Search Engine Marketing: Convert Or Bounce?

Search engine marketing is a unique career option most people fall into unexpectedly. For being a new industry, SEM is a niche field within the overarching world of marketing and advertising. Being from a PR and journalism background, I honestly didn’t know exactly what paid search entailed. I knew the world of Google’s back end metrics existed, but never imagined I would work within the industry.

Regardless of my lack of familiarity, I have been working in SEM for a miniscule two years now. Paid search is interesting and always adapting to the ever changing world of digital. While I wouldn’t say this career is my dream job, passion, or where I see myself in the next five years, I have gained more valuable knowledge and insight from search departments than most college courses or varying internships. Besides learning the technicalities of ad serving and strategies for lowering CPCs, I have gathered a few pros and cons about working in the paid search industry.


1.) Certifications

Paid Search employees are usually required to complete their Google AdWords and Analytics certifications, as well as becoming a Bing Ads Accredited Professional. Unfortunately, these certifications do not reflect one’s knowledge or expertise in SEM given that anyone can google (or bing) the test questions and answers to receive their certification. Nevertheless, these certifications provide credibility and act as a positive resume builder. There are also several other certifications to receive through differing bid management software tools, such as Kenshoo and Marin.

2.) Excel experience

Search uses Microsoft Excel for multiple tasks. Whether one stays in the industry or changes paths, Excel experience is a plus. I learn a new formula or shortcut every week.

3.) Google, Bing, Yahoo

SEM specialists collaborate with Google and use its capabilities daily. While Bing and Yahoo may not be as alluring, they each have their own differing caveats.

4.) Data analyzation and reporting

This may not sound like a benefit to a career in SEM, but the ability to analyze data from a granular level is important. Learning how to create effective reports, interpret data, and present this information is a resourceful skill to have.


1.) Inability to describe the job

The hard truth about having a career in search is that you won’t be able to describe what you do to anyone outside of the industry. Also, anyone over the age of 55 will not be able to understand the job. Trying to describe what a paid search employee does is like explaining what “The Cloud” is to a 70-year-old grandmother.

2.) Paid search is always the first to get cut

In the grand scheme of the marketing mix, SEM doesn’t always rank high. Typically, when budget cuts come along or the client wants to allocate funds elsewhere, search will be placed on the chopping block.

3.) Always a fire to put out, always changing

A career that is always evolving is exciting, but search seems to have a few growing pains. SEM isn’t surgery. There aren’t lives at stake, yet there’s always an issue that demands drastic measures be taken immediately.

4.) Growth potential

While I have only just begun my career in SEM, I haven’t encountered a significant amount of growth potential. I have seen and heard of a few people being promoted to senior level positions, but most search specialists are content with their current role, title, and salary cap.

The most impactful benefit I have discovered about SEM is the ability to network. Search employees know and interact with other search employees, which allows one to connect with more colleagues in the business. Regardless of background or education, search engine marketing provides experience in the advertising industry, but also develops professional career skills useful in any field.

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