This is my first Webmaster World conference, and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been really great so far. I had pretty much given up on the some other conferences. Ad-tech and Search Engine Strategies just seem to be more about after parties and selling stuff than about educating people.
A couple years ago I discovered SXSW, which made me believe in the conferences again. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s was exciting to see so many sessions about new technology, being lead by people who really knew their shit. And earlier this year I even had the pleasure of speaking at SXSW, which I was really excited about. I was actually on a panel with Eric Myers!
So far Webmaster World has been a great experience. The sessions have been for the most part very well put together and informative. One noted exception was the Contextual Advertising Optimization session with Google, Yahoo , Quigo and some other company on the panel. It was very Ã¢â‚¬Å“Ad-TechÃ¢â‚¬ like with the sales pitch being wrapped as Ã¢â‚¬Å“informationÃ¢â‚¬ . But then again, those were some of Ad-TechÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s big exhibiters.
I thought I would take a few minutes and list a few of my favorite, and least favorite speakers at WMW.
(These are not in any order)
Best Speakers at Webmaster World
Ã¢â‚¬ ¢ Rand Fishkin Ã¢â‚¬“ Many times I have look at SEOMoz wishing we had the time to put this type of blog out at USWeb. I have always been impressed with how much Rand understands not only about search, but about our industry. Rand is to me what Jason Fried is to development firms. I really respect him. And after seeing him speak, I was not disappointed. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m going to be arrogant here and say that I know a lot more about search engine optimization than almost anyone on these panels. But Rand is not one of them. When a questions was given from the audience, he was the only one that had ideas that I hadnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t thought of. He is quick on his feet and is someone who walks the walk. Plus, he seems like a cool guy. If I werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t so envious, I would have introduced myself.
Ã¢â‚¬ ¢ Roger Montti Ã¢â‚¬“ I had never heard of him before this session, but I was very impressed. This is a guy who has spent a lot of what is obviously considerable brainpower thinking about ways to get links. Once again, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rare that anything significant is going on in search that IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not aware of. But he pointed out a couple link tips that I was pretty excited to tell people about after the session. Roger has gone to work with Best of the Web, and I think thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a tremendous waste. I would have hired him in a heartbeat, and probably paid him a big more.
Ã¢â‚¬ ¢ John Lessnau Ã¢â‚¬“ I had seen his site Linkadage but I wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t that impressed with it. To be fair I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t spend much time there. But I hear there are actually some really cool tools there. But I was really impressed with John today at the session on purchasing links. He gave the people in that session some of the best paid link building tips I have ever seen anyone give out. If the people in that session go home and follow what he told them, they are going to be very happy campers in about 30 Ã¢â‚¬“ 60 days. And John gets extra credit for not trying to pimp out his company while giving his presentation. I hope WMW brings him back next year, because he really made the trip worth the money in that one session.
Ã¢â‚¬ ¢ Jennifer Slegg Ã¢â‚¬“ I actually came across JennÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s blog, JenSense.com about 2 weeks before the show. I was doing some research for a project and her blog popped up. If you are looking for the absolute expert in AdSense, this is your person. She has an amazing amount of knowledge and experience about contextual marketing, and she is not completely biased towards Google in her reporting of the industry. If the people in her session go home and implement her techniques, much like the people in John LessnauÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s session, they will be very happy campers in a month or two. I also give her extra credit for being the sole provider of good information in the contextual advertising session. All the other speakers were really more interested in explaining how their system works. Which was a bit silly considering the audience.
Worst Speakers at Webmaster World
(I link to them grudgingly for user experience)
Ã¢â‚¬ ¢ Chris Boggs Ã¢â‚¬“ Chris is the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Search StrategistÃ¢â‚¬ for Avenue A / Razorfish. I have had encounters with this company before, and I have to say that I was less than impressed with their knowledge of search. They bought aQuatitive (formally GoToast) a while back and entered the paid search marketing space. But they keep insisting that they also understand search engine optimisation. They donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t. Want proof? Check out their site. Any company that has Home in their title tag should automatically excuse themselves from speaking about SEO. And I certainly wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want the title of Ã¢â‚¬Å“Search StrategistÃ¢â‚¬ for that company. And Chris did that thing where he just reads bullet points from a PowerPoint. I hate that. And industry terms seemed unfamiliar to him. But, you can bet some genius at a huge company paid him and his team six figures to optimize their site. From a professional standpoint, I would rather go up against a dozen Chris BoggsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ than one Rand Fishkin.
Ã¢â‚¬ ¢ Rae Hoffman Ã¢â‚¬“ To be clear on this one, I am not questioning RaeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s knowledge of SEO, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m sure she is very good at helping her clients. She seems like one of the consultants who genuinely cares about her clients, which is more rare than it should be in our industry. But, I do have some constructive criticism. The only thing worse than a guy like Chris reading bullet points from Powerpoint, is someone filling up almost every slide with text to the point where most the audience canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really make it out. And then reading that text like a meth addict trying to explain a stolen car to the police. She talked so fast that I expected her sentences to end with her announcing Ã¢â‚¬Å“Sold!Ã¢â‚¬ and pounding a gavel. She might be new at public speaking, and this would be perfectly acceptable. I was a mess the first few times I had to speak. And she seemed much more comfortable in the QA portion of the next session I saw her in. Which is very much the way I am. I hate just standing there talking. I want to engage with the audience and answer questions so I know that they are getting something out of it. But, what isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t excusable is howÃ¢â‚¬ ¦I guess IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll say aggressive (even though I think hostile and rude would be better), during the Site dev session. I have done a lot of those types of sessions, and they are my favorite. But Rae seemed to act like she was catching people doing something criminal every time she found something to improve. And she kept pointing out the same thing; the canonical issue. How this is a best practice issue, it wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢tÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ be the first thing I would worry about for the sites she looked at. And itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s relatively low hanging fruit for this type of analysis. But it was the fact that she kept repeating it with every new analysis that was annoying.
Ã¢â‚¬ ¢ Tom Pickett, Jay Sears, Yaron Galai, and Cody Simms Ã¢â‚¬“ IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m going to lump these guys in together. They made up most of the panel for the Contextual Advertising Optimization session, and they sucked. They represent the players in the space, Google, ContextWeb, Quigo and Yahoo respectively. All they did was push out their products. I will give Tom and Cody a little latitude here, because they were talking about some cool products. Yaron and Jay just tried to sell us their service like we were supposed to provide funding. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think either Yaron or Jay saying one thing that would be helpful to people currently using contextual ads on their site, except of course that they should use their product. Luckily the aforementioned Jennifer Slegg was the first speaker and providing nothing but pure interesting facts about how to optimize your campaign, which is what this session was supposed to be about.
Overall this has been a pretty good show. I think USWeb will exhibit at the next show, and I will certainly attend. If I could ever make the time, I would love to volunteer to talk on some panels. If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re considering going to WMW, you should do it.