Top 3 Takeaways from SMX Advanced, aka Homecoming for SEMs

Last week, I attended my 4th SMX Advanced in Seattle. It’s probably my favorite SEM conference of all because there are no beginner sessions. Every session covers advanced ways to improve your SEM and social media campaigns.

As usual, there was a ton of great info shared – I have 15 pages of notes from just the sessions I attended! Here are the top takeaways from this year’s conference.

Quality Score is Complicated.

OK, we all probably knew that. The Quality Score session was top-notch, though – I consider myself pretty knowledgeable on this subject, but I learned a TON. I especially enjoyed my friend Joe Kerschbaum’s talk on quality score for adCenter. Turns out, landing page relevance does count in adCenter – it’s one of their key factors. (I believe it’s a significant factor in Adwords, too, but that’s another post.)

Quality Score is so complicated that there’s a new book out about it – and it costs a whopping $149. Are you kidding me?!? Craig, I have a ton of respect for you, but the book is like 75 pages! That’s nearly $2 per page. Really??

Anyway.

Tweeting and Facebook are SEO.

There was a session on Twitter SEO and another on Facebook SEO. I attended the Twitter session and took copious notes. I’m not an SEO, but I do oversee the entire search marketing program at Fluency Media, so I try to learn as much as I can about SEO.

Incorporating both good social tactics (create quality, shareable content; engage with people, etc.) and good SEO tactics (make content relevant, use good keywords, link to deep pages, etc.) makes it very possible for your Twitter content to show up in search results pages. With both Google Panda and Bing, social signals are becoming more and more a part of the SEO algorithm – so it makes sense to optimize your social content as well as your website content.

Link Building is Almost Impossible.

I’m really trying to get my head around link building. And I’ll admit: I’m struggling. It just seems to take tons of time for very little payoff.

But I was optimistic: there are some really good link builders out there, and they were at SMX. So I sat at a link building Birds of a Feather table, and also attended a link building session.

The big takeaway? Link building is really hard, and often is just luck. On top of that, it’s nearly impossible for an agency to do link building for clients. It just doesn’t scale well. This is what I suspected all along, but had hoped I was wrong. Oh well.

PPC People are Awesome.

This year, I saw so many friends from the PPC industry that I joked about it being like homecoming for SEMs. I realize that I’m an old-time PPC’er, and I’ve been going to conferences since 2003, so I’ve met a ton of folks over the years. But I’m continually thrilled with how friendly and open everyone is. People freely share give-it-up style secrets, test ideas, tips, and tricks – it’s such a welcoming and collaborative community.

This year, about 10 participants in the weekly Twitter PPCChat met for dinner in Seattle on Monday night, the night before the first day of the show. Even though I’d only met a couple of the attendees before, it was like we were all fast friends. And indeed we were, because we knew each other on Twitter!

Anyway, the dinner was great, and the PPCChat group ended up hanging out throughout the whole conference. Even though SMX is smaller than most SEM conferences, it can still be hard to navigate the dynamics of a group of several hundred people. But as with homecoming, it’s a lot of fun if you hang out with a smaller group of friends – and that’s just what we did.

I learned so much at this year’s SMX, as usual. I’m already looking forward to next year!

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