SMX Advanced: 2009 vs 2008

SMX Advanced 2008 took a darker turn than many people expected, and an implicit challenge came out of that: can you do an Advanced conference that’s mostly white hat? The SMX Advanced 2009 agenda gives the impression that the organizers accepted this challenge.

The biggest difference between the 2009 and 2008 conferences will be the focus on Social Media. With all the talk about Social Media & SEO today, it seems remarkable that there was no Social Media track last year. This year there are four sessions on the subject.

Another change is that this conference should be whiter. After SMX Advanced 2008 Danny Sullivan wrote:

“The conference had content that was far more blackhat than I would have liked to have seen. It had content I was embarrassed to see presented, because it is not about the type of SEO I’d like people to learn or know about. I felt sorry that I oversaw a show that may have pushed things backwards rather than forwards.

Yes, it is useful for people to understand the blackhat world. But there’s more to advanced than blackhat, and I wanted a lot more of that to be shown.” — Danny Sullivan, commenting on Lisa Barone’s excellent post SMX Advanced Goes to the Dark Side.

Last year’s most controversial session, “Give it Up,” seems to have been replaced with “SEO Vets Take all Comers” a Q&A with experts.

Thankfully they’re not repeating last year’s session on Search Marketing and the Recession. Sorry guys, but I thought this was the worst session last year, a bunch of panelists debating the definition of recession and whether or not we were in one. A session about how we should adjust to the economic climate might have been useful, but I’m fine with using the slot for other sessions.

They repositioned Rand Fishkin again. I first met Rand at an SES in Chicago when I left my session in the middle (something I rarely do, but man was that session a dud) and walked into a different Standing Room Only session where Rand and friends were entertaining everyone in a panel about Link Building / Link Bait. They keep inviting Rand back, but for other topics. Last year it was Bot Herding and Analytics. This year they have him doing SEO Ranking. Don’t know why he’s not on Link Building and Social Media panels.

Maybe the biggest difference: Last year’s front page for the conference showed Matt Cutt’s with glasses and Danny Sullivan without. This year it’s the opposite. Whoa! Deep. Check it out: 2008 page vs 2009 page. It’s like they swapped as part of some well orchestrated plot from a bad sitcom so we’d hound Danny and leave Matt alone.

Well, those seem to be the big differences. I hope to get to more of Vanessa Fox’s developer sessions this year. I’m glad that once again I’m going with a teammate because there really are a bunch of timeslots where I’d like to be at more than one session.

For the second straight year, SMX Advanced is the only conference I’m attending, and I’m excited about it again.

See (some of) you Monday!

Related post: SMX Advanced: Black and White