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Our plane touched down on the tarmac on a rare sunny day in Seattle. It was a sign of things to come, as the next 72 hours would prove to be a warm, glowing ball of knowledge (kidding). The SMX Advanced conference happens annually in the Emerald City and this would be my first time checking it out. A 3-day barrage of seminars, forums and meeting others in the industry from across the globe, it’s one of the biggest gatherings in the field. Within an hour of landing, we found ourselves on an open rooftop with an open bar overlooking downtown and the Puget Sound. The stickers on people’s suits and blouses displayed companies that are the powerhouses of the SEO world, and I knew we were at an elite conference right away.  After passing out several dozen business cards and stuffing my pockets with others, a few of us headed to a delicious dinner at Red Fin Sushi.

The real Seattle showed itself on the first full day of the conference, with heavy drizzle and a balmy 52 degree temperature.  The conference itself was packed with over 600 attendees and dozens of speakers from the top of the profession. Big names such as Danny Sullivan, Vanessa Fox, Rand Fishkin and many more were featured presenters throughout the conference. One of the coolest perks of the conference was the “Birds of a Feather” luncheons that were included. You could select a topic you were interested in from a list and the max size was 11 people. A full buffet was included with grilled marlin, Jamaican jerk chicken and roast beef on the chopping block. Amazing food…. but the focus was on the discussion during the lunch. I randomly selected “Lunch with a Google Engineer”, and was lucky enough to be seated with Christina Chen, a lead engineer of Webmaster Tools. She had some really valuable info on the latest trends and tips and was really open and transparent. The biggest surprise of the week was when Matt Cutts, Google’s director of search, joined our table. We grilled him on the latest in SEO and tried to glean info from him, but he was used to it and didn’t accidentally leak Google’s secret algorithm. After the sessions ended for the day, the crowd migrated to the Olympic Sculpture Park for an epic after-party thrown by Bing. Theophilus London, a rapper from Brooklyn, got the crowd going all night. Maker’s Mark whiskey was flowing too, which was both delicious and dangerous.

The second day of the conference had a more relaxed feel, with lots of Q&A sessions and free discussions. We learned a lot about the recent Panda updates and upcoming ones (yes, there are many more coming), as well as Bing’s ambitious ideas to battle Google for a larger share of the search market. After the conference, SEOMoz threw another huge party at The Garage, a giant bar with a built-in bowling alley. Good times. The SMX Advanced was full of great presentations, valuable takeaways and (maybe most importantly) amazing networking. Until next year…

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