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Old 11-01-2005   #1
Joseph Morin
 
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SEM Hiring 101

Great article by Internet Retailer on Searching for Searchers and the difficulties with hiring in-house for search expertise.

In-house guys, are you finding that this article is true? I actually think that the numbers quoted are very low judging from my own experience in California trying to hire experienced SEMs.
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Old 11-01-2005   #2
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Interesting that they use Overstock as one example.

I've met doug briefly before at an SES, and he's a good guy, but from what I have heard and seen, the salaries being offered over there are NOT close to touching some of those figures mentioned. They are decent salaries, don't get me wrong, particularly for those just out of school, or with less than 3-5 years experience - but anything above that, I think they are missing the boat on more qualified applicants.

Granted, cost of living here in SLC is pretty low, so you don't really need a lot to live well- but anyone with some solid SEO skills has the potential for much more, either just consulting, creating AdSense/YPN content sites or affiliate marketing.
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Old 11-01-2005   #3
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In the UK, most the agency based work seems to be in London where the salaries are naturally higher - there does appear to be a vast shortage of skills - I rarely see people come through the door with any SEO experience at all, let alone years of experience!

I still don't think it's quite the seller's market in the UK that the article suggests it is in the US - agencies can pick graduates cheap and train them easily enough. Perhaps things will change when the industry matures a little more in the UK - I think the US SEM industry is farther ahead in terms of being a more established industry.

To be honest though, some of the vacancies I've seen haven't come close to offering what I could probably earn in a 10 hour week from Adsense if I put my mind to it.

It's hard to quantify the value of an experienced SEO when you have an established company in place which is able to train inexperienced staff on the day to day processes. The problem is you can learn 80% of the job in a week, but spend years learning the other 20%. And sometimes 80% is enough to get by.
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Old 11-01-2005   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joseph Morin
In-house guys, are you finding that this article is true? I actually think that the numbers quoted are very low judging from my own experience in California trying to hire experienced SEMs.
In Australia, the shortage of experienced SEMs (3+ years) is acute. It's a very small community where everyone in the industry knows each other and most of the vets run their own agencies or have been already snapped up to head SEM at more savvy corporations.

This is exacerbated by the relatively low prominence of SEM in Australia. While we have many talented SEO/SEMs in Australia (quite a few who inhabit SEW), AU generally lags far behind the US and European markets in ability and experience (For example, just about all of the final candidates for a recent high-level SEM role that we screened for were headhunted from the UK).

MarketingGuy, while I agree with the point you are making, I think Joseph was leaning more towards the middle-to-high end of SEM in-house recruitment, where it really is a seller's market trying to entice veterans to move in-house.
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Old 11-02-2005   #5
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The salary ranges quoted seem low to me as well. My experience is that you need to be above what was quoted to acquire good mid-level talent. However, I have been able to hire sharp online marketing analysts and teach them SEM in a relatively short period of time. Price tag is generally lower and they can help out in other areas, too.

But this tactic only works for SEM not SEO personnel.
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Old 11-03-2005   #6
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a specialist promoted from within who will write search copy and track keyword density and site optimization
This shows some of the inexperience that people in-house can also have. Keyword density?? Maybe a couple years ago, but today its a different ball game. Yet the articles says that sometimes its better to recruit from within. Pros and cons to that argument. You get the benefit of someone already understanding your company, but the downside that they probably don't know that much. Pro is you can probably pay them less if you recruit from within the company, and Con is they may not be that motivated.

People I have met who were recruited in house or started doing SEO because they had too, I don't really qualify as so much as search marketing professionals but instead emergency response search marketing interns. They are called in because someone had to be there to do something about that search stuff that is so confusing. The investment though is in sticking with someone for a long time and leveraging the gained knowledge to help the company do well in the search space.
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Old 11-03-2005   #7
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SEM Hiring 101

Having run a job board for the last 12 months that specialises in the search engine industry, www.jobsinsearch.com, my view is that salaries quoted by companies are going up.

This is in part due to the jobs being seen as more "vaulable" as companies understand the benefits and ROI of search, plus the fact that there are not enough people with experience to go around.

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Old 11-04-2005   #8
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Originally Posted by Marketing Guy
In the UK, most the agency based work seems to be in London where the salaries are naturally higher - there does appear to be a vast shortage of skills - I rarely see people come through the door with any SEO experience at all, let alone years of experience!
Yes and no. Name one London agency with a good reputation for organic SEO. The best I can do is think of Scottish or Cornish agencies with London offices.
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Old 11-04-2005   #9
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Yes and no. Name one London agency with a good reputation for organic SEO. The best I can do is think of Scottish or Cornish agencies with London offices.
Touche!
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Old 11-05-2005   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joseph Morin
...I actually think that the numbers quoted are very low judging from my own experience in California trying to hire experienced SEMs.
Maybe in the United States you’re right.
But in my country, the starting annual base pay for mid-level search engine professionals is $9.000 to $12.000. Really good SEO marketing professionals working as department managers (we’re just a few here) are making $30.000 to $40.000.
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Old 11-07-2005   #11
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Great conversation

I would tend to agree with Marketing Guy's point. Most of us who work as "Internet marketers" understand that we can generate a lot more income on our own than getting stuck in a salaried position. I don't want to come off cocky here, but six figures would hardly be acceptable unless it came with a large number of stock GRANTS in a promising company.

What I frequently find is a hybrid position. The professional either consults or has a long term contract with a company, yet is allowed to continue with his/her outside business projects so long as there is no conflict of interest.
This provides a stable income for the marketer and expertise for the company, it also provides a way for the marketer to take on more lucrative projects to attain the total income they desire.

And one more point, a solid Internet Marketing Professional needs to have experience in SEM, Application Development, and Analytics. Although they might not need to personally perform each duty, they need to know how to build the system, work the system and analyze the data.
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Old 11-07-2005   #12
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In-house SEO pay

I agree that $45-60k seems low, especially for SEO professionals. At that pay, anyone with moderate SEO skills would be better off running their own sites.

I do agree that it is a seller's market. When I took my current in-house SEO job last April, I received job offers from all three companies that I applied for. It feels like the market for SEO/SEMs was just warming up back then. Now I get at least one company a week contacting me out of the blue--I'm not even in the job market!

If I were a company hiring for SEO, I would want someone with:
-an SEO track record of at least 3 years
-a strong background that includes marketing, writing, and analytics
-a decent understanding of all aspects of a site (HTML, servers, etc.)
-a good personality and the ability to get others to buy into the SEO cause (this is particularly important for in-house SEOs where the ability to work with various departments and cut through red-tape is key)

Finding all those characteristics in one individual is tough, but skimping on any of them would be a waste of time and money.
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Old 11-08-2005   #13
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Originally Posted by SearchCommands
Yes and no. Name one London agency with a good reputation for organic SEO. The best I can do is think of Scottish or Cornish agencies with London offices.
I am biased as a former employee of a London agency - however in my time there we produced some outstanding results for clients large and small, and in some of the most competitive verticals including travel, gambling and finance. Amongst the best of the large UK agencies, I would have thought.

And I know they still have some quality there in terms of SEO consultants.

Last edited by Adam C : 11-08-2005 at 05:05 AM. Reason: I can't spell
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Old 11-08-2005   #14
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I should also say that (first) finding and (then) hiring skilled SEO consultants is a very difficult task these days. It is liekly to become easier as the market matures, but for the time being people with the right credentials can command good salaries.

I recall this thread from a while back where NFFC asked "What is an SEO worth [in cold hard cash]" and likened the SEO consultancy model to that of the lawyer. Much of this rings true to me, and can be used as a yard stick for what competant SEO's can earn as a consultant, and hence how they should be paid as an in-house SEO.

Of course it begs the question: does a consultant require a different skill set to an in-house SEO?

webconnoisseur speaking from the perspective of the in-house SEO:

Quote:
Originally Posted by webconnoisseur
I do agree that it is a seller's market. When I took my current in-house SEO job last April, I received job offers from all three companies that I applied for. It feels like the market for SEO/SEMs was just warming up back then. Now I get at least one company a week contacting me out of the blue--I'm not even in the job market!

If I were a company hiring for SEO, I would want someone with:
-an SEO track record of at least 3 years
-a strong background that includes marketing, writing, and analytics
-a decent understanding of all aspects of a site (HTML, servers, etc.)
-a good personality and the ability to get others to buy into the SEO cause (this is particularly important for in-house SEOs where the ability to work with various departments and cut through red-tape is key)
The last 3 points are just as important for a consultant, particularly the latter. Hard to put a time/experience figure on things. Some learn quicker than others.

Last edited by Adam C : 11-08-2005 at 06:08 AM.
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Old 03-07-2006   #15
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And it seems that the SEO/SEM hiring situation is only getting worse.

Has the situation improved or worsened since we started this thread?
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Old 03-08-2006   #16
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Has the situation improved or worsened since we started this thread?
I think that depends on who you ask.

Seriously, some companies have seen the problem, and yet have done nothing to adapt to the situation they have seen. The 'jobs offered' section of these very forums are full of offers and very few have made any real effort to market the opening. It really is a basic marketing problem that many of those vacancies show:

Take alook at the posts in the Jobs Offered section, and it is surprising many haven't even thought to put a location in the title. Far worse is that almost all of the posts are self-centric - all about what the company wants from applicants, and no thought for what the prospective applicant will want from a company.

Anyway, to get back to the major point, the smart operators have adapted to the market conditions as they are. They have realised that the market is more competitive and that they have to 'sell' the vacancy to get attention from a relatively small pool of prospective applicants.

More than that though, the really smart companies are realising that they need to be producing their own pipeline of future experts by taking in more trainees and bringing them up to the required level of expertise. Its more about development and the future now.

The other companies who fail to adapt will have to continue to pick at the diminishing pool of folks who can't make it alone, aren't able or willing to make a good living from affiliate programs, and aren't preferring to be with a more forward-thinking and proactive company that looks to develop its staff, rather than merely recruit them.
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Old 03-08-2006   #17
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Originally Posted by Black_Knight
Take alook at the posts in the Jobs Offered section, and it is surprising many haven't even thought to put a location in the title. Far worse is that almost all of the posts are self-centric - all about what the company wants from applicants, and no thought for what the prospective applicant will want from a company.
Ammon, I think you hit the nail on the head. In our industry, it really is a job seekers market if there is any talent there. Being a former in house Director of Search I constantly get calls from recruiters who tell me of year long vacancies that they cannot fill in my area and it took over a year to fill my old post. Then they want to send me over an application, and my thought is "Wait, what makes you so sure I want to work with you"? Lets talk about the position first, where it is and how you can accomodate me. For instance will I be allowed to work on my own projects? Can I work from home?

I dont know of one single in-house search marketer who doesn't have at least a small consulting practice on the side. All of my fellow panelists on Big Brand SEO or In-House Search at the conferences do and even the in-house guys I know that are specifically NOT allowed to - do anyway. Another thing I simply do not understand is the mentality that you have to come to their office everyday 9 - 5. Sure a few days a week for meetings perhaps but the corporate world is behind in their thinking by asking us to have to be there, that one I really don't get. Might as well be up front with the hiring company and tell them what you want.
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Old 03-08-2006   #18
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More than that though, the really smart companies are realising that they need to be producing their own pipeline of future experts by taking in more trainees and bringing them up to the required level of expertise. Its more about development and the future now.

The other companies who fail to adapt will have to continue to pick at the diminishing pool of folks who can't make it alone, aren't able or willing to make a good living from affiliate programs, and aren't preferring to be with a more forward-thinking and proactive company that looks to develop its staff, rather than merely recruit them.
Absolutely Ammon. On the big three Australian jobsites the market for online marketing jobs has grown substantially within the last year and a half. I have also noticed an increasing number of trainee and junior positions whereas previously everyone was scrambling to recruit mid-senior level employees with 3-5+ years experience. Many of these companies have realised the 'vets' don't come cheap (or don't come at all - since so many are o/s based!) and have opted to build from the grassroots level.
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Old 03-08-2006   #19
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Worsened. One of my staffing-company clients has a bunch of unfilled job orders for SEMs. They cannot be found.
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Old 03-15-2006   #20
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I split the new discusson on salaries over to here: SEM Salaries - What People Are Paying.
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