Sad but not unexpected news in the industry today as the granddaddy of major search marketing conferences, Search Engine Strategies died quietly with no public announcement. Founded in 1999, SES brought search engines and webmasters or site-owners together. For many older members of the SEO community, myself included, SES was the space where they caught their first breaks. The conference built itself into a major three ring circus touring the globe to crowded conference centers and vibrant tradeshow floors. When the roadshow rolled into NYC, four floors of conference center floorspace was needed to hold the hundreds of vendors and booths.
The conference was started by Danny Sullivan who was also founding editor of Search Engine Watch. Sullivan left SEW and SES in a contract dispute after the online magazine and conference series was sold to Incisive Media by MecklerMedia for 43million in 2005. Danny left to form ThirdDoor Media, Search Engine Land (and ancillary publications), and the extraordinary Search Marketing Expo series. For seven years, there was a healthy rivalry between the two operations with Incisive Media and ThirdDoor complimenting each other and providing two competing platforms in the online magazine and digital conference business.
The day I knew it was over was the day Mike Grehan resigned on the spot at the start of the New York show in 2014, about ten minutes before his opening speech. SES announced their pay-to-play strategy at that show aimed at enticing brands to take the stage without pesky practitioners speaking beside them. This was done in order to increase the perceived value of the conference series in advance of a sale to French conglomerate Blenheim Chalcot.
Things sort of went to hell from that point on. Search Engine Watch has been rudderless and the ClickZ shows reduced to fulfilling contractual obligations. The granddaddy of search conferences is dead and its media publication is likely not far behind.Tweet