Search Engine Boot Camp in Auckland

What a week!
Yesterday, two days after the Presentation Zen workshop, I went to
Search Engine Boot Camp in Auckland.

I enjoyed this conference and hey, it was at the Hilton on Auckland Harbour. The views! The beef fillet!
Now, I know this blog entry looks like a boring and dutiful list of presentation topics, which you could have got straight from the Search Engine Boot Camp site. My perhaps too subtle intention is to show how the focus of search engine optimisation has changed in the last six years:

  • from free to paid search results
  • from one-way PR manipulation to managing unpredictable swarms of public opinion on Web 2.0
  • from trying to outwit search engines to saying thanks for all the help.

It's still the wild west out there, so it's still a lot of fun. SEO is no place for the faint-hearted. Go Barry!

I was quite startled at the shift in audience and focus since the first time I'd presented at a Search Engine Strategies conference in Sydney 2002.

Sydney 2002: the audience was largely male, the industry was packed with cowboys, and people kept asking,

Yes I know you have to you say that but really, (nudge nudge wink wink) what dirty little trick will get my business straight to the top of search results?

What did we talk about in 2002? If I remember rightly -- and why would I? -- there were sessions on the differences between the major search engines and directories. (Remember Excite? Inktomi? This was before they all started swallowing each others' tails.) Metatags for sure. Spammy things. And many topics related more to web content management than SEO.

In 2008, worlds away. Despite this being a boot camp, the audience was highly professional, and nearly half were female, I reckon. One of the bad boys had hung up his spurs, but he still had a glint in his eye, and Barry Smyth still kept things trotting along.

Only two of our topics straddled the last six years: SEM Fundamentals (Paul Webster, Google) and Copy writing for SEO (my topic, naturally). Even Researching keywords and Building search-friendly websites are topics that have necessarily changed along with tools and technologies.

Sense the larger changes, but. Several speakers dealt with aspects of paid search, including Writing Ads that convert. A Google Analytics Workshop from Rod Jacka, Panalysis showed us the wonders of some free Google webmaster tools: why try to outwit Google when Google is the optimiser's best friend?

The impact of Web 2.0 on search engine marketing is enormous, and Boot Camp tackled the topic head on.

  • Simon Young of iJump talked about using social media to promote your visibility in search results.
  • Jason West of WebSalad discussed reputation management: it's no longer a case of one-sided self-promotion, but of damage control when other people push your name to unwanted prominence in search results.
  • I missed a session on optimising for Web 2.0 technologies but I bet that was interesting too.

Link Building Fundamentals (Jason West, WebSalad) is a topic that has largely outgrown its dubious past. Universal Search and Local Search (Jacqui Jones, Netconcepts) and The Best SEO Practices for Mobile & Local Search are two more talks I missed.

Check out the agenda while it's still online. And next time there's a Search Engine Boot Camp near you, enlist if you are half interested.


Jul 08, 2008 • Posted by Simon Young

Hi Rachel, thanks for the summary, and sorry I didn’t get to really catch up with you. Meant to say that your book, Web Word Wizardry, was my introduction to the wonderful world of web writing. I bought it from (remember them?) all those years ago … in 2000.

Jul 08, 2008 • Posted by rachel

Hi Simon. I do remember, NZ’s first daring online bookstore, along with those old search engines. Eight years is a lifetime on the Web and yet so many people mention that old book that I wish I had named my new one “Web Word Wizardry 2.0” instead of the forgettable but accurate new “Better Business Writing on the Web”. It’s still wizardry, just a different bunch of tricks.

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