SEMPO Turns Gaze In-House

The Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO) is launching several initiatives to better serve the specific needs of search marketing professionals that work inside an organization.

From its inception, the group has intended to serve the needs of both in-house marketers and agencies, but often its education and research initiatives have leaned toward the agency side. The group began to shift that balance earlier this year, creating an In-House SEM Committee and adding support tools specifically for that group.

“Search people are on an island and don’t have the same knowledge-sharing that happens at agencies. This is tough in a rapidly changing industry,” Dave Williams, co-chair of SEMPO’s In-House SEM Committee and chief strategist for 360i, told ClickZ.

SEMPO aims to help these marketers learn how to build out their search team, improve knowledge-sharing within their organization and make the most of the limited time and resources in-house search marketers generally have, Williams said.

For some in-house marketers, the challenge begins with just getting the rest of the organization to include search marketing in the planning stages of new products, instead of thinking about it at the end of the process, Duane Forrester, committee co-chair and manager of search marketing for SportsDirect, told ClickZ.

“Too many projects move forward in-house with SEM as an afterthought. Just yesterday I told a co-worker their planned timeline was a bust because my work wasn’t considered up front and the product was not going live without it. Unfortunate and hard lesson for them to learn, but that’s the way it breaks in-house,” Forrester said.

Forrester said that he has it better than some, since his company is a Web-based publisher and he is therefore not fighting the Web and search battles at the same time, as some search marketers must do at companies that operate primarily offline or are just moving online.

SEMPO’s initial steps in improving services for in-house marketers include the creation of an invitation-only online discussion board where in-house members can trade information and ideas. It also hosted the first of many planned in-person events for in-house marketers at Search Engine Strategies in San Jose in August. Turnout for that event surpassed 60 people, many representing Fortune 500 brands, Forrester said.

SEMPO’s site offers members access to case studies, white papers, and discussion boards. SEMPO is also planning to conduct research specifically around in-house issues, as well as Webinars and training courses tailored to their needs, Williams said.

Access to a knowledge base on search marketing best practices is especially important for in-house marketers, since they often don’t have the same access to other search marketers as agency-based search marketers do, Forrester said. It’s also helpful to understand how to hire additional members of their search team, and what skill sets to look for that will likely migrate to search marketing well, he said.

“I already have two others in my office reading through white-papers and looking for time to sit in on Webinars. The goal is to spread the knowledge,” Forrester said. “Call it ‘Bus Protection’: if I get hit by a bus tomorrow, the knowledge goes with me, leaving the company struggling for a period. Building the team through accessible knowledge bases, white papers and Webinars protects the company’s future. Search marketing is a long-term endeavor, so the training will always pay off.”

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