Note to middle sized companies that have exhibit staff – you’d probably be surprised to see them in action. Although I’m usually impressed by the people from Google and Yahoo who are typically well informed, enthusiastic, and polite, many of the technology exhibit folks seem poorly informed about the marketplace and too focused on their own pitch and “sale”.
I’d guess that the return on investment is negative for all but a few exhibitors, though perhaps the leads they get at an event like SES San Jose – the world’s top Search related conference – are golden and therefore hugely valuable?
The good news for me is that I now understand *very* clearly that outsourcing any search optimization I want to do would probably be a waste. Some of these places don’t even keep up with the freshest SEO news from Matt , WMW , or even SES. There are some exceptions to this SEO ignorance by SEO companies. I’m always very impressed with Bruce Clay . His approaches reflect recent SEO information. Bruce is always very well informed and helpful even to non-clients. Another exception would be freelance guys like Aaron Wall of SEObook fame. However, I’d say there are only a few hundred people in the world who know enough about SEO to make their insight more valuable than, for example, a clever high schooler who spends a few days absorbing information from Matt Cutts, the Google Guidelines, and Danny Sullivan posts. I’m increasingly skeptical that time spent at WMW and SES forums does more than create noise and confusion. This idea was supported even at a conference party by comments from the real engineers at MSN and Google who post at WMW as “MSNdude” and “GoogleGuy”.