I haven´t done a lot of SEO conference recaps lately, but I want to tell you about two conferences I attended just last month, that you should definitely know about.
I´ve been travelling the international Online-Marketing & SEO conference circuit for well over 10 years now, and it´s quite interesting to see how the whole landscape has changed over time. I remember being totally blown away by the sheer size of the US conferences. My first "real" SEO conference must have been SES Munich 2003, which hosted probably just about a hundred savvy SEO professionals. No comparison to my first US conference experience, which has been SES San Jose 2005 – especially the infamous Google Dance (some pictures from 2005 & 2006). But the biggest show back in these days must have been SES New York, with presumably over 5.000 Online-Marketers and SEOs. I was truly impressed on my first trip to the Big Apple. I would have never thought, that I´d end up being a speaker at both SES San Jose and SES New York.
Another US conference, that I visited for the very first time in 2006 was PubCon Las Vegas (the one, when Danny Sullivan quit SES and went on to keynote PubCon). I even did a little movie which is still up on YouTube > PubCon 2006 – The Movie < although unfortunately I had to edit the soundtrack due to copyright concerns, so you can´t hear the interviews anymore… PubCon was very impressive at first, and I returned to PubCon six more times. These days it´s a lot different. SES has died and got replaced by a sales show for beginners. PubCon has suffered as well – it´s really sad to see what PubCon has turned into. They still have a couple of good speakers (and always very good keynotes), but a lot of the speakers don´t seem to really put a lot of effort into their performance. I have seen the same speaker presenting the same (!) presentation for 4 years in a row – that´s something I have only seen at PubCon so far. The venue and especially the food is absolutely abysmal – but hey, it´s Vegas – which is probably the only reason why still show is still around. Vegas is just great fun for a couple of days and the networking has always been good. It´s still sad to see, when people don´t really put much love into an event. You can see this especially with the traditional PubCon event, which used to be almost a whole day at a bar or somewhere else – something which everybody was looking forward to. These days it´s just a two hour "networking reception" in a lousy convention center hall… yeah, sounds as boring as it really is… #sad
I think it´s safe to say, that the BIG conference days are over. A lot of the old school conferences have turned into sales shows, where speakers also have to be exhibitors / sponsors – so no getting paid to speak, it´s the other way around: if you want to speak, you have to pay! A common practice I truly despise, since you´re not really learning anything – you´re just getting sales pitched all day long. It seems that only the SMX franchise has prevailed, who run quite al lot of quality conferences around the world. Danny Sullivan and his team just know what it takes to host a great conference!
But besides the SMX franchise, it´s the small, intimate shows, that really seem to be the future for this industry. Companies that don´t care about making money with those events, and really try to invite the best speakers on their stage. From bigger shows like MozCon, down to our SEOktoberfest event, which hosts only 50 savvy SEOs. It´s the intimacy that makes these events so successful. Last month I had the honor to keynote two new conferences that fall into this category – UnGagged London and YoastCon in Nijmegen.
UnGagged London was actually the 2nd show of the new UnGagged conference franchise, masterminded by Craig and Damian, who among other things run the BlackHatWorld forums. Their first show in Las Vegas end of last year was a huge success, so they decided to bring UnGagged to London – great decision
Unfortunately I could only be there for the first of the three days of UnGagged London, but I would have definitely loved to stay. The content was great, and since the motto is "ungagged" – everybody spoke freely and without fear of being quoted on the web – I just love conferences with a "don´t blog, don´t tweet, don´t tell" policy
I honor the code, so I don´t want to go into any details, but just the SearchBrothers Kas & Fili alone would have been worth the price of admission for me – they did a terrific session! But it weren’t only the speakers, the crowd was really great as well – probably a bit more people that engage in the black & dark arts in our industry, but definitely a high level of discussion during breaks and after the show! It was great hanging out with Joe, Irish Wonder, Judith, Loren (& family), Lukasz, Bastian, Derek, Aleyda and of course the one & only Jonny
UnGagged will return to Las Vegas this November – check out the impressive line-up. The always entertaining Mr. Shoemoney Jeremy alongside Rae Hoffman – both with no limits and no censorship – UnGagged style – I bet these both sessions alone will be worth the trip!
Almost five years ago, THE WordPress SEO Guru Joost de Valk started the company Yoast, offering website reviews and free plugins. Yoast’s core business was, and is, sharing knowledge and making it easier to create usable websites. Five years later Yoast has turned into one of the biggest WordPress plugin providers with 21 employees! To praise the past five years full of growth and experience Yoast decided to celebrate this milestone with a conference: YoastCon!
YoastCon was absolutely phenomenal! Great venue, fantastic speakers and a lot of little goodies I must admit – before YoastCon I had never heard of any of my co-speakers, which is probably because they were coming from different areas of our industry. I just love to see new speakers that are on top of their game – always so much to learn! Chris Lema was my absolute favorite – he delivered a fantastic talk – great storytelling! His motto: "Hope is not a strategy" got stuck in my head
Karl Gilis, a conversion optimization specialist from Belgium and Tony Perez, a WordPress security guru from San Diego, also delivered great engaging talks, with lots of actionable advice. YoastCon attendees definitely got their money’s worth! You can check out the Live Stream of YoastCon on YouTube – unfortunately there are about 200 slides missing from my 444-slide #SlideStorm about the "Rise of the Machines", but I hope it´s still worth your while
I really hope this wasn’t a one-time event! I´m sure most of YoastCon attendees would love to come back again next year – I know I would! I would love to see YoastCon become a regular conference – I would definitely be back (if invited back…)
A big thanks to Joost and his fantastic team – Team Yoast rocks