Searchfest 08 was a tremendous success and our great speakers were one of the top reasons why our event was such a big hit. I asked our speakers to reflect upon their Searchfest 08 experience:

Lisa Williams: Top 3 Cool Things I Noticed at SearchFest 08

1) One of the most striking benefits of SEMPDX SearchFest 08′ is the caliber of speaker. To hear Rand Fishkin of SEOMOZ, Google, Microsoft reps and other search marketing powerhouse speakers you’d need to go to SES or SMX and pay upwards of $2000. For as little as $149 (members buying early) you get a full day with great speakers with topics ranging from search marketing basics to Social Media Marketing tactics to International SEM. As I interview prospective new clients, the biggest pain point is understanding how search fits in the marketing mix and how to implement search in tandem with other marketing strategies.

2) Education for Search Marketing as a discipline is even more important than education for Print Media. If I want to launch a print campaign I find a reputable agency and have them complete the media buys and execute the creative. If I want to launch a Search campaign, I need to know that a Search Marketing Agency can be of more help to me before I create or redesign my site, rather than after the site is designed. It’s imperative as a business owner to know that great site architecture is an important foundational element of good search marketing practices. I am equally impressed with the level of commitment to Search Marketing within companies compared to even a year ago.

3) Personalized search makes it even more important that search goals need to be about business goals, not just ranking. This measure truly helps search take its rightful place in the traditional marketing mix. The thing that is going to compel business owners to spend marketing resources on Search is the understanding of the quantifiable benefits.

Now that Search Marketing is coming into its own as a marketing discipline and it’s becoming more standardized, there’s no excuse as a business owner not to be educated. Go to conferences, read (,,, get involved with your local search marketing organization (for Oregon that’s SEMPDX). Embrace Search Marketing, take the time to become educated and create a strategy for combining Search into your marketing mix. It’s not going away.

Sandra Ponce De Leon (who also blogged about the event here): In light of the recent conference takeover by participants at the SXSW event, I’ve been thinking much about my own experience at SEMpdx’s SearchFest and thankful that the audience was more patient with the presenters — as a first-timer, I was overcoming my own fears. Overall, though the experience was a great one and I hope my own content provided value to the audience.

One of the presenters I found most entertaining was Marty Weintraub in his “Do as I say, not as I do” presentation on reputation management. His deck was packed with important lessons of engagement that translate equally to online and offline methods. The biggest lesson, though… don’t fight fire with fire. It was funny to hear such a pacifist message in a conference about search marketing; however, as he goes through his real world example of how he fought with StumbleUpon “trolls” as he refers to them, you see his fight was futile, if not detrimental. And while I love his approach and humor at the situation, it actually escalated into a pretty frightening scenario. Lesson here… every community has their bulldogs that will fight to the death if they feel infringed upon. These folks are passionately committed to keeping their communities clean and free of poor content, especially if they see that content may have an alterior motive (such as SEO benefit) . And once unleashed that venom is difficult , if not impossible to contain. What could he have done differently? Perhaps respond with an open message of acknowledgement to his StumbleUpon detractors rather than the punchy response he gave. And a little humility might have helped.

So, what were my key take-aways? First I have much gratitude at the opportunity to present to such a top-notch, knowledgeable crowd and a reaffirmation that an approach of humility and authenticity is always the best policy when it comes to community engagement.

Adam Audette: Besides having a really cool name, Searchfest also has substantial content packed into a single day. The speakers were quite good and the material they covered was extensive. I arrived right before Rand Fishkin’s keynote and was really impressed with his presentation. Lots of great information, but also just good entertainment. He had everyone engaged for the entire 30-40 minutes. Another highlight was my panel on link building (but not because I was on it). I spoke alongside Dustin Woodard and Rebecca Kelley. What was surprising (and affirming) was how each of us were in agreement on tools and techniques we use, without having discussed the details of our presentations beforehand.

John Andrews also had a sweet presentation on internet marketing and strategy, and I enjoyed Matt McGee as well. There were also several speakers I wasn’t familiar with who impressed me greatly by their knowledge of social media and web strategy. I feel like the industry is well represented in the Pacific Northwest.

The networking rocked. For me, the best part of conferences is seeing familiar faces and making new friends. The amount of smart and creative people working in this industry always amazes me. Searchfest was a small conference but it brought out some very talented search marketers. I think SEMpdx is onto something with the format. I can’t wait for next year’s – I’ll definitely be there.

Aaron Kahlow: Despite all the rumors about Portland’s terrible winter weather, I stepped off the plane to 65 degrees and sunshine when I arrived at SEMpdx which was a perfect preface to what was in store.

SEMpdx was one of the only conference where I actually could hear real solutions being offered. Where folks could get down to the “Nitty Gritty” of what they needed to do to be successful in Search as opposed to the long winded ponftifications heard at so many other larger shows. In my session on Information Architecture/Website Usability’s role in converting search traffic, I was floored by the thoughtfulness and sheer number of questions. Moreover, networking with industry peers was a blast. Amazing what happens when you combine a few local brews and some Search Afficiandos!

Stoney deGeyter: I have to say that I had a fantastic time. Searchfest marked my one-year anniversary speaking at conferences. They opened the door for me at Searchfest 2007 and were kind enough to invite me back this year. Boy, am I glad they did.

I have to say that I was really surprised by the marketing power they were able secure for each session was amazing. I felt severely out gunned on both panels I was on. I was amazed at the quality of the information provided and the overall environment established by the SEMpdx team.

I met quite a few people in the industry and instead of trying to list them all here I just want to say thanks for making my SEMpdx experience a great one!

Rand Fishkin: I went into Searchfest with high expectations, having attended the previous year. I would say that once again, I was very impressed. The quality of speakers and attendees was high, the socializing was terrific and the material was almost universally well prepared. I’m a big fan of local events, and Searchfest is probably my favorite local-organized, local-focused event in search marketing. I suspect that in years to come, the audience size will grow and the event may indeed become a premiere gathering in the industry.

Colleen Wright: Searchfest! What an amazing experience! All of you on the board and all of the volunteers did an incredible job pulling it all together. Thank you very much for all of your hard work. As for me, this was my first time speaking at a conference…my maiden voyage so to speak, and I really enjoyed sharing my knowledge with all of you who attended. I’ve had people come up to me after Searchfest and share that they appreciated the information presented and I want you to know that I am happy to share this knowledge with you.

On the downside, immediately after I answered my last question, I got laryngitis! I knew I was coming down with something, but how weird is that? Almost as if my voice was hanging in there for that all critical presentation then boom! Gone! Here it is March 21st, over 10 days later and I STILL have laryngitis. I had to cancel my upcoming classes that start March 31st which is so disappointing. But it would be even more disappointing for my students if my voice gave out before the class ended. So, the next Search Engine Workshops begin May 12th! If my voice isn’t back by then, I’m in big trouble!

Marty Weintraub: Any city in the world would be proud to have organized an hosted such an event. Many of our in-house and solo practitioner friends are walking into the SEM-light and soon enough, we’ll all be singing out of the same search marketing hymnal. It was amazing to hang with true luminaries in our industry and an honor to share with all comers interested in search.

Portland is rising SEM community with a national talent base bubbling under. The hills of Willamette are exquisite. The people are charming and warm. I can’t wait until next year’s SEMpdx.

Ian Lurie: Searchfest provided a smaller venue where you could reach most of the audience, with the same level of speakers and content as most of the larger conferences. The audience in my session was interested, engaged and asked great questions. I also liked the breadth of content, and learned a thing or two.

My only suggestion for next year: Make sure the wifi works (I practically died from withdrawal).

Dustin Woodard: I’ve had the opportunity to speak at a number of events and must admit that the questions we received from the audience at Searchfest ’08 were the best I’ve heard yet. They were on topic and useful for everyone in the crowd.

2 thoughts on “Searchfest 08 Speaker Reflections

  1. Thanks for pulling this together Todd, this was a fascinating read for me. I am so glad to hear that the favorable impressions from the talented folks we brought in from out of town. I feel like we raised the bar this year and can’t wait to see what happens in ’09!

  2. Sorry I didn’t give my $.02 sooner, but I have to say that I really enjoy Searchfest. It’s a welcome change from the huge, busy, multi-track, multi-day conferences. Portland is a great area, and this year the event organizers got even bigger and better speakers than the year before. The conference feels very intimate, yet very professional, and offers a wealth of valuable information and tidbits for marketers. It’s a great value for folks who are local or can’t afford to hit all of the bigger, more expensive conferences. I’d love to participate again next year. Thanks for inviting me!

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