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After SEMPO: Should we Start a Trade Association?


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#1 peter_d

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 05:16 PM

Does there need to be a competing org? Once that org gets higher membership numbers (hardly difficult) they become the main player.

How much support is there out there for Bill's notion of a representitive SEM organisation?

It would get my money...



[size=9]Admin Note: This thread was split off from one on SEMPO. Hopefully it will lead to better things. - Bill Slawski

#2 JohnScott

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 05:22 PM

If Peter D was at the helm, you'd have a lot of support from my corner of the net.

#3 NFFC_

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 05:36 PM

>It would get my money...

Where do I send and how much?

#4 sanity

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 05:39 PM

How much support is there out there for Bill's notion of a representitive SEM organisation?

If it was set up the way Bill has been describing in this thread I'd be in. Heck I'd volunteer to help with the website too.

#5 peter_d

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 05:47 PM

I'd be very happy to help promote, handle communications and act as advisor - no payment necessary (although John's vote of confidence is much appreciated)

I like what Bill says. I think that is the way forward.

#6 sanity

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 05:52 PM

I like what Bill says. I think that is the way forward.

Agreed. It certainly would be a fair amount of work (which no doubt is the case for SEMPO) but I'd be confident with Bill at the helm.

#7 JohnScott

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 05:55 PM

Bill's definately a a great choice as well, I'm just guessing that Peter D has a bit more visibility in the SEO community.

Either way, you've got my support.

#8 sanity

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 05:56 PM

Peter who?? :?

#9 peter_d

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 05:58 PM

<laughs> My feeling is that the head should be independent i.e. not a professional SEM.

#10 bragadocchio

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 05:59 PM

It sounds like it's worth exploring, doesn't it.

I'm not sure what part of the industy 250 people are, but I understand that's about how many members SEMPO has.

I've seen a lot of claims that they are the industry leaders. I said before that leaders lead. But, leaders also listen. SEMPO doesn't appear to really be doing either.

I suspect that it it might not take much effort to build an organization that made made SEMPO look small in comparison.

What are the things that you would look for in an organization that actually represented the industry?

What would its purpose be?

How would people communicate with each other? Is it something that could be done, not in a conference room during SES seminars, but on the web?

#11 sanity

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 06:56 PM

Is it something that could be done, not in a conference room during SES seminars, but on the web?

It would have to be. There are far too many of us in far flung places that can't necessarily get to an SES.

Obviously communication could be via a website and email but what about a forum as well. They've worked pretty well so far. :D

#12 rcjordan

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 06:59 PM

>>It would get my money...

>Where do I send and how much?

Hell, if NFFC is bankrolling it, I'm in. ....just, ummm, don't elect Ammon as treasurer.

#13 projectphp

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 06:59 PM

What are the things that you would look for in an organization that actually represented the industry?

What would its purpose be?

I think you hit the nail on the head right here: http://www.cre8asite...r=asc&start=105, and this comment is a big part of it:

How would people communicate with each other? Is it something that could be done, not in a conference room during SES seminars, but on the web?

Start simple: A blog, a mailing list and a website that was transparent, and answered a prospective members queries right off the bat, and injcluded things like bylaws, fact on where it was incorporated, what its mission was etc etc.

Later, if a place like this was willing, a specific forum to discuss what is going on, and perhaps more high tech solutions (like streaming webcams).

My $0.02 anyway!!!

<edited by bwelford to correct quotes>

#14 Brad

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 07:06 PM

Okay where do I send my check or paypal payment? Do Mac users get a discount? :D

How would people communicate with each other? Is it something that could be done, not in a conference room during SES seminars, but on the web?


First a monthly member newsletter. Would not have to have articles, just meeting minutes, finance tallies, what is being done. That alone would run rings around SEMPO.

Second a website with real info on it of use to the membership. Maybe a forum maybe an email discussion list. But an email discussion list or even an instant messenger chat would work for a small group like the directors and staff.

#15 peter_d

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 07:15 PM

What are the things that you would look for in an organization that actually represented the industry?...What would its purpose be?


Bills post also has my vote:
http://www.cre8asite...r=asc&start=105

How would people communicate with each other? Is it something that could be done, not in a conference room during SES seminars, but on the web?


Child's play. To start...

A blog
A discussion forum
A newsletter

With an eye to....

Chat
Video Conferencing

As required by the membership. Activities must be transparent and inclusive.
Could have it running in a matter of days....

#16 DianeV

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 07:28 PM

Interesting.

Some of the professional engineers organization websites I've been looking at (have an engineering firm as a client) have both information for engineers/companies and the general public.

You know, there are many threads discussing SEMPO; in addition to the communications and the representing-everyone issues, it may be that many issues would be the same.

#17 sanity

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 07:29 PM

Some of the professional engineers organization websites I've been looking at (have an engineering firm as a client) have both information for engineers/companies and the general public.

That makes a lot of sense Diane. :D

#18 peter_d

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 07:34 PM

I think the members could build a Wikipedia-style resource over time. Everyone can contribute. Should help benefit the general public, and ultimately SEMs.

#19 gravelsack

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 07:35 PM

I'd be happy to be part of it.

#20 peter_d

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 07:35 PM

We should invite the other forums in here? We don't want anyone to think this is purely a cre8asite thing...

#21 sanity

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 07:39 PM

Good idea Peter. Perhaps a post in your blog inviting people too. :D

#22 peter_d

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 07:44 PM

Will do...

Can people get the word out to the other forums they frequent?

#23 Guest_rustybrick_*

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 07:54 PM

If I had more time I would post it in my blog, but Kim, if you have time - feel free to post this at the Roundtable. I am just full swing in this SES thing and I have to run now.

#24 cre8pc

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 08:33 PM

I would post but I'm not sure what's happening. Is this a knee jerk reaction to SEMPO or a discussion of the feasibility of something new, based on Bill's suggestions?

I don't think this should be a "Cre8asiteforums movement" thing, or associated with these forums. Many of us (staff and members) have ties, in one or way or another, to SEMPO.

I'd prefer to post in Barry's blog (and mine) and our forums blog, something that's clear and well defined, with call to action prompts for where a reader can respond to help or learn more.

#25 peter_d

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 08:39 PM

This doesn't have anything to do with cre8asite, Kim, it's just where the discussion is happening (for now).

As I mentioned in my first post, we're asking if there is a demand for another organisation based on Bill's outline. This is user driven, pretty much a show of hands.

If there is demand, then we can take it from there i.e. those interested will setup new domain, org, etc.

#26 Brad

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 08:54 PM

I think the purpose needs to be nailed down a bit more. I'm not sure where to start.

#27 Ruud

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 09:11 PM

I have a side-interest in SEO and SEM. I code in the first place, then do web design and web sites which naturally involves some SEO at the least. I started to seriously work for myself this year. I do it because work is fun. Although the extra money is nice I'm happy enough in life to not have to be greedy. I don't like to make a buck over the back of my customer; I want them to feel really happy and satisfied with what I delivered them.

That's just to draw where I'm coming from....

When I think about an organisation related to the web work I do I'm not so much looking for a labour union as for a Seal Of Approval type of deal. It is hard to land clients in the beginning (remember?). To be able to point to a seal or your site which stands for something would certainly help - and certainly make me proud. To tell that scared customer who doesn't know if you're the next web-based rip off artist that that same organisation will do dispute resolution and that you will abide by it - that would be a big plus. To outline that you follow the quality guidelines laid out...mm... could be helpful.

That, off the top of my head, is something that has value for me.

Ruud

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 12:34 AM

From what I heard tonight, speaking with some of the board members - SEMPO really wants to stay out of setting 'standards'. The main board member in favor of standards set by SEMPO (I am told) is Danny Sullivan. I might have wrong or misinformation but this is what I was told tonight.

#29 Ruud

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 01:45 AM

SEMPO really wants to stay out of setting 'standards'.


But if not representing a higher standard of quality within the industry, then what do they (re)present to my customer? What does it mean?

My reference remains SquareTrade which represents, which stands for something on a site like eBay.

I know I am a professional.
I know I take my work very, very seriously.
I know I only settle for total customer satisfaction.

To proof you that you should message me for your next project you either have to get to know me or have some sort of seal of approval. Something that says "Ruud is on the mark, he's for real - if not we will settle the dispute" - anything that stops short of that is not worth even a thread.

Ruud

#30 James

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 01:55 AM

Sounds like a great idea to me.

#31 Adrian

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 02:53 AM

From what I heard tonight, speaking with some of the board members - SEMPO really wants to stay out of setting 'standards'.


SEMPO is going to get worn like a badge by at least some people, whether they want it to or not. If they aren't going to promote good practices within their own organisation, I can see it just getting a bad name amoung clients who mistakingly take on an SEM thinking the SEMPO mark means they live up to certain things.

Leaves me even more confused about SEMPO, if its not going to set any kind of standards, why should anyone go to them to find an SEM. It says nothing of the quality/honesty/professionalism etc of an SEM at all.

An alternative org could start off like the Web Standards Project. A group of people basically setting out some goals, blogging, promoting those goals, lobbying for general improvements with things etc...

GAWDS (Guild of Accessible Web Designers) is an organistaion set up fairly recently. Though in a different area, many of you may find the About GAWDS page interesting.

a business fraternity, which will develop resources with the aim of helping its members learn new skills, and find more work. For example: 

By providing a search engine of accessible web designers and developers - to be used by potential customers.

By providing a place to add articles and resources to the site, which in turn promote the posters' own business, - that's not a problem - that's an aim of the Guild.

It's a mutual support and learning society - the Guild is not a Discussion Forum, but it provides a Discussion Forum - in this case by linking up with AccessifyForums.


They also have a Manifesto outlining what they are trying to achieve, and restrictions on membership to try and ensure that all members have the same goals in mind.

#32 bragadocchio

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 06:00 AM

It makes sense to consider what other people are doing elsewhere on the web. Adrian's two examples are good ones. There's probably plenty that we could learn by looking at organizations that already exist.

For instance, the Direct Marketing Association has a pretty good web site. I like that they have separate sections for consumers, for industy members, for membership, and so on. At the top of the page is a link to a timely article on a new type of authentication for emails. There's not any member site's listed on the front page, and there are case studies on Marketing and on Business ethics.

Are there any other sites or organizations that we should look at?

I do like the idea of people airing their ideas and notions of what they think a trade association should be like, and how it might benefit them. Let's do some more of that.

I don't think we should go quite go so far as to lay out the groundwork for a new organization. Exploring all of the options is a good starting point. Any group that might be created would definitely benefit from a clear statement of pupose, and a clear understanding of whom the members should be.

Let's get a sense of what that clear statement of purpose might be.

There were a number of ideas about trade groups expressed while we were discussing SEMPO. It's still fresh after a SEMPO meeting where it seems that little happened. But, maybe something is. Maybe SEMPO members are reading through some of those many forum threads, and thinking about what it means to be a director, or a member of the organization, and considering what the organization will be like tomorrow.

I think it's too early to dismiss SEMPO out of hand, but I also think that there are a great number of lessons we should take from its year of existence, and the technical problems that have plagued it. Will SEMPO become the body that many hope? Or is something else needed? To a large degree, that depends upon what the SEMPO folks do.

But, in the meantime, we can explore what it means to be a trade association, and what one that represents the industry as a whole could be.

I'd like to look at some of those topics here, such as why a nonprofit status might be important. What the purpose of bylaws are. What responsibilities a director might have. How the group might want other industries, and consumers to view them. It can take quite a lot of planning, and preparation to get something like this right.

I'd be a little skeptical of someone trying to start something new, especially after the heartbreaking reports of what happened at the SEMPO meeting, where the momentum behind issues we thought would be addressed seemed to be lost to apathy and uncaring by the organization's members who seem to like the organization as it is.

It would be nice to see SEMPO on track.

Can our discussions here influence it in a positive way? If they can't, can we share enough information and ideas so that something maybe new and better can arise.

I think we might be able to achieve both of those goals. I'd like to see this thread grow, with suggestions from many people, giving us a notion of what people really want out of a trade association.

So, what do you want out of a group that represents the industry? Let's not debate each other so much as collect ideas.

#33 bwelford

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 06:52 AM

I agree with your approach, Bill, of trying to get the ideas thoroughly explored here and leaving it to some energetic group in some other place to make it happen. As you say, that might be SEMPO if enough board members smell the coffee. Or it might be some other group. However no one should be under any doubt that there is an enormous work involved for every member of that energetic group. They all should have seen the blueprint of what they are creating, before signing on. There are many important parts to that blueprint, but I think Mission and Bylaws are absolutely critical.

I think the existance of Forums on Search Engine Marketing (and I include the Cre8asite Forums in that although we cover much more) means that many of the functions that a Trade Organization might perform are already covered to a greater or lesser extent. Just apply a bit of 'helicopter vision' to what has been going on for the past months and very intensively for the past 14 days. I believe we have seen many of the members of the SEM industry discuss very passionately what the mission of SEMPO should be. Clearly SEMPO is not the Trade Organization for the industry. There is a very clear divide between those who feel it should include a definition of Best Practices and those who do not. Apparently most current SEMPO members were represented at the SEMPO meeting at San Jose and most are happy with the present SEMPO. They want it to stay largely as it is, without a definition of Best Practices.

I think this question of Best Practices is the one item that creates an enormous divide within the industry. I believe the majority of the SEM industry would prefer a world in which there were clearly identified Best Practices, and where the worst offenders against such Practices found the 'world' was against them. A true Trade Organization could help to make that happen. I don't see how SEMPO can get there from where it now stands, given the wishes of its members.

Who knows, if such a Trade Organization with Best Practices was live, then the Search Engines would no longer need to be seeing a conflict between themselves and the SEM practitioners. If only they would pick up their responsibilities of consistent policing of their own Guidelines, with confidential feedback to those who have transgressed. We could then all move off this time-wasting topic of "spamming" the search engines and discuss some of the more fruitful and exciting areas of Internet Marketing.

#34 Brad

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 06:59 AM

On standards:

A lot of this is how such an org. tries to approarch it. If you try to dictate standards right from the start it becomes polarizing. However, if you start by bringing groups together where there is common agreement (eg. full disclosure, don't rip-off the client, etc.) then I think you have a chance to be useful to a broad range of SEO's in re standards. As an example, most one wo/man shops have little time to sit down and write a comprehensive disclosure statement, but if this org provided a suggested form that they can use it would be educating both SEO's but also the public. Standards might evolve into something more over time but polarizing the industry into pro-con camps seems counter productive to something intended to represent the industry as a whole.

With that said: there is leadership by good example on the issue of standards. :)

Or maybe Bill has it right, maybe we can determine the purpose better by defining who should be a member? Is it only professional SEO/M? Or others that do SEO?

#35 bwelford

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 07:26 AM

who should be a member? Is it only professional SEO/M? Or others that do SEO?

I don't believe there is any clear or useful definition of what a professional SEO/M is, other than they take money for doing it. :)

Effective use of the Internet is much wider than just SEO. I believe such an organization should be for anyone who wants to be part of a Trade Organization dealing with SEM. It should largely be for individuals since this industry has a very large number of solo entrepreneurs in it. Undoubtedly many of the visitors to this Forum would be typical of the membership. Some run their own business using the Internet as a big part of their selling function. As Bill said elsewhere, you could have a Student membership at a reduced fee.

#36 kensplace

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 08:10 AM

Hopefully any new organisation would not be run the way sqauretrade is run, if you
actually try contacting them, you draw a blank wall unless you send them money.
My experience with them is disapointing, they promise one thing, and do the exact opposite.

#37 alpine

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 08:40 AM

Referring to bragadocchio's post regarding concepts of an organisation:

Part of the problems that SEMPO has run into is the inevitable competition, one-upmanship and disagreement that exists whenever you get more than 5 SEOs in the same room. The best forums and the best gatherings work to eliminate that atmosphere (to expand it outside the area of this forum, I'm thinking of the atmosphere surrounding Pubcons in particular).

It seems that an ethos is created that transcends the individual benefit for the communal good - and it is this kind of ethos that such an organisation needs to succeed (and sadly has perhaps been permanently tarnished with SEMPO).

Any organisation that would expect, or hope, to get Jill Whalen and John Scott, Doug Heil and rcjordan in the same basket is facing daunting odds to start with. (BTW, I'm not referring to any personal antagonism here, but just perceived differences in publicly-stated views.)

Nonetheless, bragadocchio and the ideas expressed have clearly struck a chord and IMO it would be stupid if we didn't use this to try and aim for something that would be more in tune with what some of us are thinking.

Personally I would like to see an organisation which devotes itself to education about the industry without any self-promotion or that organisation or of participants within it (be they board members or be they members).

What I am thinking of is a resource that I can direct potential customers to that is independent and exists to gain respect for the industry

[list]that will tell potential SEM consumers - "look, don't listen to the idiot who wants to charge you $500 to keyword-load your meta tags"
that will show them that SEO is not made up of people who spam your email inbox with ridiculous proposals
that not all directory links are worthless and cost $500 a year
and above all that SEO/M is a valid and valuable way of promoting your business[list]

Part of what is above has/is being attempted by SEMPO, but appears (perhaps inevitably considering the participants) to be aimed at Fortune 500 America.

The only way I can see it working is an absolute ban on self-promotion as part of the ethos. As soon as you start moving away from that ideal and towards tangible or intangible member benefits (such as certification or business promotion or even articles submitted by members) you will get into clashes between the personalities involved, whether they are business clashes, personality differences or just mutual disrespect.

The other original point that I agreed strongly with was avoiding getting into bed with corporations involved in search, be they engines or corporate sponsors - at least at the beginning stages of the organisation.

I can understand the motivation of SEMPO board members in the corporate world in which they move (or wish to move). But I need/want/would support something that reflects my world and is independent of financial or any other forces that may wish to sway policy or publications.

#38 ihelpyou

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 08:58 AM

alpine makes good points.

Read my last post over at SEW. I do think they need the chance to completely re-structure their org first. If they don't care about any of us, and make drastic changes, then something should go forward.

NO best practice standards should be set though with the mission we all might have in mind.

#39 Adrian

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 09:19 AM

IMHO an organisation that doesn't suggest best practices is one that only serves its members. One that does suggest best practices, and therefore has some kind of restrictions on membership other than being able to pay the fee, serves consumers as well.

If anyone can join, regardless of their thoughts on how things should be done, then a potential customer doesn't have any benefit of choosing from members over non-members. They still have to work out if the member has any clue what they are on about, how the member is going to go about the job, whether they are trustworthy, whether what they do is legal or not, whether what they do is higher risk or not etc...

That kind of organisation wouldn't be able to say

that will tell potential SEM consumers - "look, don't listen to the idiot who wants to charge you $500 to keyword-load your meta tags"

because it may well be thats what some of the members do do! By stating the above, you're already setting some (obvious) best practices.

Its a bit of a minefield and there do seem to be some widely differing points of view. You could probably argue that there is space for more than one SEMPO like organisation, in the same way that there are various forums catering to different groups of people.

As Alpine mentions (and with the same disclaimer), there are some very different personalities in the business, who have vastly different views on how things should be done. It could well be that trying to get them all grouped together, singing the same tune (about some things at least) isn't something thats going to happen.

#40 alpine

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 09:33 AM

As you say, that was an "obvious" "best practice" and I used it because it was one that everyone could agree on here because we (hopefully) know that it doesn't work and thus is fraudulent.

What I was thinking more of with that particular point was an exploration for the potential SEO consumer of techniques which are peddled which are fraudulent and unprofessional (using PPC to fake "genuine" rankings, submitting to thousands of directories and engines, etc) and possibly of the concept of the risk/reward benefit of various methods in SEO/M - which is something that SEMPO was hinting towards at one point.

But talking more about techniques at varying levels of risk in the terms of a glossary than in an approved or non-approved manner...



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