A Personal Preview Of SMX West – And Why You Should Go!

January 17, 2011 by Chris Sherman

Our annual Search Marketing Expo – SMX West is less than two months away on March 8-10, and it’s shaping up to be an exceptional show. As always, you can expect the great content, keynotes, networking activities and meals for which SMX events are famous. With all of the rapid changes that have been occurring with search marketing, we’ve also developed a ton of new content for the show, to help you keep up to speed with cutting-edge knowledge, tools and techniques. We’re also moving into a larger, more central venue at the San Jose Convention Center.

While the primary focus of SMX West is on search marketing, there’s ample content for web designers and developers, social media practitioners, public relations people, traditional marketers—anyone who’s part of the team responsible for attracting and satisfying customers through online activities.

Here’s a virtual tour of the show, highlighting the top reasons you should attend.

Something For Everyone

First, an overview of what SMX West is all about. This is one of the two “big” SMX search engine marketing conferences that Search Engine Land’s publisher Third Door Media runs each year in the United States (SMX East, held in New York during the fall, is the other).

The event is large enough that we offer multiple tracks filled with sessions for people of all interests and experience levels. Beginner, intermediate or advanced — in PPC, SEO, or social media — there’s plenty for you.
To make your sessions choices easy, we have “ski run” icons on our Agenda-At-A-Glance page that indicate which sessions are suitable for anyone versus those with intermediate and expert skills. You can see which sessions are focused toward search engine optimization (working with “free” listings), PPC (paid search ads) or both combined (SEO+PPC = search engine marketing).

Just Getting Started With Search Marketing?

If you’re new to the field, search marketing can seem intimidating—but it needn’t be! Our SMX Boot Camp is specially designed to cover the key essentials of search marketing in an intensive day-long track. Boot Camp features sessions that will prepare you to implement traffic- and revenue-boosting SEM techniques right away. It also provides networking opportunities that will introduce you to others in the industry who will prove to be professional resources and personal friends, including our online social networking tool to meet people before the conference and in-person networking activities like birds-of-a-feather topic lunch tables!

Boot Camp is open to all conference attendees, but you can attend all of these sessions through a special low-cost SMX Boot Camp ticket, which includes admission to the afternoon keynote and the Expo Hall reception at the end of the day. You even get a certificate of completion! If you decide you want to learn more, you can upgrade your ticket to a full pass and attend sessions on the second and third day of the show.

Keeping Current With The Industry

Search has seen more change over the past six months than any time since the very early days. While the fundamentals of core search marketing remain constant, new innovations and features such as Google Instant and the incorporation of social signals into relevance algorithms have had a significant impact. The Industry Issues Track takes a deep look at some of the most important changes affecting how search marketers do their jobs. Sessions include:

Best Practices With Paid Search

Paid search has become such a major part of most search marketing campaigns that we’ve devoted a track to the subject on each of the three days of the conference. On Tuesday, March 8, the Paid Search Track sessions include:

On Wednesday, March 9 we shift gears slightly and take a deep dive into two areas that many paid search marketers finding increasingly important:

Anyone who has done paid search knows how important testing and reporting are to maximize ROI and minimize costs. The Search And The Complex Sale session is new for this show. It explores the challenges B2B marketers face when you’re selling a high-consideration, complex product or service, or if the typical sales-cycle is over 6 months. And how do you effectively manage the process if multiple people are involved in the purchase decision, and the actual sale is negotiated face-to-face or over the phone?

But wait—there’s more! On Thursday, March 10, the second Paid Search Track continues exploring the topic with sessions on:

Cousins to Paid Search looks at the non-search ad formats offered by the search engines (display, rich media, video, etc). With the search engines essentially offering one-stop shopping for a wide array of ad formats, with dashboards and reporting systems that integrate all types of campaigns, there’s little reason to limit your ads to simple text ads, and this session shows you how. Hot Topics In Paid Search will cover “breaking news” that’s just developed in the weeks before the show. And the final two “ask the” sessions are your opportunity to get your questions answered by experts on Q&A panels.

Hanging Out With The Locals

Google estimates that between 30-40% of all queries have some sort of local intent. Indeed, for many bricks and mortar businesses or service providers, local remains the only way to reach and interact with customers. Our Local Search Track keeps you up to speed on the latest in the local search space, featuring presentations from both local search marketers as well as representatives from Yelp, Google and other local search players:

Getting Social With Twitter & Facebook

It’s common knowledge that Twitter and Facebook can drive tons of traffic to a website, but there are right ways and wrong ways to interact on these social media platforms. And Facebook also offers some compelling advertising options that can be more cost-effective than many paid search programs. Sessions in our Twitter & Facebook Track include:

SEO, Big League Style

SEO has become increasingly complex, especially for those who manage huge or heavily trafficked websites that can’t afford any downtime. Not implementing something properly, or making a seemingly insignificant technical mistake can be disastrous, causing both unwanted financial and customer satisfaction consequences, not to mention potential search engine penalties. The Technical SEO Track takes a close look at the thorniest of these issues, offering tested and proven techniques for doing complex SEO the right way. Sessions include:

Seeing The Forest And The Trees

All too often we get caught up in the day-to-day work of simply managing and optimizing our search marketing campaigns without spending much time looking at how things are changing and what trends may have an impact on the way we do our jobs. The Big Picture Track takes a look at some of these broader issues, with sessions including:

For Retailers And YouTube Marketers

Retailers face unique challenges, and also have unique opportunities such as those offered by comparison shopping engines. And recently, YouTube has begun offering a suite of tools designed to help marketers better track and tune viral video campaigns. Part two of the Paid Search & Vertical SEM Track features:

Nothing But SEO

On the third day of the show, our SEO Track is sure to please anyone responsible for working to achieve good rankings in algorithmic search results. The track is evenly divided between presentations from experts and Q&A, with representatives from both the search engines and seasoned SEOs who work daily in the trenches. Sessions include:

Understanding The Numbers & Beefing Up Sales

Analytics has become an integral part of the search marketing process. Reports help the entire team understand what’s working—and what’s not—but it’s crucial to focus on the right numbers. And numbers can also help improve the customer experience, leading to more sales and profits. The Analytics & Conversion Track features:

Exploring In-House Challenges & WordPress SEO

Over the past few years, more and more organizations have been bringing the search marketing function in-house. While this has advantages, such as having the entire team in a central location, in-house teams also face challenges like finding the time to keep up to speed with new developments, how to get all stakeholders to play nice together, and so on. And increasingly, WordPress is the platform of choice for many web sites, both those maintained by in-house teams and others. Session in the In House & WordPress Track include:

Expert Diagnosis & Advice, Free Of Charge

Want some specific diagnosis, advice and recommendations for your own website or search marketing efforts? In the Site Clinics Track clinics, our panel of experts dive into your site and answer your questions live, with no holds barred. This is an excellent way to get free advice from professionals who normally charge hundreds of dollars an hour for their wisdom.

World Class Keynotes

Past SMX keynoters have included Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Vint Cerf, an acknowledged “Father of the Internet,” and many other luminaries. SMX West has a keynote on each day of the show. On Thursday, March 10, we’re delighted to be joined by Wired Magazine’s Senior Writer Steven Levy, who spent the past two years “embedded” with Google, attending strategy and development meetings, interviewing key people, and closely observing the inner workings of the world’s most popular search engine wile researching his new book In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives.

We’re also very close to confirming our other two keynotes with notable industry executives—stay tuned!

Post-Conference Workshops & Training

Looking for even more advice in particular areas? Stick around for an extra day, and you’ve got a choice of optional workshops and training to choose from:

And just announced aimClear Facebook Marketing Intensive Workshop.

Over 50 Editorial Sessions!

Having covered the sessions, it’s worth a word on how we program our events.

All the SMX sessions described above are what we call editorial sessions. That means people are speaking on them because we feel they have great information to offer. No one bought their way onto a panel.

Each session is developed by a “session coordinator” who reviews speaking pitches and reaches out to knowledgeable people, to assemble a panel. The session coordinator then works with their speakers to create a session where presentations support each other, rather than overlap. In most cases, the session coordinator is also the session moderator.

I and my co-chair Danny Sullivan oversee all the sessions. We’ve been organizing search conferences longer than anyone in the industry.

The attention to programming is part of what we call the SMX Content Difference, and it’s why we’re able to guarantee the quality of our events.

Freebies: Expo Hall, SMX Theater & Sponsored Sessions

Of course, the SMX West sponsors & exhibitors do have great information to share with SMX attendees. That’s why we provide some ways for you to hear from them.

On the first two days of the show, we have a Sponsors & Partners Track. Unlike editorial sessions, these are created and produced by the company sponsoring them. That’s why we mark them as “Plus Sessions.”

Despite being sponsored, they have lots of great information. Sponsors know they’re competing to attract attendees who are also considering high quality editorial sessions. That causes them to want to match the “high tide” of content being provided. Before some editorial sessions, we’ll also have a few very short “Solutions Spotlights” that are also offered.

The Expo Hall runs for the first two days of the show. In it, you can get information from exhibitors and sponsors about many products and services available to search marketers.

On the Expo Hall floor, SMX Theater Presentations are mini-sponsored sessions that are offered, lasting 20-40 minutes. They’re a great way to learn quickly about a company, product, service or topic. The full list of theater topics will be posted to the SMX West site.

An Expo Hall is free for anyone, as long as you register in advance. The Expo+ Pass allows you into the Expo Hall and the sponsored sessions. And naturally, those with full conference passes can enter the Expo Hall, go to the SMX Theater or Plus Sessions, plus have access to all the editorial sessions.

This is also a good time to thank our major sponsors: Bing, our premier sponsor; iProspect and Covario, our platinum sponsors, and our three gold sponsors, and Bruce Clay, Marin Software and SubmitEdge.

Network Like You’ve Never Networked Before

Beyond the conference sessions, there’s networking. At SMX, we don’t leave networking to chance, where you hope to randomly encounter the right people. We’re organized!

Even before you arrive, our SMX Connect networking system will allow you to meet people. Think of SMX Connect as an easy-to-use, disposable Facebook for just this event. You can find people with common work or personal interests, plan sessions to attend and see others who say they’re going.

The night before the show, we have our SMX Meet & Greet reception. It’s another easy way to meet people before the show starts.

During lunches, we offer special Birds of a Feather lunch tables, where attendees can network with each other and discuss specific topics. Being grouped with people who share a common interest is a great icebreaker. And in the evening of the first day, we have a reception in the Expo Hall.

Don’t be worried about meeting people. You’re going to meet plenty of them. Come out, and when you’ve registered, don’t forget to tell the world using one of our I’m Going badges.

Good Food, WiFi & Backpacks

We want you to really enjoy your SMX experience. That’s why we don’t do boxed lunches at our shows. You’ll get a great lunch, on a real plate, and you’ll want seconds. You’ll also get refreshments during the day. People take pictures of the food we serve at our events, they’re so amazed and pleased. Honest!

We’ll also keep you connected, providing free WiFi in the conference rooms. Twitter and Facebook and Foursquare email to your heart’s content—though consider shutting that laptop or turning off that iPad, lest you miss a great point one of our speakers is going to make.

Among the little touches, we’ll also give you a conference backpack. It’s a real backpack, not a bag, that you’ll take home and use again and again.

Don’t Delay! Early Bird Rates Expire Soon!

Could there be more? Yes! Two sessions are marked TBA, which gives us a chance to add in any late-breaking topics. In addition, we’ve got two keynotes that will be announced shortly, so stay tuned!

Go. Now. Register!

I sure hope you’re ready to attend! You’ll find more details on the SMX West web site, including the Agenda-At-A-Glance. You can register online or by phone at (877) 242-5242. Do it by February 5th to get the best “Early Bird” rate on your registration.

See you in San Jose!