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SMX Advanced 2011 Day 1 – My Thoughts

As the dust settles on the SMX Advanced London conference for another year I wanted to give my honest opinion on the conference and whether it really deserves to be called “Advanced!” My opinion is unfortunately based on one day’s attendance at the conference, but I feel that is enough to have an opinion on the conference title.

Although I am going to discuss the conference I wanted to write it a blog based on the entire day which included the eventful journey to SMX Advanced. In the coming days I hope to get hold of the slides that were presented and provided a post based on my takeaways from each presentation.


The day began with an early wake up call to allow Marcus & I enough time to get a taxi to the station. On arrival to the station I provided the first comedy moment of the day by tripping up the steps, to the amusement of Marcus and our fellow commuters (great start to the day L).

The journey to London was smooth (which is a miracle in itself), but the real fun and games started when we got to Paddington. We already knew that we were going to be travelling on the circle line to Gloucester Road so headed to the tube. We looked at the map and found our stop, when Marcus came out with an impromptu “Never East Shredded Wheat” and said that we needed to go east on the circle line! As we walk towards the circle line going east we noticed a tube so made a dash for it. As the tube was pulling away the tanoy system announces next stop “Edgware Road”, I looked at Marcus and he said “Edgware Road! Think we are going the wrong way”, no shit Sherlock! So we arrived at Edgware Road, and got the next tube back to Paddington, on arrival I instantly tweeted that Marcus had sent us the wrong way, within seconds I had a reply saying NEVER trust Marcus with directions! On that note I sought out a professional who pointed us in the correct direction, at the other end of the station.

After our scenic trip round around London’s finest Underground stations we finally arrived at our destination in time for registration and coffee to calm the nerves, phew! We then made our way downstairs to listen to the opening keynote by Chris Sherman, Executive Editor of Search Engine Land.

Once the first keynote was complete the real (proper) presentations began and we eagerly made our way down to the conference hall.

In my opinion the first two sessions based on SEO was very disappointing and the general reaction on twitter was that how could you class SMX Advanced an Advanced conference when the information that is being given is OBVIOUS!

  • “Optimise for Users, not search engines” – Ground Breaking
  • “Title tags are very important” – That’s new
  • “Quality is more relevant than quantity” – Will remember that

The above quotes were taken within the first session! Now I have nothing against the speakers, I thought they delivered them really well, but for an advanced course I just thought it was lacking ADVANCED information.

In the second section one of the speakers even said “Unless you are in the USA, don’t worry about Bing!”, Really? That is a big call! I get that Google has about 85-90% market share in the UK but to not even think about Bing is not a clever idea. It ultimately boils down to where your current traffic is coming from and your target audience to name ust two reasons not to ignore Bing completely.

The second session got so bad that a few of us huddled around my laptop and watched the Space Shuttle Endevour launch along with the other 110k people on UStream, now that is Advanced!

During lunch we discussed how bad it had so far been and hoped that the next two sessions were going to improve and save the conference from being a total farce. Up step Patrick Altop, Rob Millard, Peter Wailes & Kelvin Newman to right what had so far been a bad day. In the next session “Link Alchemy: Creative Ways of Conjuring SEO Gold” we were given some insightful information, good actionable points and we were all subconsciously told to buy Kelvin beer.

The link building presentation contained some interesting tips including:

  • Incentivise Bloggers
  • Give out awards/prizes
  • Flatter people
  • Pick up the phone


Some of the examples were obvious although reconfirming what I had thought for a while, where others were new and got me thinking about different ideas and how these techniques could be altered slightly.

What this session had provided that neither of the other two had was information that was actionable and could be used on our current portfolios or shared within the in-house teams. OK so not everything was new, but we can’t have everything. I came out of this session thinking that maybe we were starting to see some more advanced presentations and gave me optimism for the next session “What’s Really Important for Technical SEO?”, the session that actually made me decide to go on day 1 of SMX advanced.

Richard Baxter began the final session discussing different areas of technical SEO that needs to be looked at to provide a well rounded SEO campaign. Simple things such as pagination optimising, fixing soft 404 pages and removing duplicate content can have a big impact on your SEO and needs to be given the same attention as other aspects of your campaign.  Following on from Richard, Martijn Beijk gave another good presentation this time talking about page speed including database queries and how different servers run at varying speeds. His talked opened my eyes to how much further technical SEO could go instead of just the coding and accessibility factors that are mostly seen as technical SEO. John Mueller from Google wrapped up the sessions talking about Google’s pipeline and how they filter and schedule different aspects of websites, with some very insightful information.

After the show had ended and I was on the train home, I started to think about whether the conference could be classed as advanced? And to be honest I think that if it wasn’t for the two sessions at the end people would have been right to ask for their money back. From the reports that I read and heard regarding day 2 of SMX Advanced, it followed a similar pattern and the feedback was a mixed bag.

I am sure that when I get the opportunity to speak people will say similar things about me, which is why when I do get the opportunity I want to be able to bring something new to the table, not something that has been rehashed lots of times. I want to bring experiments whether they were successful or not, I want to try and show that new things can be done and that Advanced SEO is Advanced! I understand that with blogging most of the information is in the public domain, but surely somebody must know some new techniques or information that will get people talking in a positive way and get people thinking of other ways to improve SEO.

So how do SMX Advanced move forward to ensure that the conference can regain the stature that it had built? What can they do to make sure that the information the presenters provide is actually advanced? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject either below in the comments or on twitter here @danielbianchini

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