A Conference for Self-Made Internet Millionaires

My insane speaking schedule has made it difficult for me to keep this blog up-to-date, so apologies for that. This year I’ve spoken at Internet Retailer Web Design, SMX West, Elite Retreat, AMA SEO Training Series, Web 2.0 Expo, Shop.org Marketing Workshop, Catalogue Exchange, eMetrics Summit, and now, in a few days, SMX Advanced.

However, I am going to get back up to a normal posting frequency here quite soon — especially now that my co-authors and I have finished the draft of The Art of SEO which is coming out later this year (publisher is O’Reilly).

One conference in particular I want to call out as being truly remarkable — the Elite Retreat, put on by the self-made Internet multimillionaire Jeremy Schoemaker (aka “Shoemoney”). It was an intimate gathering: Jeremy capped the attendance at 35 registrants. Many of the attendees were successful internet millionaires in their own right and were easily qualified to take the stage and offer their own session chock full of content. I felt quite privileged to be amongst them, to learn from them, as well as share some of my expertise and experience with SEO.

Also in attendance was my daughter, Chloe, owner of the Neopets Fanatic blog, who had an amazing time. She learned a lot about affiliate marketing; but even more importantly, she became inspired by the attendees’ successes. One of the first things she did when she got back home was to share her thoughts on the Elite Retreat with readers of the Huffington Post (where she has a column). It was a fitting follow-up to her earlier post about conferences being real-world learning for kids.

The super affiliates really have a secret sauce; it is so much more than hard work. They know the right places to buy traffic. They know the right people to talk to get the best offers and the best payouts. They are able to do deals that the rest of us couldn’t hope for.

The sessions covered SEO, paid search, affiliate marketing (of course!), conversion, website acquisitions, and more. Day 2 consisted of one-on-one tactical brainstorming sessions with your top choices of the previous day’s speakers (along with some concurrent session presentations). I was busy that whole day giving one-on-ones.

At the end of it (Day 3), we had a field trip to the Facebook headquarters. We got some face time (no pun intended) with some of Facebook employees who were surprisingly giving with information. Unfortunately, NDAs from Facebook and The Elite Retreat prevent me from going into any details whatsoever.

The price tag for the Elite Retreat is steep, it’s $5000, but it’s absolutely a worthwhile investment. I heartedly endorse it and think you’ll find it to be one of the best conferences you’ve ever attended. I don’t know if it could rival the TED conference, where you’d get to hobnob with folks like Bill Gates, Sergey Brin and Larry Page. But of course the Elite Retreat is a different kind of conference from that. I am hopeful to attend TED one of these years (it’s invitation-only).

I don’t know that I’d call the Elite Retreat a conference. It is more of a think tank than a bunch of interesting talking heads. And it’s a peer group. The alumni get together over the phone every week to share successes, challenges and questions in what they refer to as the Elite Retreat Mastermind Group.

There’s value to be had at traditional conferences as well, of course. Don’t stop going to them. But you should also add an event like the Elite Retreat to your conference travel schedule.