Danny wrote to me recently regarding the coverage of Search Engine Strategies in WebProWorld:

Hi Garrett--

Glad to have met you at least briefly at the conference, and congrats on the amazing amount of coverage you've pushed out at WebProWorld!

Saw your take on the SES show and wanted to pass along some additional information. It sounds like you've been to the show before, but I wasn't certain which ones or when the last one was..

There doesn't seem to be a lot of internet.com presence from what I've seen. I haven't found anyone whom I feel I can pull aside and talk to.
What did you mean by this? Were there people from Internet.com web sites, such as ClickZ, that you were hoping to meet or see on panels?

But I have talked to several people who, like myself, are beginning to get the sense that the value of Search Engine Strategies isn't really there anymore, just because there's a sense of repetition in most of the sessions. Even much of what I've reported to you has been repetitive -- the speakers may be different, but the basic information that I've learned is all pretty much the same. "Get back to the basics. Don't be so aggressive in Google anymore."
It sounds like many of the sessions that you went to were for organic/search engine optimization. I can well imagine you'd hear similar things, because that advice is pretty much unchanged.

It certainly is more challenging ensuring there's good content for more advanced people. However, I hope it is there. I try to make sure for every time slot, something different or unique is happening.

For Chicago, this meant sessions like marketing to Spanish speakers -- don't know if you made it to the session, but feedback from those who did was that they were amazed by the possibilities. Think you did get to the local session, and I'd hoped that would be a real eye opener for search engine marketers about what's to come.

Some of it goes back to my keynote. I think someone approaching the conference from the perspective of, "How do this help me with Google's web search results" might find some repetition if they are new to search engine marketing. However, someone who takes the view of, "How do I market in many ways on search engines" ought to find a wealth of info: shopping seach, affiliate issues, non-HTML content & multimedia search, local listings and so on.

Are three days really necessary? The vendors want to speak and in a sly way present their products, and in order to put it all together they must drag it out for three days. A better idea would possibly be a one day conference featuring a panel of speakers such as Danny Sullivan. People would be able to ask questions and get direct answers from the experts. If you're going to put a conference together do it the way people really want it!
Three days aren't enough, actually. The San Jose show was four days, and that made it possible to bring out much more advanced topics. It allows beginners to do the first three days, while advanced people can do the last three days, the way things get organized. But we couldn't do four days in Chicago, which means some panels that were more advanced couldn't be added. As for a one day conference, that's how we started. I can tell you that as we've added more days and more panels, the feedback simply has gotten better and better. I also think it's really important to provide access to a variety of voices, as there's sometimes no consensus on how exactly to do things.

I'd also add, and hope you perhaps might post to the thread, that the vendors at the show have nothing to do with speaking. We don't have three days/four days so more vendors can be on panels. I personally pick all the people who are speaking, and I have no relationship with the sponsorship/expo sales team. Furthermore, if anyone does give a sales pitch, rather than providing info about the panel topic, they don't tend to be invited back. People are paying to get information on these panels. I don't want them to be commercials.

Any other feedback you have, please feel free to let me know. I don't mind hearing criticisms -- it only helps me improve the show going forward. Advanced search engine optimizers like yourself are the most challenging to program for -- there's only so much you can do when it comes to talking about web page optimization, though we do a lot. But if you take the perspective of a search engine marketer, someone doing paid and unpaid listings, web listings and other types of listings, then the show may seem more rounded.