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.