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Search Marketing: A Rewarding Career Path

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While it's not always a quick path to riches, a career in search marketing can be very rewarding, according to a new survey of in-house SEMs conducted by SEMPO, the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization.

The results reflected the newness of the industry, but also showed that search is maturing. About 64 percent of respondents have five years of SEM experience or less. Very few entry-level SEMs reported salaries over $100,000; just 8.0 percent of those with 0-3 years experience. Compare this to the number of similar respondents making less than $50,000: 48.8 percent. The remaining 43.2 percent fell in the middle, making between $50,000 and $100,000 a year.

In-house SEM salaries, 0-3 years experience

Those aren't ridiculous "dot-bomb"-level salaries, but they're respectable earnings for someone with little experience, notes Rob Crigler, co-chair of SEMPO's In-House committee and director of interactive marketing at Rollins.

"It's a respectable career path. I know I wasn't making 70 or 100 thousand dollars a year when I was three years out of college," Crigler told SEW.

The size of salaries roughly corresponded to the size of the company, with larger companies paying more. "That indicates that it's a good career path. There are options out there, it just takes a little more experience to get them," he said.

Experience Pays Off

More experienced SEMs, those with 5 to 7 years of experience, tended to make significantly more than their inexperienced counterparts. Just 17.4 percent of respondents in this group reported making less than $50,000. The majority (56.4 percent) make more than $80,000 a year, including 4.4 percent that reported earning more than $200,000 in salary and 30.3 percent making between $100,000 and $200,000.

In-house SEM salaries, 5-7 years experience

The difference in experience levels is being reflected in the number of senior level titles. There are still relatively few VP-level search marketers, less than 4 percent of respondents. Another 10 percent hold a director title, and 9 percent have a senior management role. More than 36 percent of respondents in this group reported salaries between $80,000 and $100,000.

Twenty-six percent of respondents hold the title of manager, though nearly half do not directly manage people. Compensation for this group clustered around the $60,000 to $90,000 range.

"Search is finding its way into more marketing departments. They're using the channel, and thinking about ways it will be structured and staffed organizationally," Crigler said.

In-house SEM salaries by title

Budget levels managed by respondents was polarized at either end of the spectrum. One-third of respondents reported managing monthly budgets over $200,000, while 26.6 percent manage monthly budgets under $25,000. Of those respondents managing more than $200,000 a month, 92.9 percent are part of a dedicated in-house search team. And 77.4 percent of those teams are part of a larger marketing department.

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