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SES Wrap Up and the Year in Review

by: Susan Esparza, December 2005

SES Chicago is a strange time and place. It's a smaller show and since it's the end of the year, the focus changes. We notice this most on the exhibit hall floor. Most of the year, when people come to the booth they have questions--what is SEO? How do you do SEO? What's the value and so on. People are interested in learning about what search engine marketing and search engine optimization are and how they're different. But in Chicago, it's the fourth quarter and all the rules change. Companies start looking ahead to the new year and the new budget they'll have to spend. So now that they've educated themselves, somewhat, it's time to find a company who can do the work.

Learning about search engine optimization is really a never-ending process and this year has certainly brought plenty for SEOs of all skill levels to learn or re-learn. The latest Google update, Jagger, has formerly complacent companies scrambling to repair their rankings and shore up the weak spots in their SEO campaigns. The importance of having good organic backlinks without resorting to link-swapping schemes became paramount. And just in case it was ever in doubt, Google's Bourbon update in July made it clear that expert, unique content is King.

In a year where one of the top four search engines turned ten, another was bought, another became the largest media company in the world and everyone got into the PPC game, there's hardly been a quiet week. Search is catching up with email as the most widely used web feature and anyone who didn't already know that it was the next big thing is finally learning it. Our SEOToolSet training classes are sold out every month with people wanting to know more about how to get results through organic listings.

And that brings us back to Chicago. This wrap-up isn't about the sessions. There are lots of good play-by-plays out there. You can get most of the PowerPoint presentations used by the speakers at the download page and they all have lots of excellent information on all manner of search engine marketing. This wrap-up is about the other side of the conferences. Seth Godin wrote recently, "Whenever I go to a conference, I learn more from the people in the lobby."

Seth was talking about horizontal knowledge, that which is gleaned from those around you. It's one of the best reasons to go to any conference and it's one of the reasons that the blogosphere has taken off this year. It's also one of the reasons that it's important to have a party at conferences--nothing facilitates knowledge transfer like a couple of rum and cokes.

However, you may have heard that the usual suspects--Google, Yahoo!, MSN--didn't plan parties. Who knows why, maybe they just thought that it was everyone else's problem but when the conference rolled into town there wasn't a single party on the books.

One very boring night went by. People gathered in the hotel bar or went to dinner. On Tuesday, someone got a bright idea. If there weren't any parties planned, someone should throw one. In short order, a group of companies banded together, found a venue and announced a party:

SearchBash at Buddy Guy's took place on Wednesday night and was hosted by Bruce Clay, Inc, PositionTech, the New York Times, TrueLocal and WebmasterRadio. Though it was only announced at the morning session and in the exhibit hall, the 400 capacity jazz club was stuffed to capacity and there was a line outside in the 4 degree weather.

Outside it may have been below freezing but inside it was hot as can be, and included an appearance by one of the genre's true masters and plenty of cool jazz. Buddy Guy's Legends was definitely the place to be on Wednesday night and just the thing to warm up that very cold Chicago winter night.