Google Searches for SEM Talent

The search arms race continues, and this time the arms are of the human variety. Google is looking to recruit high-profile search agency execs to join its team, as Yahoo did last month with former Carat Interactive VP Ron Belanger.

Several search agency execs have told ClickZ News that they have received numerous calls from headhunters recruiting for high-level agency outreach positions at the search engine. Those calls have increased since Yahoo picked up Belanger two weeks ago. A Google spokesperson declined to comment on its hiring plans or practices.

“We’ve been getting calls from headhunters looking to fill several roles at Google,” one SEM exec confided. “Who better to help them work with agencies than someone who knows the space from the inside?”

As part of Google’s outreach, the company conducts on-site training sessions with agency personnel. Those workshops teach basic product functions, discuss advanced strategy techniques, and outline thought leadership issues surrounding the industry, Chris LaSala, head of agency programs at Google, told ClickZ News.

“We’ve always been working closely with agencies, especially since we opened our New York sales office five years ago,” LaSala said. “The team is always growing.”

The agency teams at Google are organized both by vertical markets, to ensure expertise in various industries, and by account-specific teams for each of the largest advertisers and agencies. For smaller advertisers and agencies, the Google Advertising Professional program was put in place last fall, and was broadened in April to begin certifying companies as well as individuals.

Yahoo has also been building up its agency outreach efforts in recent months. In August, Yahoo expanded its four-year-old Ambassador programs to create a three-tiered system with varying levels of education, training and search marketing resources to help them sell and manage Yahoo Search Marketing campaigns for their clients. It followed that up with the hire of Belanger to its strategic alliances team, tasked with giving more personal service to large direct advertisers and agencies.

“We’ve seen more large advertisers lately, and we want them to understand how they should be evaluating search, how they can incorporate search into their marketing portfolio, and how they can build a search infrastructure,” Chris Bolte, SVP of strategic alliances at Yahoo Search Marketing, told ClickZ News.

“These questions were coming more frequently from larger advertisers and more traditional agencies. We saw in Ron a person who was uniquely qualified,” Bolte added.

Many search execs have gotten calls from MSN as well, as it looks to fill out its staff for its upcoming worldwide launch of its own paid search platform.

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