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Friday, June 01, 2007

Search Engine Strategies Mythbusting

In the past couple of weeks I've been doing my best to promote the upcoming SES Toronto. Such as, telling people about it at the Mesh pre-mixer or sitting in the hallway at Mesh and not saying a word about SES until someone asked about it.

I've heard some strange things that have surprised me.

* "I hear there are hardly any women at that conference." Hmm, contrast with the conversation I had with Rebecca Lieb at SES New York, where she remarked that in the past days of search and search marketing, if you were a woman you had the bathroom all to yourself. "But it is totally different now," she said, more or less. (Rebecca will be a moderator and speaker at the Toronto show.) The point is, this has changed a lot. Not only are there a high proportion of women attending, a lot of the best-known speakers are women, and if you look at the program, you'll see evidence that the overall proportion of female speakers increases all the time.

* "I pitched a couple of years ago and didn't get on, and didn't even get a response." I can speak from personal experience that with 60-150 speaker relationships to manage prior to a conference, it becomes very difficult to reply adequately to the whole list of people who didn't make it on, because you're dealing with the program on a tight timeline. So on behalf of all harried conference organizers, I say sorry but forgive us! There is hectic and beyond hectic and I can only guess that this is even more so for those who are organizing multiple big conferences a year. I also suspect that speaking is like getting a job or getting an investment. A referral or a personal contact vouching for your credentials goes a long way.

* "It all seems a little 'inside baseball' to me." I do agree that any specialized field can seem too closed. But the people with skin in the game and marketing tasks to take care of, which is a lot of people, the effort to break through the apparent cliques is of course worth it. There are cliques in any industry. Note: breaking through cliques is what the networking and parties are for.

* "Kind of a niche topic to hold a conference on, isn't it?" For 2007 this was a true whopper, and made me feel like putting my Mesh Martini down and hopping a plane to somewhere else that gets it, such as perhaps the Bay Area; Bend, Oregon; Boise, Idaho. The response would be that even if you boiled it down purely to non-organic search, it accounts for 40% of all online ad spending. More than that, if you're looking at any and I mean any business or organization or with a website or blog, x% of their traffic (just peek into that Google Analytics report) comes from "search referrals." Often that % will be 40, 60, or 80%. Niche? Narrow? Search is universal/huge. Give me a break. Without grokking it, you're invisible. The Long Tail by Chris Anderson could have, and maybe should have, focused almost entirely on the Long Tail of Search. As RSS and other ways for connecting with users have grown, of course we have panels on this.

Hmm... what else...

* "How frequent are flights to Toronto? Out of what airports?" If you were from New Jersey and asking this question, rest assured that you can get a flight to Toronto out of Newark, and more than once a day. :) The direct flight from Newark is 98 minutes. From Laguardia it is 90-95 minutes depending on the plane.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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