Hiring An SEM Expert: What Skill Set To Look For
SEM experts are in high demand. Not surprising, given the tremendous growth rate of e-commerce.
In 2018, about 1.8 billion people across the world bought goods online. E-retail sales in 2018 amounted to US$ 2.8 trillion.
B2B (business to business) online sales in 2018 were almost 4 times higher than e-retail. The gross merchandise volume (GMV) of B2B e-commerce in 2018 amounted to US$ 10.6 trillion.
It’s a huge market when we take B2B and B2C online sales together.
Ranking by Total E-Commerce Volume 2017: Source
This growth in e-commerce has also fueled the demand for Search Engine Marketing (SEM) experts. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 20% growth in the demand for SEM experts between 2018 and 2028.
What Does An SEM Expert Do?
The core job of an SEM expert has not changed, however. An SEM expert has the responsibility of improving the SERP ranking of a business webpage.
In jargon-free terms, the company website must appear towards the top of a search engine results page (SERP). That’s what an SEM expert needs to ensure. At the heart of SEM is a company’s SEO (search engine optimization) strategy.
The SEO strategy, in turn, involves the following:
- Keyword research and implementation
- Content strategy planning and implementation
- Link building
- Web marketing with analytics
Categories of Digital Marketing Strategies
Digital marketing can be of three types, at least:
- Organic: Your business webpage automatically appears towards the top of SERP
- Pay Per Click (PPC): A paid marketing campaign where you pay the platform every time your ad gets clicked
- Paid Directory Listing: You pay to be included in a web directory relevant for your business
An SEM expert needs to have the skills necessary to plan, implement, manage, assess, and restrategize as and when necessary, for each of these three categories.
The Skill-Set An SEM Expert Must Have
Two distinct sets of skills are necessary: technical skills and soft skills. Technical skills refer to the specific capacities needed to efficiently and effectively execute what a job position demands. Soft skills are generic skills that determine how effectively a person can work in any position.
1. Thorough Knowledge of SEO
SEO (search engine optimization) is the foundation of SEM. Without SEO, there is no SEM. An in-depth understanding of how SEO works in different search engines is a non-negotiable skill for an SEM expert.
Thorough SEO expertise involves the following:
- Up-to-date knowledge about search engine algorithms for ranking: This is a critical element as search engines keep changing their algorithms. The mode of search engine rankings changes accordingly.
- How to blend quality content with keywords: This is pivotal to improving organic ranking. It is equally essential for PPC campaigns to be effective. Merely using the researched keywords is not enough.
A seamless blending of the relevant keywords with attractive content is what works. Search engines like Google are smart enough to reject content that focuses only on the keywords.
- Comprehensive understanding of offsite SEO: Everything that you and others do away from your site to improve the ranking of your website is offsite SEO.
A critical element in offsite SEO is building links to your page. Google, the most-used search engine, depends on links to determine how relevant your content is. Writing blog posts and guest articles on other sites are methods of link building.
The SEM expert does not need to write. But they need to have technical information like using critical keywords towards the beginning of a post for effective linking. This is necessary to guide copywriters to produce content that works.
2. PPC Management Skill
PPC (pay per click) campaigns are the paid counterpart of driving organic traffic to your webpage. The aim is the same: improving the SERP ranking of your website. Therefore, all the skills needed for SEO are relevant.
However, PPC campaigns involve financial investments. To ensure high returns on investment (RoI), its management needs additional skills as well. Focus on the following when you hire your PPC campaign manager:
- Marketing Skills including a basic understanding of consumer behavior, consumer segmentation, and trend analysis of targeted consumers.
- Planning and Time Management to determine how long a PPC campaign should continue, how often the content needs tweaking, etc.
- Monitoring, Reviewing, and Adapting skills are critical to efficiently and effectively manage PPC campaigns.
B3. asic Knowledge of Programming Languages
The ability to use CSS and to write in HTML is essential for an SEM expert. Some technical understanding of web design is also critical. Without a basic understanding of how websites work, efficient and effective SEM is impossible.
An SEM expert needs to understand technology from the user perspective to be effective.
4. Ability to Work with Data Analytics
Analyzing the numbers and making sense of the statistics are necessary to understand the general trends in relevant search patterns. These become even more critical with paid ad campaigns.
5. Copywriting and Copyediting
The SEM expert need not be directly responsible for generating the content. Without a creative understanding of what works and what does not, it is impossible to guide and refine the content to match SEO needs.
6. Social Media Management
Social media platforms continue to play an increasingly more important role in influencing consumer behaviors. A recent report mentions that 54% of social media users research products on these platforms.
No SEM expert can do their job competently without social media management skills.
Soft Skills Critical For An SEM Expert
Soft skills refer to competencies that are non-technical, yet critical for effective functioning in nearly any role. For an SEM expert, the must-have soft skills include the following, without being limited to them.
1. Curiosity and the Willingness to Learn
Stagnation of thought is a killer for any marketing position. An SEM expert is ultimately a crucial component in your marketing wheel. The quality of being a lifelong learner is essential.
That presupposes a curious bent of mind, in turn. Without it, an SEM expert would fail to engage in research, which forms an indispensable part of their job.
2. Analytical Skills
Working with data analytics is a technical aspect of the larger analytical skill-set that an SEM expert needs to have. Common usage packs several competencies within the domain of analytical skills. The ability to disintegrate complex information, critical thinking, and problem-solving are the core components.
3. Proactive, Transparent and Effective Communication
An SEM expert cannot work in a silo. They need to work as part of a team. Effective team functioning requires strong communication skills.
More importantly, without proactive and transparent communication abilities, an SEM expert will be unable to judge the aptness of the contents to be used. Contents are meant to communicate – to search engines and consumers alike.
4. Cross-Functional Partnership Competency
An SEM expert needs to function with a multidimensional team addressing different business needs. Without the ability to collaborate and coordinate with a cross-functional team, an SEM expert will be shoddy at their job.
5. Project Management Skills
An SEM expert will likely need to manage several projects simultaneously. That needs strong project management skills. Planning, strategizing, time management, review and prioritization, etc, are some of the key abilities included within project management skills.
Outsourcing Might Be The Smarter Choice
Partnering with an experienced SEM agency with a proven track record often proves more cost-effective than hiring an in-house SEM expert. You save on overheads and other related costs without losing access to the expertise you need.
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