Roger Wehbe had a dream. He wanted to organize a group of ethical SEM professionals that could band together as the Association of Search Engine Professionals. His company, Yooter InterActive, spent time working with a group of SEM firms to try and establish guidelines for the group, but called it quits when no consensus could be reached.
Wehbe noticed that various other groups had also failed to set up a professional organization for search engine optimization specialists that would require adherence to a set of guidelines. Most of these groups either dissolved, or went ahead with their launch without requiring any ethical or professional guidelines.
So, rather than waste a perfectly good domain name, he decided to set up the "Association of Search Engine Spammers." The parody site explains; "...we felt it is easier to manage spammers. We already know they are up to no good."
The group accepts applications from any using a variety of techniques, including:
The site also sums up the ideal line of thinking for their target members: "we believe that the Internet is our playground and our idea of fun is making sure that our Casino site ranks higher than 'Gamblers Anonymous'".
While the site was designed to be tongue in cheek, it does point out some serious issues that the industry has still not managed to address. Setting up any type of code of ethics or list of acceptable practices in an industry so new and so varied is difficult. SEMPO and other groups gave thought to it, but bypassed on any type of hard and fast requirements for two reasons:
1.) Members simply couldn't agree on what was ok and what wasn't
2.) It's nearly impossible to effectively police members for these practices
Although no group has officially adopted it, there does seem to be a general consensus within the industry that full disclosure is a guideline that can be agreed upon. Even many hard core white hat search engine professionals have acknowledged that sites in certain industries are only able to compete using grey, or even black hat techniques. In these areas, the real concern for the face of the industry becomes making sure that the clients understand the risks they are taking when using these techniques.
That said, AOSEP is currently accepting membership applications. Interested parties are invited to review the membership guidelines and to send in their applications. It might not really be worth the time though, AOSEP points out on their web site that they already have "thousands of members," they [the members] just don't know it yet.
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June 20, 2005
Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.
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