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May 9, 2006

When did multitasking become a bad thing?

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Yesterday during our Weekend Recap we briefly mentioned the new JupiterResearch study that found search marketers routinely perform five other job functions in addition to their SEO tasks. After thinking about it some more, and reading some additional commentary, I think it could use another mentioning.

There were a few things that bothered me, both with the study itself and with others analysis of it. The study entitled Search Engine Marketer Job Function Study surveyed more than 275 search marketing professionals and asked them to identify what other job functions they were involved with. The most common non-SEM function identified was site design (58 percent), followed by email advertising (57 percent), marketing communications (49 percent) and market research (44 percent).

The survey seemed to want to attribute the multiple job roles to search marketing being an ‘immature industry’ with a serious lack of qualified professionals. While I will agree search marketing is relatively young, and that five other job functions may seem like a lot, I take a look at the Bruce Clay, Inc. office and the reported stats don’t surprise me.

However, I believe the multitasking is done on purpose, not because there is a lack of SEM talent out there.

Search marketing and is a complex field, filled with a set of constantly changing rules and methodologies. In order to stay competitive, search professionals must continually increase their knowledge base and rework their skills. Keeping their hands in all aspects of the industry allows them to do this and lets them see things from a grander scale.

Multitasking doesn’t always equal overworked (don’t you remember college?). Sometimes it’s part of a company’s plan for integration. It ensures their email campaigns get a marketing touch, that sites are designed with an emphasis on SEO and that all projects seamlessly fit together. What good is it to become pigeonholed into one mundane task, forgetting about everything else that is going on around you? How would that benefit the end user? If every aspect of your search marketing campaign needs to be intertwined, why wouldn’t you have the same person work on it? Why can’t one person run an entire campaign for a small company? When did multitasking become a bad thing?

Another issue that sparked my interest: the survey found that 26 percent of search marketers play dual role as resident IT guy. That means one in four search marketers are working in the IT department, not the marketing department. Doesn’t that person seem misplaced to you?

Do you want the person running your search marketing campaign well-versed in the most effective marketing strategies (press releases, blogs, using logos, etc) or do you want them to be able to carry on a conversation about server problems and networking an office? There’s just no correlation between the two and companies should not expect to be able to bridge the positions. Would you let your IT guy write your press releases?

As the search marketing industry grows and matures it will naturally become more segmented. Bob will be in charge of site design, John will take care of the email campaigns and Joe will handle the advertising. Each will be an expert in their respective fields and will be able to handle their share of work without consulting the other. But is that better? Wouldn’t you prefer that everyone works together in the pursuit of one common goal, building a tight integration between tasks? Isn’t that the mantra that’s been drilled into us since kindergarten?

The JupiterResearch study insinuated that search marketers take on multiple job roles because of the youth and inexperience of the industry. What if search marketers don’t take on multiple job roles because they have to. What if they do it because they can?

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