My First Affiliate Summit Experience

I know, I know. I’ve been an affiliate for over a decade now [I'm not old, I'm not old]… how have I not attended an Affiliate Summit before? I must have been asked that question thirty times this week.

I really don’t know… I think because I’ve always been an organically focused affiliate, I’ve tended to mingle within the SEO community more than the affiliate community.

That said, I was asked to speak at ASE, had always wanted to attend the conference and figured now was the time to pop that cherry.

The Organizers

I was actually impressed with how well the conference was organized. Aside from a lack of a “schedule at a glance” in the conference bags (maybe we were blind), it was a well oiled machine. Check in lines were short even though the place was packed. Missy Ward and Shawn Collins were on hand and mingling up a storm with any attendee who wanted to meet them. And it was the first conference I’ve ever attended where I didn’t hear a single complaint about the WiFi.

The People

First, let me say that Affiliate Summiters are a very attractive group of people on a overall whole. ;-) Secondly, from all the folks I talked to, PPC is definitely the weapon of mass choice for these conference attendees. I’d say one out of every fifteen people I spoke with was a primarily organic affiliate. The average age was also much younger than any other tech conference I’ve ever attended (not saying that’s a bad thing, just saying).

The Expo Hall

You’d have thought there was money falling from the sky in the expo hall based on how packed it was. I’ve seen an expo hall with that many merchants before, but I’ve never seen one that large that was literally packed to the rafters. It was almost impossible to walk there were so many people. And while SEO conferences have increasingly reduced swag giveaways over the last few years, it seemed that every single merchant with a booth was giving away swag at ASE – and nice stuff too!

Some of the merchants were a bit, uh, on the shady side. But, all the big players were there, including CJ, Google Affiliate Network, Linkshare and the like. I had some good conversations, found some interesting programs and was able to get faces to match the names of folks I’ve been receiving support from via the networks over the years.

I won’t lie – at first I was like, who charges 100 bucks just to get into an expo hall (that was the cost if you didn’t have a regular conference pass and ONLY wanted to hit the expo hall)? After seeing the expo hall, the free drinks flowing and the networking going on within it, I can say that I honestly get it now.

My Session

I spoke on an Organic SEO site review panel along with Michael Gray, Michael Streko, Frank Watson and Chris Pearson – who “moderated” ;-) the panel. The room was packed with people standing at the door for most of the session. To be honest, I think we made a great panel, because all of us on it are affiliates ourselves, with almost all of us earning our primary full time livings off the trade.

In addition to being very experienced with building out successful affiliate sites, we’re all also very experienced with SEO. I think it helped us look at sites in a way that even a good SEO, who doesn’t have heavy experience in the affiliate realm, wouldn’t have been able to. It’s an affiliate conference, but an SEO panel. I hope we brought some additional value to those in attendance because of our combination of experience and success with both realms. I love doing site clinics – I love thinking on my feet.

The Parties

First, let me admit that I hate the “exclusive gatherings” parties a lot of merchants put on. That goes for every conference, not just Affiliate Summit – where they only invite 200 people (and usually the same people) and want to seem exclusive and elite. I hate elitist bullshit and don’t think I’ve attended one of those in a long time. I’m at a conference to network with folks I don’t know, not reciprocally back pat those I do.

That said, I wasn’t there for the entire conference, so I have no idea how many “open” parties there were. But I did attend one party, which was open to anyone who went to their booth and grabbed an invite – the Shareasale party.

It was held on the roof of the Empire Hotel, drinks – both beer and liquor – were served free of charge for four hours, there was a DJ, plenty of areas for the smokers and it was a really, really good time. Shareasale definitely earned some good will with me via being generous enough to host it and they’ll be getting more business from me in the future. It was really well done.

Overall

To be honest, I had a damn good time. It was good getting out of my conference comfort zone and Missy and Shawn put on a damn good show. Hopefully I’ll be asked to return for another site clinic during the next ASE. ;-)

About Rae Hoffman

Rae Hoffman aka "Sugarrae" is an affiliate marketing veteran and the CEO of PushFire, a search marketing agency specializing in SEO audits and link building strategies. She is also the author of the often controversial Sugarrae blog. You can connect with Rae via Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

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