SES Toronto 2008 Review

Well another SES Toronto has come and gone. This annual Search Engine Strategies (SES) conference in Toronto is the one annual conference here in Toronto that I look forward to each year. As mentioned previously, I spoke at this year's conference (4th year in a row) on the topic of Keyword Research along with Christine Churchill and Michelle Pruitt (from Microsoft) and Louis-Dominic Parizeau. Our session was moderated by Anne Kenndey. While I was impressed with the quality of speakers on the panel as well as virtually every session attended, I can't help but feel a bit disappointed with year's conference

The networking opportunities and chances for everyone (speakers and attendees) to mix and mingle with most speakers were on par with previous years. I personally got a chance to get together with the usual suspects of with Jim Hedger, Richard Zwicky, Ken Jurnia, Andrew Goodman, Greg Jarboe, and Lyndsay Walker. In addition, I also got to reconnect with Bryan Eisenberg who I hadn't seen or chatted with in about 7 years and finally meet in person Laura Callow (organizer of SEM Canada scheduled for September of this year).

I was especially impressed with Incisive's decision to include an Orion panel session purely dedicated to measuring success in Web 2.0 world and another session focused on the analytics aspect of search engine marketing. While the Orion session my not have been as technical as I wished, it more or less met the demands of most attendees. What I found most disappointing was the lack of vendors at the show. My best guess would be at most there were 12 booths with the biggest sponsor being the Yellow Pages. The small size of the Google and Microsoft booths reflects poorly on them and the respect they have for the Canadian market. SES Toronto until now was not only the premier search engine conference in Canada it was basically the only one (this year there will be SEM Canada in Calgary), so why didn't they have a bigger and more technical presence at the show?

Another disappointment over previous years was the attendees. I'm used to a mix of beginners and experienced SEO people. This year excluding the speakers, I ran into only a handful of people had any SEO or PPC experience from the attendees. During my session I asked how many of the audience had keyword research experience and only about 10% raised their hands. This compares to over 50% who raised their hands last year during the same session.
Several of us have an uneasy feeling that this may be the last SES Toronto for a while. Nothing can be confirmed, and while Incisive was selling booth space for next June's SES Toronto, there was no attempt to presell it to the attendees (no banners, no announcement unlike when Danny Sulivan ran the conference). Here's hoping I'm wrong.

I am next scheduled to speak at SEM Canada right after Labour Day in Calgary (more on this line up shortly), with any luck I'm hoping to speak at SES San Jose in August and perhaps at Danny Sulivan's SMX East in October.


matt mcgowan said...

Alan - thnks for your thoughts on the show... just a quick heads up, DS only programmed the event historically in conjunction with AG (he never actually ran the show). There will be a SES Toronto next year, keep an eye out for some exciting announcements about it in the coming months - Matt

Unknown said...

Thanks for the clarification on DS. I should have been more specific.

Glad to hear there will be a SES Toronto next year.