This post began as a comment on The 5 must go to UK SEO conferences in 2011, but the comment soon grew too large, so I decided to put it here.
Having spoke at a few of the conferences on the list and been to others, I quickly found out that each one is good for different things. Although, I don’t schlep to many conferences these days they can be great fun and a great way for a service provider to pick up a few clients.
The post covered a poll on the following UK conferences.
1) SES London – February 22nd – February 25th
2) Sascon – May 19th – 20th
3) ProSEO – TBC (October 2011)
4) Think Visibility – March 5th 2011
5) A4U Expo – October 2011 (TBC)
6) International Search Summit – May 2011 (TBC)
7) Ad-tech – 21st/22nd September
8) SMX London – 16th/17th May 2011
As a way of learning it can be very tasty, but don’t get too excited over presentations, which are mostly rehashed blog posts or a sales massage for the speakers services/product/. You can easily get the knowledge elsewhere and there are better ways to fill your knowledge sack at an seo conference.
If you are a business seeking to sup from the cup of secret SEO knowledge, use the conference to get a free consultation. As soon as the speakers finish rush the stage to grab the ear hole of the guru/expert/meister and lay down an ego smoothing bit of flattery, it’s amazing how well this works (especially with me). And then hit them with a specific problem you are having with your online marketing.
The thing is, the real seo knowledge hounds are not in it for the money, they love solving the problems and love being thrown a bone to chew on. Remember, a lot of these guys charge £150 plus an hour for their time and most are picky about taking on new clients, so whatever time you get with them is going to be worth the conference fee.
The next step is to find which watering hole the speakers are going to be sucking up the booze. You will find there are always a hard core of speakers hanging around and these guys love to chew the fat and give away the juice over a pint. You mean they don’t do it in their presentations? Of course they bloody don’t, do you really think an unpaid speaker is going to dish the goodies onto your lap all hot and sticky. They keep those tasty morsels for the guys who pay them £10k a month for SEO services.
Another thing to look out for when choosing a conference is that the most expensive is not usually the best. A lot of conference speakers are chosen by mutual arse scratching rather than their ability to wrap complex issues into a 10 min presentation and make it simple enough for someone who sells something like Chocolate Cheese online.
Another tip is to do research on the speakers and pick the ones that you really like and shoot them off an email saying you are looking forward to seeing them. Don’t try to get an hours worth of consultation for the price of a coffee (if you get the label of a cheapskate it wont disappear quickly), but think of it as laying the ground work for a longer term relationship. Just like in any industry the good service providers are constantly busy and so you need to sell yourself a bit to get them to take you on as a client.
Switching back to those of you who want to carve out a nook in the crowded SEO agency space, a conference is a great place to go to help develop your brand and sniff out who really knows their stuff. For networking I would recommend the smaller, Northern conferences. If you are a Brit you will get more out of the ones not dominated by the Americans. If you are an American it’s a great way to get a tax free trip to the UK.
The point being, if you network with the British rather than the Americans you are more likely to bond and see the people again, making it more likely that they will do you a solid. I remember sitting in front an SES London keynote panel and realising everyone one of the 5 speakers were American and then when going to break bread at the London SEO bash that night, seeing a bunch of our colonial cousins hunkered down having a private dinner. Wagons circled, natives shot on sight.
Meanwhile, at London SEO the party was in full swing and it was a great opportunity to network with people who live just down the road.
And lets face it, Americans are just British people with irony removed and lots of guns in the pick up truck (boy, you’re going to hell for that one). Hmmm, I seem to have been reading too much Jeremy Clarkson lately.
For business and for service providers, don’t get star struck. I realise some would like to stroke the hem of Rand Fishkins’ garment or feel the huge knowledge sack of Aaron Wall, but most of the uber gurus get quickly swept away in a messianic, Pythonesque crowd surge. Whilst others mutter, “He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy”.
And of course, a lot of these guys are popular because they are brilliant at SEO and marketing, it’s just a conference is not the best place to schmooze the uber guru.
So, back to the question, which seo conference should I go to? It’s really a question only you can answer as it depends on what you are after.
But to be honest, the best SEO conference to go to this year is the Cornwall SEO Conference of 2011