If you're like most marketers, you try to make at least a little time each week to read industry blogs and the latest research in order to stay current. Still, nothing gets creative ideas flowing and imparts knowledge like immersing yourself in a group of like-minded, skilled professionals at an Internet marketing conference.

Personally, I still love attending real-world marketing events, and this year, I'm more than doubling my company's budget for sending my employees to conferences--here's why:

  1. Increasing Skills and Knowledge: Marketers have increasingly recognized the need to break down silos and collaborate more effectively with teammates and external agency partners, in order to make better use of cross-channel data. The best Internet marketing conferences are feeding this need for cohesion with multichannel marketing training that spans content marketing, PPC, social media, SEO, and more.
  2. Networking: Relationship building is incredibly important in online marketing, so I always try to schedule meetings with friends and experts in the industry in the conference city. Conferences are also an opportunity to meet people you might not have met in person. Take advantage of organized networking events at the conference venue, and be sure to stop by and chat with any tool or software vendors. You never know when you might be introduced to a tool, company, or agency that could make your business run smoother.
  3. Parties! Most attendees will tell you that the informal networking that happens at after-conference parties is where real business relationships are made. I'm not exactly the party type but still make the effort to go out to parties hosted either by the conference, its partners, or companies in attendance.

Given your limited time (and probably budget), make sure each Internet marketing conference you attend this year is worth the investment. Here are seven events I'm planning on attending this year:

7. Pubcon--New Orleans, Las Vegas, Austin, and More

Pubcon has an excellent reputation for expert speakers and killer after-parties; it's definitely a behemoth in terms of attendance and the variety of topics covered.

In a recent interview, conference organizer Brett Tabke told me he plans on hosting smaller, regional events in the coming year. This is great news for conference attendees seeking a more intimate environment, in which you can better focus on relationship building and meeting new people.

Watch for Pubcon events in New Orleans this March and Fort Lauderdale in April.

6. ClickZ Live

ClickZ Live, another premier digital marketing event, you might recognize by its former name, SES Conferences. Organizer Mike Grehan spoke with me recently about the rebranding, as the conferences have evolved from a search marketing focus to offering content on virtually every facet of online marketing.

ClickZ Live hosts conferences around the world, from Singapore to London and across North America. From March 31 to April 3, it will be in New York, followed by its Canadian conference in Toronto May 14 to 16. If you miss those, you can catch it in San Francisco in August or Chicago in November.

5. Search Insider Summit

Search Insider Summits are smaller, laser-focused events held by MediaPost.com. This year, the first of two SIS events takes place in Key Largo, Florida, April 27 to 30.

Outside of search marketing, additional events include summits for content marketing, email marketing, mobile marketing, and more. These events are a great option for marketers craving face time with influencers, major brands, and the brightest minds in their respective fields.

4. HeroConf

As the only event dedicated solely to pay-per-click marketing, HeroConf is a must-do for paid search marketers. Thirty sessions, five keynotes, and 11 networking events will keep you hopping over the three-day event this April.

HeroConf's schedule is still in the works, but the company has released some of its all-star cast of more than 50 speakers, including major players Adobe, HootSuite, Bing, Dell, and others.

3. Search Marketing Expo (SMX)

SMX, or Search Marketing Expo, holds several events each year around the globe, touching down across North America, Europe, and Australia. As the publisher of SearchEngineLand.com and MarketingLand.com, organizer Danny Sullivan, Chris Sherman, and his team at Third Door Media have their fingers on the pulse of all the latest trends in search, social, mobile, and email. Their vast knowledge of everything digital is reflected in conference programming that dives deep into both strategy and tactics, drawing the greatest speakers in the industry.

SMX San Jose in March always attracts a wealth of experienced speakers, and the networking opportunities allow you to get up close and personal. Seattle is home to SMX Advanced in June, while the New York event takes place in late September or early October.

2. MozCon

MozCon is the brainchild of Moz founder Rand Fishkin, one of the most influential and knowledgeable minds in online marketing. Held in Seattle mid-July, this event is three days of actionable advice and networking opportunities for marketers in search, social media, content, CRO, and more.

If you're a fan of Moz, you'll be happy to find the Moz team out in full force, alongside industry thought leaders from Distilled, Seer Interactive, The New Yorker, Brain Traffic, and more. One thing you'll love about Moz is the forward-looking focus; this is a great event to help you prepare for upcoming trends.

1. GrowCo

While not technically a digital marketing conference, Inc.'s GrowCo is a three-day crash course in growing your business, with guidance from business leaders, entrepreneurs, best-selling authors, and other industry leaders. From May 20 to 22 in Nashville, GrowCo attendees will be immersed in practical knowledge for developing a vision, managing a team, creating a brand, marketing more effectively, and more.

Last year, Richard Branson wowed the audience with a fantastic, inspirational keynote. Sign up to receive the conference lineup and schedule as it becomes available.

I'm hoping to attend most of the above conferences, plus a few regional events this year. If you see me or another member of the WordStream team, please come say hello!