There are a lot of benefits to attending an SES event. If you're new to SEO, there are excellent tracks that will introduce you to the fundamentals of Internet marketing by seasoned veterans, an education that would otherwise cost well over the price of a flight and a ticket.
If you're an experienced SEO you'll have the opportunity to attend the more advanced or specific tracks to learn things you don't know, or have what you do know reinforced by people you respect. Yes, there's something for everyone.
If you don't attend you're likely reading the forums, blogs, and tweets about the event (or if not, you should be) but there is information you just can't get from these mediums.
While I love attending SES events and always come away with enough new information to easily cover the costs of attending, some of the biggest benefits come from the things you'll never read about. How much would it cost to sit down with 4 or 5 of the top Internet Marketers in the world and chat with them about strategy if you had to pay by the hour? More than the drink it'll cost you at SES, that's for sure.
While the sessions are full of outstanding information, it's after hours or over a meal that attendees get the chance to sit down with the speakers, vendors and other attendees to discuss what's going on in the industry and with their own sites.
But the most fun (and often best information you'll never hear about) is an event held on the last day; the white hat vs. black hat panel. Often held in a lounge and luring people to spill the beans with the offering of a free drink for doing so, this session allows webmasters and SEOs to talk about their experiences with black hat strategy without judgment and without risk of persecution.
If you've never been to SES you've likely never heard of this session and definitely haven't heard any of the details – because no one is allowed to blog or tweet it. Basically, it's a very nerdy form of Fight Club.
At this session you'll hear reputable SEOs and webmasters talking openly about cloaking, auto-content generation strategies, link-building crawlers, hacks, ways to send Google the wrong (or shall I say right) signals and so much more. I walked out of that session having cleansed my SEO soul with two confessions under my belt from my affiliate marketing days and a bunch of very interesting things to think about.
Even if you're not a black hat SEO, the strategies you'll hear about during this session will definitely open your eyes to what's possible and what you have to look out for from your competitors, but only if they're attending SES – and only if you don't work for Google.