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SES Toronto: Day 1 Recap

You know: given the current economic crisis, turn out for SES Toronto is actually better than I suspected, and so is the production value.  Granted, it’s no San Jose, but it’s pretty good for an extremely niche Canadian/Torontonian online marketing conference.  Sticking mainly to the affectionately named “Geek Track” (others were categorized “Nuts & Bolts” and “Corporateville”), opened my eyes to several new trends and strategies.

9:15am:  Tara Hunt opened the show this year, with a keynote entitled “The Whuffie Factor”.  Since that was the first I ever heard the term, I’ll default to how Tara defined “whuffie”: part reputation, part trust, all social.  The future of online marketing boils down to establishing or finding your “whuffie” and using it to get what you want.  Whether that be authoritative online mentions, conversions, leads, or free stuff.

11:00am: Geek Track.  Signals: What Relevancy Indicators are Search Engineers Watching for Today?  Needless to say, with Dan Zarrella and Marios Alexandrou, discussion focused on emerging technology taking centre stage.  Current search engineering is somewhat limited due to slow inclusion rates, careful algorithm checks and balances, and limited focus on social.  Specialized tools are popping up left, right, and center.  What are the big three going to do to keep up?  Speculation arose over Google’s interest in realtime search algorithms that could keep up with a monster network such as Twitter.  Surely an interesting topic to watch.

1:15: Orion Panel.  This is what SES organizers call an informal get-together of a handful of panelists on a certain subject. This year, the dicussion was “Is PageRank Broken?  The Future of Search”.  Controversial to say the least, given 90% of our industry still services businesses that only marginally appreciate online marketing with specialized SEO and SEM campaigns.  Thanks guys!  Granted, there are flaws, considering Google’s retooling on a monthly basis to include blended/universal options to visitors, but to defend “Big G”, they’re using quantified results in visitor behavior to mold their search engine for the future.

What was interesting to note here was that only Stacey Jarvis, Search Lead for Microsoft Canada, was on hand to comment in person to the direction of Bing.  It would have been nice for the 900 lb “GOOGrilla” to be addressed, or the smaller 200 lb “oranYAHutan”.  <sigh>

Conference fatigue setting in…

2:30pm: Geek Track.  Optimizing for Video Search: Virgin Territory?  Ahhh, a topic I can understand.  Amanda Watlington, superb job as always addressing as much information as possible in 15 minutes.  Really pushing for hosted video optimization, and so she should.  No reason to limit yourself to the confines of YouTube in order to tell a story or monetize your work.  Greg Markel and Steve Espinosa, also did a fantastic job in explaning how to optimize video on YouTube and Yahoo for best results. 

Although, I’d have to point out, there was a question from an audience member on how media companies might better optimize their video.  All three panelists had been preaching about putting the video in as many places as possible, for maximum exposure.  However, in the media industry, companies are often limited by contracts set forth by rights-holders such as production or distribution companies.

I guess you had to have worked in or for media to understand.

4:15pm: Geek Track.  The Ins & Outs of Twitter.  No thrilled about attending this track, only because I am not a huge fan of twitter.  Why?  Well, it’s when you get into the nonsense l33t phrasiology that most tweets employ that I really get disgusted.

I digress.  Turns out I’m probably wrong, it’s a fantastic tool for SEO and relationship/branding efforts, but despite being out for more than a year (or thereabouts) it’s still relatively savage, with many people or companies “gaming” the system.  I eventually caved, and signed up for Twitter on the spot, not because it’s easy to game the system… of course not…

Stars in this session had to be Mark Jackson of Vizio Interactive, and Rayanne Langdon of Freshbooks.com.  Fantastic presentations.

Eager to see more tomorrow!

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