A Guide to Search Engine Strategies New York 2009

It's that time of year again. Search Engine Strategies New York, usually the largest of the three "big" U.S.-based shows on the SES circuit, is upon us. One of the original search-focused conferences has grown into a must-attend for in-house and agency specialists needing updated tactics and strategies.

The conference covers search engine optimization (SEO), paid search marketing (SEM or PPC), online public relations and blogging, and analytics and measurement of these tactics. Some content also covers social media, and the search engines themselves are presenting some new technologies.

The expo runs on Tuesday and Wednesday and is a good way to network with industry professionals and learn about products and services. The SES NY expo hall is also usually the biggest of the series.

This year, the conference runs from Tuesday through Thursday (3/24-3/26/09), with bookend SEM training days presented by SES on Monday and in conjunction with Bruce Clay on Friday. There have been some excellent previews of SES already, but I thought I would throw in some recommendations for panels to attend if you consider yourself to be intermediate to advanced-level. Frank will also provide some of his recommendations below.

One thing is for sure: both Frank and I as well as a slew of others will be at the IM-NY Charity Party on Monday evening, prior to the start of the conference. It is recommended that people sign up online, through the donation system linked directly from the IM Charity Party Web site.

A minimum donation is required, and will get you entrance and an open bar, along with the opportunity to further support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through the purchase of raffle tickets. If you can't attend this time, you can still participate in the raffle online and have a chance to win two passes to SES San Jose this summer!

Day 1 – Getting Warmed Up

Guy Kawasaki kicks off day 1 of SES NY with a presentation titled "Twitter as a Tool for Social Media." This is the only session at this time, which makes it much easier of a choice than the next session period starting at 10:30. Two good beginner/intro style sessions happen at this time, but the intermediate to advanced attendees have a tough decision.

"Meaningful SEO Metrics: Going Beyond the Numbers" is a panel with a number of great speakers covering a very timely topic. These days as more and more C-Level executives are listening to their search marketing managers and outside consultants and considering pushing more budget to SEO, helping them to set proper expectations and define realistic and actionable KPIs is a mandatory foundation element.

Mike Grehan Moderates the panel I am fortunate to sit on with a number of industry experts, including two fellow SEMPO Board members. We will be participating in a panel-style discussion titled "SEO: Where to Next?" We will provide our thoughts on the future of search engine optimization and discuss what works these days and what may be "stale."

The next session time offers some good choices too, but I would go with "Survival of the Fittest 2.0"- no, not just because two other SEMPO Board members are on that one. This session in the "Search and the Fear Economy" track will undoubtedly provide timely nuggets of wisdom to take back to the shop and implement immediately.

After lunch, more tough choices must be made. If you can, bringing an extra delegate or two to "divide and conquer" the panels is a good way to get more information. Additionally, there will be solid blogging coverage of the conference – however nothing beats being there in person. Frank is on a panel that will also look into the future, and I will let him introduce that below.

Without hurting Frank's feelings I hope – I would recommend the "Pay Per Conversation" panel. With Jeff Rohrs moderating a discussion including Bryan Eisenberg and Google Product Manager Sandra Cheng, SEOs may get a little bonus insight into the latest Google algorithm update and how it seems to be placing emphasis on a sort of "web ubiquity" advantage of leveraging multiple branding and traffic tactics to increase trust in a domain.

In the interest of time and since we still have two and a half days to go, I will condense the rest of my choices and previews. To be clear, every session time has more than one panel I wish I could attend. My last two top choices on Monday would be "Universal and Blended Search: An Update," which wins for me because of the overall panel and "Video Search Engine Optimization: 2009 and Beyond" because of the growing value of video as part of a holistic SEO effort.

Day 2 – In Full Stride

The schedule for day 2 is equally interesting. If I wasn't moderating the Link Building Basics panel, I would likely head to "Small Voices, Big Impact: Social Media for the Little Guy." The topic of mixing social media peanut butter with SEO chocolate has and continues to ruffle feathers sometimes, but the concept of leveraging willing communities to perform highly important market research and segmentation for minimal budget is a marketers dream – small business or not.

The next session has a charismatic B2B session, but I am also intrigued by "Pardon My Reach: A Snapshot of the Display Ad Marketplace." The understanding of the importance of banners in driving awareness and brand messaging is having a sort of renaissance; and the ability to track across display to search and subsequent conversion makes understanding ODA valuable when considering holistic online marketing planning.

After lunch, the Orion Panel "The State of Search - A Maturing Marketplace or Poised for More Growth?" is a must-see, and also the only choice. Following that panel is a great choice if you are in the travel vertical, but I would stick to "Search Becomes the Display OS" and see why one panelist feels that search advertising is "en route to becoming display advertising's operating principle."

Day 2 provides one Fundamentals track session that I would attend: "Dealing With Affiliates: A Roadmap to Success." I personally feel in arrears in my full understanding of the affiliate marketplace and how it can affect marketers beyond the organic search space. All online marketers should be aware of affiliate marketing, especially as that industry continues to grow and flourish.

Day 3 – Bringing it Home

Unlike past Thursday formats, this year's SES New York has a full slate of panels on day 3, and the advanced topics continue to provide tough decisions. Following John Gerzama's keynote about Branding, the next session I find most intriguing is the "Duplicate Content & Multiple Site Issues." Covering issues with RSS and mirror sites, the only thing that seems to be missing for me from this panel description is content about dynamically generated pages – but that likely needs its whole own session anyway.

After lunch, I will likely attend the "Brand & Reputation Management" panel, as this topic continues to come up often in high-level discussions. In fact, this is a subject that is all-too-often neglected – having negative associations with your brand plus "complaint" or "scam" showing up in search results can be a bad thing.

The afternoon provides a few options, depending on your needs. I would probably attend "Online Communities: A Bonanza of Content for Searchers and Search Engines," if I didn't need to head to the airport. Social media communities can play nice with SEOs, as long as that is not the primary reason they are leveraged.

The last session period of the conferences provides the same tough choice as all the others. Depending on your industry or training needs, each is valuable. I would likely go to "Extreme Makeover: Live Search Advertising Clinic!" primarily because of the panel; especially Dave Naylor, who never holds back his true feelings and always provides actionable insight when doing live reviews of audience-submitted pages.

I look forward to meeting some new people, and catching up with old friends this week. Feel free to say hi, if you see me at the show, or at one of the parties.

Frank Watson Fires Back

While I like your choices, everyone has different areas and needs. I am much more interested in the social media sessions, as I really believe that will be a big source of new traffic and conversions in the next few years. Search volume will drop overall and this new information source will be the reason -- discuss it on my panel -- thought I should tell you now as you will not be there.

There are also some great panels on mobile and conversion/analytics. I think there is solid information for all levels of skill and any area of interest. Add the sessions off the expo hall by vendors like Google, and you have a smorgasbord for every taste.

See everyone there... and come to Charity Party.

About the author

Chris has been a digital marketer since 2000, starting in-house in the insurance space and subsequently assuming growing leadership roles across large agencies and SEM firms. He recently founded Web Traffic Advisors, LLC, in upstate New York. Chris consults with and coaches business and agency teams ranging from senior executives to technical, brand, content, and legal groups; helping to improve validation, efficiency, internal acumen, and implementation. Chris has diverse experience across major e-commerce platforms, pharma, retail, and other industries.

Since 2004 he has been a highly rated speaker and moderator at conferences and partner events all over the world, covering search engine marketing, social media, analytics, and evolving tactics including the promotion of better SEO integration across marketing channels. He has served on the Global Board of Directors of SEMPO since 2006, and co-hosts the weekly podcast SEO Rockstars from Webmasterradio.fm. Chris blogs for various industry publications, but most of his writing involves analysis and recommendations for clients, while promoting integrated online marketing and branding to a qualified target audience.