Skip to content

PubCon Las Vegas: Yes or No?

It’s time to talk about yet another seo conference: PubCon Las Vegas. Yet another week of travel. Yet another chance to open the overnight bag and remove the laptop, remove the little plastic bag with shampoo and shaving cream, and remove my shoes so I can shuffle through airport security in my socks (ever notice how filthy that carpet is?). Yet another sterile hotel room. Yet another “opportunity” to eat way-too-large restaurant servings and get way-too-little exercise. Here in the Pacific Northwest we define “exercise” as getting outside in the rain and wind and sun and sea breeze/mountain air, not “climb onto the exercycle in the air-conditioned hotel weight room and watch TV while sweating”. Can you tell I am weary of travel ?

Yet that is what this is… with SES, SMX, several related industry events and now PubCon, we need to seriously consider whether all this travel is worthwhile or an effective use of time. So let’s take a look at PubCon Las Vegas:

  • traditionally an SEO/SEM conference heavy on web entrepreneurship (lots of independent operators)
  • a very serious annual get-together for many experienced players in the SEO space (at the bars, not at the sessions. Many don’t even register for PubCon). Would I be invited or even aware of these gatherings?
  • bigger every year, to thousands in attendance this year (how’s that Friday Pub thing going to work with thousands of attendees?)
  • billed as “the affordable conference” , it’s still $900 registration fee, r/t airfare, and 5 days hotel and food/drinks. When you add it up, that “affordable” reg fee represents less than 20% of the total out of pocket expenses for attending

As an independent consultant, I haven’t gotten business from past PubCons. That doesn’t mean they weren’t fun or interesting, and of course PubCon represents another chance to see people from other cities. But if you don’t generate business, is it worth the cost? Remember for me it’s not about “I met so-and-so and the one tip she gave me was more more than my expenses” because I’ve already been to SES/SMX and several related conferences this year, and I interact with lots of these people behind the scenes every day.

PubCon has similar sessions to SES and SMX, although mouch more from the look of the agenda. However, they run concurrent tracks so you trade variety for accessibility. You can still only attend what you have time to attend.

Similar speakers to SES and SMX. I don’t frequent WebMasterWorld so I probably don’t appreciate the opportunity to meet the players behind the handles as much as others might.

Help me out here… why drop another 2-3 grand to attend PubCon Las Vegas this year?

Update: Looking at the PubCon agenda pages, I don’t see any Google party? I don’t see a Yahoo! party, but Yahoo! is a premium sponsor? What about MSN? I don’t see any vendor parties listed at th ePubcon site… seems odd, no? There is an SEOMoz thing, but it is listed as “unofficial” (?) and overlaps the Google “meet the engineers” thing. There was an SEOMoz party at SMX. At SES, there were a few web pages dedicated to party activity. At SMX there was a “networking” section to the website showing events and parties. At Ad:Tech NYC there was a vendor party section, with plenty of activity. Also, I see that there is a “Friday pub” pass available cheap… which means what, exactly? I always thought the Friday pub thing was “exclusive” to conference attendees. Not like there’s any shortage of things to do in Vegas, but surely there are vendor activities other than what is apparent?

Resource: There is a Search Conference Website up, but it isn’t very active yet. Perhaps it is worthy of participation by those looking to plan their conference activities?


  1. Alexander wrote:

    John I have to agree with you completely. I went to SES in San Jose and felt like it was the biggest waste of my time. Maybe I did not go to the right sessions, but it seemed to me as long as you keep your ear low to the ground that nothing that was said was a surprise or revolutionary. I think that time would have been better spent servicing my clients and thinking of new hypothesis to test. The funniest part about this is that I was coming from San Francisco, so I did not even have to deal with some of the expenses you do.

    Enjoy PubCon

    Sunday, November 18, 2007 at 1:18 pm | Permalink
  2. Blackjack. Outside. Next to the topless pool at the Wynn. These three pieces of information closed the deal for me.

    I actually don’t care about any of the conference BS at all. Time to do a little end-of-year celebrating with friends and meet up with some new ones.

    Sunday, November 18, 2007 at 5:52 pm | Permalink
  3. lucasng wrote:

    “Help me out here… why drop another 2-3 grand to attend PubCon Las Vegas this year?”

    For me it’s a bit more than $3K that to fly over from Sydney.

    However, if more people like you and Brian attend – to not only network and trade war stories – but also to kick back at Las Vegas… it might get me across the line ;)

    Sunday, November 18, 2007 at 6:49 pm | Permalink
  4. john andrews wrote:

    @Brian: sounds like you’ll have a great break from your grind, but Wynn’s pool is guests only so I won’t see you there. I wonder if Barbary Coast still has that one table of single deck…
    @lucasng: I don’t kick back in Vegas… I find it thrilling and treat it like an opportunity to participate in the crowds. I kick back in nature, and Vegas is far from “natural” lol.

    Sunday, November 18, 2007 at 7:12 pm | Permalink
  5. Lucas wrote:

    A poor choice of words conjured by Brian. My mind read: “topless blackjack pool, chillax” :P

    But you’re right, maybe Pubcon Vegas isn’t the best option if I’m looking to unwind after a long 2007! Ah well, pressing the flesh with US SEOs will have to wait.

    Monday, November 19, 2007 at 12:06 am | Permalink
  6. Merrick wrote:

    Golf in Vegas would be one way to get outdoors. Hope to see/meet you there.

    Monday, November 19, 2007 at 12:14 am | Permalink
  7. Lee Odden wrote:

    Outside of the fun aspect of being in Vegas and seeing SEM industry friends, Events like Pubcon are good for networking future marketing partners, employees and consulting gigs with in-house SEOs that need an extra hand or strategic advice.

    Conferences of any kind are always good for generating content and social networking which is especially helpful for us since that’s all we do to market ourselves.

    On top of all that, I think the tactical nature of Pubcon can be a good venue for newer SEOs for education. However, Vegas isn’t exactly the best venue for scholarly pursuits unless they’re the risky kind. :)

    Now for my disclaimer: Our little blog is a media sponsor for Pubcon and we have defined obligations (which do not include blog comments) to help promote it. However my reply above is pretty much what I’ve been saying about conferences for years. Plus, we’re also a media sponsor for SES Chicago, so in the end, whichever conference you go do is probably a good idea as long as you have a plan for what you want out of it.

    Monday, November 19, 2007 at 8:52 am | Permalink
  8. Dan Perry wrote:

    My reason for going? I’ve never been. Been to way too many SES shows, SIS, Emetrics, ad:tech, etc., but never a PubCon. Plus, I’ll be speaking, so that’s a bonus for the resume, and I enjoy it, so a win-win.

    Also bringing another person from work, and we were debating the whole Friday thing. I’ve heard it’s the best part of Pubcon, but I have to agree; thousand people? How’s that going to work? Is it going to be like SES, where the people you want to meet are all hanging out together, and it’s difficult to get a word in edge-wise?

    The “birds of a feather” lunch option for SES was a home run. Considering the size of this Pubcon, it would be great if there was a setup like that for Friday. I’m an in-house marketer for a big company. How many people like me are going to be at Pubcon (on Friday, no less), and how do we all get together? I need to hammer out my flight/hotel plans this week, and I’m thinking flying in Monday afternoon, flying out Friday morning, and skipping the event unless someone can change my mind. I hope they can.

    Monday, November 19, 2007 at 10:02 am | Permalink
  9. IncrediBILL wrote:

    PubCon’s last day of hedonistic drinking topped of with a the all the industry parties, late night inebriated BS sessions, the obligatory trip to a Vegas gentleman’s club and a few games of craps was always worth the trip for me.

    Unfortunately, Brett moved the date to November the day AFTER we made plans and booked plane tickets so it’ll be 12 months before I get another shot at it.

    John adds: It was a pleasure to hang with you last year Bill, and your system at the craps table is truly worthy. But seriously… PubCon for gentleman’s clubs and “hedonistic drinking”…. I’ll grant that the PBC last year was worthy, because it was new and had been praised world wide as an example of high-end, detail -oriented exclusive micro casino. Now it’s been there, done that.  Gentleman’s clubs? Puhleeze. I once lived in New Jersey. Hedonisitic drinking? Yawn.

    Drinking $14 shots at a Vegas bar, bathed in neon and bumped from the side twice per hour by the idle middle-aged working ladies? — $14.

    Meeting IncrediBill and pushing his buttons in discussions all night, topic after topic, while witnessing and learning his craps system? — Priceless.

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007 at 10:37 pm | Permalink
  10. Bill Hartzer wrote:

    Wow, I can’t believe the number of “new people” who will be attending pubcon this year. I could go on and on with dozens and dozens of reasons why to attend. Networking is great, the sessions are great, and you always get a few tips from people that make the whole thing worthwhile.

    Wednesday, November 21, 2007 at 2:35 pm | Permalink
  11. William Rock wrote:

    John you have a great post going here…. Very exciting to hear everything that is going on in Vegas, as for myself I really have enjoyed that past Pubcon events and I am very excited to hear all the speakers at next week.

    I am very interested on hearing Jill Whalen speak as well how ever it really is a toss up on that time slot since she will be talking about SEO 101 – The Timeless and Classic Hits and the other session I really want to tune into is Social Marketing 101 – The Playing Field with Rand Fishkin, Neil Patel, Michael Gray, Cameron Olthuis

    Choices Choices ….

    I know there are two events going this year and I had a chance to go to either one however I feel I get more out of the sessions and networking at Pubcon than SES just for the caliber of topics and attendees.

    I am really not the drinking type so, my goal is not really to go out and party. I want to absorb as much knowledge as I can to further my career.

    SEOMOZ is having a really cool party if you have not heard yet on

    Vegas is a cool city, I do plan to stop by one of my clients motorcycle dealerships inside Caesars Palace in the Exotic Car Gallery. Von Dutch has some high end custom choppers in fact they just released the trailer video for the new TV show Horsepower & Chrome if you guys get a chance to check out these bikes rock.

    As far as my favorite conference I would say Pubon is the best and I would never miss it. Brett Tabke and his team have really done well.

    John adds: That’s a good way to link drop. I’ll look for the bikes at Bellagio.

    Friday, November 30, 2007 at 10:32 am | Permalink
  12. Bob wrote:

    The change from November to December doesnt work for me this year. i would have skipped most of the sessions anyways.

    Tuesday, December 4, 2007 at 12:00 am | Permalink
  13. Max wrote:

    I was quite disappointed in the last year’s PubCon. I felt like sessions weren’t as organized and speakers weren’t as prepared as in 2006. As always it was fun to hang out with other attendees in the Wynn, but otherwise it wasn’t as informative as I expected.

    Friday, March 21, 2008 at 10:48 am | Permalink