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SES London 2012 – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

SES 2012 London

It was my first visit to SES and I was unsure what to expect. The world of Search Marketing, SEO, Social Media, Digital Marketing or whatever you prefer to call it is a special place to be and I say that with great affection. The characters we all know and recognise have become iconic symbols which represent the different subsections of our industry and continue to drive it forward and hopefully, make it better.

The Good

On arriving at the conference centre, I instantly realised the scale of the event and couldn’t help but feel proud to be involved. Attendees were dressed to impress and you’re instantly reminded that although we work in a creatively driven sector, it is still very much about business and making money. I may view SEO as more of an art than an exact science but the men in suits at SES may have little time for abstract ideas.

The event kicked off with an insanely exciting talk from Avinash Kaushik, one of those cool guys from Google who seem to know more than everybody else put together.  Any concerns I had that the SES talks would be dry or dull were instantly smashed out of the park as Avinash bounced around the stage like some kind of techno geek-rockstar, whilst screaming down the mic about how much we all suck at monitoring our work. It was like an SEO heavy metal concert, only with tweed jackets instead of leather and iPhones instead of the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. OK, so maybe it was nothing like a heavy metal concert but it was still pretty exciting.

The talks continued and although I learnt a great deal, the pace and energy levels never quite matched Avinash’s onslaught. The talks were divided up into more manageable chunks revolving around either SEO, Social or Analytics and you could see the divide in the speakers’ approaches and the attendees involved. It was great to see how much was available for those who were looking for specific answers to specific questions. For example, I attended talks which focused purely on Landing Page Optimisation and How to Optimise for Mobile.

On a social level and I don’t mean “online” social, I actually mean face to face talking to other people – the talks were great. Speakers were happy to spend time answering questions and invited us to stay behind once they’d finish, to have a chat. As I was just saying to Lisa, we can learn a lot about our industry by reading blogs and online resources but we go to the event because we want to meet people in the flesh and to get excited about what’s hot and fresh! The Linkdex networking party was a particular highlight and it was here that I made new friends and contacts, it’s also where I drank too much free beer which was particularly fun seeing as I had forgotten to eat dinner!

The Bad

Nothing is perfect and when it is, it never quite seems right so I’m not going to make a fuss about talks I didn’t enjoy as much as others, you will always have favourites. The only real issue I had was that quite a few of the talks I wanted to see were scheduled at the same time. I totally appreciate that it’s hard to squeeze all the topics into 3 days but I’m just saying, it was a real shame to have missed out on some of the great talks that were on the go.

I also think more could have been done on the social aspect of the event, apart from the Linkdex shin-dig I found it quite hard to connect with the other attendees. But maybe that’s just my poor social skills!

The Ugly

The Black Hat Vs White Hat event was a strange little moment at the SES conference and I don’t feel the time was utilised to its full potential. For obvious reasons the subject of black hat SEO techniques is a tricky one to broach. Nobody really wants to admit that they are a black hat or that they condone black hat techniques, but I’m sure they would all have liked to hear about some of the strategies used by the resident black hats like Fantomaster who were speaking on the issue. Even if only for the sake of curiosity it would have been fun to hear about some of their techniques.  Instead it seemed like a hyped up debate about whether or not we should use black hat techniques and the future of this dark art.

Next time, let’s try and make it a little more structured and see what we can learn from these guys – it doesn’t need to be a battle of wills.

Ultimately…..

I left SES feeling pumped and excited about the Search Industry and all of the exciting changes that are going on. It was inspiring to see such intelligent, driven individuals pushing things forward and doing their bit to make things even better.  I made some new friends within the industry which is always good and I learnt a great deal. Let’s go SEO!

Avinash Kaushik Keynote: Why We All Suck!
Landing Page Optimisation with Dr Karl Blanks
Measuring SoLoMo with Joel Davis, Dan Patmore and Co.

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