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Checking in from SES NYC

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#1 cre8pc


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Posted 27 February 2006 - 12:42 AM


It's after midnight and the Hilton Lobby bar has stopped serving drinks. Which just means that many die-hard SEO's who love to party longer have left the building for somewhere else.

The last I saw of Bill Slawski, he was being dragged away by Mike Grehan for, some of us joked, was his official hazing. You see, Bill is a speaker at SES this year. It's his first official stint and we're quite proud of him! He will be discussing Google patents. I'm hoping to catch it, on Tues, to report back to you on how it goes.

Bill, my husband Eric and I froze our butts off outside in 10 degree NY city weather to grab a bite of food from an all night deli buffet place across the street. After we did that, we settled in the lobby bar and eventually a whole slew of folks piled in from SEO/M land.

It was a like a family reunion, I swear. Rand, one of our Moderators here, is here with his Grandfather, Si and a woman who is learning SEO (I apologize for not remembering her name.) Yes, he's wearing his yellow shoes, but I got a bigger kick out of his new beard.

I met many more people this time...including Aaron Wall, who I wished very much to meet. Jim Banks is here! He used to be a moderator for these forums, and it was a blast to meet him and sit for a few hours and chat. He is engaged to be married, did ya know?

I recognized Jim Boykin and got to meet him and talk with him, as well as we had a photo opp. Too funny. He handed his camera to me so I could take a picture of he and Rand, and I was holding it upside down. Think I got the picture once we got me situated.

There was nice group of us from Cre8asite and Search Engine Watch forums. Had an in depth conversation with Mike Grehan on search technology, his blog, his articles and some of the recent controversies. Big word after a few drinks.

I introduced Rand to Mike and they didn't kill each other. It was a great moment.

There are a lot of people here. The energy is good so far. Ask Jeeves' butler officially retires tomorrow. Anyone who is anyone does "something" on the 44th floor, Bill and I have a great idea for Forums t-shirts (thanks to Jim Banks), and tomorrow I will beg Bill to tell me what the secret hand shake is, now that he is about to be initiated into the SES roster of speakers.

Keep on an eye on this place everyone. We're thinking of you :huh:

<<mod note: Thread moved out of the subscriber only "AfterHours" forum>>

#2 Nadir


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Posted 27 February 2006 - 01:27 AM

Sounds like fun, I'm jealous! I know it's cold up there but I'm sure people have found a way to warm up! ;-)

Keep us posted really soon!

#3 bwelford


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Posted 27 February 2006 - 06:38 AM

I guess we're all jealous, Kim. :D

However with posts like that it's almost as good as being there. Well not really ..

Have a great time.

#4 cre8pc


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Posted 27 February 2006 - 09:19 AM

I'm getting ready to head out. Slept in a little bit because I woke up at dawn and couldn't fall back to sleep and then I did and in the next second, the alarm went off. It's like being in Disneyland...can't sleep. Ok, I watched the TV commercial. Never really been to Disneyland.

I need to get myself down there. I hope to find my "beat", since Barry and this team will be covering a lot anyway. Usability and "performance" are words being tossed around - and not just because I'm here, heh. Seems that a lot of SEO/M's are working towards the long term success of their client sites these days rather than immediate gratifification.

Bill didn't check in? Hummmm, wonder what they did with him last night?

#5 DonnaFontenot


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Posted 27 February 2006 - 11:08 AM

I'm enormously jealous! But please keep us filled in. Obviously, we'll get the official word from Barry and crew, but how about you be our official "behind the scenes" correspondent? Give us the good stuff! Who said what to whom in the dark corner of the bar? Who wore a lampshade on their head? You know, the real scoop! :D

#6 earlpearl


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Posted 27 February 2006 - 11:45 AM

yeah!!!!! We want to hear all about the lampshade stuff.

#7 BillSlawski


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Posted 27 February 2006 - 01:21 PM

It was difficult to really hear anything with the lampshade over my head.

After leaving the hotel bar, we headed over to a watering whole more for "locals."

We were in a booth a little too far from the blackhats gathered around Matt Cutts, who was sipping on Sprite as they gathered around him.

I did get to quickly meet Matt, and he seemed friendly.

There were no fights in the bar, I'm not allowed to share the secret handshake, and some good ideas about business rather than search marketing were passed around the table.

So far so fun. Now I have to run back, and enter a session late. Thought I would check in really quickly first.

#8 Black_Knight


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Posted 27 February 2006 - 02:32 PM

Really wish I could be there to catch Bill's spot at the podium. :D

Hell, I'd settle for sitting down with you guys after show to share a meal and the chat that makes these events more than just a conference. I know exactly the kind of business ideas that can get swapped in the after-hours, and it is always thought-provoking and inspiring.

Have the greatest time there. Get inspired. Make stronger connections with those you know, and new connections with those you didn't. You'll carry all those things away with you, and it can be totally invigorating.

#9 cre8pc


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Posted 27 February 2006 - 05:33 PM

Ran into Jim Banks and Christine Churchill just as Eric and I were dashing outside into the frigid cold to grab a quite bite to eat before a later dinner event scheduled for a group of us for after the SEMPO mtg/"Meet and Greet". A new board is being elected from what I hear and some members from the SMA's are dropping in.

Speaking of which, Mike Grehan mentioned last night that of all the SMA's that were launched, the most active is SMA-Brazil.

I (and Rand) were in the afternoon session on Search Engine Behavior, which is about stats and research. Covers clicks research, eye tracking, a user study from Yahoo! and more. It was very very cold in the room, so I didn't stay from part of the Q & A session. I have a lot of notes, for a follow up article.

Bill and I were together for a morning session on Vertical search and the so-called "vertical creep". This is where the engines are beginning to put in a section of related results to your query based on what you type in. You may have seen Google offer you an image in the top left corner in some search results, along with your regular results. This is one example of vertical creep. Every major engine has a version of it. Phoenix (Ben) covered it and has his notes over at SERoundtable.com. I got to meet Ben finally, after I found Barry (Rustybrick) in the press room.

I missed the keynote speech, unfortunately. Was answering email and lost track of the time :) But, I'm finding as much as I can on the relationship between end users and search. There's more and more data. The search engines are strongly focused on how people use engines and what they are looking for - not to be nosey, but so that they can deliver the most relevant results possible to your personal situation.

Am getting some rest before the night begins. I expect to see Bill and Barry (Rustybrick) tonight and to meet Yisha, Barry's finance! I'm looking forward to meeting her :D

#10 travis


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Posted 28 February 2006 - 04:02 AM

Sounds like fun.

Have fun meeting Barry's finance.

#11 cre8pc


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Posted 28 February 2006 - 10:39 AM

Am typing and shoving food into my mouth...am getting ready to go see Rand and Bill and Jon Glick's session on search engine algorithms. I know Rand and Bill understand this stuff (and the math) because I sat between them in a session on algorithms last year, and they would talk about things I could barely translate into English.

The dinner last night is a blog entry in the making. There were 15 of us celebrating birthdays, engagements and Barry (Rustybrick's) first time ever being taken out to dinner at ANY SES, despite his massive coverage all these years.

It was Mike Grehan's sincerest wish to do this for Barry and when he heard Christine Churchill and I were planning a gathering for several birthdays (which later included 2 wedding engagements, and midnight later in the bar, we found more birthday's to even perform a champagne toast to)...well, Mike had the idea to join forces and do a gig together.

Our unfortunate no-show was Danny Sullivan. He had wanted to come but became too busy. We had chair and birthday cake in his place anyway.

More to come. I don't want to be late for Bill's debut. Meeting Yisha, Barry's fiance, was a great pleasure. I REALLY like her. She's pretty, sweet and seeing them together...it was and will be one of my favorite memories of this seminar.

I will be home tomorrow. (Wed)

#12 cre8pc


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Posted 01 March 2006 - 04:19 PM

I'm home now...feeling drained but also fortunate for the opportunities I had to meet or in some cases, see again, friends and industry notables. I took notes on 3 sessions that I want to turn into articles. Some of the conversations at meals, bars and chance run ins also left me with more inspiration for writing.

In no way is SEO/M in any death throes. The overall state of the industry is full throttle, with a new generation of young people bringing fresh ideas to the table. Advertising agencies are getting the idea that search engines are a piece of the marketing puzzle too. And with mobile, podcasts, video, blogs, etc., getting a brand and web site out front is complicated.

I understood Risa's concerns, who asked in these forums if it was worth the cost to attend SES. She chose to go. Bill and I sat with her last night for a chat as she (and Eric and I) were waiting for New York's rush hour traffic to squeeze out of town. She and I both had our feelings and worries about where to put the kids while we went off to deal with business and shared experiences as "the parent who goes away". It's never simple and not without a bit of sadness that maybe the kids are suffering when a parent must leave.

Bill asked if she was glad to have made the effort and she is quite pleased with what she's learning. Hopefully she'll share with you all here when she's home and settled, but I wanted to relate what she said about the sheer amount of possible information and education one gets during SES. It's enormous.

There are several tracks to choose from, and four days full of sessions of various types and topics. It can be hard to decide what to choose, esp. if you have many interests or requirements to meet on a trip. Last year I was overwhelmed by it all. This year I made some changes so that I could enjoy the brief time I would have (2 days). I wanted to find information to report back that would meet usability interests, but still tie into SE's and SEO/M. Having a focus was a better way to handle this trip, but I do really understand how Risa and others like her felt. It's easy to think you're missing something, or just so filled with new information that your brain switches to overload.

I'm going to blog on the personal highlights of my trip and in the coming weeks, do some writeups. I came away with inspiration, more knowledge from practitioners in the industry, and practical applications worth sharing.

#13 DonnaFontenot


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Posted 01 March 2006 - 04:50 PM

Looking forward to what you share with us, Kim. And welcome home!

#14 cre8pc


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Posted 01 March 2006 - 08:46 PM

Looking forward to what you share with us, Kim.  And welcome home!

View Post

Thanks Donna. I made a blog entry (first of several stories I have in my head to tell) here in

Meeting Mike and Jim, but not Danny, at SES NYC 2006

#15 DonnaFontenot


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Posted 01 March 2006 - 11:53 PM

LOL, hearing you describe the evening was almost as much fun as it must have been to actually be there.

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Posted 02 March 2006 - 09:07 PM

Awww. Kim, Yisha expressed to me her appreciation to you and Mike. She enjoyed the conversation with you and Eric. It was really nice being able to finally go out for dinner with the large group of SEMs.

#17 kensplace


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Posted 02 March 2006 - 09:10 PM

Would love to go to the USA, and meet everyone, and see the USA...

One day my dream will come true. (well hopefully for more than one day! I also want to spend ages cycling around the usa, and driving around it...)

#18 RisaBB


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Posted 04 March 2006 - 10:09 PM

I had a GREAT time at the NY SES Conference. I am so glad I went. It was a wonderful experience. I live 20 miles from NYC so I commuted every day.

It was so different from anything Iíve experienced. It seemed like I traveled to another planet every day, then went home to reality. It was like being in an SEO bubble. It was like being at the SEO Academy Awards. All the famous SEO people were there.

Hopefully my mother will recover from watching my 3 little kids for 4 days, and I will return next year.

I didnít realize that hotels could accommodate so many people. The rooms were so big.

I found myself walking next to Danny Sullivan on Tuesday on the way into lunch and he said there were 6000 people there including day-pass people. I told him that I couldnít believe how far people came for this conference.

At lunch one day, I sat next to a women from Australia. I met people from France, Spain, London, and throughout the US. I asked the British guy why he just didnít go to the London one, and he said that the NY one was the biggest and best.

The biggest challenge was choosing the best session to go to. With 5 classes offered at each time slot, it really was difficult. I liked how the classes were set up Ė 3 or 4 different speakers for 15 minutes each. This allowed me to hop around sessions and feel like I getting the full presentation from the speakers I heard.

I think I overdid it at the end, though. Probably not coincidentally, the last session of the last day was called SEO Overkill. For the first time in the 4 days, I sat in on every single session offered in one time slot. I started in Ad Copy & Landing Page Clinic, jumped to Search and Phone Calls, then went down the hall to Site Clinic, then headed upstairs for SEO Overkill. Really - what could be more SEO overkill than that?

I enjoyed Meet the Crawlers. I thought it was great when someone asked the panel of SE reps to explain how his competition got away with setting up lots of different domains selling the same thing and they all occupy the first page in Google. Matt Cutts asked him to show this to him afterwards so that if the complaint was legit, heíd get his engineers working on it. It was nice to put a face on Google.

I think the most enlightening session was Landing Page Testing and Tuning. I had no idea that such small changes like a photo, or a word, a color or position could change conversions so significantly.

I thought Danny Sullivanís evening forum was great. He has a great and humble personality. His voice is very mellow and heís very charming. All the questions were great. The first one was from a woman with a complaint - so many great classes all given at the same time. Danny said that heíd try to do an audio highlights of the sessions.

One person questioned the name of the conference and Danny said that if he was naming it all over again, heíd call it Search Market Strategies, but heís not changing it now that itís a known brand. I disagree. I think SE Strategies is perfect. Itís a self-explanatory phrase. Iím still trying to figure out the difference between SEO and SEM. Is SEM the big picture and SEO is just one aspect of it?

One person said that he was exasperated at the huge amount of information out there, and Danny said that he should just dig in and heíll be ahead of the person starting tomorrow.

Danny had me laughing out loud lots of times.

The sessions he offered were so extensive and interesting, if the college I went to offered these classes, I would have enjoyed college a lot more. But this is practical info, and you canít wait 4 years to apply it.

I was struck at how few women attended the conference. Iíd say it was 80% men. Iím not sure if this is representative of the industry or that itís just harder for women to get away from their families for 4 days.

Although prior to attending I read how it was a social thing, itís still hard to do among so many people when you donít really know anyone too well, so I was happy to see some familiar faces. I met a bunch of people at the High Rankings Seminar in November, so I knew Kim (cre8pc) and Bill Slawski and sat with them in the bar on the second day after the sessions ended. I didnít realize how famous Bill was until I saw Matt Cuttís blog that said, ďBill Slawski, where are you?Ē

I met a lot of great people who were very friendly to me. When I walked into the huge lunch ballroom looking aimlessly around, Bill waved to me and I sat at his table next to Ian McAnerin. Later I met Matt Bailey who gave me a warm welcome and I met Rand Fishkin. I met Shari Thurow. I met the High Rankings group that I met in November Ė Jill Whalen, Christine Churchill, and Debra Mastalar.

Besides the thrill of the classes, and meeting the people who are defining SEO, and being part of such a new exciting industry, I found it so inspirational to meet a women in the first site clinic on Thursday who has a thriving cable & wire internet business. I didnít realize how successful her site was until she said that she spent $100,000 on SEO in 2 years.

After the session, I asked her more about it. 4 years ago she was sitting in her home office, nursing her baby, and looking through the clear glass tabletop at the jumble of wires underneath. She bought something to organize them and the idea hit her to start a company that sells wires and wire organizers. She now has 16 employees, her husband quit his job to work with her, she has a 10,000 sf warehouse in Florida, a home in France, 50,000 unique visitors a week, and I forgot how many millions of dollars in sales a year she makes from all over the world including the US Military. I think stories like these are the most exciting ones of all. She said that she didnít realize until that session that her problem was usability and not SEO. It was a great session and Matt Bailey and Shari Thurow gave her great advice.

I feel like Iím part of the dawn of a revolution. First the Agricultural Revolution, then the Industrial Revolution, and now the Information and Internet Revolution. Itís very exciting. I find the history of technology and communication fascinating, especially when I think how far man has come in the last hundred years. Before telephones, youíd have to send your letter via the pony express to communicate. I remember being astounded at the speed of communication when fax machines came around (15 years ago?) Now, my husband responds to e-mails on his blackberry while waiting at a red light.

Iím definitely going to SES next year. I think this will be an exciting year for everybody.


#19 Adrian


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Posted 05 March 2006 - 07:40 AM

Sounds like you made full use of what was availible Risa, there are some great stories there.

Everyones having a hoot at Bill being hunted down by Matt, hehe, great feeling to get that kind of recognition of some good work.

4 years ago she was sitting in her home office, nursing her baby, and looking through the clear glass tabletop at the jumble of wires underneath. She bought something to organize them and the idea hit her to start a company that sells wires and wire organizers.

Proves that with a decent idea, there certainly is a lot of money to be made on the web :unsure: It also sounds like she really got her moneys worth if it helped her realise that usability was her problem. I'm sure going back and trying to solve those issues will reward her with some good ROI on the cost of the conference, heh.

Who knows, maybe next year you could even be speaking? heh

#20 cre8pc


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Posted 05 March 2006 - 02:17 PM

Risa, this is the BEST overview of SES I've seen yet. You've captured the essence of it, the educational aspects and the personalities in the SEO/M industry. They are approachable people!

I was struck at how few women attended the conference. Iíd say it was 80% men.

I felt the same way at last year's conference. Severely outnumbered and struck with the imbalance. I've often joked that I'd get out more often if I had a wife too.


From a business standpoint, I think attending this conference was a wise choice for you as you embark on your own, and worth the effort of finding child care and dealing with "Mommy, I miss you" moments. Like I told you when we were chatting in the bar...I get this too, but I just remind them that this is how mom pays for the clothes shopping until we drop trips to the Mall and sports equipment, like the perfect baseball bat. This always shuts them up, heh.

#21 BillSlawski


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Posted 05 March 2006 - 11:42 PM

Everyones having a hoot at Bill being hunted down by Matt, hehe, great feeling to get that kind of recognition of some good work.

I woke up Thursday morning to an email from Peter_D, who had sent me an email with just smilie face and a link to Matt's post. I can't say that I'm famous, Rissa. Rather I'm fortunate to be surrounded by a great bunch of folks who have supported and inspired, and helped me learn.

There has been a lot of excellent coverage of this latest SES, but I agree with Kim that Rissa's report of the conference is the best that I've seen.

One of the real joys of attending an SES is that you get to spend some time with generous and thoughtful folks like Mike Grehan, and Christine Churchill, Rand Fishkin and Si Fishkin, Barry Schwartz, Kim and her husband Eric, Jill Whalen, and many more. It was a pleasure meeting Jim Banks, who was a moderator here in the early days of the forum.

I also really like the opportunity talking with a number of people who were attending an SES for the first time, like Rissa, and Torka from High Rankings.

My voice is still sore from having talked as much as I did this last week, but it was a real pleasure to have the chance to meet so many people.

A few of us even managed to sneak in a short field trip to the Museum of Modern Art at the end of the conference (Thanks, Si!), which is half a block away from the hotel the conference is held at. I missed that opportunity last year, and I'm glad that I went this year. It's an inspirational place. Si Fiskin taught us the best way to navigate around the exhibits, which is to enter through the exits, and go against the flow of traffic.

The coverage of the sessions from Barry, Ben, Chris, and Lee, at search engine round table is excellent if you haven't seen it:


Some non-session tidbits of information and advice about the conference if you haven't attended before, and might be considering it next year:

1. The lunch provided isn't anything exceptional, but the chance to walk up to some total strangers during lunch and introduce yourself is priceless.

2. The food at 24-hour deli's is always better earlier in the day, and the local pizza places are all excellent.

3. Try to get some cell phone numbers before the conference from people that you would like to meet, and spend some time with people who you might know from forums or blogs but haven't met in person.

4. Be well rested before the conference, and stay up untill 1:00 or 2:00 am at least a couple of nights during the conference sharing ideas and stories with folks.

5. Don't try to cram a half-hour's worth of material into 12 minutes of presentation. It just doesn't fit. :)

I'm still exhausted from the conference, but ready to do it all over again.

#22 travis


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Posted 06 March 2006 - 12:48 AM

Looks fantastic Bill,

Well done on the talk.

Wish I could have gone. I like NE USA in the Winter. Its amazing.

#23 BillSlawski


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Posted 06 March 2006 - 01:12 AM

Thanks, Travis.

It was a great experience.

Would have been nice if you could attend. I did hear more than a couple of Australian accents during the conference.

At last years conference, the executive board of mooter.com sat down at the networking lunch table next to me. What made that fun was the involvement of the President of Mooter in a thread here about the search engine:


She has an unusual name, and when I saw her nametag, and heard her accent, I asked her if she remembered that thread. She did, which made lunch interesting.

#24 RisaBB


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Posted 06 March 2006 - 06:25 PM

Thanks for the nice words, Adrian, Kim, and Bill.

I would LOVE to speak at an SES Conference one day. It's a goal of mine.

I was struck at how relatively new many of the speakers were to the field. Some started in 1999 or 2002, but I guess Internet years are like dog years. You can pack in a lot of experience in a short amount of time, and people with 7 years of experience are the seasoned ones.

It made me realize that my 6 years of web design experience is a lot. I thought I was pretty new to the field. I guess not.

My kids are little, 1, 4 and 6, so they don't really understand about going away to learn to make money. I'm blessed to be a work-at-home mom, so I get to see them all the time, even with the babysitter here, so they weren't used to this absence (although this will break them in for the vacation I want to go on with my husband for at least 5 nights to Cozumel, Mexico this summer).

When I got home early on Thursday, my 4 year old burst into tears and was inconsolable for 20 minutes. When I asked him what was wrong, he said, "I don't know," and he wouldn't let go of me.

Ahh - the wonderful joys of motherhood.

The SES Conference was AWESOME!


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