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A Conversation with Danny Sullivan

Recently I had the pleasure to talk with Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land, about Search Marketing Expo. Danny serves as Third Door Media’s chief content officer, which owns Search Engine Land and the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He maintains a personal blog called Daggle and microblogs on Twitter: @dannysullivan.

SEJ: Let’s start off with a little background.  Can you give us a quick history of how the Search Marketing Expo got started?

DS:  I’ve been doing conferences since 1999 when I was back at Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Strategies. When I went out on my own to start Search Engine Land, I wanted a conference series to continue what I had been doing.

I started the Search Marketing Expo series with the same guy that got the SES series going, Chris Elwell, who is now the president of Third Door Media. We weren’t certain at first how it would work out, but we quickly discovered that people wanted to get together and talk about search.

SEJ: SMX is a world-wide phenomenon with shows in Europe, Asia, and Australia.  Could you share some highlights from the 2012 world tour?

DS: What we do with shows outside the U.S. is work with a local partner. There is thriving activity in Australia. Our show in Israel, produced by Barry Schwartz, has grown to such a degree that it is now a full blown SMX rather than just a seminar. The London show was very exciting. Amit Singhal, the head of Google Search, came out for the London show. I don’t get to make all of the international shows, but I was at London.

In Europe, they are still trying to digest the new laws regarding cookies and privacy. Other than that, the tried-and-true practices in regards to domain names and translation of content for multilingual users are still the hot topics worldwide.

SEJ: Let’s shift a little closer to home. What, in your opinion, have been the highlights of the U.S. SMX 2012 events?    

DS:  There is a lot of interest in all of the updates Google has rolled out. It’s Panda this and Penguin that. The SEOs that come out to our shows are very interested in keeping up with that. However, a lot of our attendees aren’t impacted by those changes. Our audience is already creating great content, and they are benefiting from these changes.

People are also interested in Authorship, Schema, and meta data, so there is a lot of content focused around that. When it comes to paid search, people are still trying to find ways to contend with Google and quality scores. It may not get as much attention as it should because of the constant SEO updates.

Of course there is a huge amount of attention growing for social media. We keep seeing social growing both as a source of direct traffic and as a signal the search engines use. So, there is a lot of demand for information on how to use those tools.

SEJ: As the name implies Search Marketing Expo started with an educational focus on SEO. Each year the social media track has grown. How does social marketing impact SMX programming?

DS: Social media is impacting SMX in a couple of ways. We’ve always had sessions, if not an entire track on social media in terms of how it has an impact on search at our main SMX shows. At this point if you want to understand search marketing, you really have to understand social because there is so much crossover. We try to keep people up to speed on what’s going on in those spaces. We used to have entire tracks on link building. Social is now the new link building, so we are making sure it gets the attention it deserves.

Now, we have an entire show for Social Media Marketing. Social has become so important as its own direct source that we want to have a show devoted to how people can get more out of social for its own sake.

SEJ: What can we expect from the all social media show coming in early December to Las Vegas?

DS:  First of all, we have two fantastic keynotes. We have Del Harvey from Twitter. She is the Matt Cutts of Twitter. She oversees its safety and trust department. She is the one who determines what is spam and what’s not. She will be the person who knows what’s being done right and what’s being done wrong when it comes to getting your message out on Twitter. I’ve heard her talk before. Be ready for tons of tips in a rapid stream. For anyone who cares about Twitter, this is a keynote you won’t want to miss. She doesn’t get out and speak often.

Then we have Vic Gundotra, the Senior VP with Google+. You can think of him as the godfather of Google+.  He oversees all of Google’s social efforts. If you need to understand what Google is doing in social, he’s the man.

Either one of those speakers would get me excited, to have both of them is completely over the moon. And then, you have all of the great sessions sandwiched in between those two keynotes.

There are a lot of great sessions planned. We are trying to do more than just the typical tips and tricks for Twitter and Facebook. We are going to look at some of the smaller social network sites and the importance of blogging. We have two panels that are focusing on customer acquisition and customer service. There will also be a discussion on social commerce sites and how to make the sale.

We are also including a session on SEO for social managers. So, for this show we are flipping things around. Normally, it’s social for the SEO crowd. This session is for social media mangers to help them understand how SEO plays a role in their world.

SEJ: Looking into your crystal ball for a moment, how do you see Internet marketing shifting and changing over the next three to five years?

DS:  I think the importance of social is going to continue to grow. It’s not some flash in the pan kind of thing anymore. It has grown into a core marketing activity, much the same way search did. It’s very exciting, because I often hear from people that they are now getting more traffic from Facebook than Google.

It’s not that Google traffic somehow shrunk. If internet marketing were a pie, the Google slice didn’t get smaller and the whole pie remained the same. It’s more like now offering a super-sized pie! Hope you like pie because there’s the potential for twice as much.  Now you can get all of the same Google slice that you had been eating, and a whole new slice of social to go along with it.

Social is going to continue to be one of the busiest and most changeable areas of Internet marketing for a while. Veteran SEOs will remember that the early days of search were like that. Every week something would change. Social will continue to experience change like that until it finds its legs.

Search is continuing to evolve as well. The pace is a bit slower, but with things like the link disavow tool there will still be things to adjust to.

Some things aren’t going to change. The importance of having high-quality content will not go away.

The SMX Social Media Marketing conference will be held on December 5 and 6 at the Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.  Register by Saturday November 10 and save $300 with Early Bird rates!

Category SEO
Michelle Stinson Ross Director of Marketing Operations at Apogee Results

Michelle Stinson Ross is a digital marketing industry recognized authority on the outreach power of social media. She has worked ...

A Conversation with Danny Sullivan

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