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Old 01-11-2005   #1
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SMA - What do you want it to do?

Hi all!

<takes off SEW moderator hat, white cowboy hat, dunce cap and other assorted headgear>

This seems like as good of a time as any to open up discussions on what the SMA could do for it's members and the SEM industry.

The SMA-UK and SMA-EU have already been formed, and the SMA-NA will be signing on members as soon as practical, which means that once they vote on the executive the SMA-NA will be properly formed. Many thanks to the many people who have already pledged to join as soon as we can take their membership - it's great to see that kind of support!

I'd like to open the thread to offer the community an opportunity to make suggestions as to what they would like to see the SMA, or a particular regional SMA do for the industry and it's members.

The list is potentially endless, but we have to start somewhere. Any thoughts on:

Joining the W3C?
Definitions of good SEO/M business practices?
Negotiated discounts?
Political action?
Purchasing shares in key search engine companies in order to have a shareholder vote?

etc...

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Old 01-11-2005   #2
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Hey Ian,

Understand the geographical focus, but is there any chance of setting up an Australia-New Zealand Chapter so we in the Antipodes can participate?



Chris
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Old 01-11-2005   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris_D
any chance of setting up an Australia-New Zealand Chapter so we in the Antipodes can participate?
Chris, I'm hoping that's you making yourself available to be on a working group to set such a group up. If so, contact Barry Lloyd or Mike Grehan and they'll put you in touch with those already interested in forming a chapter of the SMA down under.

Same goes for any other geographical regions folks. We in the working groups for other regional SMA are happy to help support any who want to set up a similar model of open, democratic and responsible Trade Association with similar goals and values to those we're working on.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mcanerin
I'd like to open the thread to offer the community an opportunity to make suggestions as to what they would like to see the SMA, or a particular regional SMA do for the industry and it's members.
Before anything else, I'd like to thank Ian for generously devoting time and effort, and putting reputation on the line, to help get an SMA-NA up and running. There's many who want it, but a lot fewer willing to help actually build and launch it, so well done, Ian.

Let me first look at the suggestions you made already, Ian:

Joining the W3C?
While this could be a useful way of steering the way that browsers themselves are built and specified, allowing the SEM industry to help shape the user-experience of the Internet, it strikes me as perhaps a longer-term goal. I say go for it, but not as a high priority.

Definitions of good SEO/M business practices?
Make the definitions focus on scam rather than spam. Steer members towards more open and honest dealings with clients, less smoke and mirror pitches, and a lot more open honesty about what can be done, with what guarantees and responsibilities, with what redress for greivances.

Negotiated discounts?
This is great for 'Student Members', but one expects professionals to already be 'professionally equipped' so to speak. However discounts to certain trade shows, events, seminars, etc would have equal value to a wider range of members perhaps.

Political action?
Possibly, though for now, merely getting to consult with or for other groups involved in lobbying might be more attainable and time-effective. Supporting some groups fighting for sane and reasonable modifications to some proposed anti-spam laws for example.

Purchasing shares in key search engine companies in order to have a shareholder vote?
That'd be nice, especially for getting the shareholder reports. However, examine it on an ROI basis and let the members decide. This isn't something for anyone but the members themselves to commit to. It's their money in membership fees after all, and there may be better uses for it that occur.

So that brings me to other suggestions.

Okay, training is one of the main things. The SEM industry is really booming and only set to grow faster yet I feel. Many SEM companies are recruiting, but experienced staff are very hard to get sometimes. So training of a reputable and effective standard is only going to increase in demand. Is this something the SMA should help with, even if only in giving members advice on how to train, or which training programs meet with professional standards?

Seminars are sometimes similar to training. However, in this case I'm talking about information and support for the small business or startup that may also help growing businesses. Issues relating to running a business possibly for the first time. Issues relating to better business practices, thus helping members directly, and also meeting one of the core aims of promoting better business practices. After all, promoting better practices is not about what you tell people not to do, it is about helping them do things better to attain more.
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Old 01-11-2005   #4
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Hi Aamon,

Quote:
Chris, I'm hoping that's you making yourself available to be on a working group to set such a group up. If so, contact Barry Lloyd or Mike Grehan and they'll put you in touch with those already interested in forming a chapter of the SMA down under.
Actually, during the past week, I have had that conversation with pageoneresults, and searchengineblog.

I'll PM Mike.
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Old 01-11-2005   #5
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Ideally, the different SMA's are going to have to co-ordinate what they are actually offering, so that SMA stands for something other than SEMPO rebellion or baby milk powder. So it is *highly* recommended that the structure and aims of SMA-NA reflects as best possible SMA-UK and SMA-EU. Otherwise there are real dangers of creating confusion.

The SMA-UK team I spoke to at the pub con seemed very approachable, and you mentioned in your blog about talking with them - so it might be a good idea to work with them on basic foundations first.
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Old 01-11-2005   #6
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Quote:
deally, the different SMA's are going to have to co-ordinate what they are actually offering, so that SMA stands for something other than SEMPO rebellion or baby milk powder.
We are in fact already working closely together, sitting in on each others meetings, following e-mails, conversations and recieve copies of minutes. Also we are working on a way to formalize the coordination between the groups and incorporate benifits across each group.
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Old 01-11-2005   #7
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Helping to recognize, represent, and acknowledge smaller to moderately sized SEO's effectively as legitmate members in the industry (not just the corporate guys). Provide information on them to all that are interested (clients, etc.), and establish best practice quidelines in relevant areas that are useful to SEO's not only as a resource but as a teaching mechanism.
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Old 01-11-2005   #8
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I think there are bound to be differences between the various incarnations of this organization, just as there are differences between countries and continents. That being said (and it is something not to take lightly), there is also room for establishing international guidelines etc.
Though we have become the global village - the global policing of anything has not had a good track record.
If the United Nations can't do it after all these years, if the IOC can't do it, and if there has never really been a successful international trade union (some relationships have worked but with the understanding that each organization runs its own group its own way), it is rather Utopian of this industry to think they are going to galvanize an already fractious group.
There is a lot of work ahead for anyone that gets involved - and this cannot develop into another platform for a different group to get great referrals or free travel and accomodation to events.
People who volunteer - should do just that - knowing going in that there is no possibility of reimbursement except for the donation of time as any possible tax write-off. Membership fees spends should be decided by a vote of the members - easily done in an online chatroom or something similiar. It is the web afterall and can be monitored and open to the members through the website and a forum etc.
What are the goals of the SMA? Are there a base set already established by the other groups that could be adopted until a meeting of members could vote on ratifying or amending the rules etc.
The initial board should be 90-180 days only. By then enough people should have shown interest and joined and then a full vote is done where people are given the chance to post a platform and get votes. Failure to follow the platform should give grounds for a new vote and impeachment - though this has to be worked out to avoid infighting and constant challenge.
Full and open access and financial accountability. This is a must.

That's my thoughts to start with... now where do I sign and what are the rates?
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Old 01-11-2005   #9
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I'm a complete nobody in the SEO world, but I would like to be able to join an organization like SMA-NA and get the following things out of it:

A community - a place where I could share my thoughts and ideas with other professionals with greater, open access and a feeling of shared goals - i.e. we're all in this together rather than the natural paranoia, obsfucation, secrecy and unwillingness to share that normally accompanies high-level professionals in SEO/SEM

Learning, Advice, etc - A place that offers advice on far ranging topics like contract writing, client relations, optimization help, etc. Maybe an educational series?

Access - member access to the industry so important questions can get answers from important people. Discounts to industry events, on industry tools, software, etc. - they may seem unimportant to the wealth set, but an organization like this shouldn't exist to make the rich richer - I hope.

That's my two cents, I hope it helps.
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Old 01-11-2005   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by randfish
I'm a complete nobody in the SEO world, but I would like to be able to join an organization like SMA-NA and get the following things out of it:

A community - a place where I could share my thoughts and ideas with other professionals with greater, open access and a feeling of shared goals - i.e. we're all in this together rather than the natural paranoia, obsfucation, secrecy and unwillingness to share that normally accompanies high-level professionals in SEO/SEM

Learning, Advice, etc - A place that offers advice on far ranging topics like contract writing, client relations, optimization help, etc. Maybe an educational series?

Access - member access to the industry so important questions can get answers from important people. Discounts to industry events, on industry tools, software, etc. - they may seem unimportant to the wealth set, but an organization like this shouldn't exist to make the rich richer - I hope.

That's my two cents, I hope it helps.
Most of what you seek can be found right here....
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Old 01-11-2005   #11
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Quote:
training
One thing that I personally think would be really good is for the SMA to support and provide training, rather than "do" training.

For example, we are likely to have members that will offer SEO or PPC training courses to clients. This could be web based, at a local college or university and probably be in several different languages. They can serve a much greater audience and provide better service than I think the SMA (or any central organization) could do.

The one thing that the SMA should not do, IMO, is compete against it's own members. We should be supporting them. I would like to see us as possibly setting guidelines for course materials and instruction, and then giving compliant, professional, reputable training centers a "seal of approval" or something similar and support them with the latest information and research in the industry.

I feel this is a far better solution than trying to do the training ourselves.

Thinking out loud, the same kind of thinking could apply elsewhere - rather than "have" a directory, perhaps we could simply "approve" them if they are searcher and search engine friendly, or better yet approve an organization that does so, instead. Or at the very least publish a list of recommended guidlines for them (ie no tricking people into thinking a link is spiderable when it is not, no taking money and then not putting up the link, etc).

In short, focus on being a place to get guidance, and as a place to promote the welfare and interests of the industry, rather than trying to actually "do" all this stuff. I think that should be up to the members.

Since we are still in the forming stages, I'm just thinking out loud here and looking for ideas rather than discussing real policies - comments?

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Old 01-11-2005   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcanerin
One thing that I personally think would be really good is for the SMA to support and provide training, rather than "do" training.

For example, we are likely to have members that will offer SEO or PPC training courses to clients. This could be web based, at a local college or university and probably be in several different languages. They can serve a much greater audience and provide better service than I think the SMA (or any central organization) could do.

The one thing that the SMA should not do, IMO, is compete against it's own members. We should be supporting them. I would like to see us as possibly setting guidelines for course materials and instruction, and then giving compliant, professional, reputable training centers a "seal of approval" or something similar and support them with the latest information and research in the industry.

I feel this is a far better solution than trying to do the training ourselves.

Thinking out loud, the same kind of thinking could apply elsewhere - rather than "have" a directory, perhaps we could simply "approve" them if they are searcher and search engine friendly, or better yet approve an organization that does so, instead. Or at the very least publish a list of recommended guidlines for them (ie no tricking people into thinking a link is spiderable when it is not, no taking money and then not putting up the link, etc).

In short, focus on being a place to get guidance, and as a place to promote the welfare and interests of the industry, rather than trying to actually "do" all this stuff. I think that should be up to the members.

Since we are still in the forming stages, I'm just thinking out loud here and looking for ideas rather than discussing real policies - comments?

Ian
I think you are heading in the right direction - though there has to be some type of conflict of interest clause in place for current board members - serve a term without getting into these referrals or teaching etc. so as not to have claims of total self-interest.

As a past achievement it would be different. This way the people who run for the office truely can bring a platform of goals and go about putting them in place without the challenges of self-promotion etc.

I really think a base of active agendas needs to be hammered out and then the goals of each short-term board elected as a group with a platform.

Strict term limits should be put in place. A calendar year is enough though moving up the ranks on the board should be permissible.

Members' rights need to be delineated as much as possible. Considering our online nature the process can be far more democratic and the need for numerous closed-door meetings can be avoided.

If people are needed to help with presentations then they should not come from the board.

Think of the rules as a constitution for enabling the ground rules of the associations development that limits the power of the representatives and outlines the responsibility of the board to its members.

If the SMA can lay a steady base of rules and perform its function in a professional and community-supported manner then a lot of what it wants to accomplish will come naturally.
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Old 01-11-2005   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcanerin
Joining the W3C?
Definitions of good SEO/M business practices?
Negotiated discounts?
Political action?
Purchasing shares in key search engine companies in order to have a shareholder vote?
Ian, let me add my voice in saying THANKS for taking the lead on this. I was an early contributor to SEMPO and quickly became disenchanted with the direction that group took -- or perhaps more accurately, how they did it.

I do think SEMPO has a very viable mission statement about promoting the SEO industry as a whole, and can't help but notice it's not mentioned anywhere in this thread so far. I haven't read all the threads on all the forums and mailing lists, so perhaps it's been mentioned elsewhere.

Will this (promoting the SEO industry) be one of the goals of SMA-NA? Maybe it's a big picture goal, and you're looking for detailed ideas in this thread. ??

Anyway, when the time comes I look forward to being able to learn more about and support the new group.
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Old 01-11-2005   #14
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I like the ideas above regarding registration and approval of directories, SEO companies, etc. - I think it would be a very valuable part of the industry and a good litmus test to inform clients of SEO.

I also like the idea of supporting training centers, etc. and possibly licensing teachers, etc.

The promotion of the industry I'm not as clear on - it sounds like a noble goal, but what specifically could the organization do - advertise? set up trade show booths? lobby congress?
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Old 01-11-2005   #15
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Quote:
promoting the SEO industry
Absolutely! Europe has a very different way of dealing with what we in North America call non-profit organizations, so in order to exist we have to jump through a couple of loops to achieve the goals we want.

But it's certainly possible - not only are two legally trained people in the working group, but as of about an hour ago Beth generously donated the time of a tax attorney she knows who can help us with this, as well. Additionally, other legal counsel will be called in as needed in specialty areas.

I *think* (we are still looking into this, so don't take anything in this post as gospel) we will form a traditional organization (ie for profit) that wholly owns a non-profit organization, with all profits automatically being put into the non-profit.

The traditional company would function in a similar manner to a chamber of commerce or trade group - promoting and supporting it's members. The non-profit would focus on the things a non-profit is for - public education, industry awareness, etc. In this manner, we basically cover everything, and are able to do what the other SMA's can do within the confines of the US legal and tax system.

I love non-profits because they are the epitome of "being good" (or, at least, they are supposed to be). they have a good reputation, and they are able to do good things. The problem is that because the taxpayers are helping support them, you can't give your members things that are not available to the general public in most cases. This is not an issue with places like the Red Cross because they don't really have "members" as we think of them - more like supporters and volunteers. Any dues are intended only to cover the costs of newsletters, etc. Most of the money comes from fundraising and sponsorships.

This is all great, but if you try to translate that to a for-profit industry weird things happen - non-profits really are not intended to represent an industry very well. They can do it, but it's often by bending them into pretzles with non-standard articles of incorporation, etc.

For one thing, everything that is available to a member must also be available to non-members (the public). Sounds good, right? Now think of this - the difference between tsunami victems and SEO's are that tsunami victims are not intended to profit by the actions of the Red Cross - it's job is simply to help them as best as it can. Same with cancer victims, etc. That's what a non-profit is for, and that's where they shine.

So when you twist it to get used to help a trade group become more profitable, strange things happen. People say, "Well, if I pay my membership dues to get X, and Joe Public doesn't pay anything and is also entitled to get X, then why am I paying dues?" This thinking is at odds with someone thinking about donating to a non-profit, but perfectly valid for a trade group member trying to make their industry (which includes themselves) a better place.

At the same time, everyone I've talked to regarding SEMPO or the SMA has a legitimate and real concern for others and the industry as a whole, not just themselves. That's why they want to join. They are looking at the big picture rather then just their little part of the world and want to contribute. Because of this, a pure for-profit organization is also at odds with what members want.

Highly Simplified History Lesson:

The US legal system was based out of the traditional church vs state (and business) mentality that founded the country. Church and charity did wonderful things out of the goodness of their hearts, and business made money and donated to them. That's how things worked. One, or the other.

Elsewhere, a strong socialist and unionist (and often anti-church and even anti-state) history allowed for the concept of a bunch of people getting together to work for the common good, regardless of whether that common good was profitable or not, and whether the common good applied to a trade, town, or country. This dramatically affected the legal systems and allowed for trade associations in a way that is not available in North America.

There are benifits and drawbacks to each of these - but the bottom line is that advanced trade association laws are not really well thought out in the US, just as some advanced business laws are lacking elsewhere. This key difference is another example of why we have regional SMA's rather than a giant congomerate setting everything up.

I believe the answer is to have a combination that accomplishes everything that the members want to accomplish. If we find a better solution than the traditional corp owning a non-profit, then that's what we'll choose - it's the goal that counts.

This is, of course, all up to the members themselves, which is why we are asking for feedback

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Old 01-11-2005   #16
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I have some experince working for the Red Cross and the setting up of a small local group. As far as the Red Cross goes there were no financial dues but you were asked to contribute time.
Monies raised at the local level has to be accounted for to the regional leaders but set percentages could be allotted to stay and do work in the local area. Obviously if there was a specific need for the area then other factors would come into play also.
I actually think setting up regional groups for SMA - NA would be a good idea and for a set amount of membership fees and other monies raised by those in the region stay to be spent in that region.
There obviously would also need to be a set amount sent back to the HQ and even the country level to be spent achieving more global goals.
Speakers to visit local areas on set dates convenient to the majority of members in the region (with reduced or waived fees for members) while non-members are free to attend for a nominal fee.
Meetings of members in city or state level groups should be fostered where all out-of-pocket expenses are met by the attendees - and are done to foster better relationships and the sharing of information.
The recognition of skill sets and networking would be a huge upside to that.
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Old 01-11-2005   #17
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randfish posted while I was working on my epic historical novel above

Quote:
The promotion of the industry
There are a lot of things that we can do to promote the industry.

First, in my home town of Calgary, KS2 has done research to show that the local business use of the SEO/M industry should be around $14 million per year. The actual spend is about $8 million. That's a huge amount of money that's not being being spent effectively. You help businessess address that, and you help them market effectively. Also, local SEO's will benifit as well.

How do you address it? Education, presentations, advertising, press releases, all sorts of things. I don't see a reason why the SMA could not help sponsor a presentation to the local Chamber of Commerce, for example. Or advertise in an industry magazine. Create press releases and form relationships with the press as somewhere to go to get quotes, or a list of local SEO's to quote if it's a local paper.

Other examples include my personal favorites - copyright and trademark protection. It's a bad thing when people steal your stuff and hurt your business. It's also a bad thing when the governments reaction to it is to clamp down so far that THEY are hurting your business. Non-profits and trade associations are traditionally strong lobbiers, especially if well funded and with a lot of members.

These are things that have a wider goal than just helping a single company or individual profit by their actions and goals - they truly are for the benifit of the industry.They also require a group of people working together - a single person or company, no matter how powerful, rich or well connected, can't effectivly accomplish these types of things. It takes a trade group that knows it's business, has enough members to make politicians, reporters and decision-makers take notice, and has the time and resources to push the issue in the direction it should go.

Ian
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Old 01-12-2005   #18
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Since the SMA-NA takes into groups three countries (Canada, U.S. and Mexico) that have well over 150 million Hispanics in population all together, I would like this organization really do something about it.

Education for both non-Hispanic SEMs to focus on the Hispanic market AND Hispanic marketers to be taught what SEM/SEO is all about is a good start. On the second group, believe me, everywhere I go Hispanic advertising agencies and marketers from big corporations have NO CLUE what this is. To the point where you question yourself for investing the time and energy to explain.

To give you an idea, numbers just in that while "All but three of Hispanic Business magazine's Top 25 Hispanic Advertising Agencies increased their billings this year [2004], bringing the group's cumulative total to almost $1.9 billion." only 2.15% of all billings was for the Internet as an advertising medium. SEM probably doesn't even have much to do with this small percentage either. So while opportunities seem to be huge, at least the way I see it, it is clear that there is a lot to be done before any significant result can be seen for our SEM industry. More than just education.

To succeed with this market, this organization needs PATIENCE, PERSISTANCE and LOTS OF HARD WORK from talented folks that care. Because ONE person is not enough for 150 million Hispanics.
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Old 01-12-2005   #19
Andy AtkinsKruger
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Could SMA help to bring balance to the industry?

I regularly get emails from people in Romania, Russia, South America, Greece from people who have really had no involvment so far in organsations such as SEW or SES or others. The emails get to me thanks to SMA-EU in particular and some through SMA-UK. The good news is it seems that SMA is helping to bring new voices to the 'industry'.

Funnily enough, all have to work with Google - and mostly also Yahoo and MSN.

How are they supposed to deal with such monoliths in outer Kiev or downtown Paphos? Who do they talk to?

The search industry is composed of two opposite poles - the search engine giants and the search marketer minnows.

My question is - how many of you see the balance between the engines - and the marketers - as important?

Personnally, I'm increasingly seeing this as central to the balance and health of the industry largely thanks to the feedback I'm seeing.
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Old 01-12-2005   #20
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Ian,

I watched as SEMPO came about and grew. I am a speck of sand on the back of a minnow in the industry of behemoth fish. As the years have gone by, the industry seems to have focused less on the minnows and their specs of sand and more on the larger fish who bring a larger return. SEMPO seemed to fall into this mind set. So Im thrilled to see an organization forming that we minnows are welcomed at. Thank-you!

As a two-person shop, our target audience is the mom & pop shop that larger companies do not have on their radar. When one hears about small companies in the news, we are not even big enough for that group. This new organization is targeting small SEO/SEM firms. What do you mean by small?

What would we like to see?
1. Training and a Reference Area Training is always welcome but a reference area would be wonderful. I spend an enormous amount of time reading up on what is going on. I usually spend that time early in the morning or late at night when Im done working for the day. There are good pockets of information already on the web so there is no need to re-invent the wheel. A list of links to specific pages on specific topics such as those found on Search Engine Watch would be perfect. Topics that always seem to be evolving could include:
a. Legal Issues For example, when writing for SEO/SEM, what copyright issues need to be taken into consideration.
b. Best Practices Search Engines have very clear written info on this. The unwritten information is just as critical, such as, how to approach Google via email when trying to resolve an issue.
c. Contact Info Recently I had a situation with Amazon. Finding the contact information and phone numbers that ultimately lead to resolving the issues was quite the task.
d. New areas to market in
e. Studies done (I love numbers)
f. Metrics on industry trends
g. Types of marketing that can be done
h. Lists of Search Engines, PPC engines, other sites where one can market web sites & products.
2. Discounts Im always up to saving money J and passing it on to my clients. It keeps clients happy. Things such as credits to use when enrolling into a new campaign would be wonderful.
3. Accreditation We try very hard to do the right thing and separate ourselves from those who do not. Accreditation by a recognized industry organization would help.
4. Event Sponsorship We have found the education is a strong marketing tool as many small businesses are unaware of SEO and SEM dos and donts. Through the state technical school business centers, we run a seminar circuit that addresses this. Needless to say a sponsorship would be welcomed.
5. As an aside, I would much rather promote the organization through our educational series than via a local chapter. In an ideal world, everyone works together for the common good. In the real world, Ive rarely seen that happen when local trade groups are involved.

I thought I didnt have much to say but ended up saying more than enough. Thank-you for the opportunity to contribute and good luck with your new organization!

Daphne
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