On October 1, 2014, just before PubCon 2014, SEMPO put out a press release that created instant outrage and discussions, and approval from some.
SEMPO and Other Leading Search Marketing Groups Unite in Call for Delegates to Frame Search Marketing Code of Ethics Initial Organizational Meeting to be held at Pubcon Internet Marketing Conference in Las Vegas
Read more: http://www.sempo.org...F#ixzz3FZLJ0Nkk
Wakefield, MA, October 2, 2014 – In an effort to create a widely adopted and enforceable search engine marketing code of ethics for North America, the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization (SEMPO) as well as other leading search engine marketing organizations are conducting a call for delegates to participate in an inaugural "Search Congress.” During the Search Congress, delegates from search engine marketing organizations throughout North America will create an initial North American search engine marketer’s code of ethics.
The Search Congress will take place at a date and place to be determined in 2015. An informational meeting regarding delegate selection as well as the proposed code of ethics framing process will take place at the Internet marketing conference, Pubcon, in Las Vegas. The meeting location will be publicized at the conference and on social media. Follow @SEMPOGlobal and @Pubcon for the latest news and to get involved in the discussion during Pubcon on October 6 – 9, 2014.
In order to participate as a delegate in the search congress, an individual must be nominated by an eligible search engine marketing organization. These organizations may include regional associations, virtual communities, or other eligible groups.
The immediate reaction I read came from people who were not planning on attending PubCon and therefore would be unable to participate in this Search Congress delegate selection process or the first phase of the proposed code. This was followed by some people who were going to Pubcon but had their schedules made up ahead of time. There was no lead time on this.
I try hard to remain objective and open minded. I've never liked SEMPO, but that is more or less simply because I don't trust most organizations, and in the case of SEMPO, when I compared what they offered with what the usability organizations provide, there was no comparison. Since leaving the SEO industry, I have no need to belong to it.
However, my company partners with SEO companies and I used to work for one. I still write and teach about holistic, organic SEO and UX. I am Admin here. I have a vested interest in the industry. The pioneers in the SEO industry are folks I've known, networked and worked for and with for nearly 20 years. In that time, I've seen, heard, and experienced much.
At the risk of upsetting friends who are trying so hard to do good work, for SEMPO and their companies, I wroteDear SEO. It’s About Ego, Not Ethics
SEMPO is not about to try and sell a new culture and this is why I feel they will struggle to convince people to agree to their proposals. The SEO industry has gotten away with pricing many companies directly out of the right to compete with Fortune companies for years.
The problems with finding affordable healthcare in the USA are made worse because not having it can mean fines. This allows health care companies to manipulate services and pricing. The SEO industry knows that a similar situation exists in their favor because not having any type of search engine marketing strategy results in no business.
They know, too, that companies come seeking help for marketing with websites that don’t work well, and rather than tell their clients that the website itself needs usability testing to uncover issues and hunt for positive user experience opportunities, they pocket the links, PPC and content marketing money and promise the client miracles in search.
Shari Thurow wrote in the comments:
As a colleague once vehemently stated, “Google is NOT the government.” Google is a for-profit company. I choose not to bend search engine rules because I don’t want to run my business that way.
Michael Martinez wrote:
I don’t expect much to come from the SEMPO initiative, either; maybe some vague document with committee-speak like mission and vision statements. I have a long list of potential objections waiting, depending on what they include or omit.
Both have been in the industry since it began.
The arguments for creating ethics and standards have been about the reputation of the SEO industry and cleaning up bad practices. I think the approach is awkward because each company should be expected to create its own reputation and set of ethics and rules. A system that tattles on companies is weak from the start. A system that requires displaying a badge that is not attached to any data or rules for engagement is empty.
My observation is that the process of creating a Search Congress and ethics standards does not include hearing from clients. There is no place that I am aware of where a client who has a grievance against a digital marketing agency can make a formal report to the organization that oversee's the industry.
Another observation is based on my own experience of trying to find legitimate companies to refer work to and partner with. Recently I learned of yet another company that I did work for years ago has hurt clients with unsound practices.
And one final point. Since starting my consulting biz back up, I am asked several times a week for recommendations on affordable help. I'm asked by agencies for my recommendations for PPC because they can't find anyone anymore. I listen to their stories and am amazed at what's happening out there.
To me, SEMPO faces a culture of ego's who will not make sound judgment calls because the work is competitive. SEO's do not support other SEO's. They drink with them and form alliances and break them faster than speed dating.
The most difficult step will be asking for the truth about how they do business.