Pick any week of the year and you’re likely to find some sort of internet marketing conference in the country you could waste a day at. Some I’ve gone to have me wishing I had a pair of those glasses with the painted eyeballs on them so I can catch up on some sleep. There have been some notable exceptions, Get Schmart this year was pretty entertaining, and the last loud and colourful NineMSN conference managed to keep me awake. While the Net: 101 Internet Marketing and Social Media Fundamentals course I went to yesterday didn’t have any light shows, I did feel like I was learning something worthwhile every couple of minutes. And I reckon the other 20-odd day ‘students’ would have agreed.

Run by 2 Sticks Digital’s Tim Martin, the course started off with a pretty comprehensive round up on how to get brilliant SEO for your brand. It’s all about offering information that people want to know, often without the catch of a sell. Martin thinks if a brand was to hire someone to do nothing else but create great keyword–aligned content for a year, with each page targeted at a micro segment of a market, their work would keep rewarding you forever. Once something is on the internet, it’s not coming down unless you let it.

“If you put out information neutrally and give it away for free,” he said, “your credibility goes up. People are always looking for the rat, looking for the catch. The trick is not to have one, people can come back a hundred times a day and never buy anything, but you get in their minds.

Martin used examples of people looking for specific shoes, cars and wines, and said that you don’t necessarily need an online checkout.  “You just need good content” he said, “because, most research happens online, but most transactions still happen offline.

Martin also believes it is essential for brands and businesses to verify their Google place listing before someone else does. At the moment, anybody can take to Google Maps, find a business address that hasn’t been verified by the owner, and take ownership of the listing themselves and upload whatever they want. Even the Commonwealth Bank has plenty of branches that aren’t verified, meaning they are only listed by default as a bank, missing out on consumers who search Google for local financial services, mortgage lenders etc.

Martin also gave a good lesson on crisis management: be careful when you fight Google because you might fan the flames. He was consulted by Ivanhoe Girls School during the school formal same-sex partner drama, and told them to take the ‘flight’ route. Don’t respond online, just let it die, because they could have made it worse by entering the social media debate. Another option in dealing with scandals is ‘flood’. Get the negative content that shows up in searches out of the way by flooding your key search terms with new positive content.

Martin also walked us through targeted Facebook and Linked In advertising. Martin’s rundown of how to deal with reviews that show up with Google listings was particularly intriguing. He called it the ‘Wild West’, a lawless landscape where you can shoot a guy in the leg (write a bad review) just because you don’t like the look of him, and it tarnishes your reputation forever.

All the talk of Google was enough to think Martin was on their payroll, but there really is no other player to consider [sorry, Bing], at least at the moment. Martin did offer one final caution to the tech giant, though, and it’s something they seem pretty aware of: “If Google doesn’t dominate social, they’re buggered. Facebook will dominate.”

It truly is the Wild West out there. What will happen next?