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Brett Tabke Interview on Pubcon & WebmasterWorld

Posted on Nov 8th, 2005
Written by Lee Odden
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    One of the hottest topics in marketing is search marketing and many webmasters, company marketers and agencies are scrambling to acquire the knowledge necessary to serve their clients.

    Next week the search marketing conference, Pubcon 10, kicks off in Las Vegas. Founded by Brett Tabke, who also founded WebmasterWorld, the Pubcon conference has grown significantly in recent years and has served as an excellent resource for search marketers world-wide.

    With an audience that started initially with independent webmasters and mom-pop company online marketers, the Pubcon conference now includes a broad range of search marketers and companies including corporate online marketing staff, search marketing and interactive agencies from all over the world.

    Speakers, vendors and sponsors are the same as you’ll find at any other major search marketing or interactive marketing conference. In fact, Pubcon is probably one of the best conferences not only for tactical SEM/SEO knowledge, but for networking with some of the smartest search engine optimization or search engine marketing practitioners and business people you‚Äôll ever find in one place.

    Brett Tabke was gracious enough to answer several questions about the Pubcon conference and WebmasterWorld:

    Thank you very much Brett, for taking time out of what must be an incredibly busy time for you. Pubcon 10 in Las Vegas is coming up in a week and it looks to be one of the biggest Pubcon conferences ever.

    Everyone likes a bit of nostalgia, can you share a story from the early days of Pubcon and your background with the WebmasterWorld Forum? How did Pubcon start?

    We had talked about a board meeting in 2000, but felt that there weren’t enough people to justify it. In 2001 a group of members decided to chance it and ended up having a great time. We repeated it in California the next year. By the third meeting, we were up to 300 people.

    Ten Pubcon conferences is quite an accomplishment.

    10? *shrug* It is actually the big eleventh one. In 2004, we had all the banners made up for PubCon 7 and then decided to have another in Europe. So we called that one: PubCon 6.5. Truth be told, bbs’s I have run going back to 1984 have all had some form of “PubCon”.

    What has been the most satisfying part of growing Pubcon?

    Seeing it serve the community. Hooking people up from all over the world to work together. Watching these people that have little in common culturally work past the differences and do good business and build friendships in the process.

    What have been some of the challenges?

    Dealing with a world wide audience that has such diverse points of view, cultural differences, and personal differences. It has been and old fashioned first hand education in diplomacy. We’ve had some super success, and colossal failures in that regard. We have had but a small glimpse into what the United Nations must go through to get anything accomplished.

    How has the Pubcon audience changed over the years?

    In most aspects, this audience has grown together. We started out with a group of rag-tag misfits who have now turned out to be excellent business people. Along that way, we have steadily grown by bringing in more and more from the business world. Our mom-n-pop roots have sprouted a vast diverse worldwide audience.

    The 2004 Las Vegas Pubcon was the first I had attended and I was very, very impressed with the organization of the event, the speakers and vendors. How can you put on a show like this for such a small fee?

    Thanks. The conference does stem from the speakers and panelists. We try to focus and highlight them as much as possible. We understand why people come to a conference and want to provide that value at a reasonable fee. We want to keep the conference affordable for independent business men and women. That said, there is a great deal of growing overhead associated with each level we grow and we will inch up the price of the conferences as needed.

    Of many things, The WebmasterWorld forum seems to be a communication conduit between search engines and webmasters. Was that intended? How do you see communications between search engines and webmasters evolving in the future?

    We saw how bad communication was between the search engines and webmasters in the late 90’s. It was a flame fest from the directories to the big engines of the day. We asked, and we asked the engines to talk about things with us in an open environment. They took us up on the challenge and they became fixtures of the forums in the process. Not only did they learn from webmasters Рthey enjoyed it in the process.

    A lot of veteran search marketers advise against solely relying on forums for SEO/SEM information, do you agree with that advice and what recommendations would you make to webmasters for staying on top of SEO/SEM?

    Out of diverse opinion comes a consensus. That consensus is most often found in forums after long discussion. It is but one venue of many that people should read. The traditional, reliable, main stream, and well known news sources are also a must read.

    There’s a significant difference between budgets allocated towards paid search and natural search marketing compared to the types of links searchers trust and click on. Do you think SEM will continue to dominate search marketing budgets or will there be more shifting to SEO?

    For the next 6-12 months yes. However, we are running out of keywords and audience targets Рa growing shift is inevitable. I don’t see that shift going towards SEO. The shift will go more towards alternative advertising.

    What does the future hold for the Pubcon conference?

    We are going to continue to grow this next year. We are adding conferences overseas and ramping up our other conference offerings.

    For search marketing?

    Saturation – something has to give. Too many people are currently chasing the same SEM/SEO ad dollar. I think we will see significant consolidation in the industry this year.


    Other interviews with Brett Tabke: Search Engine Blog, The Chris Pirillo Show

    Tags: Pubcon, WebmasterWorld, Brett Tabke, Search Engine Conference, search marketing