Archives for September 2012

Best Las Vegas Convention Center Hotels

Please note that this is not a guide to Las Vegas hotels, there are many that will be left out of this post, I’ve chosen to focus on hotels that are best for attendees at conferences being held at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Las Vegas Convention Center South HallsI’ve attended numerous conferences held at the Las Vegas Convention Center and I can tell you that the place is massive. Located at 3150 Paradise Rd. in Las Vegas Nevada, the LVCC features millions of square feet of meeting, event and convention space. A walk from the North Halls to the South Halls (or vice versa) is alone a significant distance, not to mention all the walking that’s done (oftentimes while carrying your laptop) inside the halls while attending conferences.

As a chiropractor, I almost feel it’s my duty to share what I’ve learned from years of experience in regards to choosing the best hotels when attending conferences at this location. We are talking Las Vegas, and things that I think are a plus (like no-smoking hotels) may be a negative to others, so this guide won’t suit everyone. Also, I have no affiliation with any of the hotel’s being mentioned, this is purely my opinion based on my own experiences.

Our reference starting point: Las Vegas Convention Center at 3150 Paradise Rd., Las Vegas, NV 89109

Here’s my list of factors you may find important when making a decision on which hotel to choose.

  • Proximity to LVCC (North Hall versus South Hall)
  • Non Casino Hotels
  • Non Smoking Hotels
  • Proximity to other Casino Hotels
  • Hotel Proximity to LV Monorail
  • Quality of Hotel
  • Hotel Resort Fees
  • Hotel Parking Fees
  • Walking
  • Taxi
  • Travel by Car (but daily parking at LVCC)
  • WiFi in Hotel

In selecting a hotel, I’d suggest using the above factors and place them in the order that best suits your needs. For me proximity is a big factor. While often times not the official conference hotel, my number one choice is going to be the Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel owned and operated by Marriott. It’s located directly next to the Las Vegas Convention Center South Halls and it meets several of my desirable factors. Besides its location, it’s a non-casino hotel, a non-smoking hotel (I believe), is nearby the Las Vegas Monorail, is of good quality, and has WiFi (for a fee). On the downside it’s not located near the strip, where many of the after hours conference parties take place. There are daily resort fees and daily parking fees and if you’re not driving expect to add taxi fees (or least monorail fees) to your expenses.

Travel the Strip in 15 Minutes or LessMy recommendation is to stay at the Renaissance when attending a conference held in the South Halls, and purchase a monorail pass so you can visit the Las Vegas strip.

Nearby convention center hotels that are non-casino and also operated by Marriott include the:

Courtyard Las Vegas Convention Center
3275 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Residence Inn Las Vegas Convention Center
3225 Paradise Rd
Las Vegas, Nevada 89109

Las Vegas Marriott Hotel
325 Convention Center Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89109

If selecting any of these three hotels, expect to walk quite a bit more than if you were staying at the Renaissance. For that reason, I’ve personally never chosen either of those three hotels when attending a conference in the South Halls. It’s a different story when attending a North Hall conference, but when that’s the case I lean towards potentially staying at the Las Vegas Hotel & Casino (formerly the Las Vegas Hilton).

It’s been many years since I’d consider the LVH a quality casino hotel but its location to the Nouth Halls makes it a good choice if you don’t mind walking. As an added bonus there is a monorail station at the hotel which you can use to visit numerous hotels on the Las Vegas strip. There’s also a Las Vegas Convention Center monorail station so if you choose this hotel when attending conferences in the South Halls, the monorail comes in handy. Hotel rates at the LVH are reasonable which I consider a bonus, but there’s plenty of smoking, and as far as I can recall there are daily resort fees. I really hate daily resort fees.

If you’re not selecting hotels that are closest to the convention center, other factors may become more important to you, and you’ll likely start looking at hotels located on the Las Vegas Strip. I can tell you, again from experience, that if you’re going to the convention center at least once a day (over several days of attending conferences) I’d advise selecting a hotel that has easy access to the monorail (I’m a big fan of the monorail since it costs less than taxis and is better for the environment).

The problem with hotels on the Las Vegas Strip is that many appear to have good monorail access but that’s not truly the case. Last year while attending 2011 PubCon Las Vegas I stayed at the PH Towers Westgate (now Hilton Elara). While I loved the one-bedroom suites with in-room Jacuzzi tubs, the walk from the hotel to the monorail station at Bally’s felt like it was 2 miles. What you don’t see in online maps is that in many cases, there’s no access to the monorail at street level, forcing you to snake your way through casinos in order to gain access. Obviously that was part of the plan but it stinks if you’re a business traveler and not a tourist.

Bally’s itself has much better monorail access, as does the MGM Grand, and the Imperial Palace and Harrah’s Las Vegas hotel (all located on the strip) have easy access as well. The MGM Grand and Bally’s are fairly good quality (I’ve chosen Bally’s for conferences many times) and Imperial Palace is pretty much the dive of the Las Vegas strip. Harrah’s is fair. Note that Bally’s, Harrah’s and Imperial Palace (as well as the Flamingo which is also in that hotel cluster) are all part of Caesars Entertainment (Total Rewards) and there’s no resort fees and free parking, a big plus for me (especially when driving my Jeep).

Oftentimes conferences held at the Las Vegas Convention Center feature official conference hotels, which often results in special rates, and possibly more importantly opportunities to spend time and network with other conference attendees. If that’s a greater priority to you, choosing any of the hotels listed here (unless one of them happens to be the official conference hotel) may not be your best choice. If that’s the case I’d read my conference guide and take cabs or shuttles with other attendees.

You may think that if taking a taxi it doesn’t matter which hotel you stay at in Las Vegas. I used to think that until I sat in traffic each morning as the taxicab meter ticked, while eagerly waiting to get to the convention center. Both the Wynn and Encore hotels (near five star quality too) are a short cab ride to the LVCC, these are top hotel choices (especially if somebody else is picking up the hotel tab). You will have resort fees but they are arguably the most luxurious hotels located nearest the convention center. Hopefully local search results will improve before you book at either of those hotels.

I hope this information is useful to you, have fun in Las Vegas!

PubCon 2012 Las Vegas Photo Opportunities

If you know me you know it’s no surprise that I’ll have my camera while at this year’s 2012 PubCon Las Vegas. Since last year’s event, I’ve gotten a new camera and a few new lenses, and I’m excited about taking many high quality photos. The majority will get posted to a 2012 PubCon Las Vegas photo set on Flickr. SEO industry professionals can download photos from my Flickr set for use in blog posts, PR news releases, as social media avatars, etc. When making use of my photographs please respect my photography copyrights.

I’ve been taking photographs at conferences for more than a decade (Internet World 1999 was my first) and I’ve discovered a few ways my work can help you out.

BlueGlassLA in Downtown Los Angeles

Team or Company Photo while in Las Vegas – You’ve invested quite a bit of money in bringing some or all of your team to Las Vegas for this conference, wouldn’t it be great to have a professionally taken group photograph to remember the event by? The Expo Hall makes a great place for taking group photos. All you have to do is coordinate with me and get your team together. I’m easy to find, just tweet me @chiropractic.

Mat SiltalaYour New Social Media Avatar – If I had a link for every time an SEO or Internet Marketer asked me if they could use a photo I took as their avatar, I’d have a lot of links, but that’s not my motivation. I actually like seeing my photography is useful, so feel free to put my photos to work for you.

The Faces of PubCon 2011 and 2010 PubCon Las Vegas Photos resulted in lots of new avatars, and some are still being used today. Maybe it’s time for an updated look. Put on your best smile or scowl and come find me, or wait until I find you (no guarantee that will happen).

I try not to be creepy at conferences so if I don’t know you (or don’t know that I know you) I may not be taking your photograph. Don’t be shy if you want your photo taken either by yourself, with friends or coworkers, or with someone else at the conference.

Also (and this is important), in the event you don’t like a photograph I’ve taken of you that’s been posted online, simply DM me, or e-mail me, and let me know. My intent is to have your most flattering photographs appear in the top of search results.

Photo with an Internet Superstar – This is my most common request while attending conferences. While in Las Vegas you’ll have the rare opportunity to possibly have your photograph taken with Internet superstars like Matt Cutts of Google, Lisa Barone (Top Online Journalist Providing PubCon Coverage), Brett Tabke of PubCon, the keynote speakers, and anybody you may be a big fan of. This is a bit more difficult for me to coordinate but if the opportunity comes up and you see me around feel free to ask.

Your Best Poker Face – Last year I provided unofficial photography for the 2011 Raven Tools Poker Tournament, mostly because I’m terrible at poker and was out of the game pretty quickly and I needed something else to keep me occupied other than the open bar. This year I will be providing official photography, so if you’re in the game (or even spectating), be prepared to show me your best poker face.

Read my PubCon conference guide, get to Las Vegas safely, and I look forward to seeing you there.

Las Vegas Hotels Google Results Dissection: A Case Study

In October of 2011 I posted a three-part series on the subject of using Google for local search of hotels in Las Vegas. Local search results have continued to evolve since late 2011 and there’s been plenty of changes in how Google displays those results. The transition from Google place pages to Google+ Local Pages to Google+ for business pages kept the folks working in the world of local search very busy, and more importantly, numerous changes have been observed affecting nearly every businesses search results on a local level.

With all these changes surely things have gotten better, right?

To determine that answer, I set my browser location to Las Vegas, searched “Hotels” (just like I did in 2011), and took a screenshot of the 7 local results.

Wynn Encore Las Vegas 2012How well did Google do?

You may look at the above screen grab and think Google is doing a great job providing local hotel search results. There are addresses, phone numbers, reviews, photographs, and a selection of 7 hotel locations. But how do we know that the information provided is accurate and not of low-quality? I chose to dissect the top result (position A, which says Wynn-Encore) since by many it could be considered the best result.

Wynn Encore Las Vegas 2012 8 ElementsIt’s been suggested to me that search results are supposed to be about providing a great user experience with information that is of high quality, so I highlighted 8 elements for our case study dissection. Those 8 elements are the address, phone number, location on map, keywords, prices, hours, transit, and photographs. In similar posts from the past I’ve dissected other elements and shared my thoughts on why some hotels don’t appear in search results like these.

Are you wearing your dissection gloves?

Imagine the delight of a first-time tourist visiting Las Vegas and asking a cab driver at McCarron International Airport to take them to 3950 South Las Vegas Boulevard (the address in Element 1) thinking their destination is the Wynn or Encore hotel. That silly tourist may be better off walking to the Las Vegas strip, and not because the taxi companies might long haul to rip you off, but because the address is incorrect.

3950 S. Las Vegas Blvd. is not the correct address for the Wynn or Encore hotels, it’s the address for the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino (one of the major strip hotels located near the airport). It’s easily a 2 1/2 mile walk along the Las Vegas strip to get from the Mandalay Bay to the Wynn.

Now that our first-time tourist is lost they could call the phone number shown in Element 2. The good news is it’s a toll-free number but the bad news is that dialing (877) 603-4390 will get you a cheerful yet automated “thank you for calling Bally’s Las Vegas” greeting.

Wynn Hotel MarqueeSo far we have an incorrect address and an incorrect phone number, let’s take a closer look at the location provided on the Google map, which is Element 3. That’s the correct centroid (position A) if you’re visiting Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino but it’s still at least a mile away from the Wynn/Encore. I’d say this isn’t looking good.

There are 5 key phrases seen in Element 4. Google’s “At a glance” lists fashion show mall (which is located across the street on Las Vegas Blvd. and is short walk from the Wynn/Encore), high speed internet access (likely a daily charge but possibly not), Steve Wynn (developer of the casinos/hotels), tower suites ( both hotels have them), le reve (Wynn hotel aquatic show). Keywords get a pass.

One could argue that elements 5 and 6 have little to do with search results but I prefer to focus on the user experience. Quality content that people would want to share is what I’m told makes a great website. Element 5 shows 2 dollar signs ($$) out of a potential 4. Personally, I’d rate the Wynn and/or Encore as $$$$ or at least $$$, especially since the Wynn is a AAA five diamond and Forbes five-star hotel. Las Vegas strip hotels like Circus Circus, the Stratosphere, and Imperial Palace are better examples (in my opinion) of a $$ rating. For visitors to a Las Vegas hotel, Element 6 (hours) is pretty much useless as far as I’m concerned. For the city that never sleeps it should simply say… Hours: 24/7.

Bally's Paris Hotel Monorail Station Las VegasI had initially considered not including information regarding Element 7 (Transit) but I happen to be a regular user of the Las Vegas Monorail and I noticed that what Google provided, Bally’s & Paris Las Vegas Station, is incorrect for transit to the Wynn. Again, we’re thinking user experience, and the thousands of people potentially relying on this information while in Las Vegas (or planning to visit) for perhaps their first time. If you’ve ridden the LV Monorail from the Las Vegas Convention Center towards the MGM Grand, chances are you’ve heard the automated attendant mention that Wynn has discontinued monorail service (a long time ago) and the Harrah’s Imperial Palace Station was now the closest stop to the Wynn and Encore properties. While closer than Bally’s, those hotels are too long of a walk (in my experience) to the Wynn. Better off using one of the bus services on the Las Vegas strip, or taking a cab.

We’ve covered 7 elements, leaving us with Element 8, the five photographs provided in our search results. The 5 photos shown may look pretty and be representative of Las Vegas but would you be shocked if I told you none of those photos were of the Wynn or Encore Hotel properties?

Guess what?

You may not be aware that all 5 of the photos are provided via Panoramio (a Google owned photo sharing site) and none of them represent the Wynn/Encore Casinos/Hotels. Shocking.

Bellagio Caesars Aria Hotel PhotosI highlighted each photo with arrows so you can see the thumbnails are of the Bellagio Fountain, Bellagio, Caesars Palace Las Vegas, Bellagio Fountains, and ARIA (hotel). What’s crazy is that all these photos are geotagged with location information and include accurate descriptions. Wouldn’t you agree that this Encore photo (also on Panoramio), or this Las Vegas Fashion Mall photo (I took both while in Las Vegas) would be better than what Google is providing?

To summarize; the top listing returned by Google when searching for a hotel in Las Vegas features an incorrect address, incorrect phone number, incorrect map placement, incorrect hours, incorrect transit information, and incorrect photos. It appears Google has taken elements of Mandalay Bay (address), Bally’s (phone), Paris Hotel (map), Bellagio (photos), Caesars (photos), ARIA (photos) and whipped together a listing for Wynn/Encore Hotel. Maybe it’s a multi-casino property conspiracy against Steve Wynn? Maybe it’s a sign that we have long way to go in improving local search for users.