#Pubcon #SFIMA Insider’s Guide: Joe Laratro Tells All


You know what February in Minnesota calls for? A brief respite somewhere warm. With the Pubcon SFIMA Summit coming up in two weeks in sunny Fort Lauderdale, Fla., we’ll get our Vitamin D recharge along with some hard-core marketing training to boot. We. Cannot. Wait. This year, AIMCLEAR‘s pulling double duty, with a workshop during the Pubcon Masters Group training day and a session during the conference.

To kick things off, Marty Weintraub will join Roger Dooley, founder of Dooley Direct, for Psychographic Targeting & Neuromarketing on Tuesday, Feb. 21. If you sell online, you can’t afford to miss this workshop. You’ll learn how to build mind-bendingly precise audience segments and craft heart-touching, soul-stroking, wallet-opening creative. This one-two punch is packed with valuable tactics, even if your KPIs are more SEO or PR oriented. To attend, you’ll need a Platinum Pass or Masters Group Training Workshop Pass. Space is limited, so register now!

During the conference, Marty joins Chris Boggs, founder and CEO of Web Traffic Advisors, for PPC Data Maneuvers to Lower Cost & Boost Effectiveness. Don’t miss the duo’s treasure trove of PPC tips, tricks and opportunities on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 2:05 p.m. in Salon B.

SFIMA first-timer? On the fence? We spoke with Joe Laratro, Pubcon board member and president of Tandem Interactive, for more details. He shared everything you need to know about the conference.


AIMCLEAR (AC): To kick things off, tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you, what do you do and why do you do it?

Joe Laratro (JL): I am one of the old guards of search optimization. I started studying SEO back in 1999 and have lived and breathed it ever since. I love this industry because it is a win-win-win scenario. Search engines win with great results, clients win with great site visitors, and search marketers win for their teams.

I am the lead moderator and content co-chair of Pubcon with Brett Tabke. I have the honor of working with him and the Pubcon team year-round, making sure that our events are best-in-class.

AC: Could you tell us a bit about the history of Pubcon, from its early days in a London pub to its recent evolution?

JL: Pubcon started as an informal gathering in a pub in London back in 2001. The first one in the USA was in Orange County, Calif; I remember it like it was yesterday. There were maybe 75 people there (I think all of them are considered the industry pioneers). I attended to spend time with Dan Boberg from Goto and Tim Mayer from Inktomi. Last minute, this new team from “Google AdWords” decided to be a sponsor. Who knew in a few short years they would dominate the industry?

Brett and I hit it off when we first met. He was someone that everyone looked up to and respected in the industry. He had an unadulterated vision for Pubcon from day one. Every aspect was for the attendees. He wanted to deliver the best-in-class speakers at a very competitive price. Speaking at Pubcon was a badge of honor for this.

Pubcon held conferences in locations like Boston, Orlando, Dallas, Austin and New Orleans. Over the years, while each one was special, the Vegas conference became the flagship. The smaller shows are providing grounds for newer speakers and new networking concepts.

To date, there have been 34 Pubcon Conferences since 2001, with 13 times in Las Vegas.

AC: We love your attendee-first mantra, which is what spawned the Pubcon Masters Group intensive training program, if we’re not mistaken. Could you tell us about its evolution as well as your vision for these workshops?

JL: Each year, we receive feedback about the conference that is studied to make sure our audience’s voice matters. There were three needs that the workshops could fulfill. First, some attendees wanted deeper dives on tactics and the ability to spend more time on one discipline. The main conference can seem like you are drinking from a firehose of online marketing knowledge. Second, newer entrants to the industry needed a solid base before being exposed to all the sessions and tracks of the main conference. With over 120 sessions and 10 tracks at a Vegas show, this was a great way to optimize the Pubcon experience. Third, the workshops created the perfect mechanism for a specialist to focus on one area of online marketing during the training day, and explore new marketing channels during the main conference.

Two main components about the training have evolved since its launch. The first is the topics. We constantly examine the online marketing landscape and try to anticipate what the Pubcon attendees are looking for. We are also trying to deliver the most advanced, cutting-edge topics possible. Advanced Organic Search Optimization and Social Media Optimization were no-brainers. The success of Psychographic Targeting & Neuromarketing, our newest specialized track with Marty Weintraub and Roger Dooley, shows the expanding thirst for knowledge of a “Pubconer”.

The other big change was the introduction of blended presentations. The audience response has been tremendous. Dynamically mixing speakers through the topics during the day keeps the sessions crisp and engaging.

The future of the workshops is wide open. Every year they will get even better.


AC: No doubt they will. In terms of maintaining engagement, one major difference between the Pubcon Masters Group and other conferences is you allow attendees to jump between workshops. What’s the advantage of that? How else is the Pubcon Masters Group unique?

JL: Frequently, a person’s gauge of their skill level does not match the level of the presentation they selected. This works perfectly for Advanced and Fundamental SEO tracks. It makes perfect sense for a Pubconer to move around until they feel that they are in the optimal track for them. Another great scenario is feeling like they heard enough of one type of marketing and want to explore another channel. The Pubcon attendee comes first.

Since this is a more intimate group for an entire day, this is a great way to make new friends and business relationships that you will be around for the next few days – including the trainers.


AC: We’ll vouch for that — AIMCLEAR has made many a new friend at our workshops! OK, let’s talk Pubcon SFIMA vs. the marquee Pubcon event. What should we know?

JL: Pubcon partnered with the South Florida IMA a few years ago. SFIMA is a robust community of online marketers in South Florida. Partnering brought that community to Pubcon, as well as Pubcon exposing South Florida IMA to their attendee base. The Pubcon SFIMA event is a one-day event jam-packed with 59 industry-leading speakers and 31 sessions. The regional event is an amazing educational event and an even better preview to what the banner Vegas Pubcon show is like.

AC: Who should attend Pubcon SFIMA? What would you say to those on the fence?

JL: Did I mention I also run a boutique search marketing agency? I plan on sending most of my team and mixing between the training day and the full conference day. I would say this is great for agencies to hone their team’s skills on search, paid search, social, paid social and other aspects of online marketing. Client-side marketers and DIYers at any skill level should attend. There is plenty of room for anyone interested in learning more about how to be successful online.

AC: What sessions are you looking forward to the most and why?

JL: On the training day, I am looking most forward to Marty and Roger’s session, as well as Jim Boykin’s session. I am leading a training on Advanced SEO, so I cannot attend, but I will be sending avid note-takers. I feel that the persuasion side of optimization will continue to get more valuable as the real estate for results dwindles. We have to do more with less. Jim’s tactics are always leading-edge and worth studying.

On the main conference day, every session has an appeal to me. The Snapchat session and the Optimizing for Amazon sessions are particularly interesting because of my lack of knowledge and experience in those channels.


AC: All great choices. 😉 As a South Florida native, SFIMA past president and Pubcon board member, you’re hands-down the best person to ask for conference tips. What advice do you have for Pubcon SFIMA attendees?

JL: #1: Put your phone away and do not get distracted. You have an incredible opportunity to finish the day with a list of actionable items that can have a direct effect on your business almost immediately.

#2: Do not get overwhelmed. Take your time and pay attention. Slides will be distributed, so you do not have to write everything down. Just take notes on the most important concepts and how they are relevant to you.

#3: Do not be underwhelmed either. If you are not happy with the session, move on. There will be something that is very interesting to you during any of the time slots.

#4: Network, network, network. If you liked the speaker, introduce yourself. Meet the person next to you; there might be great business together in your future. Hang around for the after-hours networking; this is a great time to download the day with others and blow off some steam, as well as continue to get to know some amazing people in the industry.

AC: Speaking of after hours, care to share any legendary party stories? Name names, please. 🙂

JL: Ouch. No. Just kidding. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. I can say that Pubconers have been exposed to some great times and historic Vegas venues. We talk a lot about the Pubcon Family. I feel like I have friends in any town I visit thanks to people I met over the years at Pubcon events. The blend on education and fun goes a long way to create lifelong bonds.

I will add that I miss the days of the major search engines sponsoring the big parties and giving back to the communities that drive them.

All the classic Pubcon parties (pure networking and fun time) have been amazing. Señor Frog’s the past two years has been quite good.

The Search Awards every year has been legendary. I will never forget Marty getting his tiara, Duane Forrester getting his tiara or me getting teary-eyed last year when Brett won the lifetime achievement award!

AC: Now that’s friendship. Well, we’ve taken A LOT of your time, Joe, which we hear is hard to come by! What fills your day, and what do you do outside of work?

JL: Day job: President, Tandem Interactive
Part day job: Pubcon board
Teaching gig: University of San Francisco’s Online Marketing Search Certification Program
Speaking engagements: Plenty
Board service: South Florida IMA Executive Committee, Past President
Book writing: The SEO Diet is going to be released this year; it just needs some updates

That about covers it. No free time. OK, that is not true. I have an amazing wife and two sons, ages 10 and 7. Born and raised in South Florida, I love the ocean. If I am not doing any of the above things, I hope to be with my family boating, fishing, diving, or my newest love – Bimini, Bahamas.

AC: Wow! That’s a full plate if we’ve ever seen one. A HUGE thank you to Joe Laratro for taking time out of his busy schedule to share these details.

Going to Pubcon SFIMA? Catch us at the Psychographic Targeting & Neuromarketing workshop (don’t forget to register, if you haven’t already), the Merging Psychology and Content Creation and PPC Data Maneuvers to Lower Cost & Boost Effectiveness sessions, or just bopping around. See you in Fort Lauderdale!

Image credit: CrackerClips Stock Media/Shutterstock.com

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Stay Connected