SMX London – Conference Overview

Promoted as targeting beginner to advanced participants, Search Marketing Expo (SMX) London happened on November 15-16 2007 to a 300-person strong crowd.  Housed in the very nice Hilton London Metropole, SMX London was the first conference in the UK from the team of Danny Sullivan and Chris Sherman since forming Third Door Media in 2006.

Despite the large number of participants, SMX London 2007 retained the feel of a much smaller conference, enabling participants to meet and network with each other without being or feeling overwhelmed.  With breaks between every session, networking was quite high on the agenda and many businesses concluded valuable deals.

As with all conferences, after-hours networking and information sharing was also central to SMX London with one overheard conversation dealing with an in-house SEO being helped by two other SEOs to better pitch for internal buy-in.  The free flow of information both during and after the conference was staggering and many in-house and agency search marketers benefited from insider tips and tricks.

The dense schedule of fifteen sessions per day over two days was made manageable by the three track system which grouped together sessions in logical streams such as Paid Search or Case Studies or Beginners.  Frequent breaks after long sessions also enabled longer opportunities to meet and network with speakers.

Despite being targeted at beginners and intermediate SEOs only, this conference did attract intermediate to advanced SEOs and SEMs.  The sessions, while not too advanced, often failed to explain the basics to the novice user, sometimes citing examples well known within SEO communities but not outside them.  Someone new to SEO hoping to learn and understand may have felt left behind (except by Lisa who was BRILLIANT!). This level of engagement was absolutely right for the bulk of the audience though.

The information revealed at the sessions ranged from the welcome refresher tips to some of the more complex, lesser known tactics often employed by industry experts.  One session in the basic track actually covered some more advanced link building techniques.  A session on paid search covered certain interesting PPC tactics which were not quite white hat :)This conference covered information and topics which had many participants smiling knowingly or writing furiously.  The information provided was often invaluable and available nowhere else.

One refreshing change was the lack of sales pitches.  While previous large conferences of this type tended to have at least one sales pitch in every session on every day, SMX London 2007 refreshingly did not.  With one exception, the sessions seemed sales pitch free which was also a welcome change from the norm.

Overall, SMX London 2007 was an impressive inaugural event.  With its success in both attracting a more advanced audience, and delivering the relevant content to this audience, this event looks to have many successful years ahead of it.

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8 Responses to “SMX London – Conference Overview”

  1. g1smd says:

    Danny and Chris did well to get this all on track in the five months or so from announcement to actually happening. SES has always had the advantage of more than a year of publicity before each event. Is there an announced date for SMX London 2008 yet?

    For me, the content on Day 2 generally held more interest and seemed more useful than that of Day 1. There were some minor organisational niggles, but I know that Danny and Chris will analyse all the Conference Feedback Forms to come up with a killer show next year. One or two of the speakers were too softly spoken (Not Lisa!) and could have done with a better boost from the PA system.

    Sometimes I wonder if three tracks is too many; sometimes I think that two would be much better. The keynote from Google wasn’t particularly inspirational, but most of the other sessions were great.

    In one session there was a little bit too much of the in-joke comments, bringing up some things that would have completely lost many of those people not in the circle of bloggers and commentators that surround such events.

    There were a number of new speakers compared to SES London presentations, and all those that I saw present did a good job covering their topic and delivering some useful nuggets.

    There is always a dilemma as to how much of the basics to cover before getting to the real meat of the presentation. The fundamental flaw in that, is being given only 10 minutes to get the message accross. In some cases at other conferences I have seen four presenters say the exact same thing as each other, and have to rush their slides to finish in time. The audience didn’t get much useful information from those types of session.

    In that case I would have much preferred to hear two speakers talk for 40 minutes each, or one speakerr cover the subect in depth in a little over an hour, all on their own. People like Gord Hotchkiss should get their own, longer, slot as they have so much useful stuff to convey.

    Social Media seemed to be a hot topic, especially with the Kelvin, Lisa, Andy and Cam session room filled to busting point, and nearly 20 people without seats standing at the back. The couple of last minute changes in programme confused a few people, and left those sessions under-attended.

    The venue was about the right size. Most rooms were adjacent or one floor up, apart from the one room separated from the rest of the event by a trip across the lobby and three floors up in the lift. The hot food was fine, though I found lunch at 12 to be a bit too early for me.

    The London SEO drinks bash was great (and the pub served good food), but the previous night was very fragmented as everyone headed off in different directions for drinks or meals.

    All in all, a good event which everyone seems to have enjoyed. Chocbait was also good!

  2. g1smd says:

    Crikey. Comments that are as long as the original article.

    Got a bit carried away. :-)

  3. Often with such events the most useful information is exchanged before and indeed after the sessions. It’s easy to see why beginners may stumble at asking questions to seo’s who have such extensive knowledge in their own field. I think this was demonstrated in Danny Sullivan’s attempt to get a show of hands for literally any question.

    All in all the SEO crowd are friendly folk who actively share a wealth of information and experience, what better platform than the Metropole? (with the exception of lack of toothpaste in my room)

  4. We’re looking at May/June for SMX London, news should be up in the near future on the site. And thanks for the comments — we’ll take them all to improve things.

  5. g1smd says:

    Everyone I have spoken to seems to have enjoyed it a lot.

    You have arrived. SMX is now firmly on the UK SEO calendar.

  6. Julie Joyce says:

    Nice overview…I wish I could have been there.

  7. We missed you Julie!! and everyone else who couldn’t make it even if we didn’t know you.

    :)

    It was a fantastic event – see everyone in Vegas I hope!

  8. It’s funny- I was just talking to someone who attended SMX London- they were just getting into the industry and said exactly what you said. They claimed it was marketing to beginning to intermediate, but beginners felt overwhelmed with the advanced sessions.

    Are there any sessions you would recommend for beginners coming up?

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