For the past five years I’ve been living and working in the search marketing industry almost exclusively in the United States. For the past two years I’ve been living in New York. I remember well my first week of permanent residency. Not because I was now a citizen of the most exciting city in the world. And not because, at the time, I was based in the Empire State Building. It was because I attended a Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization New York meet-up in 2008.
Why on earth would that be so memorable? Well, the truth is, time was, you would have been totally surprised to see my name and the SEMPO acronym in the same sentence, let alone the same building.
SEMPO was founded in 2002 by a self-appointed group attached to the Search Engine Strategies (SES) conference. At a launch presentation in San Jose, CA, they announced themselves as head of this-that-and-the-other to the audience. And the theme was generally, we’re your industry representatives – give us your cash.
Of course most of the assembled group had no idea who these people were. A huge proportion of the SES audience were so new to the industry, not only did they not know the players, they didn’t know the terminology. But applause followed the presentation and then there was the sound of popping of corks and slapping of backs. Someone even stripped to their underwear and jumped into the pool. Hooray! Search marketing had an industry body.
As I watched what happened next, I became very disenchanted with SEMPO. A Web site to provide links and leads to the founders was promptly erected, even before association by-laws were considered. If you joined as a top-end member, you’d also get a link to your site from the SEMPO home page. What? The trade association was selling links.
The fact that it was a for-profit association didn’t sit well with me. And then there was the clandestine allocation of stipends. Members were in the dark about everything. I joined to see what the benefits were and was surprised that, once I had parted with my cash, I got little or nothing in return afterwards. I subsequently wrote a column for a publication, asking the question: “Who needs SEMPO?”
So, what was I doing going at a SEMPO meet up in 2008? I’m fortunate to have a dear friend who’s a SEMPO board member. Sara Holoubek heads up the New York meet up. So I wanted to give her some support. She’s a natural force of nature. The New York meet up recently hit the 2,000 number. Think about it. That’s just one city swelling its number due to the dedication of Sara and colleagues. And it’s growing worldwide. Because of Sara, I was able to get a much better insight into a trade association that bears little or no resemblance to the one that was assembled like a bunch of movie stars in 2002.
Since I took on my new role with Incisive Media as head of content for SES, Search Engine Watch, and ClickZ.com, I see the common areas where SEMPO and SES work so well together. And I have so many ideas about how these connections could develop and grow.
This collective is growing up into a very smart and knowledgeable association that actually gets things done. And I honestly believe that with this newer, more active, and feet-on-the-ground SEMPO, I can add a lot. I’ve been in the industry longer than most and live it every single day with a passion.
This week, SEMPO announced the list of nominees for its board of directors. Don’t be surprised when you see my name on there. In fact, if you’re a SEMPO member, don’t be afraid to vote for me. The SEMPO of old is not this one. And I’m not the Mike Grehan of old either.
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