The Five Characteristics of Highly Effective PPC Specialists

It doesn’t matter whether you have an in-house paid search team or work in an agency, we’ve all seen the recent talent shortage for qualified paid search specialists. We’ve also seen an influx of people claiming to be paid search specialists and trying to take advantage of the current law of supply and demand in the paid search world.

While there are distinct differences in what makes an agency paid search specialist successful versus what makes an in-house paid search specialist successful, I’ve come up with five crossover characteristics that apply to virtually every successful paid search specialist in the market.

  1. Paid search marketers are good at math. This doesn’t mean that all successful paid search marketers have a PhD in applied mathematics from MIT, but understanding numerical trends is essential to understanding what is going on in a paid search account. I’ve seen creative individuals with weaker mathematical analytical skills fail miserably simply because they had a hard time understanding how the numbers were affecting the account.
  2. A high tolerance for change is mandatory. There is no avoiding the fact that change is probably the only constant in search marketing and always will be. Assume for a moment that time travel was a reality. If I started my journey one year ago and landed today, it would take me a while to get acclimated upon opening the major search engine interfaces. The rules of paid search change constantly, and the features of the tools paid search marketers use change daily. The theories of what works in paid search seem to change as fast as the latest guru can get his/her new book on the Internet. If you’ve got a paid search marketer who says, “Well, that’s just the way we’ve always done it…” you need to run as fast as you can.
  3. A passion for knowledge is imperative. Because of the dynamic nature of the search world, there’s always something to learn. Every successful search marketer I know reads everything they can get their hands on. They want to learn more about the industry and see what others are doing. Keeping abreast of industry trends is not only a good habit, it’s a job requirement for those who dabble in the PPC space. Truly successful paid search specialists live, eat, and breathe search. They talk to their husbands and wives in terms of ROI, CPC, CTR and other TLAs (OK, three letter acronyms). Hopefully these husbands and wives will not divorce them for this behavior.
  4. Paid search marketers roll with the punches. There is no doubt that paid search management can be a very stressful job. Anytime you are dealing with large sums of money that can literally make or break a company, you’ve got to be a little stressed. But a little stress is a good thing. It keeps you on your toes. However, if you see a potential search marketer with two Xanax bottles, fingernails chewed to the quick, and a roll of Tums, you might want to think twice. If you don’t handle stress well, you should probably find another field – like brain surgery or skydiving.
  5. Intiative drives success. The term “thinking outside the box” may be a cliché, but it applies well to most successful paid search marketers. You have to think of new ways to do things, and have the initiative to set those plans in motion, monitor them, and react to the results. I see many mediocre search marketers who are content to change a few things, but don’t want to put the work into making huge changes that can have big impacts on an account. You can’t wait around for someone on your team to come up with the idea and send it around for committee approval; you’ve got to do it, test it, and react to it.

Assessing these five traits in an interview can be a difficult task, and one I can’t say I’ve always been able to do, but if you can find a search marketer with all of these traits, hang on to him/her. The market for talent in this industry is thin (just ask anyone who’s trying to hire), and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

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