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Old 08-11-2004   #1
dannysullivan
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SEMPO & The SEM Reputation Problem

NOTE: THERE ARE CURRENTLY SEVERAL SEMPO THREADS GOING. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO SEE THEM AND PLEASE CHOOSE THE RIGHT ONE FOR YOUR COMMENTS.

One of the biggest criticisms SEMPO faced before the current upset for stipends, board elections and lack of communication was that some people thought SEMPO should screen members. Only white hats should be allowed in! No, only firms that get good results should be allowed in, regardless of hat! SEMPO sidestepped the entire issue by not getting into certification or standards to begin with. However, they have formed a committee recently to look again at the issue. Are there common guidelines or "best business practices" that SEMPO can promote that in turn may help the entire industry.

For some background on these issues, see the Mike Grehan Stirs Up SEMPO Controversy and SEMPO Meeting at SES San Jose 2004 threads. Also see An SEM Code Of Conduct?, Improving The Reputation Of The SEM Industry .

In this thread, what specifically do you think SEMPO should do in this area?
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Old 08-12-2004   #2
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Just to be clear, I assume this is referrring to SEMPO setting up "best practices" for the reputation of the industry - and it's not referring to SEMPO's reputation amongst those in the industry. Do I have that right?

Quote:
Are there common guidelines or "best business practices" that SEMPO can promote that in turn may help the entire industry.
That can involve a lot of subjective judgment calls, and some things go beyond the published search engine guidelines. There are some things that are not technically spam, but they do involve ethical business practices, just plain old-fashioned common decency and a sense of fair play. Unfortunately, this can be a very nasty business.

They'd have to make pretty sure there weren't any of them living in a glass house or there could end up being a lot of stones thrown.

Last edited by Marcia : 08-12-2004 at 08:25 AM.
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Old 08-12-2004   #3
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With the type of organization sempo says it wants to have, NO WAY can there be any best practices at all.

It's a non-starter.
 
Old 08-12-2004   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcia
That can involve a lot of subjective judgment calls, and some things go beyond the published search engine guidelines. There are some things that are not technically spam, but they do involve ethical business practices, just plain old-fashioned common decency and a sense of fair play. Unfortunately, this can be a very nasty business.
Sure it can. but the talk in San Jose steered away from tactics, and leaned more towards some biz ethics at the very least - full disclosure - making clients aware of the risks they may be taking with a certain route, and I would also assume not claiming to have a 'special relationship' with google, overture, etc - beyond a good ad rep.
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Old 08-12-2004   #5
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making clients aware of the risks they may be taking with a certain route, and I would also assume not claiming to have a 'special relationship' with google, overture, etc - beyond a good ad rep.
What good could that possibly do? How would that help the industry at all? Does anyone think a SEMPO member is going to tell others that they "do not" disclose "all" to their clients? Who would do the "enforcing" as to if this type of "best practice" is adhered to? And even if we all agreed to this; you would be assuming your client completely understands the risks involved when you explain them to your client. How can this possibly be? All you would be doing is giving your client FULL and complete responsibility without taking on any responsibility for yourself. How is this a good thing either?

Don't we think it's much better to educate the client as to the search engine guidelines, and much better to abide by those guidelines? Don't you think a true Professional would tell the client who does not wish to abide by the se guidelines that "I cannot help you then"? That is being a Professional. Saying you are Professional because you told the client of the risks, and then proceeded to spam the engines of behalf of your client is not being Professional at all. This type of outlook is the actual "Why" our industry has the bad reputation that it truly does have.

Further: What difference would it possibly make to this industry that this SEM firm completely tells the client of the risks, and they both agree to the risks? How does that help anyone? You would essentially be saying;

"It's okay to spam as long as your client knows the risks".

How would that be a good thing for the industry? I fail to see any good at all, and only see something as being more harmful than having NO ethics statement at all.

Last edited by ihelpyou : 08-12-2004 at 10:57 AM.
 
Old 08-12-2004   #6
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Don't we think it's much better to educate the client as to the search engine guidelines, and much better to abide by those guidelines?
Doug, search engine guidelines don't cover all the things they do not like. In addition, there are indeed times when something may technically violate their guidelines but where they aren't actually bothered by it. There's lots and lots of gray.

That's one reason I've suggested that the search engines themselves get involved in making it easier to tell if someone has actually spammed them -- they make the rules, they should provide the courts. Leaving it to third parties to interpret the enforce their rules makes no sense. My Spam Rules Require Effective Spam Police goes into detail about this.

But by all means, lay out exactly what you think the guidelines should be that SEMPO ought to require all members to follow, or perhaps encourage them to follow as a way to distinguish themselves. This thread said that things are being considered and is asking for ideas. So you don't need to argue against what they aren't doing -- just lay out what you want them to do.
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Old 08-12-2004   #7
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I have posted what I think they should do with any ethics or standards statement.

Don't have one.

That's pretty clear to me. They are not in the business of dictating any standards and could not possibly have standards. They are suppose to be "promoting" the sem industry, and not promoting their members or any standards the members have.

Standards are left up to other orgs who vet members and who's goals are to promote the members with those same standards. It would be hypocritical for sempo to lay out standards when most of us could not possibly be a part of those standards.

Again, Don't have any standards. I posted this many times in these forums already.

btw, the search engine guidelines are not vague. They are very clear as to basic guidelines. There is nothing technical about them. Cloaking is spam. Other forms of content delivery are not spam. It's all very clear to many of us.

Last edited by ihelpyou : 08-12-2004 at 11:53 AM.
 
Old 08-12-2004   #8
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Quote:
Standards are left up to other orgs who vet members and who's goals are to promote the members with those same standards.
Doug, I thought this was long what you said you wanted SEMPO to do. My understanding was that you thought for the group to be successful in any way, it should be vetting members. If that's the case, that's relevant to this discussion. By what standards do you want them to vet members? Just ensure that no member violates any search engine guidelines that you believe are clear enough? Or is there more?

Or alternatively, are you happy with them just being a promotional body? Because again, I'm pretty sure you were upset in the past that people might come to SEMPO, see the members listed, then feel that the members were considered somehow vetted.
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Old 08-12-2004   #9
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There are a lot of things that aren't all that clear-cut - and they've got little do with with cloaking, which isn't always spam, and doesn't always get a site the thumbs down even if it is looked at.

There's no way engines could let on to specifics without seriously jeopardizing the integrity of their search - they'd be foolish to. And there are a lot of subtleties that aren't covered by the printed guidelines that search engines have, and technically aren't "spam" by the letter of the guidelines, and yet really are.

I seldom file a report; I collect spam - to study. I keep a bookmarks folder called "quality black hat sites" - for real. It takes a lot of constant digging and rooting around, but it's the best SEO education available. A lot is a matter of degree, and they'll never let on what the limits are.

It would be impossible to set standards for an organization. too much is subjective and too much is a matter of quantity and degree. Besides, even for a lot of us white hats there's a code of honor among thieves.

*Anyone* who does things on a site to exert influence for better rankings is technically manipulating and working the engines. No exceptions.

Last edited by Marcia : 08-12-2004 at 12:08 PM.
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Old 08-12-2004   #10
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Because of the way sempo is set up 'right now', there should be vetting involved with members because it's obvious sempo's mission is to promote it's members.

I envision a completely different sempo with a completely different website and everything else. I detailed what I thought the org should do. I will post it again in this thread:

Quote:
I will also try to be very polite with this post. I'm sorry if I sometimes come off as c ocky or arrogant. It's hard to sit back and watch when this industry means everything to me personally and business-wise. My personality can be hard to take sometimes. I know this.

From day one of knowing about this new org, there have been a great amount of questions asked. Motives of board members and of the Director have been questioned. Emails have been sent. Vague responses have been given in forums all over the internet. Now it's been one year since inception, and "all" the concerns about SEMPO have been realized.

Many of us all have the same concerns. Many of us are not represented in the current form of SEMPO. There are very important reasons for that.

1. No vetting process of new members.
Many see the list of members as a yellow page thing. The problem is that there are 'levels' of membership.

2. Circle members have to give $5000 to be in the Circle.
That leaves out the majority of SEM's and small type other businesses completely.

3. Those in the Circle are given a front page listing.
SEMPO did very good at the start, as one original concern was the lack of disclaimers on the website. They corrected that quickly. If we sit back and think about it, the perception of a website owner coming to that front page is that of thinking that those listings are something special. I know the disclaimer is on that page, but do we really believe a visitor is going to read all of that content first, before clicking on a Circle listing? I don't think so. At the top of those listings is just... "SEMPO Circle Members"

Full disclosure would be something like:

SEMPO Circle Member Sponsorships

4. It turns out that I have directly seen emails from a variety of people and things where a Circle Member claimed something like this:

"But I'm a SEMPO Circle Member"

SEMPO has stated countless times that NO members should be using the membership status to gain some kind of "credibility". This is not happening at all as members are constantly touting their membership to gain an advantage. Right now, there are Circle members using SEMPO to say they must be better than everyone else since they are a Circle Member of SEMPO. This is stated on some Circle member websites. Not good.

5. See all of orion's posts and other real good posts about all the other concerns about SEMPO. They are facts. They are not silly or speculative.

Now: How does SEMPO improve to get the most members to join?

1. The Executive Director must resign, but be given the opportunity to be a regular member. A new director should be looked for in a democratic way that has experience in running a non-profit org. SEMPO could pay this person a good salary for "full" time work.

2. An Assistant to the director should be hired as well. Both these positions should Not be of people or firms "in the SEM industry. See the BBB and how they set things up. Also look at other non-profits to see.

3. All board members should step down, and new board members "voted" in by the existing members. There needs to be checks and balances from top to bottom. Danny's suggestion of "half" now, half later was a good one. The same board members could actually be 'voted' back in, but they would have to step down first imo. The top two positions have final say on all activities of the organization.

4. There should be a level playing field. There should not be different levels of membership at all. The mission is to tell the world about SEM and how it can help every online business. There should be no way that members can capitalize on the fact they are a member. A fee in the range of $100 to $200 US per year is sufficient. This would enable "many" more businesses to become members and not be strapped financially. After-all, the orgs mission is suppose to tell the world about the benefits of SEM, so the org should be all-encompassing. It should not be for the few firms that have $5000 to invest. Notice I used the word "invest". SEMPO has stated it wants the whole world to join, not just the select few. I feel this type of fee structure would entice everyone in the world to join.

5. Some type of education should be developed into the SEMPO website. Articles are fine, etc, more things should be done.

6. A new website should be designed. The current one is confusing. Of course, this is just my opinion, but I feel that some great and Professional Designer out there could build a top-notch site, complete with database management, and completely search engine friendly as well. It's not a tough thing to do. The industry wants the org to be "the" thing, so it should conduct itself that way right from the start.

7. RFP's should only be received "if" there is some kind of vetting process. Otherwise, the org could get into big trouble down the line. I don't have to explain this as it's pretty clear to most everyone in this forum.

8. Links leading out to other business websites should Not be allowed. Period. You should have a "resource" type page as the only place on the whole site where different resources can be listed.

9. Same as orion about the 'hats' things. Official email addresses should be used only.

10. If there 'is' a vetting process of some type, RFP's should be listed on the website itself where any member can log-in to view the RFP's submitted. This form should never go directly to any one person, or go directly to the board members or to anyone else. It should be posted immediately in the "password" protected area where "every" member has access to the email address and anything else you all have in the form. This could be set up "very" easily by a capable developer.

11. The actual member listings should be by category, and then by alpha order. Again, fairly easy to do.

Well, I'm tired now. I have many more ideas as well. I certainly hope you all take this post in the spirit it was intended. I do want to help, and I do feel like I could join SEMPO at some point, just not now. I know the meeting is this evening so maybe things will get straightened out some. If so, great! I just wanted to share my feelings about all of this. These concerns and suggested remedies are shared by a great many I would think.

Sorry that this was so long, but thank you for reading and giving me the opportunity to express my opinions.

Doug Heil
That's my complete post. If the org was set up this way, NO need at all to have any standards, as the mission of the org is to "promote the sem industry", and not to promote it's members.

I have very clear ideas about this type of organization and how it should be structured. I'd even "donate" the complete redesign and database management and all else involved with it if I was asked to do so. I know what's in my head about this. It "could" work if done the right way.

#7 above is not quite correct though now. I feel there can be no vetting process at all. I also think that not just sem firms should be members. ANY site on the planet could be a member. I also think RFP's could be submitted if they were in a members area. "Only" firms who are members can submit an RFP. If you become a member, you can submit an RFP to other members. This would be done completely online and behind a private member area.

The ideas are numerous. I have lots of them. I think they are good ideas.
 
Old 08-12-2004   #11
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OK, that's a laundry list of remedies, most of which aren't applicable to this particular topic. So keeping things on track, I'll pull out the one that is:

Quote:
1. No vetting process of new members.
Many see the list of members as a yellow page thing. The problem is that there are 'levels' of membership
And I ask you again, what vetting process do you envision? What exactly do you want checked and verified before someone would be admitted into SEMPO? That's the theme of this particular thread.
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Old 08-12-2004   #12
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MODERATOR NOTE: PORTION ON CLOAKING DEFINITION DELETED -- THIS IS GETTING THE THREAD OFF TOPIC.

Quote:
And I ask you again, what vetting process do you envision? What exactly do you want checked and verified before someone would be admitted into SEMPO? That's the theme of this particular thread.
Again, under the current way sempo is set up, there cannot be any vetting process. I go on to say that there cannot be a vetting process period if you want to promote the sem industry and you don't promote it's members.

Not sure how much clearer I can make this point?

Last edited by dannysullivan : 08-12-2004 at 01:00 PM.
 
Old 08-12-2004   #13
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Look, this thread isn't mean to define what is or isn't spam. So you've seen my deletions to keep it on track. Some people believe it is clear; others disagree. That's all that really needs to be covered on that ground here.
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Old 08-12-2004   #14
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Quote:
Again, under the current way sempo is set up, there cannot be any vetting process. I go on to say that there cannot be a vetting process period if you want to promote the sem industry and you don't promote it's members.
Yes, Doug -- I understand you don't like how SEMPO is setup. Assuming it was setup in all perfectness in the way you like, what would be the vetting criteria?

In other words, you seem to think there's some value in an industry/trade group. You also seem to think there's a reason individuals and/or companies would join. I'm assuming you'd want them vetted. What's that criteria?
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Old 08-12-2004   #15
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Yes, Doug -- I understand you don't like how SEMPO is setup. Assuming it was setup in all perfectness in the way you like, what would be the vetting criteria?
No Danny. Let's say I actually built the site from scratch using all my ideas. If that is the case, I still feel that there could not possibly be a vetting process as that is not the mission of the organization.
 
Old 08-12-2004   #16
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OK, then I don't see that you've anything else to say here. You want the entire site rebuilt according to your vision. Frankly, I find your vision confusing. That's because it addresses the current setup and things you want changed to it. Instead, you need the entire thing really ripped down and started from afresh. Go for it -- you don't need to reform SEMPO. Just start something new.
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Old 08-12-2004   #17
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In an attempt to stop this thred becoming a ihelpyou v DS tennis match [I'm biased, one is on ignore, hard to follow a tennis match that way] let me state my opinion on this whole "code of conduct" + "best practices" area.

I believe you either manipulate the search engines for a living or you don't. The moment, the very second, you look at a title tag and think "I wonder if I put my keyword in there" you have crossed the line. You_are_a_spammer.

I just read these type of threads and all I see in my mind is a bunch of school kids shouting "your a bigger spammer than me!". It is no wonder that SEO is held in such comtempt by the search engines, if I were them I'd be laughing at us too, I really don't like people laughing at my friends.

Why on earth any business would need a "code of conduct" is beyond me, why not call it "stating the obvious", just simple common business sense. Let the law deal with that stuff.

As for best practices that makes me shudder, there seems almost an inverse factor at work, those who scream best practices loudest are the ones that seem happy to ride rough shod over what I consider *wise* practices.
When I think of those people I always think of this "joke":

A guy stops to talk to a beautiful woman.

"Hello, I must say, you are about the most beautiful women I have ever met."

"Thank you very much."

"I was wondering if you'd sleep with me for a million dollars?"

"A million dollars!" She thinks for a moment and answers, "Yes, I would sleep with you for a million dollars."

"How about five bucks?"

"Five bucks! What kind of woman do you think I am?"

"We've already determined that. Now we are just haggling over money."

I don't know how we can move forward when there seems to be a few very vocal people who won't accept what_they_are.

I hate seeing that picture of school kids in my mind I would much rather, when reading a thread about SEO, picture a bunch of hyenas bring a wildebeest down.
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Old 08-12-2004   #18
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That's not a good answer Danny.

I've given really good and constructive suggestions for change. To simply brush things off is not a good thing. I've received "many" compliments from PM in here and from email from people that are 'not' members of my place. They all say the suggestions are very good and actionable.
 
Old 08-12-2004   #19
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Quote:
I believe you either manipulate the search engines for a living or you don't. The moment, the very second, you look at a title tag and think "I wonder if I put my keyword in there" you have crossed the line. You_are_a_spammer.
No other comment from me is necessary about that statement. That pretty much says it all, and the reason that the search engine guidelines are abused by some out there. It's also the reason why SEMPO could not possibly have any vetting process or any standards. Further: It's why the industry has the reputation that it has.

Last edited by ihelpyou : 08-12-2004 at 01:55 PM.
 
Old 08-12-2004   #20
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I believe you either manipulate the search engines for a living or you don't. The moment, the very second, you look at a title tag and think "I wonder if I put my keyword in there" you have crossed the line. You_are_a_spammer.
I believe that depends on one's defintion of both "spammer" and "manipulate." Those of us who disagree with the above statement don't view it as manipulation to help people and search engines to find the subject-matter of a given page, and thus to find a page that matches the subject-matter they seek.

Is it manipulation for a city to put up a sign on a road that says "Hospital - Next Exit"? I'd say it's manipulation if there isn't a hospital at the next exit, and they put up the sign to increase traffic to a diner at that location. If there is a hospital, it's assistance.
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