Web Worker Careers: SEM & SEO


As companies strive to get discovered by customers on the increasingly crowded Internet, demand for the skills of search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) experts has grown.

Could a search engine-related career be right for you?

Types of Search Engine-Related Careers

Search engine marketing and pay-per-click advertising (PPC) responsibilities involve creating, launching, managing and optimizing paid search campaigns. Critical thinking, problem solving and analysis play an important role as this job requires reviewing data and creating reports. The reports provide needed information for tweaking campaigns in order to boost their effectiveness. These jobs often require knowing how search marketing applications work.

SEM specialists research and select the right keywords to optimize sites with, write ads that compel people to take action and conduct tests to determine campaign effectiveness. People in this job optimize landing pages and use email, blogs, social networks and online PR to create marketing campaigns with high conversion and click-through rates (CTR). These jobs usually have a greater analytical focus than SEO jobs.

Search engine optimization experts focus on designing or modifying web sites to play nice with search engines and help the site appear higher on the search engine results pages. They make sure the site doesn’t have any aspects that negatively affect its standing with search engines. This career has overlaps with web design because improving a site’s ranking may call for making changes to the site’s content and structure.

It’s important to know the difference between “black hat” and “white hat” tactics as well as the pros and cons of each. Using black hat strategies can hurt a company’s standing in the SERPs. Once a company loses its standing, it’s very hard to climb back up. Rob Oskins of Capital Solutions Bancorp explains that SEO experts have two key roles: ensuring the search engines can crawl your site’s web pages easily by optimizing the site’s content and structure, and getting links from other sites. “SEO involves these two major areas. It’s not rocket science, but it’s not easy,” Oskins says.

How to Qualify

SEMs and PPC managers need to know how to use Google AdWords (s goog), Yahoo Search Marketing (s yhoo) and similar services to create profitable campaigns. It helps to become Google Adwords certified and join the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization (SEMPO).

Knowing web design, HTML and other web site markup and technologies benefits those who want to work in SEO. “Having HTML experience when going into SEO is as important as learning the alphabet,” says Stephanie M. Cockerl of nextSTEPH. Some jobs require knowledge of languages like JavaScript, PHP and ASP.NET.

It’s possible to fall into the job through a happy accident like Christopher Noonan, president of Noon-an-Night Marketing. His brother needed to build a web site and market it. Noonan helped and discovered a new talent, and learned his skills the hard way through trials, testing and guessing, which he did for no pay. “The knowledge I gained in the first year by having a site to play with from the very beginning really helped my confidence and ability,” he says.

Some discover the career after a lay off. Cockerl learned PPC on the job with help from a mentor who was her former employee’s vendor.

Online Marketing Tools

Those in this career rely on Google AdWords, Google AnalyticsWordtracker, WebTrends, bid management software, web tracking software, Microsoft Excel (s msft), instant messenger, texting, conference calls and email.

Find Clients

Consultants in this career find their clients mainly through referrals from current clients and online networks such as LinkedIn.

Would you consider a search engine-related career?

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