How to Find an In-House SEM Specialist

If you’ve grown weary of outsourcing press releases to a PR agency, sending your pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to an ad agency, and having your organic search optimization work done by yet another firm, it’s time hire an in-house SEM professional. And if you’ve tried to handle SEM on your own and still run your business, you’re probably more than ready to hire an in-house search engine marketing (SEM) specialist.

There are many types of online business ventures, just as there are many skills required to perform as a successful search engine marketer. How do you find a competent SEM specialist for your business?

If you’ve established the need for an in-house SEM, there are a number of paths you can take to find the right person for the position.

Insightful Search

Is there a competent, professional SEM specialist just waiting to be discovered in your office? Odds are, someone already working for your business could handle the job, if you’re willing to draw her out of her comfort zone and invest in the tools and continuing education she’ll need to succeed.

There are many benefits to finding your SEM specialist in-house. The individual knows your business and understands how things get done. She probably has your company’s best interest at heart. Your Web sites embody your organization’s online reputation, so you must be able to trust the individual you hire and ensure she understands what’s at stake for your company.

Where you find an in-house SEM specialist depends on your business needs. If your current SEM mix is 80 percent PPC and 20 percent organic, you might find an SEM specialist in the marketing department. If your mix is 80 percent organic and 20 percent PPC, chat with your Webmaster to determine her understanding of SEM and how search engines work.

Many technical and design elements affect a site’s search engine performance, but the core of successful SEO (define) still revolves around text and links. As complex as some PPC campaigns can be, the nucleus comprises words and numbers.

Both organic and paid SEM strategies require highly organized individuals who can set priorities, actuate a plan, measure the plan’s effectiveness, and respond accordingly. Unsurprisingly, some of the best in-house SEM professionals I’ve met recently are former secretaries and executive assistants.

Never underestimate someone’s ability to learn the SEM business if you’re willing to invest in continuing education and allow her the time to grow into the role.

Search Beyond the Box

Equally competent, professional SEM specialists operate outside your business. The primary benefit of hiring an outsider is the individual will already be an experienced SEM professional. How you go about finding this professional varies with the size of your business.

Larger businesses have more resources to find an in-house SEM professional. Engaging an employment agency to find such a specialist is commonplace for larger businesses. Frequently, individuals who operate small SEM firms — one- or two-person consultancies — yield to the lure of a secure income with benefits. The tradeoffs are obvious.

The consultant has to get used to working in a 9-to-5 world (lose the T-shirt and sweats!) and function in a corporate, often politically charged, environment. The company must also allow the individual to maintain her independent consultancy outside regular business hours — just in case things don’t work out, or the business environment changes.

Great places to find your new corporate SEM professional are trade shows, including Search Engines Strategies (SES), AD:TECH, and Direct Marketing Association (DMA) gatherings. Smaller businesses could strike gold by joining local groups of marketing, Web design, and IT professionals in a more casual setting. No matter what size your business, never underestimate the value of human networking.

Of course, you can always post the job opportunity on career sites or advertise in newspapers and trade journals. Finding the right SEM professional can be a time-consuming. If you’re patient, the right person will find you.

Inside Track, Outside the Lines

I ended up on the inside track to an in-house SEM position with my former employer by way of acquisition.

In 1998, the company acquired a business line I managed. It had no idea I was an experienced SEM practitioner. It took a couple years for the organization to take my search recommendations seriously. But with a vast sandbox to play in, so practice and patience paid off. It wasn’t an easy decision to exit such a wonderful working environment.

All the same, I’m a bit challenge-oriented. When a new-found colleague I met at an SES event offered me an interesting proposition, and a trusted friend agreed the job sounded like an interesting match, I made the leap to the Fortune 500.

As an in-house SEM professional, I’ve been acquired, recruited from within, and headhunted. There are a lot of people out there just like me who are willing and able to use SEM to take your online business to the next level. All you have to do is… go find them. Happy hunting!

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

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