Should You Attend a Search Marketing Conference in 2014?
A short Cosmo-esque quiz to help you decide if you should attend a search conference in 2014:
- Do you feel like screaming “Nobody understands me!” like a teenage girl every time your coworkers eyes gloss over in the middle of your conversation about the latest algorithm update?
- Do you love the conversations you’re having with industry leaders in Google+, but often think of the left arm you’d give to actually have a face-to-face conversation with them?
- Do you wish you could walk into a giant Ikea-like store that only carries search marketing tools and casually browse the aisles of options, stopping to ask attendants for demos and help as needed?
If you answered yes to any of the three above questions, stop procrastinating and opt into attending a conference in March! There are two conference opportunities coming up right around the corner: SMX West March 10-13 and PubCon South March 17-20. Register for PubCon before February 28 to get the Early Bird rate, or use discount code BRUCECLAYSMXW14 to save 10% on any SMX pass and/or workshop.
Need more persuasion? Here’s a deep dive into how attending a conference offers a solutions to each of the above listed qualms.
3 Reasons to Attend a Search Marketing Conference Plus 10 Pro Tips to Help You Get the Most Out of The Event
1. Exit “Nobody Understands Me” Land and Start Learning from Your Peers in the Magical World of SERP Nerdery
Imagine being magically whisked away to a place where everyone you meet is equally as excited about Excel shortcuts, semantic markup, longtail keywords, and persona research as you are. Imagine yourself walking up to a total stranger, starting a conversation about Danny Sullivan, or how social signals affect the search algorithm, and imagine that the person you’re talking to knows exactly what you’re talking about, doesn’t gloss over, and actually responds with their own opinions. It’s magic! And if you’ve never experienced it, this sensation of ethereal belonging alone is 100% worth the conference registration fee.
Attending a search marketing conference is like having your favorite WebProNews forum, and all of its participants, come to life for a face-to-face discussion over coffee.
This kind of in-person interaction is really unique to the conference environment, and it can be an excellent way for you or your search team members to use conversation with peers to connect strategy dots. (Sometimes you just need to talk out the pros and cons of an idea and it’s impossible to do that when everyone you talk to looks at you like you’re speaking Pig Latin translated into German. Note: At search conferences like PubCon, everyone speaks Pig Latin translated into German.)
How to Get the Most Out of Your Peer-to-Peer Conference Time:
- Talk to people in elevators and sit next to strangers at meal times.
Elevator rides and meals are great times to catch people in moments where they may have a minute to talk. An elevator chat, if done right, can turn into a walk n’ talk, which can turn into breakfast if the chat gets rolling. You both have to be there anyway, why not get to know each other?
- Claim your seat in a session early and have a chat with the person who pulls up next to you.
Before you even start talking you know you have one common interest – whatever the session topic is. Use this time to ask a peer’s opinion, get to know someone who you might be able to work with in the future, or simply just to talk geek shop with someone who cares.
- If you have a specific question you want to address, make sure to go where you think the experts in that field will be.
For instance, if you have a nagging PPC question, go to the PPC sessions, visit the PPC tool booths in the vendor village, and talk to the PPC session presenters.
2. Keep Your Left Arm and Have a Face-to-Face Conversation with Your Industry Idol
We all agree, getting feedback from experience peers is invaluable. Now imagine getting this same feedback from your industry idols; the niche experts that write the online marketing books you read, and manage the blogs you visit daily – like Search Engine Land and Moz.
Casual interaction with industry experts is common at search conferences like SMX and PubCon, and it’s awesome.
4 Ways to Get Some Idol Interaction:
- Attend a workshop, like Bruce’s SMX SEO Training or a PubCon Masters Group workshop, for personal time with niche experts.
While these workshops add a little extra to your total conference cost, the small class size and individual attention you will receive in workshops like this offer an elite, custom learning experience that will end up paying for itself.
- Prepare questions pre-session to be locked and loaded for Q&A time.
Nearly every session will have an ample amount of time set aside for questions and answers. Pro tip: If you have specific questions you want to ask panelists, one way to take advantage of this Q&A time is to draft relevant questions you want to ask panelists before the session. This bit of planning ahead can help you keep your full attention on the session without missing the opportunity to get your question in front of the experts.
- Attend an interactive site review session for a chance to get your site (or social page) analyzed granularly.
Both SMX and PubCon offer interactive clinic sessions that analyze a volunteer’s website or social profile as a learning experience for all in attendance. Of course competition is high in these sessions and everyone’s page can’t be the one (or two, or three) selected to share with the crowd, but just by showing up with a volunteering spirit there’s a good chance your site could be the one getting the free, incredibly public (but also incredibly free!) professional audit.
- Meet industry leaders at lunch, social events and after sessions.
During conference events you’ll see industry “celebrities” everywhere, just co-mingling like you and me and every other everyday Joe. I fully encourage you to walk up to your favorite industry celeb, say hello, introduce yourself, and maybe even spark a conversation or ask a question. Pro tip: Approach these idol meet n’ greets with care! Just like you would approach introducing yourself online with care (think how much time you spend crafting a spam-free Twitter bio, or writing a Google+ comment to Mark Traphagen) make sure you’re also taking care to put your best foot forward in real life situations. In other words, think about how you’re presenting yourself before you just spew something you wish you could take back; and try to, at least in a miniscule way, come prepared with something of value to say — something that contributes to a conversation. Believe it or not, you can actually spam someone in person, and no one wants that to be the impression they make on their niche idol.
3. Get Tool Recommendations from Pros and Browse Aisles of Marketing Tools in a Baby Ikea-esque Vendor Village
What if you could get an industry expert to tell you exactly what tools they are using and why they love them? Or if you could browse the aisles of a super market that only lines its shelves with online marketing tools? Sounds like two magical scenarios that would make your job much easier, doesn’t it?
To find both look no further than your nearest SMX, PubCon or other search marketing conference event. If you’re in the market for a tool that will make your life easier, search conferences are truly the place to be.
3 Places to Find Tool Recommendations at Search Conferences:
- Tool recommendations are integrated into the majority of sessions.
Even if the session you’re attending doesn’t have the word “tools” in the title, expect lots of tool discussion to happen organically as part of the “how” portion of most presentations.
- Sessions dedicated 100% to tool discussion and recommendation.
Both SMX and PubCon offer a series of hour-plus sessions that exclusively cover SEO, SEM, PPC and social media tools, how panelists use them, and why they were selected over alternatives. You can also look forward to dedicated sessions that discuss in-house marketing tools and Excel as a search marketing tool.
- Vendor village of tool retailers looking to discuss your problem and prove they can solve it.
Half the trouble of selecting a new tool is finding a new tool. The vendor village is a great tool discovery aid; just peruse the aisles, listen in on conversations the vendor’s are having with other attendees, tell the vendor exactly what features your dream tool will have, and watch demos of tools that meet your criteria. You may even stumble upon an amazing search marketing tool you didn’t even know you needed.
Go Forth, Learn and Commiserate With Your Peers!
It can be lonely living in a world where the majority of folks immediately zone out when they hear the words “algorithm” or “Excel.” It’s hard trying to explain to your husband who Matt Cutts is and why he matters. And it can feel downright isolating always having to turn to online peers for strategy feedback because the people sitting around you have no idea what it is you do.
All that to say, there’s real value in spending three whole days immersed in a world where everyone understands you.
For comic book fans it’s Comic-Con; for roller derby girls it’s RollerCon; for search marketing professionals it’s industry events like SMX and PubCon.