SMA-NA Set to Launch

A group of search engine marketers in North America is forming a new industry association, offering an alternative to the U.S.-based Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization (SEMPO).

Search Marketing Association North America (SMA-NA) will be a member-focused trade organization with appeal for smaller SEM outfits, said Ian McAnerin, a Canada-based search marketer who is leading the creation of the SMA-NA working group. McAnerin said the new group will provide a marked contrast to the industry-focused SEMPO.

“SEMPO tends to focus on the big sponsorships, the big names, and the big companies. They have historically not been interested in the little guy,” McAnerin said. “The SMA was intended to directly address that. Personally, as a one-man SEO, I’m concerned about the little guy getting left out of the loop.”

McAnerin considered running for a position on SEMPO’s board in the upcoming election, but decided that he didn’t agree with the direction that group was headed. He was more interested in the activities of the fledgling SMA-UK launched in October, and the SMA-EU, launched in December. McAnerin met with the founders of those groups, and decided to create a North American group, that would be open to members in Canada, Mexico, and the United States.

The focus of SMA-NA will be on SEOs, not sponsors, he said. The group will not even consider seeking sponsors until it has built a critical mass of members, McAnerin said. The group will likely be constructed as a combination of a traditional corporation and a non-profit organization, a blend that the American Marketing Association has used successfully, he said.

The for-profit corporation will allow SMA-NA to offer member benefits like members-only specials on products and services, and RFPs for members only. A wholly owned, SMA-funded non-profit organization can serve as a sponsor for industry events and research.

McAnerin has been talking with several search marketers, and has gotten a lot of support, he said. He has about 15 people interested in joining the working group, and hopes to have at least 50 members by the Search Engine Strategies show in New York, which begins February 28.

“It’s a short timeline, but the SMA-UK and SMA-EU have laid most of the groundwork,” he said. McAnerin is an attorney in Canada, and he runs a U.S.-based company, so he is familiar with both American and Canadian legal requirements. A U.S.-based attorney whose specialty is incorporation law is involved in the group as well, he said. McAnerin also had an intimate look at SEMPO’s legal structure when he did some legal work for them when that group first formed two years ago, he said.

“I got a bird’s-eye view of the issues, politics and personalities. I realized that SEMPO is fundamentally broken. It’s outlived its usefulness,” he said.

As with the SMA-UK and SMA-EU, there is room for the SMA-NA and SEMPO to coexist, since the groups have fundamentally different goals, said Dana Todd, SEMPO vice president.

“We’re not the first, and we won’t be the last organization for search engine marketing,” Todd said. “We have a very specific mission, and other groups have different interpretations of what their needs are. If anyone has the wherewithal and the fortitude, I think it’s great.”

Todd considers the SMA-NA to be a parallel industry group, and expects the two would work together as SEMPO does with the IAB and DMA.

“The vision of SEMPO is to be involved in the industry, not in the members necessarily. The research we put out in December showed that we’re thinking long-term,” added SEMPO chairperson Barbara Coll. “I don’t think the regional SMA groups are going to focus on the industry, they seem to be about making sure the members are getting benefits.”

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