The BIG SMX West Preview: Why You Should Attend

January 28, 2013 by Chris Sherman

Search Engine Land’s SMX West search marketing conference is returning to San Jose on March 11-13, 2013. We’ve got a revamped, updated agenda, and have already confirmed more than 100 world-class speakers. If you’re involved in marketing, PR, social media or any other customer-facing activity, you owe it to yourself (and your company’s or client’s bottom line) to attend the show. Here’s why.

But before we dive into this conference preview, we want to remind you to register for your pass by this Friday, February 1 to take advantage of Early Bird Rates!

2013: New Trends, New Opportunities – And New Challenges For Online Marketers

To borrow a famous slogan, “the hits just keep on coming.” But for online marketers, this catchphrase has multiple meanings. On the one hand, we’re seeing virtually continuous change and innovation, with new channels like Facebook Graph Search and Google+, the advent of Big Data, the explosion of mobile usage… it’s a great era for marketers, because the hits just keep on coming.

But professional marketers share a lot in common with professional athletes, especially in sports like football and hockey, where… the hits just keep on coming. And taking those hits, surviving and continuing to play at the top of your game requires stamina, persistence, and a willingness to continue to improve your plan and outplay your competitors.

We designed SMX West to help you meet these challenges and succeed. Want cutting edge tips and techniques you can put to work immediately to take your marketing campaigns to the next level? Or want survival insights and strategies that help sharpen your competitive edge? If so, SMX West is for you.

SMX West: Something For Everyone

SMX West is one of the two large Search Marketing Expo events that Search Engine Land’s publisher Third Door Media runs each year in the United States. SMX East, held in New York City in October, is the other.

Whether you’re a web designer, developer, in public relations, advertising or traditional marketing, search is such a crucial marketing medium that you should maintain an ongoing education about it. And as organizations integrate online and offline marketing, it’s crucial to understand how search fits in with the “big picture,” not only contributing to enhanced brand exposure but in many cases paying for itself via measurably improved ROI.

SMX West gives you that education, no matter who you are. The show is big enough that we can offer multiple tracks filled with sessions that cover all interests and experience levels. Beginner, intermediate or advanced – focused on paid search, SEO, social media marketing – we’ve got plenty planned for you.

Our Agenda-At-A-Glance provides an overview of everything that’s going on, complete with “ski run” icons that indicate sessions suitable for your experience level and skills. We also identify sessions that are focused on SEO (working with “free” listings), PPC (paid search ads), and SEM (fits into both categories).

SMX Boot Camp Gets You In Shape

If you’re new to search marketing, our SMX Boot Camp will get you up to speed. It happens on the first day of the show, Monday, March 11. Attend and you’ll learn the fundamentals in these sessions:

To encourage new people to learn about search marketing, we offer all these sessions through a low-cost SMX Boot Camp ticket. That includes admission on the first day to Expo Hall, networking lunch, Expo Hall reception, and the Evening Forum on March 11. You can upgrade to a full pass, should you want to attend more sessions on the second and third day.

SMX Boot Camp is also open to anyone with a full All Access conference pass. Everyone who attends every Boot Camp session gets a Certificate of Completion.

Competitive SEO For Fun & Profit

With constant algorithm changes, personalization affecting search results, and an ever-increasing number of competitive websites appearing every day, it’s challenging for SEOs to keep up. A further challenge is to justify your hard work and persuade bosses or clients why – and exactly how – your work is valuable. While SMX Boot Camp will give you a start, we’ve got plenty of sessions designed for seasoned professionals to keep and sharpen their edge:

Ethical and effective search marketers spend a lot of time trying to create good content, drive traffic, convert and keep customers. But sometime they step over the lines of what search engines deem acceptable. In The Search Police: Matt & Duane’s Excellent Search Engine Adventure you’ll hear examples of what not to do and why, plus general tips directly from Google’s Matt Cutts and Bing’s Duane Forrester on how to succeed with the search engines.

Paid Search For The Pros

Are you focused on paid search? Don’t worry, all that talk about SEO above doesn’t mean you’re left out. In addition to paid search-related sessions throughout the conference, we also have a special Paid Search Track running on the first day of the show, with these sessions:

SMX Social Media Marketing @ SMX West

SMX Social Media Marketing is our annual conference dedicated to social media marketing. Missed getting in? We’ve got some of the best sessions coming to the SMX West Social Media Marketing Track, including sessions focused on cutting edge tactics to engage socially with your customers and key stakeholders, how to create viral content, tips for using popular social media sites and tools, and more:

Keynote Conversation: Grady Burnett, Facebook

The developments keep coming fast-and-furious from Facebook. In this keynote conversation, Grady Burnett, Vice President of Global Marketing Solutions for Facebook, will talk with Search Engine Land & Marketing Land founding editor Danny Sullivan about topics ranging from the recently launched Facebook Exchange to the even more recently announced Facebook Graph Search beta.

Evening Forum: Walk A Mile in Google’s Shoes: Dealing With Tough Calls In Search

Everyone, it seems, has an opinion of what Google should do. “Google should remove links to pirated content!,” cries Hollywood. “Censorship!”, cry internet activists. “Google should ban spammy web sites!,” cry searchers. “Google’s unfair to my site,” respond those hit by penalties. “Google should remove certain negative results for a politician, a company, a person,” some might think, only to have others view any meddling as some type of overt bias. For every action Google might take, there might be an equally negative reaction or repercussion. That’s why the company thinks carefully about any search policy it puts into place. In this session, Google search policy specialist Patrick Thomas looks at some of the decisions Google has to make and the careful balancing act it has to maintain.

Scaling The Peaks @ SMX Summit

We often hear from people at SMX shows that in addition to attending sessions, some of the most valuable learning they take away comes from interacting and networking with others. To address that, we’ve added an all new track: SMX Summit. These Powerpoint-free sessions feature some of the foremost experts in the world discussing and debating important topics, followed by no-holds-barred Q&A where they’ll be ready to answer any and all of your questions. The lineup for SMX summit includes:

What Semantic SEO Means For The Future Of Search Marketing

Semantics – literally the study of meaning – is the next wave in search. We’ve always had meta data to express meaning, but with search engines recognizing more types of microdata formats and with Google’s push into understanding meaning via its vast “knowledge graph,” SEOs need to focus more closely on linguistic meaning beyond simple keyword and anchor text optimization techniques. At SMX West, these sessions delve into the increasingly important power of semantics:

For Enterprise & In-House Marketers

Large organizations face unique challenges, ranging from multiple sites in multiple countries to a managing a wide array of stakeholder interests. In-house marketers, regardless of whether they work at a large or small company, face similar challenges. If you’re in either of these roles, you’ll want to check out these sessions:

Content: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

With Panda, Penguin and other recent algorithmic updates, Google threw down the gauntlet and started enforcing what it had preached all along – that the key to getting good rankings and traffic was first and foremost to offer quality content in a useful, appealing way. So-called “content farms” and other sites that existed solely to capture traffic and monetize it without necessarily offering an exceptional user experienced were banished from Google’s index.

Unfortunately, other sites that innocently or naively used similar techniques got caught up in the purge and saw traffic plunge. The good news is that over the past year the “new rules” have become much clearer and better understood. In the Content Track, panelists will discuss the elements of quality content, how to create and repurpose it, how to keep it fresh and vibrant – and, how to recognize and avoid “the bad stuff” the search engines frowns upon. Sessions will delve deeply into these integrally related topics:

Riding The Wave Of Mobile Search

Several years ago, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt predicted that mobile would grow to be one of the company’s most important (and profitable) areas of focus. His prediction has more than come true, with some analysts estimating that mobile now accounts for as much as 15% of revenues, and is growing faster than any of Google’s other business units.

And mobile isn’t just about smartphones any more – advertising (and importantly, conversions) on tablets has exploded in the past year, and by some accounts will soon surpass phones as the most effective way for marketers to connect with people not tied to their desktops. In our Mobile Track sessions, our speakers will be covering these trends and more:

Local & Retail Tactics

If you cater to a local clientele, local search is an essential channel. But the current state of local search is messy, with confusing options, variations and alternatives. Add to that a constantly shifting landscape, with fiercely competitive providers who often make moves to gain advantage over one another at the expense of both searchers and marketers.

Retailers also face unique challenges, ranging from maintaining complex sites with hundreds, thousands or even millions of products that constantly change based on inventory, new items or models and consumer demand. Beyond maintaining and optimizing their own sites, retailers also must deal with issues like providing structured product listings to shopping and comparison search engines.

The Local & Retail Track at SMX West features experts who have faced all of these challenges and will offer lessons learned and best practices for thriving in these complicated environments. Sessions include:

Exploring Important Issues

Online marketing keeps growing and developing, with new options emerging almost daily. The Potpourri Track features sessions covering a number of these key issues that don’t fit neatly into any of the other tracks at SMX West. Come sample the delicious fare offered up by our panelists in these sessions:

Just 2 weeks ago, Facebook unveiled a major move into the search space: Facebook Graph Search. Powered by what people’s friends are liking and sharing, Facebook Graph Search can make recommendations ranging from places to eat to products to buy. In Meet Facebook Graph Search, we’ll look at how this new service works and how search marketers can tap into it.

Beyond Search: Exploring The Online Marketing Universe

SMX’s roots are in search – our team has been organizing search marketing conferences longer than any other team or company in the world. Over the past couple of years, we recognized that search was evolving and morphing into a multifaceted species of marketing, and search marketers were increasingly wearing multiple hats and integrating their search efforts into diverse channels. So we jumped on the opportunity and started Search Engine Land‘s sister site, Marketing Land to explore the full universe of online marketing, reporting news and covering companies pushing the boundaries beyond search.

That’s why we’re introducing a new Marketing Land track at SMX West. While we’re still keeping a strong focus on search in these sessions, we’ll cover channels that many search marketers don’t consider traditional, or haven’t yet tried, but that offer some great opportunities. Sessions in the Marketing Land track include:

The Clinics Are Open!

Want specific advice from experts about issues with your sites or campaigns? The doctors are in! On the second and third days of the show, our popular clinics return, covering these areas:

Post-Conference Workshops & Training

Looking for even more advice in a smaller group setting on particular topics? Stay an extra day, and you’ve got a choice of in-depth workshops and training classes to choose from:

Save by registering for a combination All Access + Workshop pass.

Quality Programming

I’ve covered most of the show, which has over 50 editorial session in all. Now, some words about producing those sessions.

All the SMX sessions I’ve described above are what we call editorial sessions. 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 works with the speakers to create a session where presentations support each other, rather than overlap. In most cases, the session coordinator is also the session moderator.

Formats also vary. Sometimes we have panels with multiple people. Sometimes we have only one or two speakers. Some panels are all Q&A. Some feature presentations. We don’t lock ourselves into one particular format, because different topics require different approaches. Instead, we focus on creating a great overall experience.

The entire editorial portion of the show is overseen by me and my co-chair Danny Sullivan. We’ve been organizing search conferences longer than anyone in the industry – more than 15 years and counting!

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 & Plus Sessions

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

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

But 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 bar our editorial sessions set. So Plus Sessions do offer great information, often through case studies. Before some editorial sessions, we’ll also have a few very short “Solutions Spotlights” that highlight leading solutions and services found in the SMX Expo Hall.

The Expo Hall runs March 11-12. In addition to visiting the booths of participating companies, you’ll have an opportunity to learn about their products and services through the SMX Theater Presentations, which are mini-sponsored sessions that run 20 minutes each. Presenters frequently cover case studies – they’re a great way to learn quickly about a company, product, service or topic.

The Expo Hall is free for anyone, as long as you register in advance. The Expo+ Pass allows you into the Expo Hall, the SMX Theater and Plus sessions for March 11-12; the Expo Hall Reception and Evening Forum on March 11, and the morning keynote on March 12. Of course, those with full conference passes have access to all of these events plus all the editorial sessions. For a breakdown of what each pass offers, check out our pass options page.

This is also a good time to thank our premier sponsors Covario and Marin Software, and our gold sponsor Bruce Clay, Inc.

Organized 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 West Facebook Group allows you to connect with other All Access pass holders and speakers before, during and after the show. You’ll have the opportunity to participate in collaborative group with discussions, questions and show announcements.

The night before the show, we have our SMX Meet & Greet reception. It’s another great way to meet people before the show starts. At the end of the first day, the SMX Expo Hall Reception offers another chance to mingle.

First time at an SMX conference? At SMX West, we’re also offering an informal SMX Orientation: Optimizing Your Conference Experience just before the Meet & Greet. This lets you get the scoop on accessing presentations, Wifi, power, food, networking and great content. Plus you’ll meet part of the SMX team as well as other “first-timers” and start making connections before the show starts. SMX Orientation is open to All Access attendees and speakers.

During lunches, we offer our unique 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. Table topics are published several weeks prior to the show.

All these options can be found our networking page. You’re going to meet plenty of people! And when you’ve registered, don’t forget to tell the world using one of our I’m Attending badges.

SMX Conveniences

We know attending a conference is not only a monetary investment, but also an investment in time. So we make sure to include conveniences in your SMX pass to make your out of office experience more productive and comfortable. That means no boxed lunches at our shows. You’ll get a great meal, on a real plate, and you’ll want to go back for more. You’ll also get refreshments and snacks throughout the day, kicking off with a light breakfast (and plenty of caffeine!) 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. You’ll have access to all of the speaker presentations provided, which allows you to catch up on sessions you couldn’t attend. Also among the little touches, we’ll give you a conference backpack. It’s a real backpack, one that you’ll take home and use again and again.

Join Us In San Jose!

I hope you’ve found this preview useful and are 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 1 to secure the “Early Bird” rate on your ticket.

See you in San Jose!