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Why SEMPO does Not Work

29 July 2004

What is SEMPO?

SEMPO is the search engine marketing professionals organization.

What is the Goal of SEMPO?

"SEMPO is a non-profit professional association working to increase awareness and promote the value of Search Engine Marketing worldwide."

The Problem with Search Engine Marketing

Search engine marketing gets a bad rap for a ton of reasons. Search engine marketing is highly trackable and provides explosive ROI and profits if done correctly. Much of SEM is black magic to the average SEM consumer though and the lure of large profits, consumer ignorance, and desire to save a buck often lead to people buying the wrong services from the wrong people.

Some people sell SEO services for $49. Typically they are not honest, but since the scammers call themselves SEO then the industry still gets tarred with the same brush.

Some fake firms also charge thousands of dollars to do nothing. Again since they call themselves SEOs the industry still gets tarred with the same brush.

The SEMPO Solution to SEM

"SEMPO is a non-profit professional association working to increase awareness and promote the value of Search Engine Marketing worldwide."

That really sounds great, but much of their action has not been visible. It seems like that organization primarily exists to promote itself and to get more people to sign up. Currently I am not a member.

If their actions are primarily invisible then they have not taken action. Period. For me to invest I need to know exactly what is happening. Their job at SEMPO is to teach people how to find quality SEM services and why consumers should purchase them.

Other than a few self promotional press releases and a few free drink meetings (at Search Engine Strategies conferences) I have not seen any visible action from SEMPO.

When SEMPO Should Have Taken Action

Recently there have been a ton of bad things occurring in the SEM industry. Let us examine a few of them.

Problem: Traffic Power gets a ton of sites banned from search engines. Hell Traffic Power was so out of control that they even cold called me, let alone cold calling people at 4:30 AM.

SEMPO Action: Google Search: site:www.sempo.org "traffic power"

Google Search: site:www.EmediaWire.com "traffic power" seo

It appears as if SEMPO did not mention it. Obviously they should have done something.

What Others Did: JimWorld and IHelpYouServices created threads about Traffic Power. Most major SEO forum created a thread about Traffic Power. Traffic Power Sucks was even launched by an angry former Traffic Power customer. It seems many people were interested in warning the public about Traffic Power. For some reason SEMPO was not though.

Traffic Power is again synonymous with SEO which unfortunately becomes synonymous with scam. SEMPO is not on the scene :(

Effective Solution SEMPO Easily Could have Done:
Why not write a press release about how Traffic Power is not like most SEO firms? Why not also include a link to a document which covers information about how to pick an SEO / SEM vendor which has answers to common SEO questions?


Another Problem: Prominent Blogger Anil Dashes claims SEO is generally a scam

"I've always had a pretty low opinion of the Search Engine Optimization industry. Though there are of course legitimate experts in the field, it seems chock full of people who are barely above spammers, and they taint the image of the whole group."

SEMPO Action: Google Search: site:www.sempo.org "Anil Dashes"

Google Search:site:www.EmediaWire.com "Anil Dashes"

Despite the notoriously viral nature of blogs SEMPO has chose to ignore them thus far. Searching SEMPO for blogger and blogging bring 0 search results. Blog brings two results because one of the SEMPO Circle members links to their companies blog on the members page, and because one article has the phrase "Random blog-style writing is far more interesting to me than hurry - click here for great rates on...".

It appears as if SEMPO did not even mention the comment about "how horrible SEO is" which was floating through the blog world. Obviously they should have done something.

What Others Did: This will perhaps sound self promotional (the intent is not), but within a day or so of Anil writing that I emailed him explaining why and how my opinions were different than his. I posted them as one of the first comments into the page where his remarks existed .

Effective Solution SEMPO Easily Could have Done:
Maybe it is not a good idea to bring up bad press, but once it is already in the blog community the message spreads with or without you. Why not reply with some sort of comment.

Blogs are an exceptionally powerful marketing medium. Even big corporations like JupiterMedia, Google, and Macromedia have blogs.

SEMPO could have used this opportunity to launch a blog with a first blog post about how powerful blogs are.

Even the head of the FTC recently started posting blog posts. Why doesn't SEMPO have a blog? Is there a much quicker or better way for a seemingly closed off organization to communicate with other SEMs? Good organizations keep up with the news in their trade and install rapid feedback loops into their organizations. SEMPO has not done this. Why?


Problem: Legendary internet marketer Seth Godin says SEO is blind luck at best.

What Others Did: SEO forums were rather critical of Seth's post. Cre8asite Forums had a lengthy discussion on why Seth was wrong. Many bloggers left comments about the situation and Danny Sullivan even sent Seth an email which did an excellent job of comparing SEO to public relations.

Within a few days Seth made a blog post titled "Better living through hyperbole" which stated that he was essentially stating that SEO is not usually the secret to success, but he thought SEO was still useful assuming other business elements.

SEMPO Action: Google Search: Site:www.sempo.org Seth Godin

Google Search: Site:www.emediawire.com SEMPO Seth Godin

It appears as if SEMPO did not even mention it. Obviously they should have done something. This is what the industry at large needs SEMPO to do.

Effective Solution SEMPO Easily Could have Done:

Again this would have been another great opportunity to launch a blog. Also SEMPO does not have a forum. If you want to change the industry you are going to need a ton of people to follow it and believe in it.

Over half (actually almost all ) of the most powerful SEO sites are SEO forums. Why doesn't SEMPO have a forum. That would be a great way to appear transparent and help build a community.

Most open software projects have a support forum and after a year SEMPO does not. Hint: if you want to help change the industry you are going to need the efforts of many people from within the industry, not just the top few.


Problem: SEMPO itself seems to have earned some negative press of its own from one of the most recognized voices in SEM, Mike Grehan.

What Others Did: Lots of talk in various SEO forums and various SEO Blogs have commented on it. In general the problem is that the Chairperson is making $78,000 / year and members did not vote on that payment. Worse yet many members only found out about the payment recently in SEO forums.

Many people are not happy. It would be different if SEMPO has shown a bunch of progress or did not seem like such a closed off group, but that is how it is in my eyes.

SEMPO Action: Finally a press release. Neat how that works. Too bad it is (as Andy Beal states) "Nothing more than a SEMPO member using the issue to get publicity."


Article Summary

Many people share the concerns stated by Bill at Cre8aSite "I can't tell if they will adopt the transparency, democracy, and accountability that would make them an organization that people will join willingly. I'm not sure they know who they represent, exactly. That may be part of the problem."

Until SEMPO clearly outlines how they intend to do their goals, becomes somewhat democratic, creates feedback loops, and at least shows up to represent the industry when negative press occurs I see no reason to join it.

- by Aaron Wall, author of The Search Engine Optimization Book.

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