Job Forecast for Digital Marketing

So 2011 has passed us by all too quickly. Here in early 2012, it’s natural to wonder what the job market will look like over the next 12 months. It’s been one hell of a year, with huge turmoil in the world’s economies still unfolding and talk of worse to come. As a backdrop to all this worry, people still need to work, and inevitably many of you will change jobs.

Still a Candidate-Driven Market

In the column “So How Is the Job Market Looking in 2011?” I said that if you worked within SEO, social media, PPC, or analytics, you were pretty safe from unemployment.

Do I still stick by that, or have I done an about turn and shot off in a new direction? Thankfully, the former. I still believe firmly that if you have good skills in any of these areas, then you are safe within a market that has not only weathered the economic downturn but also continued to grow. Now that’s a good piece of news with which to start the year. Throughout 2011, the job market continued to thrive, and salaries within certain niches are still rising.

Worldwide, the market has become even more candidate driven, and I expect this trend to continue. The majority of applicants are receiving over five interview requests and multiple offers. Competition is fierce to hire, and companies are starting to feel the strain when it comes to convincing someone to join them rather than a competitor.

The end of 2011 saw a big shift upward as companies prepared their business forecasts for 2012 and monitored revenues and growth over the previous 12 months. This resulted in an increase in vacancies across most job sectors within digital marketing, with the lion’s share going to SEO.

The continuing problem of attracting trainees into the market is creating a lack of experienced talent at the more senior end of the hiring process. Certain agencies and companies have recognized this fact and looked to invest in graduate training programs in order to bring more people into search and increase their skills. I expect that more companies will do so.

At the top end of the market, applicants are looking for more diversity in what they do. For example, SEO directors can find it hard to move any further up the career ladder, but by learning social media, PPC, affiliate marketing, etc., they can aim for marketing director roles, which will give them the increase in salary and responsibility they desire.

Outlook for Key Areas

It is clear that natural search still dominates when it comes to online marketing campaigns, and that more companies are looking to increase their spending and resources in this area. This has produced many more vacancies than actual applicants.

Roles within paid search are also increasing steadily, and again there is a complete lack of experienced people looking to move on. As salaries tend to be slightly higher within SEO, some people have actively looked to move into natural search, causing a decrease in the number of PPC people available.

Two boom areas in 2011 were social media and web analytics. Both of these have continued to see massive growth and salary increases, as competition at all levels is still incredibly tight. Some of the highest salaries I saw on offer last year were within these sectors, and I expect to see the same throughout 2012.

Taking their online sales channels seriously, end clients rather than agencies are driving the demand for people with web analytics skills. People who understand data and its place at the heart of search campaigns and marketing are in high demand. Luckily for applicants and sadly for clients, there is a huge lack of experienced analysts, and companies are regularly getting into salary wars when it comes to job offers. This situation is forcing wages higher. More and more analytics professionals are also being tempted away into other industries such as banking, where the salaries can be hard to refuse.

An area that I didn’t cover much last year was mobile. Although still very much a blossoming sector, mobile is seeing high demand, and I anticipate people making the jump as specialists within the sector. It is hard to compare salaries as there really hasn’t been any precedents set so far, but I expect to see some big numbers offered in order to attract serious talent to start building teams and divisions, especially within the agency world.

People working within UX are also finding themselves in high demand, with just about all the roles being permanent and all the applicants being contractors. This makes for a nearly impossible situation as permanent and contract salaries never even come close. It will be interesting to see if this market continues to be contractor driven or whether permanent salaries will increase in order to convert people into permanent roles. I advise any firm looking for permanent UX people to seriously look at what you pay, as this is most definitely the sticking point within the sector.

The International Scene

As the world continues to move online, international recruitment is an area to watch. Certain geographic regions find it harder to source people locally than others. Singapore, Hong Kong, and Tokyo, for example, are actively looking to attract talent from the U.K. and U.S. Notably, an agency director in London moved to Asia with more than a £100,000 pay raise. Now, that certainly is something that’s hard to say no to. Australia is tempting British marketing professionals with prospects of sun, sea, sand, and money.


My main predictions for the coming year: there will be sustained growth across digital marketing and increasing salaries due to a lack of applicants. I do not see this situation changing any time soon. More and more companies are going to struggle to fill their open positions. Many applicants are still seeking in-house jobs because of the stability and corporate benefits offered.

All in all, this should be a very exciting year, and digital and search marketing are great areas in which to work. You should have no concerns about finding a new position if you decide to look around.

This column was originally published in the February edition of SES magazine.

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Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.