Going to trade events such as Ecommerce Expo can be a good way to pick up new trends, see the latest in software and services for every aspect of e-business from SEO to fulfilment. It's not for everyone - shows such as this one, which are free to enter, tend to be very commercial affairs so that 2 days of conferences and keynote speeches mean that you're in no doubt at the end, these "conferences" are thinly disguised sales pitches for the highest bidders. Nevertheless, you may well get to hear some interesting ideas, search for partnership opportunities and see demonstrations of all kinds of software from excellent to bizarre and, at the very least, you can find some inspiration for developments for your own site.
If you want SEO services, you don't have to look far. Around a quarter of the show's exhibitors were offering marketing services and these almost all contained some great claims for SEO expertise. Many presentations were devoted to the subject and the keynote speech from Google's Daniel Bernstein (who really looked like he'd picked the short straw) was well attended by those hoping to gain some grain of SEO knowledge. They'd have been disappointed and the figures given in examples were so wildly optimistic in terms of CPC, CTR and conversion that when substituted with honest figures they showed nothing more than a break-even for using Adwords - a situation that many owners of e-commerce stores are familiar with. However three things were mentioned that are worth bringing up again - they're not new or secret but simply underused by many advertisers. 1. CPA bidding (using the adwords conversion optimiser to bid for keywords on a per sale / per aquistion basis). 2. Adwords remarketing (showing adverts on the content network to users who have already viewed your products on your site - see a remarketing video here). 3. Not forgetting that the vast majority of SEO expertise is a question of reading google's guidelines.
This last point was underlined in another presentation "SEO in the real world - Avoid the myths and mystery to deliver real returns". Again, the audience was present to learn secrets and none were divulged but the most valuable point in the presentation was simply "follow google's guidlines". I don't criticise the presenter for bringing this up - most websites are penalised in one way or another - and the biggest problem is duplicate content. Use google to search for blocks of content on your site and on the internet that are identical. If you find duplicate content, make changes. It is such a simple step and one that can reap rewards. The general approach recommended was "fix the problems first" and I certainly agree with this. If your site is not being penalised in any way, you're in the minority and you already have an advance on the competition. Other than these points, every SEO company at the show had variations of link building, copy writing and "article submission". While none of these should be criticised, they are invariably spammy. The real conclusion here is that if you want great links to your site, you need great content and goodwill and the only way to do this is to work on it yourself. If you're a large organisation, do it internally, if you are smaller work with an agency but without your input, it really doesn't work. That was probably the biggest lesson you could learn from the show.