Web Site Marketing - Search Engine Strategies (SES) Toronto
(a review)

by Robert K. McCourty

All SEO Articles

This article from The Mender (Issue 42),
Metamend's Web Site Optimization and Marketing Newsletter.

Well I attended my first SES conference in Toronto in early May. The event is sponsored by Jupiter Events www.jupiterevents.com a division of Jupiter Media and brings together all manner of search engine representatives, guest speakers and expert panelists for two intense days of seminars, brainstorming and discussion sessions.

There were over seven hundred paid attendees so it made for a swarm of activity at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Jupiter did an admirable job of coordinating the event, from the printing of the seminar handbooks to the signage, to the registration procedure, all were handled efficiently.

Upon arrival I was disappointed to find that search engine Guru, Danny Sullivan, could not attend due to family reasons. Shame, I was looking forward to meeting him. I hope all is well with his family. His counterpart, Chris Sherman, was in attendance and the moderator for most of the sessions. It was a pleasure meeting him. I've enjoyed his work over the years.

The Seminars:
Never let it be said that the experts have all the answers. Sitting in seminars with representatives from the top search engines, (Google, Ask Jeeves, Overture/Yahoo!) was interesting but less than inspiringly informative. Ask Jeeves was the most forthcoming explaining how their engine measures and weighs links through their 'community' model. They also had useful graphics to illustrate the process. Google on the other hand presented their linking strategy based on 'Pagerank' but their cards on how the formula actually works were held very close to the chest. They actually did not explain anything you couldn't find by searching their guidelines on the Google web site. Somewhat disappointing considering some folks (myself included) had traveled thousands of miles and paid up to a thousand dollars to attend. When queried as to the future of Google properties such as DMOZ (open directory project) they simply pleaded the fifth, stating that Google was in "Quiet Mode" right now and not at liberty to discuss the issue. Gee, thanks!

Not too slag Google too much because they did throw one heck of a party on the Tuesday night, but I would rather have had some 'inside tips' on how to improve organic growth or linking rather than Google colored cocktails. Where better to show your appreciation for all the hard work SEO firms have been doing in the background over the years to help your Engine grow, than at a conference with a targeted captive audience in exactly the same industry. At the very least Google should have thrown the crowd a couple of SEO bones to chew on. They came across instead as somewhat secretive and even a touch paranoid that others in the industry would find out what they were up to, which in this writers humble opinion, was exactly why I attended, to gain some inside knowledge. Unfortunately, there was none to be had.

Another observation on the overall conference was the overwhelming concentration on pay-for-click vs organic or any other form of search engine optimization. As previously stated this was merely an observation on my part, one which should be taken in context. Perhaps other SES events have a higher degree of organic search components or perhaps (and this is most the likely scenario) the entire search industry has now adopted the make bucks approach and to heck with organic content. This would be very distressing for any number of reasons the least of which would be the change in the science of SEO and the now skewed playing field between the 'haves' and the 'have nots.' Some would argue that PPC has a very high cost and a very low return on investment (ROI). We constantly get clients complaining about it. Pay-for-click is a great SEO tool when utilized properly but it's certainly not the -only- SEO tool. I feel the SES conference would have been better rounded out by presenting a wider variety of SEO strategies and approaches.

The Business Aspects
My partner and I asked everyone from Google to Yahoo!/Overture if they had any business development reps at the show. None did or at least we were deflected from meeting them. One interesting point from out perspective was we managed to use the time in Toronto to solidify two fairly large deals with hosting companies. One of them provided an opportunity for a press gathering right at the SES show. Maybe a photo op along the lines of "SES Promotes Business in Toronto" I thought it would have been a no brainer, but apparently no one on the media list responded to Jupiter's request to attend. Hmmmmmmm? Opportunity lost.

The Good News
All in all however, SES Toronto was a very well run conference with great networking opportunities and a wonderful chance to meet the engines and leaders in the field. And there were some interesting tidbits to take away from some seminars. It was encouraging to find out that some engines are working on ways to read and index Java script and Flash documents, (all the more important reason to optimize those sites). There were also some very comprehensive technical sessions for the devout webmasters in the audience. The session on "Successful Site Architecture" was generally well received judging by the scuttlebutt during the day two lunch break. Sometimes at a conference like this, because we have been entrenched within the SEO industry for the past five years, it's refreshing to meet people who are just beginning to grasp the concepts of search engine optimization and the importance it plays for their online marketing efforts. I met several top executives who were very excited to learn about concepts such as meta tags and submission procedures. This is very encouraging for future of the search technology industry as a whole. The more people who are brought in and educated only serves to increase search and SEO as a credible entity. Hats off to JupiterMedia for bringing people from all levels of our industry together.

The Bottom Line
In summary, SES Toronto was a very well run conference with great networking opportunities and a wonderful chance to meet representatives from the Internet's top search engines and other leaders in related fields. I'm certainly glad Jupiter had the foresight to bring the conference to Canada. SES Toronto 2005 is already being planned. Book your calendars now! Hope to see you there.

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