire Bruce Clay, Inc. team has made their way back from snowy Chicago (some of us earlier than others. Jerks.). Personally, I had an absolute blast getting to meet everyone and I hope you had a chance to stop by the booth and say hello to the real stars of Bruce Clay – the analysts.

For those that missed it, we hope you enjoyed the session recaps (my fingers have almost stopped bleeding). I really believe the theme of SES Chicago was not how can I run an effective search engine optimization, pay-per-click or branding campaign, but how can I run it correctly. Attendees were intent on learning the trusted ‘white hat’ strategies and to avoid techniques that may be considered spam. It was about creating value, not finding shortcuts.

The industry is growing up and with that comes the realization that it’s not just about doing search engine optimization, it’s about doing it right.

That theme was in full effect during Thursday afternoon’s Organic Listings Forum. Attendees wanted to know what they could do to show the search engines their sites were valuable and informative. We heard SEO bad boy David Naylor talk about creating excellent content to make sites link-worthy. Bruce talked about the importance of doing even the small things, like keyword tags, correctly, while Mike Grehan stressed the importance of compelling content and reiterated that content doesn’t just mean text.

In the Social Media Optimization panel, we learned that building community ties takes time and if you want to get the full benefit, you have to develop real relationships, not just phone it in. Neil Patel gave a hilariously colorful presentation on what not to do in Wikipedia and Todd Malicoat stressed the importance of absolutely NOT spamming. Search marketers and search marketer wannabes know that if you spam, you will be banned.

In the Ads in a Quality Score World session, marketers learned how to optimize relevant landing pages, not how to launch aggressive bidding wars to crush the competition. Attendees flocked to the great usability panels which provided step-by-step guidelines for constructing sites that rank well for the right reasons. Again, it wasn’t about learning ‘tricks’, it was learning what the engines are looking for to adapt to the necessarily methodologies.

That’s not to say that previous Search Engine Strategies conferences supported using black hat and spammy techniques, but an experienced SEO could always spot the twinkle in a questioner’s eye when they were asking how to improve their rankings. You could pick out the person looking to break down the search engines door by appearing as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. They wanted fast rankings at no cost. Surely the panelists knew some kind of trick, right?

Wrong.

Fortunately, this year those people were few and far between. I think smart marketers have realized if you’re going to play the game, the only way to play it is to follow the rules. No one wants to walk into their boss’s office and explain that their bad behavior is what resulted in company’s site getting banned.

At SES Chicago, people were there to learn. And that was great to see.

Some quick shout-outs and mentions from me:

First, our condolences to Anne Kennedy who lost her husband on Friday. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Your presence at the conference was definitely missed.

Big thanks to Todd Malicoat for acting as my agent Sunday night, introducing me to all the friendly search folk, arranging my first meeting with Rand, and buying me a $4 water. (I do apologize for all the flack you took later thanks to Rand "Troublemaker" Fishkin.)

To all the ladies who attended the Search Lady Lunch. It was great to meet all of you and prove to everyone that neither I, nor Rebecca, are SEO Fangirl! [And that you aren't Bruce either--Susan]

David Temple – I am so glad we had a chance to meet and even share an elevator ride. You are extremely kind and I can’t wait to read all about your forthcoming interview with Bruce.

Thanks to Kim Krause, Loren Baker and Barry Schwartz for letting me blog in their presence. I look up to you all. And Barry, feel free to put those Shadchan powers to work!

Lastly, to my Rand, thanks for being so awesome, warm, and full of life. It’s amazing to me how you remain so unaware and unphased by the fanfare around you. I’ll see you in April. :)





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