I wasn’t sure what to expect with SMX West as this was the first large SMX event. I heard great things about at last summer’s SMX Advanced from clients and friends but there was short notice to fit this event into annual budgets of attendees and exhibitors. Now that it’s over I can say that the event was a big success all the way around and portends well for the SMX brand.
The first thing that made an impression on me was the free wifi throughout the conference area and table seating in the sessions. This allowed easy use of laptops for note taking and increased productivity during the sessions. With one exception the sessions that I sat in and spoke on were excellent. Jonah Stein who’s been to many a search conference commented that the landing page session was one of the best sessions he’s ever attended and modestly I agree.
The only negative I took away from the presentations were from the search engines themselves. The presentations (at least the half dozen I saw) from Google, Yahoo and Live were consistently weak. I eagerly anticipated The Blended Search Revolution session only to be bored to tears as the engines added little more insight than a basic product demonstration and no more substance than a cry of “use us!”
The exhibit hall had many of the usual suspects and as always a few new faces. Yahoo was MIA again as they were in SES Chicago. One thing that continues to amaze me is the ever increasing number of SEM tools for campaign and bid management. There has to be some shakeout in the next 12 months here as I don’t know how the SMB or Mid Agency market is going to afford anything like 5% of spend when GOOG and MSFT are rocking free tools.
The “most crowded booth award” went to SEOmoz. I swear there were times where the overflow in front of their booth completely blocked anyone from walking down the aisle. Now that’s a great tactic to build booth traffic — block the aisle! Congrats to Gillian and Rand on a home run with their first exhibit.
My speaking slots were both on Day 2 and my first session was Landing Pages & Multivariate Testing. I was very impressed by the panel especially Sandra Niehaus, Vice President User Experience & Creative Director, Closed Loop Marketing whom I had not met before. She accurately summarized the UX and creative benefits of MVT and also emphasized the need for clients to quantify goals and objectives of testing prior to launching into it. All great points.
I lead off the session focusing on the basics of landing page optimization and testing. I’ve been trying to make my presentations more conversational and less all about bullet points so I’m not sure how well they’ll play on Slideshare but I’m posting them here anyway for those interested. Also, I’m aware the font looks terrible – it’s really Bank Gothic, I swear.
My second session was Search Ads & Behavioral Targeting. Once again I lead off so I provided an overview of segmentation and targeting methodology. I then showed some of the great site targeting abilities and success I’ve had with the Omniture Testing and Optimization tool. This dovetailed into some of the ad targeting work we’re doing at RAMP within Social Media using the great Lotame Crowd Control technology and with adplications developed using the incredible Dapper technology. More on that work in future posts.
Somehow I double booked dinners on Wednesday so I brought together both parties and headed out to steaks with Ian White of Urban Mapping and his investor/local search guru Jake Baille as well as some of my good friends from the Omniture SF office. If you’ve never checked out Urban Mapping do yourself a favor – they have some of the most killer geo applications out there.
Thursday was spent catching up with work, visiting with some potential clients and partners around the valley and then 4 hours of work (including this post) at SJC. This was my third time in Silicon Valley in the past few months and I’m still not sure what to make of it. I guess it’s like Hollywood for geeks (no, really).
Overall a fantastic start to the big SMX shows. I met a lot of great folks and as always enjoyed reconnecting and talking shop with the search pros I admire. Congrats to Danny, Chris and everyone at Third Door Media. It was an honor to be part of of the event.