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August 21, 2008

Searching For Jobs In Search

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Dana Todd is moderating the last session of the day with Frank Watson (Kangmurra Media), Katie Donovan (SEMPO) and Ken Clark (Onward Search).

I was chatting with Frank before the session and he said there are 3 slides and lots of chatter going down in this one. Let’s hope these fingers still have some juice left in them.

Dana says the demand is still very high in search. Even though there are massive layoffs everywhere (California has an unemployment rate of 7 percent), there’s a huge demand to hire search people. Search also pays pretty well. Because of how awesome we are.

Hiring Criteria/Skills

In terms of hiring, what are the criteria? What are people looking for?

Ken: In our business we’re dealing with a lot of companies across the country. The biggest trend is that companies are now focused on what is your experience within the industry or the segment that they operate in. As opposed to are you just a good search marketing or good at SEM? If you’re interviewing with an Internet retailer, what they’re looking for is proven success within that niche, not just someone who’s good overall. It’s a natural evolution since there are now people with certain experience in specific niches.

Katie: Companies want to make sure everyone is on the same level of knowledge. It’s about evening out knowledge. A lot of people are self-taught and there are holes that need to be filled in. Some people are really strong with understanding keywords but not good with copywriting. In link building, people need the ability not to interact just over email, but over the phone, as well. They see lots of people lacking people skills.

Frank: He looks for someone who’s going to be outgoing. You need to have a certain level of confidence. If something is going to put something in your hands, you have to know that they’re not just staring into space. You want to look outside of knowing that there’s an algorithm or that there’s analytics. A the entry level you can always train people, you want to look for people with those other skills – like confidence, who can write, someone will bring a different marketing dynamic.

What do you think is more valuable – PPC or SEO?

Frank: Depends on the market.

Ken: You’re looking for people who are left-brained and right-brained. You need someone that has the creative skill set but is also able to deal with analytics. When we talk to employers, that’s the term that they use.

How do you determine that?

Ken: There’s no test for that. They train their recruiters to go through a lot of due diligence and thorough phone interviews where they’re asking a lot of questions that will help identify those traits.

Frank: If you find out that they’re musicians, they’re usually really good with analytics.

What are employers looking for?

Katie: They’re looking for the sales and account managers. Someone to keep the clients happy.

When you’re working on a train wreck, are you more valuable as someone who specializes in SEO organic type things or something that has a more shallow knowledge in a lot of different areas?

Frank: You’re not going to get hired to cover all of it. People usually have a spot to fill – an Organic spot, an Analytics spot, etc. If you come in with certain skills, you may fit into one of their holes.

Kate: You can look at what’s going to pay you the most, but you have the best opportunity right now to decide where you’re going to be happiest.

What is your feeling about technical people in this arena?

Frank: You have a skill set that stands out. You can talk to people and understand the technical side and what’s going on with your CSS. That’s valuable. If you can sit in the middle and get the technical people and the creative people on the same page, that’s incredibly in demand.

Ken: I don’t think there’s a perfect background to be a search marketer. Whether or not you see five other IT folks that went into the business, I wouldn’t look at it as a disadvantage.

Are employers looking to see if you’ve gone through SEO training?

Katie: More and more companies are starting to do their own traditional training classes on-site to make sure everyone is on the same level. They are looking for the go-getter who got training on their own. Those people stand out. You do need to do the work and get some kind of hands-on experience.

Ken: From an employer’s perspective, I do think having gone through training gives them an advantage in the marketplace. If you’re new in the industry and you’re just getting introduced to it, being able to demonstrate some hands on experience is definitely an advantage, even if it’s a small project.

Breaking In/Finding Jobs

Where can you find a job?

Frank: Get involved in the forums. There are ads on Craigslist. The more that you end up in places like SES and you network with people, you’ll meet people who can help you in the future. It’s all about exposure.

Ken: You have to take an active role in managing your brand online. Recruiters do their research. Be on LinkedIn and build out your profile. They use job boards but 75 percent of their candidates come from their networking or their research.

I’ve been in the industry for 5 years. Where are the jobs for experienced, more advanced positions? How flexible do you have to be? Is there a point breaking into SEO blogging?

Frank: Don’t write about SEO. Write about what you have passion in. Create some niche site. It shows initiative.

What about lateral moves? How do you keep your advancement going?

Ken: They see a lot of jobs all the time. A lot of these jobs are everything from SEO Manager to Director of SEO to VP of Search. There is an executive trail.

Frank: You have to be willing to move. You’re not going to find a high paying job in Illinois.

Kate: If there are companies you want to target yourself, start networking there.

Search Marketing Training

You talked about training course. What do you think about the Google Training Center?

Dana says it’s awesome.

Kate: It makes sense to be certified in Google AdWords because that’s what your employers are going to be using. You’re going to be more confident.

Yahoo and Microsoft also have certification – is it good to have those?

Ken: It’s nice to have. He thinks there are lots of good training programs out there. We have another 2-3 years before the market decides which are the most valuable certifications. There’s not a clear message in the community yet as to which one is the gold standard.

[David Temple is in the audience and chimes in to clarify that Google and the search engines only offer “certification” in their tools. He mentions that Bruce Clay is the only training course that offers a certification, because it’s for our own ToolSet. The other courses don’t “certify” you as an SEO or as a PPC expert, they just give you a certificate to say you completed their course. Good points by David.]

Advancing Your Career

How do you advance your career?

Frank: If you want to advance your career, you have to become more known in the space. Get a moderator job in the forums. You have to get known. He says it worked for him.

Ken: The first thing he would suggest is to ask yourself where you want to be in five years. That will dictate your decisions. You have to say, “do I want to be a generalist or a specialist?” Do you want to be agency or in-house? Do you want to be a manger or an invisible contributor? Those are the first things you have to decide. Once you do that you have to map the job opportunities to where you want to go.

Kate: Tell people what you’re doing. That you started a blog. That you attended a conference.

Do you see a lot of burnout?

Kate: We’re all going to have 7 careers in our lives, so we’re all going to change.

Ken: It’s almost cliché to say that search changes every day but it really is changing. Diverse experience is accepted. It’s not a negative.

Frank: A lot of times when you’re getting the highest-end money, you are the generalist. You’re the person overseeing the team.

Is there a 100K opportunity for a sales guy in search?

Everyone says ZOMG YES.

And on that high note…we’re out! We hope you enjoyed our SES San Jose coverage. We’re off to go catch a plane. See you back in Simi. :)

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One response to “Searching For Jobs In Search”

  1. David Temple writes:

    Nice coverage, as usual. I think this was a good session in that it was more of a round table. At the same time it was more for people with less than 3-5 years experience. Anybody with more time served shouldn’t have a problem finding a job.



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