On January 15, 2012 I will kick off aimClear’s intense 2012 conference speaking schedule by moderating and presenting at SMX Israel 2012.  I am honored to say the least. The venue is the Inbal Hotel, one of the finest hotels in all of Jerusalem, located near the Old City and Liberty Bell Park. The sessions will be programmed and hosted by our good friend and Conference Chair Barry Schwartz (@RustyBrick). You’ll find the agenda and registration information over at SMX. There’s still plenty of time to plan and we hope to see you there.

Barry is the Executive Editor of the Search Engine Roundtable, the News Editor of Search Engine Land, former News Editor at Search Engine Watch and the President of RustyBrick, a web development firm based in New York. Barry is often cited in publications such as Forbes, Reuters, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Bloomberg, News.com, Publish and more.  Simply put, Barry is a consensus pioneer of the online marketing news space as we know it.

Over the last few years, this Israeli Israeli marketing conference has evolved from relatively informal annual gatherings to arguably the premier Middle Eastern search and social conclave. How that came to be is a cool story. Recently I had a chance to interview Barry about SMX Israel, his brainchild.  Here’s what he had to say!

Q (Marty): SMX Israel has now spun from SphinCon to a deeper conference. How did the Jerusalem event morph from a smaller regional gathering to become a fuller Search Marketing Expo offering?

A: (Barry) It is interesting.  This all started when I blogged that I was coming to Israel for my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah about five years ago.  A bunch of folks from the SEM industry contacted me that they wanted to get together. It turned out to be a group of about 150 people, so we met up at a local university.  Since it was supposed to be just a networking event and because Sphinn was about the SEM community, we named it SphinnCon.  Over the years it has evolved and grown to about 500 people, a full day event, 3 tracks going on at once and into a real SMX conference.  Yes, we do not charge what a SMX event normally charges but the content, speakers and food – is all up to the caliber of a true SMX event.

Q: How is the online marketing professional community in Israel differ from the rest of the world? How is it the same?

A: It is very much the same as around the world.  The same friendly, sharing and giving people can be found here in Israel that you find all around the world.  There is a high level of search marketers in Israel, relative to other countries.

In a country smaller than the state of New Jersey, we are able to bring together 500 or so search marketers into the same room.  In Israel, maybe the SEMs as a whole are a bit more likely to take risks.  Many of the SEOs here do specialize in the more competitive fields, compared to other regions as a percentage.  But overall, I find the Israeli community very much the same as others around the world.

Q: What is the focus of this year’s conference?  What are your hopes for this year, compared to others?

A: Like with every conference, we try to learn from what we did right and improve on that.  We’ve learned that people like more options, more selection and more specialty talks.  We’ve added sessions on Google Panda, we’ve added a session on the more aggressive side of SEO.  We also added sessions for In House SEMs and Legal topics in search.  We also are lucky to bring back a native Israeli, who speaks Hebrew and works on the Google Search Quality team. Oh, did I mention, we are lucky to have the brightest mind in social marketing come and lead a panel on Google+, Facebook and Twitter?

Q: What does the Israeli online marketing community hunger for? What needs does this conference fulfill that, were unmet prior?

A: That is a good question.  I think they don’t really hunger for anything, in that, the Israeli mentality is really an independent one.  Just look at what Israeli’s have done with the country in the 63 years or so they have statehood.  What I am proud to help the search community do in Israel is create a unified event that helps the industry, in Israel, feel part of this community and network and learn from each other. But trust me, they do not need me to fulfill something they feel they need.  Someone else would stand up and make it happen, that is just how Israelis are.

Q: What do you feel when you hang out in Jerusalem? What does it mean to you personally to be in the holy land?

A: It is hard to describe – there is a feeling of belonging and connection.  I am honored to be in a position to bring a little something back to this land.  Being that I live in New York, visiting Israel once a year and helping the industry meet in Jerusalem, is a true honor.

Q: How do you choose the speakers for SMX Israel?  What do you look for in speakers? Is there a pitch process?

A: We have a pitch process, where I announce the “call for speakers” and have them fill out an online survey.  Then I have my set of “advisers,” who are Israeli marketers vote on those speakers.  Ultimately, I make the final decision on who speaks.  I look for experience, presentation materials and if they are funny – it is a plus.  Giving new speakers a chance, is important to me also.

Q: What are the top three reasons for locals to attend the conference? Should those from other corners of the world, including the United States, consider attending SMX Israel?

A: (1) Learning from an Israeli online marketer is nothing else.  They have a way of thinking about the strategies and techniques that is unique to the country.  (2) The price is relatively low for an SMX, so you can spend money on the flight and the ticket and it comes out to be about the same as going to an SMX event in the states.  (3) Do I really need to convince people they should check out the most historic and holiest places on the earth? I mean, they can even write it off as a business expense. 🙂

Jerusalem hotel photos courtesy of Inbal Hotel
Header Picture: © Dejan Gileski – Fotolia . com
Additional Pictures Compliments Of SearchEngineRoundTable

  • Liz

    Great post. Looking forward to attending (and sponsoring, as RapidFire Consulting) this year’s SMX in Jerusalem. See you there!