Career Story: Search Marketing Manager For An Advertising Agency

Search Marketing Manager For An Advertising Agency

Job Title: Search Marketing Manager

Type of Company: My company is a marketing agency. We help our clients show up in search results (Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc) on relevant queries so when their potential customers are looking for their products/offerings, our clients' websites are featured.

Education: BS, Psychology, University of Massachusetts

Previous Experience: After doing some internships in labs while in school, I worked in customer service for a small biotech start-up, and then moved into a marketing position. After three years there, I took a job at a search engine marketing agency, where I have been for two and a half years.

Job Tasks: I manage a team of three search marketing specialists and two search marketing analysts. Together, we work to define strategy and develop tactics to help our clients increase and improve their presence in search results.

Where's the first place you go when you want to get information about a product or a company you saw on TV? The internet - and probably a search engine. That's why it's so important for companies to be present in the search results, both in the pay-per-click advertising portion (called PPC, and to the top and right of search results) and in natural search results ("regular" search results). For PPC, we have direct control over when we appear in the results (i.e. when you search "Princeton Review SAT Prep", our ad shows up), but for "regular" search results, we have less control. It's more about helping search engines understand the theme of the website.

My team has about 15 clients who are in many different industries: finance, travel, insurance, real estate, and pharmaceuticals. Day after day, I join my team on conference calls with the clients, discuss strategy and goals, talk about ways around roadblocks the client has encountered, help set priorities for the work we have to do, brainstorm, work with our clients' web and ad agencies, train clients on search, and more. We also travel to visit clients frequently or host them here at our office.

As a manager, it is my job not only to make sure we're helping our clients reach their goals, but also that I'm helping my team develop, whether it's learning new technical skills or new "soft" skills, such as how to better manage client expectations or balance their own workload. I also have to prepare reports for my boss on my clients' and team's performance, and am held accountable if either is not doing well.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best parts of the job: The variety of tasks I have to perform; having an impact on our clients' revenue; and helping develop my team. It is really satisfying to see someone who only knew the basics of search engine marketing develop a client strategy and execute it efficiently after just a few months here.

The worst parts: when clients aren't doing well and it's out of our control; having to reprimand my team for unacceptable actions. The recession has been hard, people aren't buying as much, and as a result, I lost two of my clients (one retail, one in finance). They simply didn't have the money to keep us on, even though we were helping drive revenue. The other hard part of the job is having to take formal action against my team members. I know and like everyone on my team, but if they don't show up for work, or don't complete something urgent on time, I need to hold them accountable, and it's hard.

Job Tips: My tips:

1. Learn to love data. Data is your friend. I wasn't "good" at math, but I'm good at analysis. Have examples of data-driven decisions you have made, even if it's not related to search engine marketing.

2. Learn how to ask questions. Employ "the 5 why's." The first answer isn't good enough.

3. Learn how to use Excel. Everyone says they know how to use Excel, but it's not true. Graphs, filters, VLOOKUPs and, if you're ambitious, pivot tables.

4. Develop your people skills. This job is all about relationships, like many other jobs. Participate in clubs where relationship building is part of it.

5. Set up Google alerts to learn about whatever industry you're interested in. You should know ALL about it. Read news articles, new analyst reports, informative blogs, etc. This will not only make you more credible in the interview ("I LOVE search marketing")

6. Take a statistics class in college. It will be useful, not because you actually use statistics on a daily basis, but because it gets you to think about data.

7. Take some marketing and advertising classes in college even if it's not your major.

8. Try to find a volunteer position (or club position) where you can do search marketing for them for free. A lot of search marketing can be learned by reading; the fact that you were so enthusiastic that you went after any opportunity will resonate well.

9. Learn how to interview. Practice interviewing. Have some good examples of things you have done that have had impact.

Additional Thoughts: Search Engine Marketing isn't something most people consider when studying marketing, advertising, or communications. However, it's a great niche for individuals who have people skills and some analytical skills. I kind of fell into it, and LOVE it. It's a growing profession, and one that is changing... and one that the rest of the ad industry is moving to incorporate into their agency models.

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