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SEMpdx’s SearchFest 2008 was yesterday and I have to say; if those guys keep on improving year after year like this year’s improvement over last, we might have a conference rivaling SMX or Search Engine Strategies in a couple of years.

Attendees at SearchFest 2008

Simply put, for the price of admission, there was a ton of value. One full day, two tracks of sessions – I think everyone was pleased.

This event was coordinated by our own commander-in-chief Ben Lloyd, who once again delivered on pleasing the 250 / 300 person crowd as well as the quality of the catering goods (you know you’re at an SEMpdx event when the food is top-notch). Job well done to him and everyone else on the SEMpdx board.

Rand Fishkin, Keynote Speaker at SearchFest 2008

The keynote speaker was Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz fame. Ran through 116 slides in about 45 minutes. The keynote was as entertaining as it was informative, which Rand giving an overview of “The Algorithmic Evolution of Search Engines & the Impact on SEO Campaigns.” His energetic & comedic delivery set the tone for the rest of the day.

I chose to attend the “Site Architecture, Usability, SEO & Analytics” session after that, volunteering to do the powerpoint slides for the speakers. That particular session has some fairly notable search industry vets: Stoney DeGeyter of Pole Position Marketing, Aaron Kahlow of BusinessOL & Ian Lurie of Portent Interactive. As the session name suggests, they gave a comprehensive presentation about how to align your site architecture with your SEO strategy and how you can really analyze your analytics to find out a heck of a lot about your site and the kinds of visitors who are coming to it. My key takeaway from that session is that a website’s bounce rate – accessing your site and immediately ‘bouncing’ from it – should not be ignored.

B2B SEM Session at SearchFest 2008

I then attended the B2B & SEM session as well as the latter-part of the Links & Search: Strategies for Success session. Both provided some valuable information for those seeking strategies for both types of marketing efforts.

Links & Search panel at SearchFest 2008

After a tasty lunch (again, SEMpdx rocks at selecting awesome catering), I attended the Marketing with Social Media: Leveraging Blogs / RSS, bookmarking & sharing, advertising session. I have to say, one of the best speakers there was Paul Colligan, which I’ve seen speak at a past SEMpdx event. Paul is one of the best in the business in sheer knowledge of RSS & Podcast strategies. He’s also one of the most engaging speakers I’ve had the pleasure of listening to. Dan Harbison of the Trailblazers and Sandra Ponce De Leon, a representative from Buzz Logic rounded out the speakers.

The Dark Side of SMM panel at SearchFest 2008

The last session I attended was called “Marketing 2.0 Issues: Online Reputation Management, the dark side of SMM.” The prez moderated this panel. This was perhaps, due to the entertainment value, the best session of SearchFest 08. Marty Weintraub of aimClear delivered an awesome & funny (yet really kind of sad) presentation about his own personal peek into the “dark side of SMM.” The kind of stuff he had to go through seemed like a personal struggle; his examples of how hatred can be spewed by “anonymous” internet users was shocking. Janet Johnson from O’Johnson Partners and Lisa Williams from Media Forte Marketing also spoke on the subject, offering personal stories as well as strategies to make sure you stay away from this “dark side.”

A Hot Seat session (modeled after SEMpdx’s Hot Seat events) and a networking reception followed.

All in all, I would have to say that this year’s SearchFest was bigger & better than last year’s event. Here’s to SearchFest 2009!

About Christian Bullock

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