SEM Interview Tips For 2013 and Beyond

Dec. 28

I originally started this blog with the sole purpose of providing career advice for those in the SEM career path. Since then, I have branched out to cover a variety of topics including tactical SEM tips, conference recaps, affiliate marketing studies, and more. However, I wanted to get back to my roots today and offer some SEM interview tips that are sure to turbocharge your SEM career in 2013 and beyond. January is the start of the big hiring season. New budgets are in place and companies are hiring. I hope these tips help you score your dream search engine marketing job.

Interview In Progress

  • Know your SEM. Whether you are fresh out of college or you’re applying for a management position, make sure to know your SEM inside and out. You need to go above and beyond. Get your hands on tutorials, become well versed with platforms, and get certified. Arrive at your interview with specific examples and case studies that prove your knowledge of the space.
  • Stay humble. SEM is a team sport. If you come across as too cavalier, you will not be perceived as a team player. I’m not saying you need to change your attitude and personality. You need to be yourself because you want to get hired where you mesh well with the team. However, I do feel those that are super cavalier would be better suited to work on their teamwork or start their own (small) company. Corporate marketing (or running a larger business) is all about teamwork and staying humble.
  • Make sure you have mentor(s) in the search marketing industry. Make sure to drop a few names. Our industry is growing at a rapid pace. Your network is everything. If you know and study under the right people, that will score you instant credibility. I currently mentor several aspiring SEM superstars and personally owe my continued success to my network of mentors. Mentors are for marketing professionals of all levels.
  • Practice math exercises. Make sure you can complete mental math (simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) rapidly. Also, make sure you can answer more difficult questions on paper. Those that cannot perform mental math are going to face headwinds in the analytical field of SEM so make sure to be ready for math questions.
  • Go beyond SEM. Our industry is evolving. Search marketing professionals are now being asked to manage display, remarketing, social media, email, and affiliate marketing programs. The more you can bring to the table, the more likely you will get the job. Just remember: Depending on the job don’t be too well-rounded. Make sure to flex your deep expertise in the specific focus on the job. If you come across as too diversified, you may appear to lack depth in your knowledge.
  • Do a practice interview with your mentor. Take your interview seriously. Make sure the questions asked during the practice interview are of great difficulty, especially the math and case questions. Be prepared for anything. Also, practice your speaking so you come across with maximum confidence.
  • Offer your prospective employer flexibility. In any new position, you will need to earn respect. One way to do this is to work nights and weekends. SEM is a 24/7 trading landscape. If you’re able to take some pressure off the existing team and fill in during odd hours, this will go a long way. If you’re not willing to do this, SEM may not be the right career path for you since it’s truly a 24/7 discipline.
  • Know the SEM platforms. These days, it’s not enough to understand search engines, APIs, and desktop editors. Now, it’s all about getting leverage and sophistication via SEM platforms such as Inside Vault and Kenshoo. Learn about the platforms as much as possible and bring deep experience to the table.
  • Bring strong P&L experience to the table. SEM is a fun career path because you get to manage a P&L, especially as you get more senior. When you manage P&L there is zero margin for error. Bring a strong track record to the table. Explain specific instances of your contribution to the top and bottom lines.
  • Highlight your Ivy League resume. I’m not only talking about your college here. I’m talking about companies on your resume that had significant liquidity events. If you have a strong track record of working at companies that have achieved rapid success, you are typically going to be a more qualified candidate.
  • Send out thank you notes. This goes without saying. Always send out written (and email) thank you notes following your interview. Even if you don’t score the job, that’s ok. It’s all about building your network and people remember this type of gesture.
  • Arrive early. Again, one that goes without saying. SEM is all about punctuality. It can be difficult at times to keep pushing 24/7. Arrive to your interview early to show your prospective employer that you have what it takes.
  • Bring technical expertise. Are you a CS graduate? How about EE? SEM is a technical field. To the extent that you can help build tools and automation, this will go a long way. Demonstrate your knowledge of search engine APIs and your ability to build programs around those APIs. At a minimum, try to master Excel macros.
  • Perform an SEM audit. Of course this is difficult without direct account access, but nonetheless you can spend a few hours and bring some insights to your interview. Perform an SEM audit of your prospective employer and bring great ideas (with plans to back them up).
  • Know the company. It’s not enough to know SEM. You need to also understand the company and industry you are targeting. Spend the time to truly research the company at which you are interviewing. Tie this research into your SEM audit (prior point). Industry-specific ideas are often the best ones.
  • Be ready to build campaigns. There is no better way to test knowledge than to have a candidate build bulksheets. Get ready for tactical questions and exercises.

I hope these tips help out and best of luck in securing the SEM job of your dreams in 2013!

Image of Interview In Progress © iStockPhoto – FugeSpot

Cool Search Marketing Holiday Gifts

Dec. 23

I’m a huge fan of corporate holiday cards and gifts. Giving gifts is such a wonderful way to say “thank you” to your valued colleagues, vendors, and partners. Gifts don’t have to be super expensive, it’s the thought that matters. Being an online advertising professional, I’m truly blessed and lucky to work with amazing partners such as Google, Yahoo!, and Marin Software. This year, my partners went all out and sent over some truly impressive (and amazingly appreciated) gifts. Today, I wanted to highlight a few of the gifts I received this year. Thanks everyone for the awesome gifts!

Marin Software Holiday Gift

First up is the tower of chocolates and goodies from Marin Software. This tower is truly impressive, check out the picture to the right. Each box contains a different treat. I’m talking about chocolates, truffles, gourmet cookies, and so much more. Marin’s gift is the first one I received this year and it went fast. Everyone at the office truly enjoyed it! Thanks, Marin!

Second up is the most amazing gift basket ever from my SEM agency. This is the first picture below. I put an Expo marker next to the gift basket for size comparison. This basket has more food than one could possibly eat! It’s a heavy gift basket and has just about everything from caviar to chocolates to smoked salmon. I know we will be enjoying this gift basket for months to come, our SEM team is stocked with snacks and goodies.

Next, I wanted to highlight the third gift on the list, the amazing Harry and David gift box received from our friends at Yahoo! This is perhaps the classiest gift basket I have ever seen. It contains pears, apples, chocolates, and more. The presentation is simply amazing. I really like this gift box because it’s the perfect balance of healthy foods and desserts too.

Good things often come in small packages! I wanted to sincerely thank Google for the fifth gift on my list today, an amazing Ghirardelli coffee mug filled with all flavors of Ghirardelli chocolate squares. This gift is truly fun because Google sent it to all members of our team. It’s always fun when you get a personal gift, thanks Google.

I wanted to round up today’s post with my fifth gift, an amazing gift basket (literally in a basket) from one of our favorite second tier search engines. This basket, like Yahoo!’s, is from Harry and David. The pears, apples, nuts, and goodies are delicious.

The 2012 holiday season is definitely the season of good food. Our gifts this year were all centered around the gift basket and food theme. Thank you so much, everyone, for the gifts. I’m so honored and lucky to work with such amazing partners in such an amazing industry. I wanted to also take this opportunity to sincerely thank you for reading PPC Ian and to leave you with a parting thought… While all of these gifts truly made my month, I also had the great opportunity to purchase a few gifts this holiday season for those less fortunate (via my company’s holiday gift drive). This is truly the season of giving and I encourage you to find ways to give back. That is the most rewarding gift of all!

Images of My SEM Holiday Gifts From Amazing Partners

Search Marketing Agency Gift Basket

Yahoo! Gift Basket

Google Holiday Gift

Search Marketing Holiday Gift Basket

Images in this post ©

My Holiday Wish List

Dec. 19

Hey Everyone,
Today I’m excited to share a guest post that my friends at PPC Associates were kind enough to publish earlier this week. Please head on over to the PPC Associates blog and read my Online Marketing Holiday Wish List. This is my wish list for the holiday season, from a search engine marketing perspective. You’ll find all kinds of fun things on my wish list such as PPC agency help, online marketing platforms, beta test budget, and more. What’s on your holiday wish list this year? Big revenue numbers? Less competition in the AdWords landscape? Whatever your wish may be, I hope you get it! Happy holidays and new year! PPC Associates, thanks so much for the opportunity to guest post.
All the best,

PPC Associates Guest Blog Post

Image in this post ©

SEM Agencies: Creative Ways To Get Amazing Results

Dec. 16

Whether you outsource all of your SEM efforts or have an in-house team, it’s likely you will work with an SEM agency. I personally view SEM agencies as an extension of my internal team. The agency is just like any other employee at your company except they have their own office. World class SEM agencies can add so much value that they quickly pay for themselves. Today I wanted to share a few tips and creative ways to get amazing results from your agency! I’m going to skip the obvious tips such as having regular meetings, fostering a 2-way communication channel, and requesting regular reports. Rather, I’m going to focus on the more creative opportunities that truly flex the power of the agency model.

SEM Agency

  • Leverage your agency for true 24/7 operations. SEM is like the stock market, except it’s open 24/7. As humans, we all need sleep and we all need to diversify our time. What’s the best way to get campaign coverage on nights, weekends, and even holidays? Hire and SEM agency and make this a focus for them. Agencies are experts at resource allocation and at leveraging their global/cross-time zone capabilities.
  • Rely on your agency to get into exclusive beta tests on Google AdWords and Bing Ads. Large agencies have amazing relationships with search engines. They bring a ton of business forth, so the search engines are very serious about agency account management. If you are a smaller/mid-sized advertiser, you may find an agency as your key to securing exclusive beta tests.
  • Make sure to divide and conquer. This tip is for those large organizations that have both an in-house team and an agency team. In the world of SEM, it’s super easy to cross wires. Make sure there are clear lines of differentiation. Perhaps the agency owns one search engine and the in-house team owns another. Perhaps the agency owns on facet of campaign management (such as ad copy testing) and the in-house team owns another (such as keyword expansion). Perhaps the agency owns particular campaigns and the in-house team owns another. However you decide to slice it, make sure there is clear coordination. Otherwise, wires could get crossed.
  • Leverage your agency to build advanced technologies. In the world of SEM, it’s all about scale. Scale often requires scripts and programs to be built. It’s not always easy to gather resources in-house, however a super agency will offer to build programs for you. Have this discussion and see if your agency can bring your team technology capacity.
  • See if your SEM agency can also act as your creative agency. This point ties into the last one. Not always is it easy to get quick turnaround on in-house creative projects (such as landing page comps and display creative). However, many SEM agencies have their own creative resources (either in-house or very close by). See if your SEM agency can produce your creative assets.
  • Partner on social media with your SEM agency. Most SEM teams these days are offered the fun opportunity to run paid campaigns on social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. However, running such campaigns is different from Google AdWords and Bing Ads. It requires a different approach and the strategy is evolving rapidly. Make social media a collaborative project with your SEM agency and you are likely to achieve excellent results.
  • Leverage your SEM agency for advanced bidding and campaign management technology. Large agencies often have a performance marketing platform in place, such as Acquisio. When you hire an agency, you not only get marketing expertise but you also often acquire the technology to truly achieve success. See if your in-house team can gain access to the technology platform and collaborate closely around the platform.
  • Save money on competitive intelligence with your SEM agency. Large agencies often have access to tools like Hitwise and Compete. They need to have the necessary data points to drive business forward for their clients. See if your agency has access to such tools/reports and leverage those tools for your internal competitive benchmarking.
  • Leverage your agency for a big picture perspective. Agencies see a lot of stuff. They manage a multitude of clients, search engines, and channels. Leverage your agency to truly understand your industry (and related industries) from an online marketing perspective.
  • See if your agency can help out with SEO. At many companies, the online marketing team is responsible for both SEM and SEO. These two channels can be quite different, but they truly go hand-in-hand. See if your SEM agency has SEO experience. If yes, the relationship will truly pay extra dividends.
  • See if your agency can open door in terms of relationships. Agencies mean big business and have extensive relationships across the industry. Leverage your agency to make connections. One quick tip: See if your agency would be open to holding a client summit where their clients get together and share best practices. Another tip: See if your agency can help build deep connections within search engines such as Google.

As you can see, SEM agencies provide a multitude of benefits above and beyond standard campaign management. I hope these tips help you get the most from your agency. If you don’t have an agency, I hope these tips provide some extra points to help you secure the necessary budget to make the hire.

Image of Agency © iStockPhoto – oonal

Online Marketing Tips For Small Businesses

Dec. 09

Here on PPC Ian I’m often blogging about enterprise-level online marketing tips, strategies, and advice. Today, I wanted to focus on small businesses. Small businesses face a unique set of challenges and opportunities in the online marketing landscape. Whether you are CEO of a startup or responsible for growing a new product within an existing company, I hope these tips help accelerate your growth!

Tip 1: Leverage Paid Search To Build Insights

Support Small Business

When your business is brand new, it takes time to build brand awareness, organic search traffic, a strong following on social media, and a customer database. At the same time, you need traffic right away to start testing your website and building your business. It’s all about testing and iterating. So, what can you do? I always recommend starting with paid search campaigns. You will not have a ton of marketing budget as a small business, but I still recommend investing a small amount on paid search. This will jump start your sales and drive valuable insights about your website.

Tip 2: Stretch Your Search Marketing Budget Wisely

This tip is an extension of the last one. While I recommend launching paid search campaigns, any new business will have a strict marketing budget. How do you stretch your budget and get the most efficient results? Here are a few of my favorite tips.

  • Start with exact match. Exact match is the most profitable match type.
  • Opt into and Stay away from search partners/syndication, content match/display, and mobile search. When you’re just starting out, it’s all about focus. There will be plenty of time to scale later as your business grows. I have found that exact match campaigns on and also are the best, most profitable place to start out.
  • Implement budgets so you don’t spend too much.
  • Implement day parting so your campaigns are live during the right times (will differ depending on your business model).
  • Start out with aggressive bids. The foundation of any new AdWords or Bing Ads account is a high click-through-rate. While search engines are supposed to normalize by position, I always find it advantageous to start out in the top few positions to establish the best possible history.
  • Consider hiring an SEM agency such as Rocket Clicks. Online advertising is complex. Get advice and help from the best.

Tip 3: Develop A Rock Solid Tracking Strategy

The beauty of online marketing is it offers the ability for precise tracking. The beauty of a small business is you’re starting fresh and can set up the perfect tracking strategy. If you’re selling goods online, you should not only track orders, but also order value and repeat purchases (to understand revenue per customer). If you’re selling a financial product that involves in-person interaction with your customer, make sure to track lead forms via your website and also back end conversions and lifetime revenue. Let’s say you’re trying to get customers to your store. This one is a bit more difficult to track, but try to offer a unique coupon code online (or series of codes) to track offline sales back to online advertising. The possibilities are endless.

Before you start any marketing efforts, it’s all about developing a rock solid tracking strategy. Your strategy should go as deep in your conversion funnel as possible. It should span both online and offline conversions. It should take phone conversions and also mobile conversions into account. Your business is new so it’s the ideal time to develop the perfect tracking strategy.

Tip 4: View Sweat Equity As Your Competitive Advantage

While large businesses have tons of money and can go aggressive, small businesses have the competitive advantage of being nimble and having tons of sweat equity. When you’re a small business, you can move fast and make big time investments (since one person can oftentimes own most or even all of the online advertising strategy). I recommend publishing amazing content daily (or even several times a day), going all out on social networks (especially Google+), developing and publishing amazing video content, and more. Turn your online marketing business into a content powerhouse. This will take a ton of time and will not produce results overnight, but will truly pay dividends in the long run. And, you may be able to outmaneuver some of your big competitors because you’re nimble and fast.

Tip 5: Have Clear Goals In Place

This tip ties into the measurement and tracking one above. When you’re starting a new business, it’s easy to be all over the place. There are a million things to do. There are so many campaigns and metrics to manage. At the end of the day, however, each business must have a clear purpose and mission. Choose metrics and goals for your online campaigns that support these goals. Watch them like a hawk. Make sure to include clear financial results in your goal set.

I hope these tips help out. Best of luck in growing your small business!

Image of Support Small Business © iStockPhoto – KLH49