Over the years I’ve been to various SEO and PPC conferences around the world, but the only credible one I have attended locally is SMX. Having been to the Sydney event a few times, I had expectations of what the Melbourne event would deliver, and I guess to a degree, this influenced how much value I thought participants were receiving.
Firstly, SMX Melbourne was split into two sections: eMetrics and SMX. eMetrics focused more on the social and analytics side of online marketing, while SMX was more centered on the pure search aspects of the business. These two separate days worth of speakers and content were both aimed at people already working within the industry or in similar fields. To that effect, some of the events seemed slightly too elementary for the audience in attendance, but maybe that’s just my opinion, given the amount of time I spend researching and implementing SEO campaigns.
Overall, I think that the event as a whole was well-run by Barry Smyth and his crew. Some of the speakers—such as Martin Walsh from IBM, Greg Boser from BlueGlass Interactive, and Ian McAnerin—brought some interesting opinions to the panels and presentations they participated in. It was also great to see SEOmoz’s LDA analysis receive another run in front of a new audience; although the original post shows slightly skewed numbers, the concept seems to still hold true. I have the feeling that this kind of analysis is the missing link in a lot of SEO toolkits. In my opinion, the tool just needs more smarts; for example, once you’ve put in a search term and your site, instead of manually having to reconcile the keywords you do or don’t feature, it should suggest keywords to remove or add to your page to improve its LDA score. I’ve heard rumors that this is coming next, so I can’t wait for that one.
My favorite session from the two days was run by an old friend, Mark Armstrong from FirstClick Consulting. The Long Table, a future of search roundtable discussion, had some very interesting opinions thrown around. One particular idea was that everybody should use Bing one day per week, just to give a credible opponent to Google some much needed traction. This kind of suggestion can be important in a very Google-centric world, where as SEOs we obviously try and focus our time where there is the greatest ROI for clients; we tend to forget that there’s life beyond Google, unsurprising for local SEOs given that in Australia the search giant has something like a 98% market share.
Another interesting opinion from the Long Table panel was that Facebook has the opportunity to basically crush Google, by closing their site to indexing and using Bing as their internal, semantic search engine. Facebook’s 600 million users would then have no real reason to leave it. This is a real possibility given the close relationship that Facebook and Microsoft have, and is what happened in Korea. Google was unable to gain any traction there because Naver hosts almost every site in the country. Blocking Google from indexing these sites means that Google has no chance to gain traction.
For me, the most exciting aspect was the news I heard at the very end of the conference: that there would be a professional SMX session in Sydney at the next April show. This would be aimed at those who work as high-end SEO professionals, the kind of event where you need to sign a non-disclosure agreement to participate. This is the kind of juicy event I’ve been personally waiting for, something to get my teeth stuck into! Part of the deal is that we can’t blog about any of the discussions or findings from these sessions for six months after the event, which to me is fantastic. Not that I don’t love sharing stuff with you readers, but that final 5-10% (which can make the difference between position 5 and position 1) is something I think we need to keep up our sleeves!
Run alongside these was Online Marketer Boot Camp (previously known as Search Engine Boot Camp), which is aimed more at newbies and people with an interest in getting into the industry. I felt that the crowd was mainly people from large corporates who were looking to expand their knowledge to move into the digital marketing divisions. It’s great to see the attendance at events like this, because it shows me that big corporates are finally starting to understand that they need talented in-house people, rather than outsourcing all their work to agencies. Even if they do still outsource most of the implementation, they now have people internally that understand the process properly.
All in all the event was great, and I’m sure that all who attended gained some great tools and insights from the speeches and panels. I can’t wait for SMX 2011 in Sydney and the advanced agenda.