When we spoke about SEMPO recently, I mentioned that one of the things that put me off about the organization was the membership fee. When I initially discovered SEMPO years ago, the corporate membership was the one suggested to me and, to be honest, as person just starting, out $5,000 seemed like a lot of money to join. You mentioned that there is more than one level and that individuals can join for as little as $125 a year. So what are some of the benefits of the different levels?
We have recently made the individual level membership more affordable, bringing it down from $299/year to $125. In my opinion, the primary benefits at the individual level are the discounts to industry events, the ability to join any of our working groups or committees, and the networking. Some people also find the job request leads to be valuable, but I have heard mixed feelings on that, since not all leads are well qualified. Having a corporate ($1,000) or Circle ($5,000) increases the amount of users you can have tied to the account. So if you have multiple users they can be involved in different committees or working groups and have unique logins to the back end system. The primary breakdown of membership differences is found at http://www.sempo.org/?page=join. The primary differences between individual and corporate are the ability to present a webinar, post job openings, and submit guest columns to the SEMPO newsletters. Circle members also have the ability to promote company intern programs directly to graduates of SEMPO Institute courses, and they get 30% off institute courses versus the 20% that individual and corporate members get.
The next question may seem a little selfish, but it’s one that most people are going to ask. What is the benefit of joining SEMPO?
My personal feeling on this is that by being part of SEMPO, you are helping to educate and form the perceptions of search marketing and all its related facets worldwide. I feel that being part of the largest formal group of search marketers in the world, with members on every continent, is invaluable for networking and career growth. As SEMPO continues to grow, programs including certification and advanced level training will further improve, and the value will increase as well.
I see that SEMPO puts out a lot of research papers. What’s some of the most valuable or popular research you put out, and how current is the information in them?
Our primary research is known as the “Annual State of Search Survey.” We have been doing this since 2004, and past reports are available for free to non-members. The 2011 version is currently only available to members. We had a total of 920 respondents from 66 countries take part in the survey, with US-based respondents accounting for almost half of the total. The sample included 325 advertisers and 595 supply-side respondents (mainly agencies) carrying out search marketing and social media activity on behalf of clients. This report gets us most of the press we receive each year, and provides some outstanding information for use in search marketing business development pitches as well as strategic planning.
Other reports that have proven to be valuable include our Salary Surveys (both for in-house and agency roles), as well as some of the internal research that has been conducted. With a greater number of members participating on the Research committee, we really feel we can grow the value of our research even more.
There’s also the SEMPO institute with training programs, with a lot of different disciplines. What type of people will get the greatest benefit from this type of training?
Typically the SEMPO Institute training is divided into beginner/intermediate and advanced topics. Since we strive to keep the content fresh, we often retire courses until they can become updated. The “Insider’s Guide” is actually a great fundamentals course for everyone from junior analysists just getting their feet wet in search marketing to experienced Executives that have to manage the program and determine budget/resources. This course provides a solid overview of Paid and Organic search, along with guidelines on measurement/reporting.
Currently the other courses being sold include Advanced SEO, which is valuable for someone with less than 2-3 years’ experience; Social Media, which is pretty much for everyone as well; and then the Linking and Keyword research courses, which are probably more for SEO specialists. We do offer 50% discount on all courses to Students and active military members. As a former Marine, I can tell you that I couldn’t have picked a better job coming out of the Corps with not-too-valuable artillery skills.
When we were talking, you mentioned that members are only going to get benefits if they are willing to put something in, which is a variation on the giver’s gain approach. What are your suggestions for things that people can do to become part of SEMPO, help themselves, their businesses and their clients?
As I mentioned above, I fully buy into this idea. I feel that the more people we can have involved with our committee and working groups, the better research and information we will be able to generate. Our industry is still at an early point and is continuously slammed by those that don’t fully understand it, or that have had an experience with a shady consultant or company. The more that we can do to educate all marketers about the value of properly performing SEO or Paid Search, and to better their ways of measuring their activities and developing testing, the better Search will become. Additionally, there is great opportunity for Social Media “experts” to become part of this community, since the two are so closely intertwined.