Pubcon 2023 – Austin Texas – Take Aways

Picture of session listings out side of the conference session room. Half way down it list's Alan's sessionIt’s been six years since I last presented at a Pubcon event. How wonderful  it was to return and reconnect in person with numerous friends and colleagues from the Search Marketing industry. As is the case with all conferences, some of the most valuable insights came from casual conversations by vendor booths, during breaks between sessions, and at evening networking events. Naturally, the various sessions provided a wealth of knowledge as well.

The session I presented was titled “GA4: Customize the UI and Reports”. It was held in the largest of the four conference rooms, a space grand enough to accommodate the keynote speakers and all attendees. I interpreted this as a nod from the organizers, suggesting they anticipated my session would draw a significant crowd. Although the turnout was lighter than expected, those present eagerly absorbed the details and methodologies about optimizing Google Analytics 4 by customizing its User Interface and utilizing Looker Studio to enhance & simplify reporting.

Alan standing in front of a large screen point a Looker Studio Report detailing Scroll Tracking

Feedback during the Q&A, as well as comments shared in the hallways, assured me of the session’s success, notwithstanding the less-than-expected attendance.

Photo of Alan delivering his conference address at Pubcon with session moderator Chris Boggs sitting in the background

One observation from Pubcon that stood out to me was the popularity of sessions centered on Artificial Intelligence (AI). Nearly every AI session was bustling with attendees. I had the opportunity to attend several, and one particularly noteworthy session was conducted by Dixon Jones. He spotlighted a case study from his firm, Inlinks, where they evaluated various AI tools to determine which produced the most SEO-friendly content. Although the findings weren’t definitive, a key takeaway was evident: not all AI tools perform equally, and human oversight of AI-generated content remains indispensable.

Another standout moment was the Keynote address by Microsoft’s Sharon Peng. The keynote delved into Microsoft’s free Clarity product. Peng not only highlighted the potency of this tool but also emphasized its ease of implementation and methods to harness a new depth of user interaction with one’s website.

I also had the opportunity to follow up with Peng and her team at their vendor table. During this interaction, I gained deeper insights into the product and learned just how straightforward its implementation can be, particularly if a website already uses Google Tag Manager. Subsequently, I tested it on a few sites, and the results were consistent with the Clarity team’s promises. I will be recommending it to all my clients.

Having been a regular at Pubcons since the early 2000s, I’m thrilled to see the conference persist despite the devastating impact of COVID on the event industry. While it’s evident that current attendance doesn’t match the pre-COVID era (a trend I also observed at various conferences the past 2 year including Digital Summit a day earlier), numbers are on the rise. Here’s to hoping that Pubcon and similar conferences reclaim their former glory in the not-so-distant future.

Highlights from Digital Summit Detroit 2023

Beyond speaking at Digital Summit Detroit, what I enjoy most about attending conferences is the networking and camaraderie outside the session rooms. This is an invaluable opportunity for me to connect with attendees and understand the challenges they face when presenting data.

Highlights for me at this conference was reuniting with an old friend and potentially making some new ones.

Photo of Alan K'necht and Dr. Marcus CollinsBefore his keynote address, I encountered Dr. Marcus Collins in the speaker’s breakout room. I unintentionally overheard a part of his phone conversation, and he later apologized for speaking loudly. We then delved into a discussion on some marketing I’d over heard in his conversation. At the time, I wasn’t aware of who he was, assuming he was just another speaker at the conference. However, our discussion was genuinely thought-provoking.

It was only when he took the stage that I was in awe of the depth of his expertise. Unlike many keynote speakers who often focus on bite-sized information suitable for tweets, Dr. Collins provided a wealth of wisdom and insights. I was fortunate enough to secure a copy of his book, “For the Culture,” which I’m eager to dive into.

Photo of Alan K'necht and Grant Simmons Another memorable moment was catching up with my friend, Grant Simmons. Beyond discussing personal updates, I had the pleasure of attending his packed presentation titled, “The Batman Guide to Internal Linking: Expert Tips for Content Authority, Visibility, and SEO Success.” Grant’s distinctive humor, paired with his knack for imparting knowledge and profiling the use of inLinks, captivated the audience. This was evident from the engaged Q&A session that followed.

For the first time, I met Nicole Ramirez. Although I only managed to catch the initial moments of her presentation on “Harness the Power of UX to Elevate Your Marketing and Drive Results,” to a standing room only audience, it was evident she offered solid advice. However, it was somewhat disheartening to note that some of her tips on UX, like ensuring fast page loading times, clean HTML coding, and optimized imagery, were the same suggestions I’d heard from speakers two decades ago. It’s a sad reminder that despite the strides digital marketing has made over the past 20 years, certain undesirable practices persist.

A takeaway for everyone attending any conference: While sessions are fantastic for acquiring knowledge, don’t underestimate the value of networking and exchanging ideas in the corridors, during meals, or designated networking periods. Reconnect with old acquaintances and make an effort to forge new relationships.</p?

Digital Summit Detroit 2023

Photo of Alan speaking at Digital Summit, in the backgound 1 of his presentation slides and in for foreground many of the attendees

On September 19, 2023, Alan K’necht had the privilege of speaking at Digital Summit Detroit. His session was entitled, “Making Your Data Talk/Sing For You! – Using Data Visualization to Tell Persuasive and Meaningful Stories.”

Text of a LinkedIn message "I tried to attend your session at Detroit Digital Summit yesterday, but unfortunately it was so full I couldn't find a seat! "For 30 minutes, he addressed a standing-room-only crowd of approximately 150 to 200 attendees. His central theme was on identifying the pivotal “hot buttons” or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that senior management truly values. Moreover, he discussed capturing this essential information and presenting it in an enticing and significant manner.

The obvious point in presenting this data is to steer clear of mere spreadsheets, tabular data, or raw numbers taken out of context. Instead, the key is to put them in context and accompany them with an easily comprehensible graphic or image (data visualization). These images can encapsulate data but should aim to grab the audience’s attention within 8 seconds.

Why the emphasis on 8 seconds? Alan referenced a recent study in his presentation from Total Care Therapy ( This research highlighted the alarming decrease in the average human attention span over the last 20+ years: from 12 seconds in 2000, dropping to 8.25 seconds by 2015. Remarkably, by 2015, a goldfish — boasting an attention span of 9 seconds – exceeding a human by 0.75 seconds. While the study did not provide specific data for 2023, it’s a safe bet to assume our collective attention span has further diminished.

Image from Total Care Therapy study: Image states "according to research our attention span has markedly decreased in just 15 years" Average attention span in 2000 12 seconds. Average attention span in 2015 8.25 seconds

So, how do we counteract this dwindling attention span? His presentation’s conclusion was clear: “Embrace Data Visualization” and let the data sing.