Q and A: I want a career in SEM. Where should I start?

QuestionHello Kalena

I enjoyed reading your web site and blog today. I was recently laid off and am interested in pursuing the SEM field. Where would you recommend I start?

I have 30 years of marketing, public relations, broadcast production, journalism (newspaper columnist), publishing (owner/editor of niche market magazine)… plenty of transferable skills I think. I also developed two web sites, produced several radio and TV shows and through it all I have excellent copywriting and proofreader skills.

Thanks much! Wish I could meet you in Sydney!

Susan

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Hi Susan

First up, I think your idea to start a career in Search Engine Marketing is timely and sensible given the current economy and global demand for search marketing staff. Reading my article 11 Reasons Why You Should Consider a Job in Search Engine Marketing should get you fired up even more about the idea.

It sounds like you have a lot of skills that would translate nicely to a job in the Search Engine Marketing field. Journalism and copywriting especially will come in handy for writing blog posts and optimized page copy or PPC ads. But there is quite a technical side to SEO and PPC that you will need to study and gain experience in before you’re ready to take on client projects or apply for a job in the field.

There are plenty of SEM training options to get you prepared for the industry, including *cough* Search Engine College *cough*, but you should also start practising on your own sites and others as soon as possible. Hands-on experience is essential to competency in the field.

Best of luck and do pop back and let us know how you get on. If you do happen to get to SMX Sydney, make sure you say hello.

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Q and A: How do I get a job as a Search Engine Optimizer?

QuestionDear Kalena

I have just turned 40 & am looking for a new career having previously been in sales management. I am interested in finding out how I would go about getting a position within a company as a S.E.O. and what qualifications are currently internationally recognized within the industry. Any advice would be appreciated.

Second question: is a blog type website such as a WordPress site better for optimization than the typical site a web designer would build?

Mark

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Dear Mark

1) There’s no reason why you can’t start a new career as a Search Engine Optimizer, heck I’ve written an article called 11 Reasons Why You Should Consider a Job in Search Engine Marketing. BUT, (and this is a big BUT), it takes more than theoretical knowledge and qualifications to be a good SEO.

There are plenty of online and offline training options for learning Search Engine Optimization, including the SEO courses we offer at Search Engine College. But they need to be paired with practical, in the trenches experience before you really understand how to optimize a web site successfully.

I attended a powerful presentation by Nat Torkington at Webstock last week about how to have successful failures and I would say that failures are a MUST for anyone in SEO. It’s only when you fail to get a page ranked highly in search engines and then tweak it to out-rank your competitors that you really grok SEO.

Regarding SEO qualifications, you should be aware that the search industry does not have an official accreditation body and therefore no standardized certification levels. At Search Engine College, we consistently check our lesson methodologies against the guidelines set down by the search engines themselves and I believe many of the other training institutions do the same.  We also set quite strict performance benchmarks for tutor-graded assignments and assessment items before allowing our students to gain certification.

As a result, we believe SEO / SEM certification has become increasingly recognized by employers in the search industry and we’ve had students tell us that having our specific certification has given them an edge over other applicants when applying for jobs.

2) In answer to your second question, any web site can be designed and optimized well enough to be search engine friendly, but yes WordPress blogs do seem to be indexed by Google very quickly and ranked well so you can feel comfortable building and optimizing a site using WordPress. It’s so much more than a blogging platform! Just make sure you download WordPress to your own domain and don’t build your site as a hosted blog on WordPress.com

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Q and A: What salary should I be earning as a search engine marketing specialist?

QuestionDear Kalena

I work for an ad adgency that provides both traditional and interactive marketing. However, I was hired as an SEM and Online Media Specialist within the Media Planning dept. The problem is I’m managing everything and anything that has to do with SEM.

Currently, I’m fully managing SEM campaigns for 12 clients each within 2-3 different search engines. Within a 200+ person ad agency, I’m the only person who knows SEM and SEO. My current salary is $43,000 with 3 years of experience. Can you tell me a salary range that I sould be paid at?

Brittany

Dear Brittany

It’s difficult to speculate about SEM and SEO salaries because they vary widely. However, judging by your experience and current portfolio of clients, your salary does seem quite low.

In my opinion, SEM specialists are experts in a niche industry and should be paid for this expert knowledge. Put it this way, in 2001, I was in a very similar position to yours, in a similar sized agency and I was receiving a salary of USD 80K. Granted, the industry was even more niche then, but according to Indeed.com, the average salary for SEM staff currently ranges from $68-85K.

If I was you, I’d be asking for a payrise! Have a read of this post about SEM/SEO salaries and some of the salaries quoted in these SEO/SEM job postings before you knock on the bosses door so you come prepared with ammunition.

Good luck!

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