UK Search Marketers Form SEMPO Alternative

  |  October 22, 2004   |  Comments

Ten UK members broke from SEMPO to form Search Marketing Association UK.

A London-based group of search engine marketing professionals has formed Search Marketing Association UK (SMA-UK), a trade association to promote the SEM industry in the UK and other parts of Europe. The group formed as an alternative to the U.S.-based Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization (SEMPO).

SEMPO has gotten off to a rocky start in some areas, including in its international efforts. When the group formed a European committee, UK members were upset that no one from the UK was represented. After exploring various alternatives, including the possibility of forming a UK committee within SEMPO, ten UK members decided to form their own group. One of SMA-UK's founding members is Mike Grehan of Smart Interactive, whose biting criticisms of SEMPO led into the group's controversial meeting in San Jose in August.

"We decided a trade association set up in the UK would be the most effective, based on the way trade associations function in the UK and the EU. With the way that SEMPO is currently set up, it cannot adequately represent our market," said Barry Lloyd, of SEM firm MakeMeTop and acting chairman of SMA-UK. "SEMPO, by its own admission, is not structured to operate correctly in other countries. The need for a separate organization is paramount if anything is to move forward."

SMA-UK will provide a platform to inform and educate the marketplace of the benefits of search marketing in the overall marketing mix, as well as giving its members an industry voice, according to Lloyd.

"The UK search engine market is currently the second largest in the world outside the United States," Lloyd said. "After looking at the way trade associations are being developed internationally it has become apparent that the UK should have its own association for this growing sector."

Lloyd was elected acting chairman, with Andy Atkins-Kruger named acting deputy chairman. Both were elected by a vote of the original 10-member founding group, which is now a working group within SMA-UK.

"We intend all elections will be held in the same manner in the future, with early elections from the full membership to be held as a matter of urgency," Lloyd said. "At the first general meeting, the acting executive committee members will resign."

The first priority of the working group is to grow its membership base. Under the rules governing trade associations in the UK, the group is required to add 50 members in the next 6 months to register with the Department of Trade & Industry.

Among the objectives the working group has already identified are to represent the views of SEM companies to government legislators; to aggregate and publish statistics and to provide analysis of SEM issues; and to provide a forum for the exchange of non-competitive information.

Some additional goals, which Lloyd said are best undertaken by a local trade organization rather than an international organization, include representing SEM companies with suppliers to the industry; to promote best business practice guidelines for dealing with clients; and to develop education and training programs.

SMA-UK will offer corporate, individual and associate memberships. Corporate and individual members will have one vote each, and associate members, such as suppliers to the industry, will be non-voting members. Fees will be based on a flat-rate scheme, rather than the tiered structure employed by SEMPO. There will be no company promotions allowed, and corporate members will be required to appoint an individual to represent the company in the organization.

SMA-UK is not looking to displace SEMPO, but expects to co-exist with the international organization to promote SEM. "We're two fundamentally different organizations, but we share a common aim -- to promote the benefits of search marketing," Lloyd said.

"The UK appears to be a unique environment for search marketing. The search marketing professionals there feel there are things they can do that an international organization just doesn't address," said Barbara Coll, SEMPO's chairman. "I expect in the future that there will be the possibility of an alliance between the two organizations."

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Kevin Newcomb

Kevin Newcomb joined ClickZ in August 2004, covering search marketing and other online marketing topics. He has been reporting on web-based businesses since 2000.

Before the bubble burst, Kevin was a marketing manager for an online computer reseller, handling copywriting, e-mail marketing, search marketing and running the affiliate program.

With a combination of real-world marketing experience and years of business journalism, Kevin brings to ClickZ a unique ability to deliver news and training materials that help online marketers do their jobs better.

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