SEO Conferences: Good Deal or No Deal?

I love SEO Conferences, but there’s a good possibility I’ll never attend another one. Why? Well, for one thing, after I tick off all the conference hosts today with this post, the SEO bouncers might block me from entering. But in reality, I may never go to another conference because the prices are just too freaking high. (please bear with me on this long rant, because really, you’ve GOT to read it all…seriously)

Yeah, yeah, I’m cheap, I know that. And I agree that conferences have a hidden value, especially in the networking, and that even one tiny nugget of information gleaned from a conference can make up for the price. And yep, I understand that it costs a lot of money to host one of those puppies because you have to pay an arm and a leg for the fancy conference hall digs, and give the keynote speakers a few bazillion dollars plus a promise of everyone’s third-born child. I get all that, really I do. And no doubt, there’s lots of big companies out there that don’t have any problem whatsoever paying all that money to send a couple employees to a conference.

And I agree that the first conference I went to was great. The second…pretty darn good too. But I just honestly can no longer justify the ginormous costs of these events any longer.

What got me started on this rant was the fact that PubCon’s prices have risen pretty dramatically since the last time I went. And while it’s finally in line with the rest of the conferences, it still didn’t make me happy. And it got me to thinking…how can all these people afford to go to conference after conference after conference?

Here, look, let me throw a few numbers at you. I picked just 3 conferences although there’s lots more every year. But I figured 3 was a good solid number, and I’m pretty sure quite a few people hit at least 3 each year. So I chose SES San Jose, SMX East, and PubCon Vegas as good examples of popular conferences that lots of people will attend. I then looked at the prices of the conferences, the hotel prices, the typical airfares, and included expenses for food and drinks (although I went really, really cheap on that part). Each conference has several “tiers”, including early bird pricing, and various options of what is included (full conference, expo only, etc). I used mid-range pricing for full conferences (meaning I used pricing that was early-bird, but not the deepest discounts), and figured out what it would cost to attend all 3 conferences…give or take a few hundred dollars.

The grand total was $11,225.* That’s right, the average conference is going to set you back nearly $4,000, and if you hit all three, you’re likely going to spend over $11K.

Guess what? There ain’t no way in hell I’d ever get that much ROI out of those conferences. So I decided to play around a little with that $11K and see if I could come up with any ideas to make that money work better for me. See if you don’t agree.

First, let’s take a look at what a typical conference looks like, with my head photoshopped over some other woman’s head. (Sorry for cropping you out of the picture, lady, but it’s really important for me to be able to stick my photoshopped head on other people’s bodies in this rant post, k? And I really wanted to see how short hair and bangs would look on me. Not so good.).


Woo. Doesn’t that look like fun. Yeah, k. Now, multiply that fun by 3 and that nets you 3 conferences for 11K.

Ok, moving on.

I could take that same $11K, grab a partner in crime, and spend 2 glorious weeks in Aruba at an ALL-INCLUSIVE resort instead.

(See, that’s my head below, at an Aruba pool, and yeah, that hair style looks better on me, don’t you think? So, ok, we’ll stick with this one from here on out).


But wait, let’s expand on this thought. What if we ALL spent that 11K by meeting up at this same all-inclusive resort in Aruba for two glorious weeks. and just hung out with each other all that time…imagine how much we’d get out of THAT!

Don’t like Aruba for some reason? Ok, let’s all spend that 11K by going to Disneyworld for 2 weeks instead? We can stay at the Polynesian resort shown below (with my head shown there, with above-chosen “do”) and choose one of their nearly-all-inclusive package deals.


Again…two weeks, with a loved one, just hanging out with all our buds. How much ROI do you think we can get out of that, huh? Now I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend that money in either Aruba or Disney than in three of those “lovely” conference rooms shown above. What about you?

Ok, so now that you get my point, let me get serious. Ever heard of WordCamp? Guess what? They hold that sucker for the lofty price of FREE. Yeah, free. I think we need more of those kinds of conferences in our industry. Who’s with me on that, huh? C’mon, raise your hands!

Either way…Free, Cheap, or Aruba/Disney…I’d take any of those choices over the expensive conference circuit right now. But hey, that’s just me. I’m cheap that way.

Wait, don’t leave… there’s more. There are, of course, even more options. You could actually use all that money to pay for – oh I don’t know – lots of good quality content? a decent link building/baiting package? creation of a kickass web app? outsource your entire seo campaign to Bob Massa’s new company for just $1000/month? Just ‘sayin… I mean, that doesn’t get you a photoshopp’d pic of my head on someone else’s body, but it sure as heck would likely generate some nice ROI.

* Here are more numbers (which could be significantly higher for you overseas peeps) in case y’all feel the need to do some number-crunching yourselves:

SES San Jose
conference: $1795-$1995 (+ $745 or $1345 for half day or full day training (optional))

hotels: san jose marriott $215/night

hilton sj $179/night

flight: $460

food/drinks: $250


SMX East New York City

conference: $995-$1595

hotel: westin ny at times square
smx east special rate is $359/night + tax

flight: $296

food/drinks: $400


PubCon Las Vegas

$899 -$1499 (+ $150 for pubcon on last day (optional))

no official hotel listed, but wynn is closest

sahara (kinda run down, but close and cheap)

flight: $458

food/drinks/entertainment: $500

(Now I’ll need to get plastic surgery so the SEO conference goons don’t recognize me). icon_smile-9199791-4078782