Monday, May 17, 2010

SMX Advanced?

SMX-Advanced-2009 003Image by BrentDPayne via Flickr

Day one of SMX Advanced London has finished. You’ll find far less live blog coverage or even write ups than in previous years as Twitter coverage is stepping in to replace this.

I’m certainly aware that many people are questioning whether this was really an advanced seminar at all.

I guess the important background piece is that no search conference is particularly advanced. Not in comparison to the US. The reason for this is that we’re far less “My friend X” and “My friend Y” here in the UK than in the US. In the UK speakers really don’t bring their good stuff to the panel. They just don’t. This is combined with the fact that the UK search market is incredibly advanced. That’s why so many foreign agencies have simply failed to import themselves over here. Given, then, that the audience is advanced and speakers are unwilling to do share the good stuff it’s perhaps not surprising to find a disjoint.

It’s also true, I think, that the pitches for SMX started off as pitches for SMX London and the process was then evolved into SMX Advanced.

I’m hopeful but worried for day #2 (I’ll be there for most of it) as the social media presentations in past years (and not just at SMX) have typically been the most 101 of them all.

There are a few stand outs from today, though.

Chris Sherman, of course, does a good job at introducing speakers, sessions and then keeping them going. Experience matters.

Sam Crocker from the internet marketing company Distilled did very well. Not only was his presentation engaging but it also happily revealed some techniques Sam had found useful; including some tools the audience hadn’t seen before. He added value. The audience, and I, thanked him.

I thought Jonathan Beeston from Efficient Frontier added value in the Amazing New PPC tactics. Not because we really got any amazing new PPC tactics but because he flexed the brief enough to actually be useful – and talk about the importance of building PPC accounts that can scale. I bet many in the audience just let that insight roll over them but they’ll regret it as they attempt to grow their campaigns and their own companies.

In the morning session Rand Fishkin was able to present some statistical data. This wasn’t data that had been shared in London before and so it added value. It may have just confirmed what the advanced players in the audience knew, but it was fresh data and so it added value.

The morning’s key note; by Barak Berkowitz of Wolfram|Alpha, had value towards the end as he was able to share some of WA’s plans for the future. He’s a brand new MD so perhaps might not have expected the audience to be so aware of WA’s capabilities as we where.

And me?

I went to SMX Advanced to try and pitch a progressive way of link development. I’m really worried that cowboys in this business – there are still agencies who convince their clients they can link buy without being noticed – will ruin SEO’s image for everyone.

What do you call the letters that get pushed through your door in the morning’s mail? Junk mail? I call it junk mail. That represents the damage done to the direct mail industry. Can you imagine how much better off direct mail companies would be if the world didn’t refer to their marketing medium as ‘junk mail’? They’d be in a much better place. SEO runs the same risk. We won’t die because of the barrel scrapers but we will be held back.

My presentation was in two parts;
  1. I wanted to argue that links were once a trusted way to suggest a site had value. That things have changed. Now links are worth far less and, in fact, it is just as easy to harm a new site with poor links then help it.
  2. I also wanted to show how SEO agencies and in-house teams could combat this. The future of link development, I think, is through social media-like relationship building. However, it’s also possible to engage in some agency activity such as being able to produce the sort of content that people are about to search and link to before anyone else does and some easy ways to show linkworthy content to people likely to link.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. As it turns out the panel agreed with me; the future of link development is through relationship building. If I had known that then I would have spent less time on the first point and more on examples from the second.

That said; I’ve enjoyed my chats with people during the event and am pleased that people are willing to shake things up and push for a better, more advanced, industry.

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