Sharing 10 Years Of #SESCHI Milestones, Memories & Momentous Occasions


The SES conference series has always been a quintessential American conference for industry newbies and old pros. Since 2003, this annual conclave has featured an array of empowering content ranging from beginner to advanced tracks. This year again there are sessions for many nooks and cranny of the industry including SEO, paid search, display, social media, email, analytics, and business management.

In honor of SES Chicago’s 10th birthday this year, we decided to to recap some of the industry’s greatest happenings, through the #SESCHI lens.  While there are obviously more, here are some representative industry evolutions, memories & momentous occasions we learned about here,which  remind us why we keep coming back. We’ll also share which speakers have spoken at every one of the 10 SES Chicago events! Thank you to Greg Jarboe for helping us out with this post.


2003: The first time SES was held in the Windy City.

At this point, SES was still called Search Engine Strategies, and the keynote speaker was Steve Berkowitz, President of Ask Jeeves. Berkowitz is now the Chief Executive Officer at Move, Inc., an online real estate web site. When Jeeves was retired in 2006, the company was renamed

2005: A star (YouTube!) is born! The session, Video Search for Search Engine Watch, featured speakers Suranga Chandratillake, Co-Founder and CTO of blinkx; Karen Howe, Vice President of AOL Search, and General Manager of Singingfish, America Online, Inc.; and John Thrall, Head of Multi-Media Search Engineering at Yahoo! Search. As YouTube had just come out of beta in December of 2005, the session included only video search engines, not video sharing sites. Just a month later in January 2006, YouTube had skyrocketed past every video search engine and sharing site out there. Holy moly!


2006: AIMCLEAR‘s first year at SES Chicago! Needless to say, Marty Weintraub, AIMCLEAR Founder & Evangelist, was impressed enough to start AIMCLEAR blog and inspired to become an SES regular speaker and attendee.

2007: Keynote speaker Seth Godin shared his thoughts on how marketers can avoid “meatball sundaes” as they expand their messaging to new channels including social media.

In addition, there was a bit of controversy over site maps this year. In an interview with WebProNews, Danny Sullivan discussed how up to this point, site maps had been around for over a year and search engines had supported automatic discovery of them for several months. Danny mentioned how “Andrew Goodman put it well when he said from the audience: Why do them?” We know now that site maps can be useful for indexing, but it all depends on the site. When asked when he thought site maps would become trustworthy, when you could guarantee URLs would be there, Danny was cautiously optimistic that by the end of the next year, 2008, this would be the case.

2008: (cue presidential trumpet music!) SES Chicago was held at the Hilton Chicago, and president-elect Barack Obama was also at the Hilton from December 8-12 to hold a press conference to announce who he planned to name to his Cabinet. This year in particular was a blast for the AIMCLEAR folk who got a chance to hang in the Obama suite! 😉

Universal search was also a hot topic. Dr. Larry Cornett, former VP of Consumer Products at Yahoo! Search, discussed the biggest changes in the previous two years at Yahoo Search.  Yahoo’s efforts were centered around bringing a richer and more engaging search experience to the user by bringing a lot more content into the search page itself, including rich data and structured data that helped users complete their task. New tools at the time included Search Monkey, which allowed publishers and developers to provide Yahoo with information about the structured content on their site and tell Yahoo what the representation in search should be in order to create search monkey applications that the user could see to provide rating information, street address, phone number, etc. This was part of the strategy to help users find what they’re looking for. In 2008, Yahoo’s plans for the next 5-10 years included working on the open ecosystem to allow publishers and developers to collaborate more openly with Yahoo with applications such as Search Boss.


2009: SES broke out the Christmas list and asked speakers, exhibitors, and attendees what they wanted Google to bring them for Christmas. The video, Searching for Santa at SES Chicago 2009, captures everyone’s hopes and wishes for the year, including Google Beer.

A few of the bigger developments included the release of new features in Google Analytics, including the Intelligence section, Custom Alerts, Annotations, and Multiple Custom Variables. Google Analytics has come a long way since then, but it’s impressive to look back just four years ago to see how much our industry continues to transform.

Jeff Jarvis’ keynote, What Would Google Do?, explored the new link economy that was beginning to take form in 2009, emphasizing that content must be searchable in order to be found and offering various other tips for evolving away from the old “content economy.”

At the last session of the conference this year, cool guy Matt McGowan won some new friends by taking the crowd out of the conference center and to the bar! What. A. COOL way to end the conference!

2010: Previously held in December every year, this was the first year SES Chicago was held in October. A ghoulish time it was, held right before Halloween on October 18-22. This was a nice change from the usual frozen tundra and chilly wind tunnels that come with Chicago in December.

Keynote Avinash Kaushik shared the essentials to success in search marketing, with the five main components being keyword discovery, keyword management and analytics, keyword bidding and optimization, website and landing pages, and business outcomes. Avinash reveled, “It is astonishing to realize the offline impact of search marketing.” And so it remains today.

Google announced Google TV at SES Chicago in 2010. Google TV is a smart TV platform that was developed by Sony, Intel, and Logitech that integrates the Google Chrome browser with the Android OS to provide an interactive television experience. Here’s a video with the breaking news, Introducing Google TV and optimizing sites for TV at SES Chicago 2010.

2011: News to write home (or tweet) about this year included content, the idea of social as a community, web analytics as a to-do list, and of course, Panda! Back when Google first rolled out Panda in February 2011, most search marketers had no idea what hit them. With Penguin and now Hummingbird under our belts, looking back at tips for surviving Panda now recalls memories of surprise, horror, elation, or apathy, depending on how your site was impacted. Ultimately, it all boils down to search engines trying to provide the best results for the user. Greg Nudelman, CTO of Design Caffeine, and Jaimie Sirovich, CTO of SEO Egghead, shared tactical takeaways for dealing with the Panda update, leaving us with the realization that we marketers must continue to focus on user AND Panda experience, and that Panda should in some form be considered a “demographic.”

2013: Oh, what a year! SES Chicago is about to kick off, and so much has happened in the industry this year, we can’t wait to see what’s in store for us. From Hummingbird to Instagram ads to Vine Twitter website analytics to the continuing importance of Google+, not to mention the advent of Google Glass, SES Chicago 2013 oozes promise.


We’re sure we’ll walk out of SES Chicago 2013 with a whole new perspective, armed with some new industry tidbits and knowledge that will make 2013 a year to remember, and a milestone to track for years to come. With that, we leave you to reflect on SES Chicago’s storied journey through the years, and we wait impatiently for the conference to begin!

Who Spoke At All Ten?
Mike Grehan, Greg Jarboe, Dana Todd, Shari Thurow, Anne Kennedy, Kevin Lee, and Bill Hunt have all spoken at each of the 10 previous SES Chicago conferences. These guys know all the juicy details, breakthrough developments, and hotspots that have defined SES Chicago.  If YOU spoke at all ten and you’re not on this list, please chime in!

Staying current with industry developments isn’t the only reason AIMCLEAR attends SES conferences in cities across the world every year. The other reason we never miss an SES is…all of YOU (and this week, the deep dish pizza)! We always have a blast mingling with our friends at cocktail parties, dinners, bars, and breakfast meetings, leaving the conference feeling satisfied and happy to have made a few new friends. We have forged lasting relationships with SES folks, attendees and speakers over the years, and we wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Let’s hear from you. What are some of the most memorable times you have had at SES conferences in the past? What do you think were some of the biggest milestones?

© jovannig –
Marilyn image: Flickr ugardener
Chicago theatre – Wikipedia

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