SEMpdx Advisory Board Interview: Kent Lewis
1) Please give us your background and tell us what you do for a living.
Although I started my career in high tech public relations in 1994, by 1996, I was optimizing websites for a digital agency here in Portland. Since there were no books, classes or professional associations dedicated to SEO at that time, I was self-taught. I started sharing what I learned in a weekly newsletter I called Anvil. Four years later, I decided to use that name and identity when launching my own SEM consultancy. It wasn’t until after I co-founded an email marketing agency in 2002, that I realized my passion was for search and that I needed to focus on building a company full time. I hired Anvil’s first two employees in January of 2004 and never looked back. Today, Anvil Media is 14 employees servicing 50+ clients globally. As Anvil grew, so too did our sophistication, reach and pricing. As such, I decided to launch a second SEM agency geared towards small business (as well as agency and strategic partners): Formic Media. Formic has grown steadily since the fall of 2008 and is now 7 employees servicing over 40 clients. Both agencies are located in one building in NE Portland and we’re able to leverage economies of scale from a larger brain trust. I’m currently responsible for marketing at Anvil and strategic direction at Formic, while supporting sales and marketing efforts. With such talented teams at Anvil and Formic, I’m able to expand my reach within the local community. I’m currently on the board of SMART (Start Making a Reader Today), advisory board for SEMpdx and I continue to manage pdxMindShare, Portland’s premier career community. Although I have more balance in my life these days, my heart is and will always be in search and with my teams and I enjoy speaking, writing and teaching an SEM Workshop at Portland State University as an adjunct professor.
2) What has SEMpdx meant to you, personally and professionally?
When industry peers approached me in early 2006 about forming a industry trade association for Portland-area SEM professionals, I thought they were crazy. Although I’ve been in the industry for a long time, I wasn’t convinced we had critical mass in such a relatively small market. Besides, Anvil was one of the oldest and largest SEM agencies in town and I wasn’t sure what we had to gain as a founding member. That said, I figured, why not? We put together a board and I found an initial sponsor (Site9) to help fund the organization. I was pleasantly surprised and pleased by the response and support in the Portland market. SEM professionals came out of the woodwork to attend our events, and sister organizations like SEMPO (a global version of SEMpdx) as well as IMAs in other markets were very supportive. Personally, I’ve forged lifelong friendships with people I’ve met here in Portland and abroad, thanks to my involvement in SEMpdx. Professionally, SEMpdx has been critical to Anvil’s growth and validity in the marketplace. Our team is highly engaged with the organization, volunteering as well as attending and speaking at events. I’m most proud of what SEMpdx has been able to do for the SEM community: putting search on the map in Portland and Portland on the map in search. I’m also pleased to see the success of the SEMpdx Annual SEM Workshop Scholarship and Charity of Choice. I believe we’ve set the bar for what a professional association should be in terms of validating SEM as a career as well as giving back to the very community that provides us with such amazing opportunities.
3) How has SEMpdx influenced the search marketing community in Portland and beyond?
While it’s difficult to quantify the impact SEMpdx has had beyond Portland, the feedback we’ve received from sister organizations is compelling. We’ve consulted with SEM professionals in the Bend and Seattle markets to help them build sister organizations. As a part of a nationwide consortium of interactive marketing associations (IMAs), SEMpdx is one of the only SEM-focused organizations, yet our input is valued and appreciated by the group. Most importantly, our annual event, SearchFest, attracts nearly 400 SEM professionals from around the country, which is tremendous validation. In fact, one of my primary goals in creating SEMpdx, was to get the godfather of search to keynote at one of our events. Within 3 years, Danny Sullivan keynoted SearchFest. I believe our impact is much more pronounced in Portland. We collaborate actively with complementary professional associations, not only on an event planning and marketing level, but more strategically in terms of how to operate more effectively as non-profits. I’d like to think we’ve helped guide many aspiring SEM professionals into fruitful careers, secured talent and new clients for our member firms and added value to sponsors by increasing their exposure and driving new business. The most exciting aspect of SEMpdx is that we’re just getting our momentum and I look forward to seeing what the next few years holds.