I'll announce the winner quickly: SMX beats the crap out of SES.
I'm not going to bore anyone (not that anybody reads this awful blog) by summarizing all the session info or anything like that. I'm just going to tell you why I dug this show. Matt Stoddart style.
I was really curious to see how SMX Advanced in Seattle was going to stack up against the established alpha male of the SEO conference circuit, SES, and I was pleasantly surprised right from the get-go. I assumed that it'd be good and my hat's off to Danny Sullivan. SMX Advanced is the best conference that I've been to.
Not the most fun...no. But the best? Yep.
But why? There were no new names...few new topics. So what was the big difference?
Lots of reasons. In no particular order, here they are:
Unlike SES or Pubcon, SMX Advanced didn't have the same regurgitated presentations that everyone's already seen twice. No, Danny made it a point to keep it as interactive as possible by dedicating at least half the time to Q&A. And that's where you really get useful information. From real world scenarios, not squeaky-clean dreamworld scenarios where everything is always perfect on paper...or PC, that is.
Also, it just seemed more intimate. There were a lot fewer people there than what I'm used to and I even heard that it sold out. (Whether or not that's true, I have no idea.) And the panels were very laid back thanks to Danny. He did a great job of keeping it light and was actually a lot funnier than I thought he could be. Sorry, bro, but it's all good!
I'm big into the creature-comforts of these things because I think it's a pretty big deal. I mean, you shell out all this money to get your passes/airfare/accommodations and you get there only to have the most mediocre sustenance known to man - the box lunch.
SMX? Two words - carving stations.
It might sound shitty, but it went a long way with me....both lunches were fantastic. Salad bar, buffet with pasta, seafood, chicken and yes...carving stations. Roast beef on Monday and turkey breast on Tuesday.
The refreshments in between were awesome, too. I'm a chocolate guy and at 3 in the afternoon when the food-coma from lunch has officially kicked in, I need some coffee and sum'n sweet to eat and SMX delivered. Gourmet malted-milk balls, endless bags of Peanut M&M's, cookies, Cracker Jacks, you name it. I was in heaven and I'm pretty sure Ron was, too.
The search engines will typically host cocktail receptions at the end of the day that feature cheese, crackers, beer and wine. Well, Yahoo stepped up big with a full-on open bar and nice hors d' oeuvres. And being a whiskey drinker, this was great news for me.
The Google Dance was cool, too. They ponied up a couple drink tickets and also had the option of a cash bar beyond that. At first I thought we walked right into a rave. There were glow-sticks, people flailing all around to Bon-Jovi retro dance mixes, and sweat flyin' all over the place like everyone there but me was on a hit of old-school ecstasy.
And it was there that I was really able to meet some people and talk to some others that I'd been wanting to catch up with. Quick shout-out to Rand Fishkin, Todd Malicoat, Rudy DeDominicis, and the bartender with the gigantic fucking tongue! WOW. Anyone else see that shit? I think Ron has a picture that he'll put up on the LinkWorth blog, so check that out if you're interested.
The Shwag Bag
Forget about the horrible canvas bag that you're flat-out embarrassed to carry around because it feels like you're carrying a purse, SMX came strong with the sling type, one strap backpacks. It's kinda cool and something you can at least use. I have a feeling mine will be toting my gym gear to Lifetime Fitness every morning.
Lola - Not SMX-related, but kinda
We have a really good friend that works at Lola, one of Tom Douglas' top-notch restaurants. So we went in and had absolutely the best dinner I've had in a long, long time. (There I go on food again). Hanger steak, giant prawns, octopus, dungeonous crab, Copper River salmon, roasted potatoes, asparagus, and for dessert - homemade donuts and coconut cream pie....wow. Truly amazing.
And while we were there, we happened to notice that Matt Cutts and Tim Meyer were having dinner together with their wives at another table. So we bought their wine but left before our buddy (the manager) dropped the check. Hope that all worked out!
So there it is, kiddos. A simple man's view of SMX Advanced and why I think it puts SES in a rear-naked choke.