Local Networking in the SEO Community

October 17, 2008

The SEO Meetup Group I organize typically gets a few new people applying to be members each week. I “approve” about 50% of them. I used to auto-approve everyone and it made for a nice impressive number of “members”, but most of those people weren’t really “SEO people”. They were either looking for free advice for their one website, or free basic training, or they were recruiters or meetup groupies or who knows what. Just under half were legit.

Anyhow, maybe almost a year ago I paired down the member list and put in place a speed bump. You have to answer a few basic questions about SEO. You don’t necessarily have to work for a local agency or have 10 years in the field…  But if you don’t even answer the questions, I will assume you aren’t the type of person our group is looking for. A description of the purpose of the group and who the right type of person is is provided, and judgment is up to me. You don’t have to be an expert, but just not someone who is going to waste everyone else’s time trying to get free advice on your meta tags.

Okay with that aside, I got an email from a guy I recently approved. Seems like a very nice guy, and has some level of experience with affiliate marketing, SEO, eBay and various other online marketing concepts. He wrote me an email basically wanting to see if the group would provide the type of benefit he is looking for. I appreciate this. If you are looking for something that is not what our purpose is, than its best not to waste everyone’s time. Our group is for people in the Baltimore SEO community to network, share ideas, etc. Its not free advice for small business owners. Its not free SEO training.  Since we’ve put this in place our meetups have really improved in their quality and relevance.  More depth and value.

So here is an excerpt from this guy’s email to me:

…Hope this is enough for you to get an idea of where I’m coming from, and can tell me if we can mutually profit from me coming to your meeting???

and then here was my response:

<begin response>

Happy to hear from you.  I’m glad you are doing well with your various online ventures and wish you continued success.

Not sure I completely understand your goal in what you’d like to get from the SEO Meetup… but let me share my take on this…  I would suggest that you view this group more as a networking opportunity rather than a place to get training or free advice.  That’s not really what its for.  If you are looking to meet other people in the SEO industry in the Baltimore area, have a drink and talk shop than its worth your time.  If you are looking for recommendations for your specific website(s) or training than that’s not really what our group is all about.

Most members in the group spend a ton of time reading SEO blogs, using social media apps like Twitter, etc. so they already have lots of places to get news and read tips, etc.  Our meetups are for making connections and meeting people.  Networking.  Sure some nice ideas and tips can come from that, but typically only after you make a connection.  If you go up to somebody and say “Hi I’m Joe… what’s your best link building secret” you aren’t likely to get much from that.  If instead you make a connection and form a true relationship then down the line you might find yourself with a question or idea you want to run by someone and now you have a larger network of professionals in the SEO industry that you can leverage to help you out.

<end response>

Was that tone a bit rough?  What are your thoughts on in-person networking events in the SEO industry?

2 Responses to “Local Networking in the SEO Community”

  1. Chris Says:

    Harsh? Not at all. I think you are being proactive by “nipping it in the bud”. I think we all feel better knowing that our inside information is safe within our core group of professionals. Although, we did post a LOT of information yesterday on the “mail” board within our meetup group. Is that locked down unless you’re a member of the group?

  2. Jon, I think your letter was spot on; the meetup is really valuable because it’s a good way to network within the Baltimore SEO community. If you didn’t screen people then invariably we would get bogged down with questions about beginner SEO techniques; things that can be learned easily online for free at the various SEO sites, forums, and blogs.

    That’s completely different from an experienced SEO saying “hey, I have a client with this issue, has anyone dealt with this before?” or “is anyone using a quality tool to do x?” – i.e. more advanced questions that aren’t as easy to find online and could benefit everyone in the group.

    Not to mention, it’s a good way to stay networked and find jobs for the 9-5’ers in the group.

    All that being said.. I think there’s an opportunity for another type of SEO meetup.. like a “Beginner’s SEO meetup” that would teach newbies some tips and tricks every month. Not a bad opportunity for someone looking to pick up new clients by giving out some free information.

    Back when I was in real estate, my broker used to run a Meetup for new investors and he would pick up clients after giving out some useful but free info on real estate investing.

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