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August 20, 2007

Danny Sullivan and The Formation of a Local SEM Organization

It´s true that Danny Sullivan is indirectly responsible for the formation of SEMpdx (Portland´s SEM Organization). At the 2006 SES Seattle Conference, in a conversation with Anvil Media´s Kent Lewis, Danny inadvertently (for he´s too nice a guy to do something like  this deliberately) slighted our Rose City. When Kent relayed Danny´s comments to Scott Orth, the desire to form a local SEM organization that would be the envy of much bigger marketplaces was born. One year later, I can state unequivocally that being one of the founding board members has been an extremely valuable, enriching experience.

The purpose of my writing this article is to attempt to show others the value of what we´ve accomplished and hopefully encourage like-minded SEM´s in other communities to form their own local organizations. I know that SEO Meetups are forming many places and it´s wonderful that folks are getting together to talk shop and drink beers. However, Dallas / Fort Worth, New York, and New England are the only regions that I know about that seem to be doing what we´re doing in Portland (and if I´ve slighted your organization, it´s due only to my ignorance).

So, why are the benefits of such groups?

    Exchange of ideas. SES Seattle 2006 was the first time I ever had an in-person conversation with another SEO (and I had been doing SEO since 2000). An SEO who doesn´t go to conferences has not likely met many (if any) fellow professionals. It´s really nice to hang out with people with whom you can openly share your work experiences and who understand what the heck you are talking about.

    Business Referrals. Not everybody is an expert in all facets of SEM. Many SEMpdx members have more clients than bandwidth. It´s nice to be able to refer out potential clients to trusted sources.

    Competitors Can Be Friends. All the original SEMpdx board members were with difference agencies at the time our organization was formed (though two of us are now corporate). Competing with each other for business is a little less onerous when you have strong relationships with your competition (and when they can also be a referral source for you).

    Educating Our Community. Each board member knows that once our Portland Business Community sees the value of search engine marketing, they will be more likely to invest in the search process. To further this aim, SEMpdx hosts a series of monthly events along with our annual day-long Searchfest where business people interested in learning more about search can learn from the best minds in our industry.

    Recruiting New Search Professionals. Our members who run multi-person agencies have to turn business away because they can not find enough qualified people to hire. There is an extraordinary lack of search personnel. We are using our organization as a magnet to attract potential employees (and any Portland people who are looking for search careers really should start hanging out with us).

    Giving Back To Our Community. Each year, we designate a local non-profit to get a percentage of our revenues, plus we collectively offer our professional services gratis to that charity.

    Increased Individual Visibility. Because our organization has become highly visible, each Board Member has become much more visible in the Portland business community, as well as in the global search community.

So, it´s great first step to organize and attend a local SEO meetup…however, the benefits of forming a full-fledged local organization can personally and professionally profitable for all involved.
Todd Mintz is the Director of Internet Marketing & Information Systems for S.R. Clarke Inc., a Real Estate Development and Residential / Commercial Construction Executive Search / Recruiting Firm headquartered in Fairfax, VA with offices nationwide. He is also a Director & Founding Member of SEMpdx