Last night I got back from four days in NYC at Search Engine Strategies (SES). SES is a conference that's held several times a year all over the world, where web people get together and talk about search engine optimization and related issues. I was there representing Google (!!); technically I was a speaker, I was on a Q&A panel, though I only answered one question ("What is a TLD?"). The conference was a lot of fun and I'm so glad I got to go.
It's kind of amazing how people treat you when they know you work for Google—especially at an industry event. Aside from being really excited to talk to you, they'll ask you every possible Google-related question, regardless of what you actually do for Google or whether you know anything about search/rankings. I found myself saying, "Well, I don't actually work with that product/service at all, but..." way more than "Oh yes, I know the answer to that." By the end of the week I was learning to answer questions at least somewhat usefully. There's a surprising lack of overlap between what you need to know about a product to test it, vs. what users want to ask about it...
I also met some new people (including more SEOmozzers!), and went to a bunch of great sessions. The sessions were probably the best part for me; I know these conferences are all about networking (read: getting drunk), but this was my first one, so I figure it's okay for me to start with the actual conference content, meet a few people in the sessions, and work my way up from there (especially since I'm more of a bookworm than a barfly these days). And especially since, unlike the conferences at my last job, this subject matter is actually of direct personal interest to me.
So I learned about SEO. And keywords. And creating good content. And usability as it relates to SEO (the more user-friendly it is, the more search engines will like it). And the importance of <title> tags. And linkbuilding. Et cetera, et cetera. By the end of the day I'd be really jazzed up and itching to get my hands on one of my website projects. I want to try an experiment, building a site from the ground up (which I've done before) and then employing some of these tools and methodologies that are out there to actually see what happens to it after I put it on the web (which I haven't done before; I've just put together sites, handed them off to the people who requested them, and never looked back). I want to install Analytics, use Webmaster Tools and Website Optimizer (both of which I work on, incidentally!), do keyword research, etc. It'll be a whole new side of the internet for me, which is kind of silly/ironic given that I work for Google; but a good learning experience, or so I hope.
I did go on one fairly decadent social outing—the Vintage Tub & Bath dinner party—but it's late and I'm jetlagged (I was just getting used to that NY time zone!), so I'll save my one photo for a later blog post. Vive SES!