As many people are aware, recently Barry Smyth and his team from Search Strategies put together an awesome Search Marketing Expo in Sydney. The best thing is that this event was held within Australia and was just a short 1-2 hour flight for most attendees.
The interesting thing was that this was one of the first events I had attended since the economy really started to take affect on marketing/advertising agencies. The Luna Park venue was selected as it has to be one of the most amazing locations in the world to show off Australia. The venue was the Crystal Palace Ballroom, built on the edge of Sydney Harbour with the impressive Harbour Bridge framing a wonderful view of the Sydney Opera house. The location also provided easy transport by Ferry, Train or a quick walk from the conference hotel “Vibe”.
The relaxing venue location set the tone for the event, compared to other events such as CeBIT, this would be a more informal session. The sign-in process was simple with the Search Strategies staff greeting warmly greeting both presenters and attendees. The event felt like a well organised networking function with familiar faces from previous events, clients, competitors and prospective clients, people freely chatting, exchanging business cards and making new friends.
As when most people fly straight into city and travel directly to a venue, extra services such as cloak room/luggage storage is appreciated and often expected at these larger events. The search strategies staff kindly accommodated a number of luggage items behind the registration desk with no issues as their was no cloak room.
Day 1 @ SMX Sydney
The keynote speech was presented by Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz, which I was running late for so I ended up checking out of the exhibition hall as it is sometimes better to have a good look around while things are quite.
This conference was smaller than some of the international versions but this presented an advantage in that it was easier to choose just between the two streams. The first stream focused around Search Engine Bootcamp with a mostly entry level focus but suitable for a refresher course for most attendees. The other obvious advantage was the access to the international speakers and the opportunity to have a decent talk with the presenters.
The morning was a great refresher around web design and seo basics presented by industry veteran Bruce Clay. After the lunch break the sessions moved into keyword research, link building and copy writing for search. The final session around Bootcamp moved towards the paid elements of search on the topics of ad copy, management and landing pages.
The second stream was more involved and focused around moderate/advanced seo techniques. As SMX does very well, they start of the day easier and as the audience warms up and the caffeine kicks in the topics tougher.
The early morning sessions dealt with key areas of maps/local search and what’s in store for mobile search and video optimisation? I have already written a post based around the topic of video optimisation and viral video. After the lunch break the sessions moved into more advanced topics around best practice links and url’s. It seems that spam is still a secondary issue to getting #1 in search results for many clients who typically engage a SEO agency.
The last sessions of the day covered css, flash, bots and international seo. These topics were great as it dealt with best practice techniques for business while still getting the results for your business. CSS seems to be one of the best ways to control visual elements within a website and offers increased levels of usability for existing websites without rebuilding the whole site. International SEO was provided a number of ideas about how your multinational competitors might be trying to steal your local market share and how you can fight back by growing yours.
Day 2 @ SMX Sydney
The opening keynote speech was presented in a very entertaining manner by Bill Tancer the GM of Global Research for Hitwise. He talked about how Australian users typically use Google for more navigational queries and how your parents maybe searching differently for the same site. He advised that many of the topics he discussed were featured in more detail in his book Click: What Millions of People are doing Online and why it Matters. It would appear that many of the important key points covered at SMX Sydney were consistent over time just the leading players changed.
The streams topics were more diverse on the second day as with most SMX events there were more intermediate/advanced sessions. The sessions covered a number of diverse topics: SME, Conversion, Social Media, Paid Search & Webmasters.
SME presented a number of great hints and tips for working with SME and also how they have different needs, budgets and goals. The co-current stream was focused around conversion tracking “leads/sales” and conversion optimisation “increased ROI”. This was one of the most important session for business as it dealt with decreased market share and how you can still grow your business in this environment.
(social media session)
The Social media stream presented some more heated discussions and divided the audience and presenters on a few points. What is suitable for one companies objective using social media may not be suitable for another.
While the topic of twitter and online failure still yet to receive any coverage over branding issue’s such as Amazon Fail, the conference hall was still filled with laptop screens running twitter software such as TweetDeck.
(Paid Search Session)
The co-current stream was covered by Mark Tull from Hot Goanna on how not understanding Adwords quality score can mean business is over bidding on Adwords keywords.
The final paid search sessions dealt with larger corporate/enterprise clients who typically require complex bid management systems to deal with tens of thousands of keywords. While not everyone finds these solutions useful, some organisations find PPC Management systems a comfort factor.
The co-current stream focused around helping your webmaster deal with spam and how to deal with being penalised (blacklisted) by search engines. It was a good discussion with the panel highlighting that many clients expect results even if it means breaking rules imposed by search engines.
Overall the conference was great, it was smaller than most but the speakers invited took time to speak with attendees. Most of the panel members had to be almost dragged off the stage because they were so involved in answering and engaging with the audience. The team at Search Strategies made a good selection in speakers and it was rare to hear anyone disappointed with any session.
The exhibition room was a little crowded at times, so it made sense to visit companies for more private chats during the sessions. One of the bigger disappointments was the no search engine companies were present at the conference. While they had sent representatives for presentations sessions it wasn’t the same as if they had an exhibition stand where they could answer questions and build relationships with business.
So if you were unable to make it to SMX Sydney, they have SMX Singapore coming up in June. It appears that the search engine companies are making an appearance with Google, Microsoft Live Search and Yahoo Asia. So if you are serious about your expanding your web strategies I suggest attending SMX Singapore. The event runs from 2nd to 3rd of July and is worth attending, if you want to find out more about the event visit the SMX Singapore website.