Deciding Which Search Conferences To Attend

    May 16, 2008

One of the questions I get asked frequently is “which search conferences should I attend”. Seeing as conferences end up costing you between $3500-$5000 a pop when you include travel, lodging and meals I thought I’d share my experience.

Year 1
if you’ve absolutely never been to search conference before start with one of the smaller shows like SES Chicago, or SES Toronto. Sometimes the big shows can be a bit overwhelming for a newcomer.

SMX East or SMX West – These shows are solid places to start learning what you need to know and need to start networking. OK there hasn’t technically been and SMX East yet, but I’ve got a hunch it will be similar to SMX West.

SES NY or SES San Jose – These shows are much bigger than the smaller SES shows, they also have different speakers, and are a completely different conference experience.

Year 2
SMX East or SMX West – Whichever show you went to last year go to the other this year.

SES NY or SES San Jose – Again which ever one you went to last year go to the other one this year

Pubcon – Pubcon has a much more in the trenches feel than the other shows. The majority of the speakers at Pubcon are actively involved in owning, running, or managing sites, their knowledge is much more hands on, as opposed to “agency” folks at the other shows.

Year 3
Ok by this point you are conference veteran and probably have your favorite shows. You also have seen most of the speakers more than once and you know who gives new presentations each time and who … umm … recycles.

SMX Advanced – By this point you know enough to make the most of what you can learn here, and you can also network with people who are just unreachable at the big shows.

Then I’d go back to your two favorite shows, Either of the SMX, SES, or a Pubcon show. Once you’ve been more than once you’ll really have good idea how much you can learn.

Year 4+
Ok this is the year where you can get the most out of the niche shows. Shows like SMX Mobile, SMX Social, or SES Travel, whichever makes the most sense for you.

If your budget can support two shows pick the two you liked the from SMX, SES, or Pubcon. The next year go to the show you skipped last year, working with a rotation.

Should you go to every show? Unless you are speaking or doing some heavy networking that leads to lucrative deals at a certain point it’s hard to justify the expense. But IMHO you should be going to 1-3 shows a year, there are always new topics, and be in the loop with your peers.

If you really want to get the most out of conferences network with people. Really sometimes the information and ideas you get at the parties or bar is just as valuable as what you get in the sessions. Really. I know it’s hard and scary to talk to new people especially if you’re shy, but make the effort it will really make for a better conference. For more on how to network check out SEO Conference Tips and Tricks and 15 Ways to Be a SEO Conference Douchebag by Stuntdubl.

Don’t believe me … sometimes being it the right spot at the right time you can get three people you probably could never afford to hire at the same time who will keep talking as long as you pick up their bar tab.