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Hitting the Digital Salary Ceiling

  |  May 10, 2012   |  Comments

Are you waiting around until the market adjusts to get more money or spending the time learning more skills and broadening your role wherever possible in your current job?

Taking a little line from the opening of "Star Trek," "To boldly go where no man has gone before…" pretty much sums up what can happen when emerging markets start to mature from a recruitment perspective. What do I mean by this you may ask?

Well, put quite simply, certain niches within digital marketing are still new and we are starting to see applicants who have risen to "director of" or "head of" positions that have basically hit the salary ceiling. As recruiters we see this happen a lot in markets such as IT when new technologies are released.

Let's take an industry such as SEO. It's been around longer than people imagine but is still very much what we would term as emerging. For those applicants who are ambitious and have moved into the top positions we are now seeing very little opportunity for some of them to move on based on salary requirement. Not that money is normally a prime motivator when it comes to changing jobs, but very few people actually move sideways financially or backwards. Let's be frank, money talks and in bad economies, people want to cover their bases salary wise.

The average salary in London as an example for a director of SEO is around £75,000. There are actually very few roles that come in at that level above that salary, which starts to make things difficult for applicants to move on. If they are currently on £75,000 it's inevitable that they want at least £80,000 to change jobs or even more. When a role paying above average does come onto the market then there is often a huge amount of competition for it, which has been seen with certain high profile roles recently within the London marketplace.

So what will happen to those SEO directors? Well, many will stay in their current jobs even though secretly they want to move. I know this as I deal with people at this level on a daily basis.

At some point the market will adjust but this can be slow in happening. Companies will start to find it hard to recruit experienced directors at the "average" salary level and then monies will start to increase bit by bit as certain companies realize they have to up the ante in order to attract staff. This will have a roll-on effect over the course of 12 months or so until the average salary increases to say £80,000. But then we are back at square one again.

The other thing you can do is to be a bit more proactive and look as an applicant to broaden your skill set. An SEO director may only get £75,000 whereas a marketing director gets an average of around £100,000 and a CMO can be as high as £250,000. What do you want? To stay in the same job at the same money or shift gears a little and earn a lot more?

Doing just SEO? Well, add in PPC and social media for a start. They are closely linked and you should easily be able to pick these skill sets up. There is a huge amount of demand for display advertising people so grab this skill set if possible and chuck in affiliates if you can.

You now have a much broader skill set and can push for a marketing director role at more money, which, if you are really ambitious, can then lead on to a CMO role. Obviously it helps to be good at what you do but this isn't always the case, as I'm sure a lot of people in the industry can testify to.

So in conclusion, will you wait around until the market adjusts or spend the time more profitably by learning more skills and broadening your role wherever possible in your current job? I'd broaden and play the corporate game so as to get that financial career move.

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Jake Langwith

Jake Langwith is managing director and founder at International Head Hunters Stone Carter where he specializes within SEO, web analytics, and social media. With over 17 years experience across the U.K., Europe, and Asia Pacific markets he has established a strong global reputation and works in close partnership with some of the world's leading digital agencies and brands.

Jake is actively involved in the digital marketing community. He's also an avid blogger and a speaker at SEO-related industry events such as the SES conference series. He takes a keen interest in his market sector and outside of recruitment runs several websites where he puts into practice SEO and marketing strategies. Jake is particularly interested in SEO and conversion strategy within e-commerce.

A self-confessed search and tech geek, Jake is married with two children and lives in London where he was born and bred.

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