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

Great Online Marketing Networking Tips

Nov. 18

I’m a huge fan of search marketing careers. In this business, networking is super important. Just a few months back, I wrote about PPC Networking Tips. Today’s post is a continuation of the networking theme and offers some fresh and new online marketing networking tips. I hope these tips help take your networking to the next level.

PPC Ian Yahoo Lunch

Lunch at Cascal, Mountain View With Yahoo!

  • Invest time in high-leverage relationships. Relationships in any business have different levels of leverage. Some partners are super busy and don’t have as much time to network. This is totally ok, as we all get busy. Other partners, however, are all about networking. You really want to invest where you will get the most leverage (and this may change over time depending on people’s schedules and ability to network). I have always viewed Yahoo!, for example, as an amazingly high leverage partnership. When it comes to partnerships, they are the best of the best. They always make so much effort to help their partners in any way possible. As such, this is a relationship that is always top of mind for this online marketing professional.
  • Attend happy hours and company events. Online marketing is truly a cross-functional career. As SEM professionals, we work with so many different departments (literally all departments). As such, I try to make all possible happy hours. This is a fun way to truly get to know others in your company. It’s a great way to learn how you can work together as a team to achieve amazing results.
  • Travel to different office locations. Do you work at a large company that has multiple offices? Try to visit them all! This tip really ties into the last one. As a cross-functional discipline, it’s all about building solid relationships throughout your company. Visit different locations in-person and you will build amazing relationships.
  • Host events for search engines and partners. We are truly blessed in online marketing. We get to go to so many fun events planned by our friends at search engines. In just the past few weeks, I enjoyed amazing events with Google, Yahoo!, and other partners. Recently, I have been thinking about ways to give back. Why not give back and host the events for a change? Your partners will truly thank you!
  • Plan team events such as hikes and community service. We all work so hard, and it can truly help break things up by taking off some fun time for team events. Networking with partners and other departments is truly important. Networking with your own team is paramount.
  • Plan team offsites. This tip is really a continuation of the last one, it’s all about networking with your own team. However, you can also make team offsites about networking with key partners. Consider inviting key partners to your offsite for the ultimate networking opportunity!
  • Leverage social media to build key relationships. I mentioned LinkedIn in my last post about networking, and today I wanted to highlight Quora. I wrote a post a while back about how I’m Answering Online Marketing Questions On Quora. I have found Quora to be a super social network for building true relationships within your industry.
  • Send holiday cards and gifts. I wrote a post last holiday season about how Online Marketing Holiday Gifts Rule. Gifts truly do rule and they are critical for networking. Even if you don’t have a huge budget, it’s the thought that counts. With the holiday season on its way, make sure you get cards and gifts for your most important partners.

Image of Lunch With Yahoo ©

Become A Search Engine Marketing Career Mentor

Oct. 27

I’m a huge fan of the search engine marketing career path. My career in this great field has been so exciting that I decided to create this blog to empower professionals all over the world and share the excitement! One of my favorite parts of this career is giving back. I have benefited from great mentors over the years and feel strongly about the power of mentoring. Following are a few quick tips on how you can give back and help build SEM careers.

Which Way

  • Tip 1: Become a people manager. SEM is a fast-paced career path. It’s possible to get promoted and become a people manager quicker than many other careers, if you’re really great at what you do. The best managers are those who truly mentor and give back to their team. Set your sights on people management, not only as a way to grow your career but also as a way to mentor and give back.
  • Tip 2: Offer your time to help others. We’re all so busy these days and it’s super easy to get wrapped up in your day-to-day campaign management. However, don’t forget to take a step back and offer your time and assistance to others. A perfect example: I spent one hour on the phone today with a good friend I met at SMX. The purpose of the call: Sharing actionable career advice and tips.
  • Tip 3: Set up a PPC internship program on your team. No matter how good we are at SEM automation, there always exists some level of manual work in paid search. The solution: Why not hire an intern to help out and give your team more leverage? This is a rough job economy for fresh college graduates. A PPC internship program for college students can truly help you pass on valuable skills and give your intern the job experience they need!
  • Tip 4: Schedule lunches with others. In the paid search career path, it’s important to remember to take a step back. Make sure to schedule lunches with others. I’m talking about people on your team, and also people on other teams. Make friends and see how you can give back and help out. Such lunches are always a two-way street. Leverage the opportunity to build your own knowledge as well.
  • Tip 5: Invest in informal presentations. This tip ties into the last one. Consider presenting your knowledge and areas of expertise via brown bag lunches. This will help build your public speaking skills while presenting valuable insights to others.

Image of Which Way © iStockPhoto – wildpixel

Going Above and Beyond In Your SEM Career

Jul. 16

Hey Everyone,
I have been posting less frequently lately. Why? Since I got promoted to Vice President, Search Marketing back in March, I have been pushing my SEM career harder than ever before. I worked all day Sunday, all day and night today, and pretty much every waking hour over the past week. The last week has been intense for sure. It has also been incredibly rewarding, my team and I are accomplishing so much.

Long story short, I am doing everything I can to go above and beyond in my search marketing career. I’m giving my company and my team my 110%, nothing less. I have found it to be an amazing cycle. The more you give, the more you get. It only works in that order. Also, I love what I do and I love working at my company so as a perfectionist I find it hard not to give my 110%.

These days, search marketing is becoming more mature as a career path. There’s more competition. It’s just like the Google AdWords landscape. While CPCs rise and new competitors enter the market, you see new SEM experts growing their careers in our wonderful field. How are you going to maintain your edge? Just as you maniacally optimize your SEM accounts, invent new strategies, and push the envelop of online marketing, you need to do the same with your own career. Go all in! Don’t hold anything back, even if it’s at the expense of other priorities. (Of course, this only works if you love what you’re doing.)

Personally, I need to catch up on some sleep and also work out a bit more. That said, I have made some conscious tradeoffs and it’s this type of attitude that will really take you places. Get out there and grind harder than you ever thought possible. That’s how you can go above and beyond in your SEM career. Just remember to also reward yourself, everything goes in cycles and you’ll need an “off” cycle from time to time.

Wishing you all the best!
All the best,

Three Online Marketing Career Tips

Apr. 12

I’m the biggest fan of the online marketing career around. This career has been amazing to me. I don’t think there are too many corporate careers that offer such rapid growth as online marketing, especially search engine marketing. It’s been a while since I’ve done a career post so I wanted to share a few tips today that will help anyone grow within their online marketing career.

Tip 1: Place Your Company First


There may be days that you go into work and think, “What can I do today that will make me shine?” You may wonder, “How can I get noticed?” Those are definitely great things to be thinking. After all, these types of questions are top of mind for anyone looking to progress in their career.

However, I would first recommend asking yourself such questions as, “What can I do today to help my company?” Ask yourself, “What can I do to catapult the numbers forward for the benefit of everyone?” When you start thinking about the company and your team, and place your own career aside, you will be doing the absolute best thing for your career. Your career is closely tied to results and the success of the company. Help build your company and you will in turn build your own online marketing career.

Tip 2: Arrive At Work Early

If you work in the Silicon Valley like me, you may have noticed that there’s a culture of getting into work a little later at some companies. This isn’t the case at all companies, but at some folks will arrive anywhere between 9:30 and 10:30. These same people totally pull their weight and stay late. That said, if you’re looking to grow your career fast, I recommend being one of the earlier employees in the office. If everyone arrives at 9:30, why not shoot for 9:00 am? If everyone shoots for 9:00, why not arrive at 8:45 am? There are a few benefits of arriving early. First and foremost, it’s easy to think clearly and get a jump start on the day. Second, it positions you as a leader, someone who’s dedicated to the company. Third, it’s a great way to have a strong handle on your numbers as early as possible (especially important for those of us in search engine marketing).

Tip 3: Make Time For People

The greatest asset of any company is its employees. In the world of online marketing, it’s so easy to get ultra focused on work. And, that’s a good thing because the work drives numbers and the company forward. However, don’t forget to take some time to form lasting bonds with your co-workers. Make sure to go to lunch with others. Walk around your office and introduce yourself. Work on cross-functional projects. The more time you spend with everyone, the more everyone will be able to accomplish as a team.

I hope you find these tips helpful! While they are applicable to any career path, I have especially found them to be helpful in my own online marketing career.

Image of career © iStockPhoto – PashaIgnatov