The life of an SEO-conference attendee.
“Go towards the back where the SEO geeks are.” This how my conference started on June 14th at a winebar in Poznan. It was Cezary Lech from MaxRoy on the phone. I had just arrived from the train station and was told to go to the address of the wine bar where drinks and dinner would be taking place the night before the conference. Dragging my overnight bag on one arm, I was half nervous but mostly excited as to what to expect in Polands charming city of Poznan. Witamy! Welcome!
I of course, immediately found the geeks as it was difficult to miss the animated discussion about CTR of Facebook and what the ROI is for advertisers. After being handed a glass of champagne I joined “the boys” and jumped right in. “Couldn’t agree more! Facebook is fantastic for impressions and branding in some cases but to what cost to the advertiser?” Quizzical looks of “who is this” were met with my wide smile and handshakes all round.
After preliminary introductions (Satu- Google- White Hat) we got along famously and were sharing stories as though we had known each other for years, it was going to be a good conference! The crowd was surprisingly eclectic with SEO savants from the UK, Sweden, Germany, Denmark and Romania. From agencies to website owners to affiliates one thing was clear; the know-how in the room was astounding. I was in for a ride. Couldn’t help but feel a little lost in this crowd as it was evident that no, I had not been in the industry for twelve years (Yes, that’s before AdWords) and that no, I wasn’t a regular speaker at Search Engine conferences.
After admitting that I was in fact new to the scene and knew very little about SEO and this was my first conference everyone was very friendly and offered advice and support. Felt a little bit like back in the day when I attended the professional poker circuit and laid-back guys in t-shirts were traveling the world for knowledge and competition. Of course comparing SEO to poker would be unwise as it would suggest that they are governed by an element of chance rather than skilled exact science.
The similarities as it turned out, were more frequent than meets the eye. Whether you subscribe to the belief that links (legal or otherwise) work for a sites organic ranking, I couldn’t help but notice that a lot of people were convincing me that it was a numbers game. Much like in a game of Texas hold-em, where I am assured it is pure skill and not luck, all you need are the right combinations of statistics and you will be ranked higher than your opponent. Now, granted, Google’s page rank algorithm works nothing like a deck of cards being passed around 6 people, but you would not be foolish for thinking that both are elusive witch-crafts rather than mathematical formulae.
The event itself proved a success. The organizers MaxRoy really impressed with their attention to detail and hospitality. For those who appreciate the complexities of event management will know how challenging it is to put together any kind of large gathering that requires the schedule to follow a strict timeline, the technology to function flawlessly and well, people to be at the right place at the right time. Considering this was their first SEO event of its kind they should be applauded for their ingenuity!
Googles own Matt Cutts kick-started the show by addressing the black hats in the room and drawing a large round of applause. The excitement was tangible. The speaker list included old-school SEO’s such as Dixon Jones of Majestic SEO, Martin MacDonald who is OMD’s head of global SEO and Swedens Simon Sundén of Lissly. Marcus Tandler of Germany provided entertainment with advanced link building while Danish guru Mikkel deMils Svendsen spoke the truth, opening with “optimize for users not search engines” For fear of mis-paraphrasing please refer to their presentations here.
The theme du jour was very much Googles release of “Panda” update in the US and UK and its effect on sites rankings. Thankfully, Kaspar Szymanski from Google’s Search Quality team was on hand to answer questions in English and polish to the delight of everyone involved. It was a hot topic that provided hours of interesting and thought-provoking debate.
The bar has now been set and it is very high so look forward to many more conferences such as this one. It really exceeded all my expectations. See you on the poker tour- I mean SMX Conference circuit!