Top skills for PPC, Paid Search, and SEM Specialists in 2019

top skills PPC paid search SEM 2019

The new year often comes with a resolution to find a new job. As such, many companies put off their hunt for new talent until after the holidays.

That makes January the perfect month to review resumes and make sure they’re up to date on the skills employers are looking for.

And for those looking for jobs in PPC, paid search, and SEM, employers could be looking for surprising skill sets this year.

A new study from SEMrush analyzed more than 4,500 PPC job listings on Monster and Indeed in countries around the world, from the US and the UK to India. The results showed quite a few region-specific needs for new hires.

At the same time, some skills remain universal.

Here are employer-identified top skills from around the world, along with experts’ advice for how to make sure your 2019 resume has the skills employers are seeking.

Content produced in collaboration with SEMrush.

The top skills for PPC, Paid Search, and SEM by region

In the US, employers look for Excel skills

The US was the only country in the study that ranked Excel proficiency as its number one most desirable skill. A full 36% of employers prioritize a knowledge of Excel for new hires.

If you’re hoping for a new job as a PPC/SEM specialist or strategist in 2019, you really need to make sure you’re focusing on your knowledge about VLOOKUPs, advanced charting, and pivot tables. 

Joel Bondorowsky, PPC optimizer, online marketing expert, and founder at PPC Designs, said:

“Vlookups are a function of Excel that is on top as the most important. Without knowing how to perform a lookup, an employee will not be able to combine performance data from two different reports, such as an Adwords spend report with a product sales report. Employers in all of these countries are mostly looking for workers to help sell products in that specific market.”

In the UK and India, content marketing reigns queen

Perhaps a bit surprisingly, 35% of postings from the UK listed content marketing as an in-demand skill for PPC specialists and strategists.

In India, the number climbs even higher. 42% of employers look for content marketing skills.

While those numbers seem a bit unexpected, Nitin Manchanda, SEM expert and global head of SEO at Go Euro, wonders if startup culture might be a contributor.

“I would not consider ‘content marketing’ as the most trendy skill for this profile, which is the case for Indian and the UK market,” Manchanda says. “Maybe these are job posting from startups which are looking for an all-rounder who could contribute to Content Marketing as well.”

The top skills in PPC, Paid Search, and SEM overall

Ad creative still really counts

In 2018, “automation” kept the industry abuzz about what the future might hold in terms of jobs lost out to AI.

But according to Bondorowsky, the conversation around automation leaves out a key element: Only humans can fully understand what it takes to target exactly the right message to the right customer.

However, understanding how to combine automated tools with human insights becomes an important skill to have as the industry changes.

“Automation will also never interest people into having a desire to purchase a product, and then take action to do it,” Bondorowsky says. “Only internet marketers who understand the tools to target people with different intent that can write ads to appeal to them can do this. Looking at 2019 and beyond, I can only stress this point. People buy from people, not machines.

Automation and AI do not replace online marketers, but rather supplement them.

The best PPC campaign managers in 2019 will understand how to use the advanced technology we are given to communicate our sales message like never before.”

In a similar vein, the study noted the rising need for “people and relationship” skills

Alongside ad creative and automation comes the need to be able to effectively deal with people.

Ad creative becomes essential as “people buy from people, not machines.” Automation becomes key as it simplifies workload and repetitive tasks.

But as Patrick Schrodt, PPC Expert & Founder at TitanPPC, notes:

“Automation makes the job easier, but then harder to sell to an end client if the perception is a client can “self manage” on their own. So ultimately this means there is another skill required that’s not really on the list mentioned, and that is “people and relationship” skills.”

The PPC, Paid Search, and SEM expert of 2019 will not only be able combine the power of ad creative and automation, but also skillfully engage the people behind them.

Audience engagement metrics matter more than ever

Keywords have been a longstanding priority. But according to Dido Grigorov, SEM expert and SEO specialist at Serpact Ltd. & NetPresenta Ltd., audiences — not keywords — should be a PPC specialist’s main focus in the coming year.

“A good PPC specialist should be more focused on audiences in the future, not on keywords like before,” Grigorov says. “Audience engagement metrics will continue to be more and more important, which is expected and absolutely normal. We make campaigns for people, it’s understandable to evaluate them according to the engagement metrics in priority.”

Top PPC skills among all countries analyzed

In the table below, we see an aggregated list of top skills for all the countries that were included in the analysis.

Note that almost every third job offer worldwide requires knowledge of Google Analytics, SEM, AdWords (now Google Ads), and Excel. Content marketing also comes in quite high.

Skills in pay per click, web development, and Facebook could give a candidate a competitive edge. Notably, Bing and web design rank as less valuable, but still among the top contenders.

top 10 ppc skills

How does your skill set stack up for 2019?

If you’re among those seeking out new opportunities in 2019, analyze your professional profile and make sure you’re including the skills employers most value.

Download the full white paper with other graphics by SEMrush, “Top Required PPC Skills and Platforms,” for a complete list of the top skills you’ll need to stay competitive in 2019. 

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