You Learn Anything at SES?

SES = Search Engine Strategies San Jose, for those not in the know.

And I mean the question literally.  Not did you have a good time, see lots of friends, do a lot of beneficial networking, talk to customers, build your reputation, create content for your blog, etc.

Did you Learn anything?

Looking at the stream of blog posts, video, Tweets and so forth – much of it incredibly repetitive by the way, which is a whole other issue for this type of Journalism – I have to wonder if anybody except those new to Search actually learned anything.  You know, walked away with new knowledge they could use to improve their efforts.

I have more than a passing curiosity about this issue from a macro perspective.  As you might know, I am a Co-Chair on the Web Analytics Association’s Education Committee, responsible for creating the WAA’s Core Curriculum and upcoming Certification Testing.  So I think a lot about Learning and Education, especially as it relates to the web.  And that thinking includes different “delivery models” like Conferences.


I can remember the first time I spoke at SES, it was the very early days of PPC and SES was mostly about SEO (Organic).  My presentation outlined how you could often generate higher quality traffic with PPC than with Organic Search, this traffic would convert at a much higher rate if you used an idea called “Landing Pages”, and you could prove all this with something called Web Analytics.

People were generally pretty stunned, like I was slaying the sacred cow of “free” SEO.  Then the questions:

Why should we care about “traffic quality”?
What is the point of measuring conversion?
Can you prove Navigation, Copy, and Usability are important?

I guess a lot of what I was saying was not “conventional widom” for this audience.  What I was saying they should really pay attention to was at odds with what they had heard from all their peers.

That was almost 7 years ago.  And I had been writing this stuff on my web site for 2 years before the first SES presentation.

So what’s in all this Content streaming out of SES?

You should be concerned about “traffic quality”.
Here’s how to create a Landing Page.
Ideas like Navigation, Copy, and Usability are important.

Plus, the usual SEO stuff on title text, good copy, linking etc. that has been around in one form or another for 10 years.  Same content that was presented last year, and the year before, and the year before.

Except now the word “Social” is in the presentation titles.  My experience, SEO is really not any different for Social.  After all, Social is content, right?  Search engines find the content, index it, and people Search it.  Same basic rules apply, barring some of the more arcane technical FUD stuff.

And most of that arcane stuff, if you really think it matters, is already posted online in the search forums or on blogs.  If you want to know this material, you can just Search for it.

Again, I’m not saying it isn’t fun to go to SES, or the presenters just repeat each other, or anything like that.  I’m just asking a very simple question.  If you’re not new to Search, did you add to your knowledge base while you were at SES San Jose?

Did you Learn anything at SES?

Do you think it’s possible the “conventional wisdom” Learning model that many web conferences are built on just might be broken?  For example, by the time a “community” agrees on what the “best practices” are enough to pick experts to speak at conferences, the knowledge dispensed at the conference is already widely known?

And as a result, most people (other than newbies) go to these conferences for reasons other than Learning anything new?

Very interested in hearing your thoughts on this!

(If you want to read this whole series on “learning online marketing” and what a farce it is, read the  next 7 consecutive posts, listed below)

Consensus Learning Model

Repeating the Past

Sherlock Holmes Problem

Wrong Model, Dumb Money

No Requirements Doc for Online Marketing?

New Online Marketing Model First?

Broken Online Model Endcap


2 thoughts on “You Learn Anything at SES?

  1. Even if the post is quite old now, you’re totally right Jim.
    PS: Links on Web Analytics Association’s Education Committee and Certification Testing are broken.

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