Going to SES Chicago for the first time

Last Wednesday evening, I spoke at the SEMNE networking event about “Getting found in all the right places.” SEMNE stands for “Search Engine Marketing New England” and was co-founded by Jill Whalen and Pauline Kerbici in November 2006. It was formed as a way for anyone interested in marketing their websites through search engines – from business owners to agency and client-side marketing professionals to web developers – to get together in-person on a regular basis.

About 90 people turned out for the SEMNE event – and many of them had read my article, “20,000 Reasons to Attend SES Chicago,” which had appeared in Search Engine Watch the previous day. Several of them observed that it seemed to be written for Search Engine Strategies Chicago alumni who had attended last year's conference and needed to make the business case for going back to the conference again this year.

Yes, I guess it was.

I was then asked if I would recommend different sessions to someone who was planning to attend SES Chicago for the first time.

Well, I guess I'll tackle that in today's post.

I've been to so many Search Engine Strategies conferences over the past six years – 24 and counting – that I sometimes forget what it was like going to my first SES. It was Search Engine Strategies Spring 2002 in Boston.

And I remember the challenge of selecting which of the 28 sessions – divided into three concurrent tracks – I should attend over the two-day event.

Compare that to the challenge of selecting which of the 69 sessions, workshops, panels, keynotes and classes – divided into three to five concurrent tracks – someone who is going to SES Chicago for the first time should attend over the five-day event. Yes, there's a full day of training classes after the four-day conference.

(This seems like the right place to disclose that Search Engine Strategies Chicago is now a client. But this is a recent development and I've been a frequent speaker at the event since 2003.)

Now, many business owners, agency and client-side marketing professionals, or web developers might want to check out the conference at a glance and training classes pages on the conference website and make their own selections. Learning what your options are for each time slot provides you with a priceless education all by itself.

But, for those who want the net net, here are the sessions that I'd recommend to someone going to Search Engine Strategies Chicago for the first time:

Day 1 - Monday, December 3, 2007
Strategic Development Workshops
9:00am-10:00am: Will Consult for Food!
10:15am-11:15am: Meet the Web Analytics Players
11:30am-12:30pm: Orion Panel: Search, Privacy and Community in the Digital Age
12:30pm-1:30pm: Networking Lunch
Strategic Development Workshops
1:30pm-2:30pm: There's Still Money on the Table!
2:45pm-3:45pm: Orion Panel: Universal, Blended and Vertical Search
4:00pm-5:00pm: Opening Keynote: Don E. Schultz, Professor (Emeritus-in-Service), Integrated Marketing Communications, Northwestern University & President of Agora, Inc.

Day 2 - Tuesday, December 4, 2007
9:00am-9:45am: Keynote Presentation: Seth Godin, Entrepreneur, Agent of Change and Author of The Dip
Fundamentals Track
10:15am-11:15am: Introduction to Search Marketing
11:30am-12:30pm: Landing Page Testing Overview
12:30pm-2:00pm: Networking Lunch
2:00pm-3:00pm: Actionable Social Media
3:30pm-4:30pm: Search Advertising 101

Day 3 - Wednesday, December 5, 2007
9:00am-9:45am: Keynote Presentation: David S. Isenberg, Principal Prosultant, isen.com
Hybrid Track
10:15am-11:15am: Personalization, User Data & Search
11:30am-12:30pm: Your Marketing Program in Context
12:30pm-2:00pm: Networking Lunch
2:00pm-3:00pm: Analytics: Data Into Action
3:30pm-4:30pm: Last Minute Holiday Search Tactics

Day 4 - Thursday, December 6, 2007
Clinics Track
9:00am-10:00am: Contextual Ads & Ad Sense Clinic
10:15am-11:15am: Landing Page Optimization Clinic
11:30am-12:30pm: Site Clinic

I would also strongly recommend that someone who is going to SES Chicago for the first time should sign up for the search training classes on Friday, December 7. These workshops will provide you with the practices and applications you need to become a top performer in your field.

Again, some business owners, agency and client-side marketing professionals, or web developers might want to check out the search marketing training classes for themselves. Or, here are my recommendations of the workshops that are worth attending:

Day 5 - Friday, December 7, 2007
Track 1
8:00am-12:00pm: Search Engine Optimization Workshop
12:00pm-1:00pm: Lunch Break
1:00pm-5:00pm: Landing Page Testing Hands On: Developing Your Action Plan

So, newcomers will get a lot out of attending Search Engine Strategies Chicago for the first time and SES alumni can justify coming back because 92 percent of the content for the 2007 event will be new.

In last week's article, I said that one of the reasons why the content at Search Engine Strategies Chicago has changed so dramatically is because our industry keeps reinventing itself at such an amazing pace.

But, there's another good reason. Danny Sullivan has moved on from chairing SES, making this the first event to be organized and hosted by Kevin Ryan, Vice President, Global Content Director, Search Engine Strategies and Search Engine Watch.

And Kevin has put a different spin on SES Chicago – dedicating the first day to strategic development workshops and creating thought-provoking Orion Panels. These offer an important foundation for newcomers and alumni alike.

Still, it's worth noting that Danny, who is now the Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land, will be moderating four sessions over the first three days of the conference. Widely considered a leading “search engine guru,” Danny has been helping webmasters, marketers and everyday web users understand how search engines work for over a decade.

So, if you can't figure out which session to attend, check out the one being moderated by Danny. He was the one who got me hooked on going to Search Engine Strategies an average of four times a year after I attended my first SES back during the spring of 2002 in Boston.

And, if you're planning to go to Search Engine Strategies Chicago for the first time, you should try to register before this Friday, November 16, 2007. You'll save $150. And, if you're a SEMNE member, there's a 10% discount.