How to Select an In-House SEM Professional

Some business executives seem to believe search engine marketing (SEM) initiatives are a one-shot deal. This type of reasoning erroneously presumes converting clicks to cash is as simple as firing up a pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaign.

Organic SEO (define) initiatives suffer from a far shoddier sort of shortsighted malaise. Many business executives seem to believe repairing natural search issues is a singular, static affair.

Neither perception could be further from reality.

Search is dynamic, perpetually fluctuating and undulating across a countless range of words and equations characterized by disputatious, and often subtle, specious reasoning.

A successful SEM campaign blueprint must be dynamic, prepared with a solid framework malleable enough to adjust even the most aleatory adaptations. This is why a decision to create an in-house SEM position is hardly a random business endeavor.

Preparation and Purpose

At first glance, selecting an in-house SEM professional may appear a rather iffy proposition. It doesn’t have to be this way. Finding the right SEM professional for your business depends on your business goals, as these goals define the purpose of your SEM initiatives and preordain the skill set your candidates require.

First, review your marketing goals to determine where search fits into your long-term business strategy. With these goals in mind, candidates for your SEM position must be prepared to discuss what tools they’ll require help you fulfill your goals.

There’s a big difference in the skill sets required for managing a couple of PPC campaigns; growing demographically targeted e-commerce traffic; and increasing online-lead generation for your sales force. Your business goals directly determine whether a candidate’s skill set is uniquely adapted to overcoming your SEM business challenges.

Depending on your goals, there are several critical questions to consider when hiring an in-house SEM professional, including:

  • What bid management tools do you use, and why?

  • What Web analytics packages do you have experience with?
  • How do your measure your performance?
  • Can you code, or do you need design support to make changes to a Web site?
  • How many Web sites have you designed?
  • What content management systems are you familiar with?
  • What’s your process for determining keywords and keyword phrases?
  • Have you ever relaunched an entire Web site?
  • What are your thoughts on paid inclusion?
  • How are e-commerce sites different from content-based sites?
  • How do corporate blogs affect SEM tactics?
  • Do your strengths lie in natural SEO or PPC advertising?
  • How do you keep current with rapidly changing SEM products and services?
  • What was your greatest SEM success?
  • Conversely, what do you consider to be your worst SEM failure?
  • How do search engines work?
  • Describe your content management experience.
  • What’s a common JavaScript workaround?
  • When would a rewrite module be required?
  • What’s more important, conversions or return on investment (ROI)?
  • Do you prefer your boss to have a hands-on or advisory role in SEM?
  • What else do we need to know about you?

Though clearly this is an incomplete list of questions to ask in-house SEM candidates, you can at least see the answers will help identify the right person for the position.

There are few right-or-wrong answers to most of these questions. It’s how a candidate responds to them that provide you with the insight you need to select the right person for the job.

Generally speaking, a solid SEM professional will guide you through the process of selecting her for the job, just as she should be able to guide you through selecting the data required to review her performance in the position over time.

Summing Up

Selecting the right in-house SEM professional for your business should be viewed as taking a first step toward fulfilling long-term business goals. If you’re prepared to share your general marketing strategies and business objectives with candidates, the right professional will provide you with the reasons why she’s the only logical choice for the position.

Preparation is essential to select the right in-house SEM professional for your business. Once you understand how your business goals predetermine the skill set you require, it’s a lot easier to identify the SEM professional that best suits your business needs.

Finding, recruiting, and retaining an in-house SEM professional are entirely different matters. We’ll look at different strategies to find, recruit, and retain a successful in-house SEM professional in the weeks to come.

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

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