How to Cope With SEM Staffing Shortages, Part 2

As I discussed in part one, if you’re going to keep SEM (define) in house, you’ll clearly need a team with a variety of skills to improve the likelihood that you’ll take full advantage of your PPC (define) search opportunity. SEM campaigns won’t become less complex any time soon. No matter if you choose in-house, fully outsourced, or somewhere in between, you’ll need an individual or a team that can competently perform the job by providing coverage within the following domains:

  • SEM/SEO (define) copywriters. Both paid and organic search are driven by language, linguistics, copy, and communication. Copywriters must be familiar with the nuances of organic SEO and understand paid search editorial guidelines and best practices. The copywriter must be taught to understand your business well enough to put himself in the searcher’s shoes for every important listing. Often, ads with the highest CTR (define) and ROI (define) are tuned by a copywriter. The best SEM copywriters think like newspaper headline writers. They understand that in addition to including keywords, the ad should read like a newspaper headline: short, to the point, and relevant to the reader.
  • SEM/SEO technologists. Web marketing organizations have both organic and PPC issues that benefit from implementing the right technology. An SEO technologist can make your site more spider-friendly by removing technological hurdles to the search engines’ ability to find and understand all of the site’s pages. Often, a technologist will prepare product feeds for Froogle or other shopping engines, such as,, BizRate, and NexTag. An in-house or agency-side technology team will, of course, ensure all bidding activity in the search engines occurs as it should. For larger campaigns and those with volatile keywords, that means integration with the APIs (define) at the engines.
  • Search analysts and paid search campaign managers. A well-managed PPC search campaign isn’t static. Keywords and creative are tested; the campaign changes based on business needs. Various initiatives must be prioritized to make sure everything is done. This requires the expertise of a search campaign manager.
  • Quant jocks. Good analysts understand the data and data drivers that may not be as obvious. A great analyst goes beyond that; he understands business. The best-run SEM campaigns often rely on insight triggered by data review. Reporting and data aren’t just important for communicating to management how the business is doing. Data can and must be used to develop new strategic and tactical initiatives that test the current status quo against an alternate campaign execution. Recommended changes can occur anywhere within a campaign based on the reports available.
  • Webmaster or external conversion marketer. High relevance and optimal conversion enable you to participate in the PPC auctions at the highest possible efficiency and scale. Someone must be in charge of creating better user experiences for power PPC keywords. The likelihood your current site contains the perfect landing page for your most important keywords is fairly low. Someone on your team should actively recommend and execute landing page creation, testing, and buy-flow or conversion-path analysis.
  • Strategists. One or more people, in house or at the agency, must see the big picture. The strategists understand the business’ profit drivers and can make decisions when to alter campaign objectives, based on marketplace fluctuations, short-term business requirements, and competitive landscape.
  • SEM agency liaison (tactical level). Many marketers choose to partially or fully outsource SEM. But even a fully outsourced PPC search campaign requires an internal person who shares responsibility for campaign aspects that require client/advertiser involvement, such as lading-page testing, creative review, keyword approval, and data analysis/review. The best agency relationships are forged in a partnership environment.

Outsourcing is gaining momentum. Why? In part, due to staffing shortages, technological complexity, and possible loss of current SEM staff. In addition, SEM agencies have much larger, more specialized teams than would ordinarily be allocated to an internal SEM campaign. Agency expertise is generated through dozens of specialists sharing best practices and staying on the cutting edge. Combined with automation and technology that’s developed within the better agencies, this enables the advertiser to accomplish goals unattainable through in-house solutions.

Of course, many marketers and some advertisers believe PPC search is a core competency. For them, that may be true. However, in the world of media, marketing, PR, and advertising, history shows in-house knowledge and strategy combined with external technology and expertise are the winning combination. Time will tell. In 10 years, the search and auction-based media business may look as different as it did 10 years ago, before GoTo was founded and when Larry and Sergey were studying at Stanford.

Meet Kevin at Search Engine Strategies in Chicago, December 5-8, 2005.

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Screenshot shows a Google search for outdoor grills, the shopping ads shows images with “in store” showing the product is available nearby.