Lee Odden

Minnesota Search Marketing Association

Lee Odden     SEMPO

Online Marketing Blog is fortunate to have readers all over the U.S. and world wide, but this post is geared towards search marketers here in Minnesota and the upper Midwest. Although, it would be great to hear opinions from others that have been in a similar situation as what’s described here.

There’s been a bit of buzz over the past year, very slight at first, and recently it’s been picking up around the idea that the midwest or Minnesota at least, needs a dedicated search marketing association. I know there are many, many super talented, experienced SEOs as well as paid search pros that have either kept their networking and collaboration to very small, tight circles or rely on national events and the connections that technology has brought through IM, social network sites and the ever unproductive microblogging formats like Twitter, to stay connected, collaborate, network and share.

At the same time, there are also plenty of people that are new (less than 2 years) to the field that are looking for more professional collaboration opportunities that are local. Add all the related industry professionals in advertising, PR, web development and interactive that can influence, benefit from or affect a client’s search marketing success and it would seem there may be good reason to have a geographically located and operated entity that can support the needs of furthering SEM interests.

The local interactive marketing association (MIMA) does a great job and has hit record numbers of members and quality of educational programming the past few years, but there are so many interest areas within interactive it would be difficult to drill down deeply into something like search when there are numerous other disciplines in need of attention such as web design, email, advertising, user experience and many others.

Let’s face it, the budgets allocated to search are more than significant enough to pay attention to. SEMPO reported in their “State of Search Marketing” survey results that $9.6 billion was spent on search marketing in 2006 and that figure is estimated to hit $18.6 billion in the next 5 years.

“Wow” is right.

Speaking of SEMPO, I know they’re doing some testing at the regional level and if that pans out, they might start to launch more in other regions. I think that rather than starting something from scratch as the successful SEM groups in Dallas/Ft Worth, New England and Portland have done, it might be a very desirable option to hook up with a search marketing organization that already has the infrastructure and processes down, not to mention national exposure.

But that’s jumping ahead a bit because I am first curious about opinions on whether a regional organization is needed. It would be interesting to know if the needs of upper Midwest search marketers are being met with current organizations and national associations.

Does Minnesota need a regional search marketing association?

  • Yes (71%, 15 Votes)
  • No (19%, 4 Votes)
  • Maybe - see my comments (10%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 21

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. You’ve already heard my opinion.

    I’m also willing to put some rubber where the road is to help organize it. That’s always the sticky wicket for these initiatives — buzz doesn’t get stuff done.

  2. Thanks for chiming in again Julie. I know Minnesotans can be a shy bunch so share this url to get some votes going if you can.


  3. Avatar Jeff Pesek says

    “I think that rather than starting something from scratch as the successful SEM groups in Dallas/Ft Worth, New England and Portland have done, it might be a very desirable option…”

    Sure, piggybacking on the movement at large is attractive, but why rely on it? Why not start from scratch? What are the options? Is there a Minneapolis/St.Paul based meetup/eventful group that meets consistently to discuss SEO?

    I’m from St.Paul myself which is why this article caught my eye, but here in San Diego where I live now, there are numerous meetups and grassroots initatives aimed at creating a more formal and open SEO organization. I see this as a fundamental and spontaneous initiative vs. waiting around for an official “Your State Search Marketing Association’. The industry is hot and people are eager- start from the ground up and the assocation you speak of will naturally form and merge with the appropriate parties when the time is right. My 2 cents 🙂

  4. Thanks for such a candid, thoughtful post, Lee.

    You hit the nail on the head – because of our wider “interactive marketing” focus, MIMA needs to offer diverse, quality programming to a number of audiences across the interactive marketing spectrum. There’s just no way our programming can dive as deep into SEO/SEM – or as often – as we’d need to in order to stay ahead of the curve.

    I wouldn’t see a local search organization as being competitive with MIMA. In fact, I’d be happy to talk about how you might go about getting one started.

    That said, we definitely want to continue to include search programming in our roster. And we’ve managed to build some good name recognition nationally, so people want to speak. Who do you want to hear from?

    With regard to your question about starting from scratch or not – I think you can learn from others’ successes without “piggyback”ing. In June, we helped facilitate a national gathering of IMA leadership from other state associations. We were able to learn from others’ successes and share our own without any kind of formal association. It was great.

    That said, MIMA has no intention of creating (or endorsing) a national IMA organization (like AIGA). But we definitely want to share best practices, swap speaker and sponsor contacts, and generally hang out with other IMAs around the country.

    How can MIMA help/support you?

  5. Thanks for stopping by Kristina. As one of the key people that has been instrumental in growing the MIMA organization you know more than anyone how much work it takes to get an association off the ground and become successful.

    My purpose for the post was because I’ve made noise about this topic off and on with local SEMs to gauge interest and then moved on without really pursuing it. However, recently I’ve heard comments about the idea and thought it would be good to get some public dialogue going to see if there is a market and interest or not. I agree, it would not be something that’s competitive with MIMA.

    The thing is, I know with certainty I could never drum up the time to start such an organization myself, at least from scratch. I am spread too thin for the next year or so. It would seem an extension of SEMPO or even MIMA if it was well supported, would be the most practical route unless there are other ideas.

    If there’s only a smattering of interest in such an endeavor, I think it might do well do operate informally in “meetup” mode such as Jeff suggests above and that have already happened a few times.

    Am looking forward to discussing with you further at the end of the month.

  6. I think this is a great idea. We are a telemarketing group in Duluth MN, and we have been working with the State Chamber of Commerce on their marketing programs. They are very interested in helping groups in MN build their marketing efforts. The SEO idea could easily work with the Chamber and they may have resources to get the idea off the ground. I think someone should propose it to them as an option.

  7. I would love to see a search marketing association here in MN. I find that we are relatively limited in our local networking and resource building opportunities. If there’s any need for help kick starting this initiative up here in Duluth or if you have any advice or direction for us, please let me know.

  8. Sounds like a great idea Lee. Greetings from NYC.

  9. I’ll be the self-appointed representative of everyone in Minnesota who has difficulty putting up with the current state of air travel. Sign us up!

  10. Well, I’ve put together an informal search marketing group via meetup…. We just held our first meeting and think that there’s definitely enough interest around these parts to get some good discussions going, etc….

  11. Next week in Portland I’ll debrief the SEMpdx folks regarding their startup experience. A MN group is a great idea, though none of us probably have much free time :).

  12. Robert, that’s great news. Good luck with that endeavor as there are many talented search marketers in this region but not so many networking or information sharing opportunities (offline).


  1. […] even wondered in the past whether it would make sense to have a Search Marketing Association for Minnesota, knowing it’s not something I could not devote much personal time to. There’s already […]