Changes afoot at SEMPO point to a more structured international model that will focus on identifying trends and solving challenges. Rather than distribute the annual State of Search Marketing Report all at once, SEMPO will break down the report into themes and release them throughout the year. Focusing on specific topics will allow each report to dig deeper into the subject and elaborate on solutions.
The organization will build out a global presence. Board members had tried to run the non-profit globally from the United States, but it became too U.S.-focused. The new structure means forming SEMPO U.K., SEMPO Germany, and other country-specific groups that will feed into a European union. China will follow with support from Baidu. The groups will share regional trends as one organization to create unity.
There are major differences in how search engine marketers work in Asia, compared with Europe and the United States. "Many areas in Asia are total black hat and the search practitioners couldn't care less what Google thinks," he said. "If we can get some agreement with guidelines in the U.S., the likelihood is there will be a slightly different approach in Asia and even Europe."
Aside from International expansion, new series of shorter webinars are planned for the year. Each will focus on a trend identifies by Simon Heseltine, senior director of audience development at AOL. He will call on SEMPO members to ask what keeps them up at night, anything from coding to more complex issues. The results will become lunch-and-learn videos that present the problem and stating the solution.
SEMPO also put together a task force to look at creating guidelines for search -- one of the issues that is of greatest concern to me. I believe the non-profit should work with the engines like Google and Bing to develop guidelines such as quality score to help marketers achieve higher returns on investments, but instead they treat the knowledge as proprietary. SEMPO should spearhead the guidelines. The engines should work with the nonprofit to develop industry standards -- not for one engine to have guidelines and not the other.
I would like to see an organization for search that looks more similar to the Interactive Advertising Bureau. Not many want to talk about sensitive issues like quality scores. Billions of dollars are spent on search engine marketing, but guidelines don't get discussed on how to improve it.
Jared Belsky, 360i president, said marketers can find quality score in Google's AdWords dashboard, but the numbers are there to provide an estimate. "Marketers really don't know what's behind the numbers, and you can't trend numbers if you can't correlate them to anything," he said. "Most of the smart technology money being invested at Kenshoo, Marin and IgnitionOne goes toward making the race car drive faster and more efficient, but not to diagnose a problem or recommend solutions."
360i released a platform Monday it calls the Digital Nervous System, or DNS, that reverse engineers the code to help marketers create better ROI. If Google's management believes in an open source and transparent data source then why does the equation for their quality score remain elusive?
Google supports SEMPO, but there are times the company will make changes that board members don't completely agree with, per sources. This year, the task force will approach Google and Bing to create industrywide best practices and guidelines. Grehan said the biggest problem remains that especially in SEO, "one man's spam is another's great strategy." Some balk at Google's guidelines, thinking "Google can't tell me what I can or can't do on the World Wide Web, and then there are those who think what they say is written in stone like the Ten Commandments."
"The group won't dictate how search marketers should go about their day, but SEMPO can become an influencing hand, rather than trying to drive the Board's ideas down the throats of practitioners," said Ryan DeShazer, EVP, managing director at inVentiv Media 360, and SEMPO board member.
Step up SEMPO. It's time the organization offer guidance as to what best practices look like for search practitioners. Start thinking smartphones, tablets, location, and location. Maybe you'll find new members.