23rd February 2009

This year’s Elite Retreat was every bit as good as last years, and again, i’m really glad I chose to attend.  It was great to see some friends from last year, and I also met some really amazing new attendees. Once again, I feel like I learned almost as much from other attendees as I did from the speakers.

I made it to the airport in plenty of time, and just two minutes before boarding, they announced that we were still waiting for the plane from SFO, and we had an estimated one hour delay before boarding. I’m not sure how that wasn’t known sooner, but it wasn’t.

We finally got underway after more delays on our runway in PDX, and then circling in SFO too. It seems the problem is that they just don’t know what to do when it rains in California.

Since my plane was so late, I got found by the limo driver while I was wandering in baggage claim, and he took me to my hotel, where I changed and unpacked, caught up on email for an hour, and headed to the “Meet and Greet” pre-event.

The “Meet and Greet” was in a cordoned off section of the bar at the Vitale hotel. There were about 20 people there when I arrived, but others rolling in over the next three hours, as SFO airport got caught up.

There was a nice spread of food, with some hot pork sandwiches, and some killer cheese & coldcut plates, and of course an open bar. Near the end of the event they added bowls of hot almonds with crispy chopped garlic that were really amazing. I think I actually may have eaten a whole bowl full!

Besides the speakers and attendees, there were a few other invited (by Shoemoney) guests there, and I got to meet and talk with the CEO of Affiliate.com ) Scott Richter who was sponsoring the Meet & Greet. I also had a great conversation with the CEO of Triggitt.com too, Zachary Coelius.

I used to use Triggitt in it’s old form, but it’s a completely different product now – offering a floating toolbar of sorts for site owners. (Don’t ask – I’m not sure either, and we’ll just have to go check it out)

I also ran into Todd Malicoat, who was a presenter in the very first Elite Retreat, but was leaving for SEO Blackhat in Rio, so couldn’t stay this year. I’m sure he’s pretty disappointed… :)

Each day started with a great breakfast, followed by great presentations and leaning, then an open bar by 11, then a fantastic lunch, then some more presentations, then a networking / cocktail reception at the end of the sessions, and finally by walking nearby to a different gourmet restaurant each night and eating in private dining rooms. totally first class all the way.

Neil Patel
Neil was the first speaker, and talked about leveraging social media, and gave a well thought out presentation that had some specific suggestions for your Ecommerce, Service sites, social Sites and affiliate sites.

Some of the action items he suggested will immediately benefit nearly half of my client sites, with potential uses for all, assuming I can get them to buy into the idea of participation.

Nearly everything Neil suggested was creative, imaginitive and legitimate, and It wasn’t even until his Q&A that the subject came up of dealing with banned IP addresses, and multiple user accounts.

Kris Jones -
CEO and founder of Pepperjam, gave his presentation about “Affiliate Marketing Search Arbitrage”, and began by saying that “Inspiration is short lived” and went on to say he was planning to give us specific action items, and he didn’t fail to deliver.

He gave a great talk, stressing importance of tracking, and going into some very specific details about identifying the most profitable and best converting keywords.

He also discussed having a strategic PPC account structure, determining your profit / loss down to keyword level, identifying and capitalizing on trends, and then gave some specifics for improving your Adwords quality Score through what he calls, “Quality Score Optimization”.

Stephen Spencer -
I was one of the people that asked Jeremy if he would invite Stephen Spencer to speak at Elite Retreat this year, because I thought he was one of the only other SEO’s in the world that could possibly contribute as much as Aaron Wall did last year.

That’s why I was disapointed when he went next, knowing that lunch was coming up in an hour. Just like with most of Stephens presentations I’ve ever seen, there wasn’t enough time for him to get though it all.

He had specific things to say and show about some advanced SEO techniques both on-page and off. He cited examples, screen shots and action items, and with my copy of his 103 slides I really did learn and get clarification on a few things.

I suspect that the level of detail Stephen put into some of the SEO stuff was excruciatingly dull for some of the PPC guys that don’t really “get” SEO, and who don’t build out sites beyond landing pages.

Also, Stephen REALLY did push the squeaky white hat image a bit too far, as he put on his tin foil hat (his words) about what Google knows and tracks. I know of at least one person who thought it was over the top – I really enjoyed our talk at dinner, Dave – and thanks a lot for your perspective, and I’d really love to work with you someday.

Also, I KNOW that there were people there that just had no interest in the finer details of thinks like site architecture and sculpting page rank, but I could have listened to Stephen all day, and felt a bit shortchanged by him having to blast through his slides in an hour.

Andy Liu -
As a venture capitalist, Andy talked about finding and structuring the deals for buying sites and businesses, which is not a space I’m going to play in any time soon. However, that didn’t take away from the fascinating processes he discussed, and while I didn’t personally get much actionable information, I learned a lot about how the game is played, and it’s pretty damn fascinating.

Chris Winfield -
Until this week, I had no idea the level of press coverage that Chris Winfield has had in the past. The number of times he’s been menioned or quoted in various publications is staggering, and he’s very open about the positive effect that’s had on his business.

Chris gave a totally fantastic presentation on PR, and he talked about how to get the press to notice you, where to get in touch with the press you’re after, attracting their attention the “right” way, and about formulating a detailed game plan to do it right.

Great information combined with some of the snazziest Powerpoint slides I’ve ever seen, I had to give Chris’s presentation a 10

Garry Vee -
This guy is amazing, and I just can’t say enough about what a motivating and inspirational guy he is. If you want to get an idea what his talk was like, go watch his keynote at Affiliate Summit then imagine talking with him in a room of 30 people for two hours, asking any question that comes to mind.

He gave a short “speech” sort of like the AFF Summit one, and then let us have at him for two hours. It was definitely an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life, although it did sort of suck that he bailed on coming to dinner with us.

Jeremy Shoemaker – Shoeoney
The second day began with Jeremy giving a short talk, then showing us actual campaigns from actual domains, and cutting to the chase about his findings via multivariate testing. It was a rare glimpse into what goes on behind the scenes at a few actual revenue generating projects, and it was really pretty surprising that he shared that level of detail.

He did an amazing job of putting this all together, and I can only hope he does it again next year.

The rest of the day was devoted to one on one talks, and I took advantage by speaking to Stephen spencer, Kris Jones, and Shoemoney about my monetization and distribution plans for SEO automatic.

During the one on one sessions, which lasted all day, there was plenty of networking going on, as well as speaking appearances by Intel’s director of social networking, Michael Brito, and Brian Norgard, the Vice President of Myspace Myads.

Both of their appearances were excellent and informative, and it definitely helped fill the void that was created last year during the one on one sessions, were we had nothing to do but network and get in line for the next one.

On the other hand, last year in just four hours I had time to speak to every panelist, whereas this year, I could only talk to three, and had to miss the other three completely. If I have one “complaint”, that would be it.

Also during the day, DK a famous chiropractor in San Diego took on the role of Julie from The Love Boat, and helped keep us focused on (semi) productive activities that interested everyone. Many thanks also to Tigh, and to Briena for keeping things running smoothly.

I’m sure there are others to thank for helping, and I’m sorry if I’m forgetting anyone. If anyone can remember someone else, please DM me and I’ll slide them in seamlessly to this post.

All in all, attending Elite Retreat has been my highlight of 2009 so far, and I highly recommend that anyone serious about their Internet marketing career plan to attend the 2010 Elite Retreat if they have another one. It’s also the “conference that keeps on giving” through our weekly mastermind group teleconferences, which I’m really looking forward to again this year.

Don’t just take my word for it though… Check out the buzz on Twitter from other attendees and organizers.

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    4 Responses to Elite Retreat 2009 is History

    1. Great write-up of a great event. Nice to meet you there!

    2. knofun says:

      nice writeup scott great to see you at elite retreat always good to see the search commander

    3. andrew wee says:

      Hey Scott,
      I saw shoemoney tweet abt your post and came over.

      Great synopsis and great to see you got a lot of actionable takeaways from the event.

    4. slaven says:

      Thanks Scott, great write-up as always. Sometimes I learn more from your summaries than I do from my notes!

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