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Barry’s Pubcon 2015

I arrived in Las Vegas on Sunday evening, exhausted from 14 hours of travel but excited to be there. It’s a city that certainly overwhelms visitors with its hustle & bustle, and a constant assault on the senses with light and noise everywhere, so I couldn’t just go straight to bed.

Fortunately there was a wee unofficial gathering of Pubcon people at the New York New York hotel, where I got to hang out with Dawn, Kristine, Simon, Rey, Becky, and several other folks that my sleep-deprived brain struggled to remember (sorry!). We played several rounds of a digital-themed Cards Against Humanity variant designed by Simon, which had all of us thoroughly entertained.

Due to the inevitabilities of transatlantic travel, I woke up way too early on Monday so decided to get some work done before heading to the Las Vegas Convention Centre for the Pubcon speaker’s enclave. When I arrived I couldn’t help but take a photo of the venue: it’s enormous!

Pubcon 2015 at the Las Vegas Convention Centre

The enclave was all kinds of awesome. It’s an opportunity for the conference speakers to network and mingle, and to ask each other questions about issues they’re struggling with and the state of the industry. Many of Pubcon’s speakers were there, and I felt truly privileged to be in their company. My tweet pretty much sums it up:

At the #Pubcon speakers enclave. Many of the smartest minds in search in one room. And me. #whoop — Barry Adams (@badams) October 5, 2015

That evening I explored Vegas a wee bit with the help of Dom, Gareth, Paul, and Eddy. We ate obscenely large portions of chicken wings and wandered around the southern end of The Strip before calling it a night.

Collage of some of the photos I took on The Strip

The next day I once again awoke way too early (damn you jetlag), and decided to make the most of the day by using the hotel’s gym to burn off some of the calories from that ginormous portion of food the previous night.

Then I headed to the venue to make sure I got there early to explore the place a bit. I took a peek at Salon A where I was due to speak that day, and was a bit in awe at the sheer size of the room:

Salon A, where I was speaking that day

Not much time for worrying though as I didn’t want to miss Guy Kawasaki‘s opening keynote. His talk was amusing and full of interesting anecdotes, but I’m not sure I learned anything new. Basically he said that you needed to get the small details right in your marketing, something that many have been saying for years (myself included).

After the opening keynote, there were no less than nine concurrent tracks of talks. I went to see Eric Wu‘s talk about SEO and JavaScript, which was all kinds of awesome – it taught me a lot about how to best approach JS-heavy websites for SEO. His slides are online here.

I had to leave a bit early to head to Salon A where my own talk was due to take place. I presented as part of the SEO Tech Masters session alongside Dave Rohrer and Michael Gray. My talk was about crawl optimisation, and it seemed to be received pretty well – I got lots of positive feedback on Twitter,

Barry speaking. Photo courtesy of Martin Macdonald

After my talk we had a lunchbreak, and then I headed to Salon I where I was part of a live site review session with Russ Jones, Kevin Lee, and Derrick Wheeler. We reviewed a handful of websites for SEO performance, and I have to say there were a few sites that I couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at.

Site review session with Russ Jones, Kevin Lee, yours truly, and Derrick Wheeler

After that session my speaker duties at Pubcon were fulfilled and I could relax and enjoy the remainder of the conference, which lasted until Thursday.

On Tuesday evening we had a big social event in the Señor Frogs bar at the Treasure Island hotel, where I hung out with lots of awesome folks such as Dawn, Patrick, Mark, Eddy, and many others, so come Wednesday I was a bit worse for wear – not least because despite abundant consumption of alcohol I again woke up at 4.30 AM, my body still refusing to accept I was in a different time zone.

With the help of prodigious amounts of coffee and Mountain Dew I made it through Wednesday, catching a fair few sessions as well. My favourite was Rand Fishkin‘s afternoon keynote, in which he gave a great outline of where search in general and SEO in particular are headed.

One of the many great slides from Rand's talk

I got to see my friend Martin Macdonald speak about narratives in content marketing, and while he’d admitted to me he’d only barely finished his slides before his talk, you wouldn’t have known that from his great delivery full of humour and witty anecdotes.

Martin Macdonald doing his thing

That evening I had intended to go to another social event and perhaps even drop by the US Search Awards, but my combined hangover and jetlag made me crash without a hope of getting up – despite Nicky Wake‘s best attempts to get me to the awards!

Nicky did her best, but I was just too shattered

The next morning I was actually quite pleased I’d gone to bed as early as I did, because for the first time that week I felt fresh and full of energy. The last day of Pubcon featured a few sessions I desperately wanted to see.

Duane Forrester‘s keynote was very good, with loads of interesting trends and factoids, and he mirrored many of the points Rand had raised in his talk. Search is changing and we as SEOs need to adapt, modifying our tactics and priorities as the market transforms. SEO is not going away, but it has gotten a bit more complicated.

Duane Forrester keynote slide

Later that day I got to see one of my heroes in the SEO world speak: Alan Bleiweiss, whose example I’ve been trying to follow for years. The man is an SEO audit genius and his approach to site audits has inspired my own. It was great to see him speak and talk to him later that day.

Alan Bleiweiss talking about site audits

I also caught Kristine‘s talk about technical SEO, which was very good, and got to meet Corey McNeil, who I’ve been friendly with online for years but had never met face to face. It was awesome to finally meet him and I felt like I’d spoken with an old friend rather than a total stranger.

After the conference there was one final social event where I got to hang out with lots of great folks again such as Aleyda, Sylvia, Dawn, and Eric, and also got to meet Wissam, another long-time online friend.

Pubcon selfie with Aleyda, Dawn, Eric, Silvia, Wissam, and me

I had high expectations of Pubcon beforehand, as the conference has such a great reputation. Having been to the 2015 edition, I can honestly say Pubcon lived up to that reputation all the way. It’s been without a doubt one of the greatest industry events I’ve ever attended, and I will definitely be back.

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