I got an IM from a former colleague today asking me about whether it was worthwhile to pay for the sessions at Search Engine Strategies (SES for short).
Rather than write an entire thoughtful post on the pro’s and con’s of paying for SES, I thought I’d just copy the IM conversation verbatim. This makes life easier for me, and it also gives you a rare behind-the-scenes view of my IM conversations (which, after reading this one, will not encourage you to hack into my IM).
Note that the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
[18:39] rugbygal: I was just wondering what your opinion is of SEM conference classes
[18:39] rugbygal: do you think they are worth the premium cost?
[18:40] blogation: I would say for SEM no. If you want to learn about a new area that you aren’t familiar with, like SEO, then it could be worthwhile, but I think you will end up realizing you could teach the SEM teachers more than they will teach you.
[18:41] rugbygal: that’s good to know.
[18:42] rugbygal: I was thinking about SES San Jose coming up
[18:43] blogation: Here’s all you need to know: this guy is considered one of the top AdWords experts: [link to Perry Marshall's Web site].
[18:43] blogation: You could AdWords him under the table.
[18:43] rugbygal: funny. you are the 3rd person to point me to him
[18:43] blogation: I saw those SES conferences – I thought about the SEO, but I think I would rather go to a Bruce Clay seminar before an SES conference.
[18:43] rugbygal: I downloaded one of his articles, but haven’t had a chance to read it yet
[18:43] blogation: I think Perry Marshall is about as knowledgeable about search as a stoner at 3am.
So there you have it. As a rule of thumb, conferences and so-called search engine experts are unlikely to teach you anything about search – unless of course you are a total neophyte in which case by all means go.
I do think that the SES exhibit hall, on the other hand, which is free to visit can be worthwhile. You can meet old buddies, get lots of free t-shirts and you occasionally even learn about a search provider that you never knew existed.