5 Directions You Can Take Your Career with a Background in Search Engine Marketing

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The discipline of search engine marketing (SEM)  is a relatively young one, yet many dedicated professionals have found their way into it both intentionally and by happenstance. Today’s pool of SEM experts is fed by a wide variety of talent streams in both digital and traditional marketing that, somewhere along the way, found that search engines provided an excellent platform for building or enhancing their marketing campaigns.

Unlike most other marketing fields, there’s still not a clear career path for search engine marketing professionals to follow. Entry into SEM staffing and full time positions is fairly easy for clever marketers that are fast learners and comfortable with technology. But advancement is another story, and professionals that have heavily invested their skill sets and experience into SEM often find they hit a career ceiling that is difficult to work around, especially as subject matter experts.

Fortunately, there’s hope for inventive search engine marketers, even those that are invested deeply as absolute masters of the discipline. With a little flexibility, you can use your background in SEM to grow your marketing career even when you start bumping into that seniority and salary ceiling. Here are some strong examples:

1. Stepping Into a Management Role

If you get good enough at something, eventually someone will probably want you to start managing a team that is doing that.

This isn’t a great path for everyone; many people just don’t have the personality or drive to be effective leaders. But for some, this represents an awesome new challenge (not to mention the opportunity for better compensation). If you’ve ever been frustrated with your organization’s current processes and wanted to be the one calling the shots and holding people (especially yourself) accountable, then management might be for you.

Some people are simply born leaders and will naturally gravitate towards management positions.

Some people are simply born leaders and will naturally gravitate towards management positions. They are already the ones volunteering for new initiatives and training their peers even without the management title. If that kind of attitude and charisma doesn’t come naturally to you, you’ll have to work particularly hard to compensate.

Moving up the management ranks is a standard option for many ambitious marketers, but it can come at a price. If you’re in SEM because you love the day-to-day work, you might be disappointed as you gain more and more management responsibility and find your time dedicated more to meetings and budgets and training than optimizing CTRs and CPCs.

2. Moving Into New Channels

SEM staffing firms

Search marketing is a key component to both digital marketing and the umbrella of simply “marketing.” SEM can’t operate well in a silo; you probably work constantly alongside other creatives, media folks, social managers and more.

Integrated marketing initiatives are one of the hottest trends around the industry right now. Search marketers are now rubbing shoulders with their cross-channel counterparts more than ever before.

Your experience with search engine marketing can absolutely translate well to other channels: SEO staffing work, mobile, video, social, affiliate, web analytics, programmatic advertising and more. Skills such as a focus on highly granular optimization, an A/B testing mindset, reporting and database management are a hugely important in related marketing verticals.

3. Taking Support and Niche Roles in the Industry

There are plenty of ways ambitious marketers can get a slice of the $70 billion SEM pie even without directly doing search engine marketing themselves. Someone with a strong SEM background can usually transition into any of a number of niche or supporting roles that have more potential for vertical career growth.

There are search association jobs, content creators and editors for publications like Search Engine Land, analysts at financial and research firms, search conference companies, SEM recruiters, and SEM training/certification programs that all would benefit from having (or are even required to have) experienced search engine marketers staffing their roles.

4. Moving into Entrepreneurship

SEM staffing entrepreneur

For many people–not just search marketers–owning a business is the ultimate dream. If this is a route you want to consider moving on to, you wouldn’t be the first.

Sometimes, necessity is the mother of invention. For Rich Stokes, current CEO of AdGooroo, starting his own technology company came from his need to gain more visibility into competitive information. There were no tools in the market to fill this gap, so he began exploring his own solutions. This need took his career off in a totally new direction:

“I got involved in search engine marketing back in 2003 while running an online consumer testing lab for anti-spyware tools. I invented the technology which eventually became AdGooroo to understand how my competitors were driving traffic using Google AdWords. It worked so well that in the course of a year, I became the largest independent affiliate in the anti-spyware industry. Larger industry players began approaching us in 2007, and we finally ended up selling to Kantar Media in 2012. Since then, my role has expanded and although I am still involved in product development, today I spend most of my time on forging new business partnerships in Europe, Asia and South America,” he says.

For Ajay Pattani, Founder & CEO of SEM agency Perfect Search Media, not only did SEM inspire him to start his own agency, but the skills he built as a practitioner have helped him as a business owner:

“Getting into search in 2005 and being part of a growing agency, then applying these competencies later on as an in-house marketer was extremely valuable to me. Looking back, I’m grateful for the transition from account management to agency management. The lessons learned from analyzing search metrics have been applied to many aspects of our agency, from recruiting to new business, and have made it easier to handle the challenges of entrepreneurship. Although I’m not in the day-to-day on accounts, the foundations of segmentation, testing, data aggregation and optimization remain in the search world today and beyond,” he explains.

5. Contracting and Consulting

If you’re passionate about SEM and prefer to stay on the subject matter expert career path, working in contract SEM staffing or as a consultant can be a great way to grow your opportunities and have new experiences while still doing what you love.

If search engine marketing– whether paid or organic optimization– keeps you highly engaged and continues to challenge your creativity daily, there’s no real reason you have to stop and move on to something else. And contract marketing staffing can be a great way to get a substantial pay bump without having to dramatically change the kind of work you do on a daily basis.

One of the few downsides of developing a career in an emerging discipline SEM is that there aren’t the same clear lines of career paths that other, more established fields offer.

However, the flip side of that is that the roads are open for you to clear your own path forward. Whether you migrate to new channels, move into a specialized niche, or come up with something new that hasn’t even been thought of yet, your only limits are your creativity and ambition.

Article Source: Search Engine Land

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