David is leading the organizational effort for our next SearchFest and he took some time out from his busy life to answer some questions about the event…
1) Please give me your background and tell us what you do for a living.
I’ve been involved in search marketing since about 2004, when I started as “the web guy” for a couple of small businesses based in the Bay Area. I moved to Portland three years ago & have been in love with Oregon ever since (actually, long before that, which was why I moved!). These days, I eat, sleep, and breathe Local Search as President & CEO of GetListed.org–a company with a series of online tools that help business owners claim and enhance their listings at Local search engines. I also moonlight as an SEMpdx Board member (and SearchFest Director), Local Search consultant, occasional web designer, and sadly an even-less-occasional golfer.
2) Why should a search marketer attend SearchFest?
I think our speaker set has to be considered the main reason for search marketers to attend SearchFest. Obviously, I’m more than a little biased, but I almost hesitate to list ANY names because literally every panel features two of the top minds in that particular niche. We’ve got some amazing new “rockstars” coming in this year–like Todd Malicoat, Greg Sterling, Mike Blumenthal, and Mary O’Brien–and previous year “fan favorites” like Rand Fishkin, Marty Weintraub, Marshall Simmonds, John Andrews, Ian Lurie, and Matt McGee.
I’m not sure there’s another one-day event in the country that brings this kind of tactical expertise and thought leadership in search marketing into one place at one time. This year, our presentations are a little bit longer than those at traditional conferences so you’ll get to hear each expert really dive deep into his or her area of specialization. The actionable takeaways are going to be flowing fast and furious.
And it’s an entire day for the price of about a 30-minute consultation with any one of our speakers, and since we’re a non-profit we can discount our tickets much more than some of the other conferences are able to — the Early Bird SEMpdx member rate is $189!
3) Why should a non-search marketer attend SearchFest?
Maybe you’re just getting started in Search, or maybe it’s something that just got added to your job description this year. Or maybe you work in a related industry like web design or PR or traditional advertising. Or, you’re just a business owner or small business employee who knows they need to do something with the Internet. The SEMpdx Board’s SearchFest Committee did a great job of coming up with a comprehensive set of sessions that will give newbies a great sense for pretty darn near all the various flavors Search has taken in the last 3-4 years. If you’re a true greenhorn, you can even get started on your Search education the day before with our “Local University” pre-event, and our post-event partnership with the Online Marketing Institute gives you a great opportunity to get a hands-on training on how to execute a lot of the concepts you pick up during the conference itself.
4) How will SearchFest 2011 be different from previous SearchFest events?
Our attendee feedback at previous SearchFests has been overwhelmingly positive, but we’ve definitely listened for areas for improvement. The biggest change for this year was in response to feedback that people wanted more time for Q&A and less “travel time” between sessions. So we’ve cut the number of sessions from six to four to give each speaker more time to dive deeply into their topics, and allow for more audience Q&A at the end of each one. We’ve also added Mobile and Universal search panels, given how hot those topics have become in the last several months. And, we’ve labeled the level of expertise toward which each session is geared (All / Intermediate / Advanced) to help attendees better plan their day.
5) Give us your SearchFest “Fab Five” highlights not to be missed.
a + b. Both keynotes are going to be exceptional. As usual, we reached for the stars with our keynote invitations and we are thrilled that both Chris Sherman and Chris Boggs accepted.
Aside from Chris Sherman’s partner–and previous SearchFest keynote–Danny Sullivan, I’m not sure there’s anyone in our industry whose thoughts about where Search is headed I’d be more interested to hear. Chris has an amazing depth and breadth of experience with Search and I’m fascinated to hear his take on both tactical rollouts and bigger-picture directions that Google, Bing, and others are taking.
Chris Boggs’ experience on the business side of our industry is going to be invaluable for both in-house and agency folks to note. Chris’s presidency at SEMPO gives him a unique position to observe how our roles as search marketers have evolved–and more importantly will need to evolve–going forward as our industry matures.
c. The Mobile and Universal panels. Obviously both of these topics are near-and-dear to my heart as a Local Search marketer, but in Greg Sterling and Reid Spice, and John Shehata and Mike Blumenthal, we’ve got a quartet of the top minds in these emerging niches coming to our little “backwater” town. With all the great Mobile development shops in Portland it seems natural that as marketers we should try to figure out ways leverage the creative and technological talent pool we have here. And the opportunities for smaller businesses with tiny budgets in Universal and Local are just incredible. So there’s something for everyone. Even for “generalists,” I think these panels are going to be really exciting and eye-opening.
d. Big-time, big-site speakers. As a Local search consultant, most of my experience to date has been with smaller companies and smaller websites. But I’m always fascinated to hear the other side of the coin–particularly as my own clients get larger and larger. With marketers from huge companies (and multi-million-page websites) like Intel, the New York Times, REI, Zappo’s, Oregon State, and Avvo, I know they’re going to be able to share some killer insights, no matter how large and unwieldy somebody’s own site might seem.
e. Our networking cocktail party is always a huge hit and I expect this year to be no different. The opportunity SearchFest offers to interact with such an amazing cast of speakers at a 1:1 level is pretty rare in my experience at other conferences. Our speakers always seem to go the extra mile to share their experiences, advice, and even secrets. I know that’s something I always appreciated tremendously, even before I became a member of SEMpdx.