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No. 140
April 12th, 2007

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Gauging the Value of SEO / Web Tradeshows

(As an aside for those not in the SEO / website realm, this week marks one of the three or four largest tradeshow events in our industry: Search Engine Strategies New York. For the record, I’d mark the other biggies as SES San Jose, PubCon, the new SMX Seattle in June, assorted “Events Apart,” and SXSWi, in no particular order.)

I gather from various blogs and vidcasts that most of the SEO rockstars are not only in attendance at SES NY, but most of them have speaking engagements at the conference. These events are a phenomenal way for industry leaders to build their own brand, so to speak–acquiring new blog readers, receiving direct and indirect referrals of new business, and getting their name out there as an expert in a particular SEO niche. They’re also a great way to make connections and start new collaborations, and of course, glean tidbits from fellow speakers and learn about new technologies and service offerings from exhibitors.

The only similar event I’ve attended so far was last year’s SES San Jose, and it was a terrific eye-opener to the world of SEO, and an essential step in launching my career. But as a prospective attendee at these events, rather than a speaker, I can’t fathom attending more than 2-3 per year. The reasons:

1) Financial costs.
I can’t justify spending close to $3,000 (conference fees, plane ticket, and hotel) for these events four or five times a year. As a one-man firm, $12,000-$15,000 is a pretty sizeable chunk of my company’s gross profits right now, though hopefully that changes in 2007! I’d have to pick up an average of 2 new projects per conference to justify the financial expense on its own merits.

2) Bandwidth.
Time-wise, this week’s event actually would have been a good week to get away, as my workload the second week of April is thankfully not as crazy as it’s been for the last five months. But given the amount of advance planning that has to go into attending a tradeshow, it can be hard to gauge whether one will be able to put projects on hold for a week to attend the event. If I were part of a larger firm, it would be different, with colleagues to pick up the slack, but for one person it’s awfully tough.

3) Repetition.
As good an event as SES San Jose was, so many of the sessions featured the same speakers exhorting the same tactics and presenting almost identical information. It certainly speaks well to the quality of their advice that so many experts are in agreement, but for the session attendee it limits the bang for the buck.

4) Amount of good information already on the Internet.
The bloggers and company directors who are invited to speak at these events actually share a tremendous amount of great information on their own blogs and websites, for those that take the time to read these sources regularly. There isn’t a ton of new information in their presentations.

Don’t get me wrong–I LOVED SES San Jose, I’m really looking forward to Danny Sullivan’s new SMX in June, and I’ll probably go back to SES San Jose in August and try PubCon for the first time this year. But going forward it’s likely I’ll trim my schedule to two shows, preferably spaced about six months apart. I’d like to spend more of my time putting the techniques I’ve learned at the shows into practice rather than hearing the same ones presented at another conference just two or three months later.