Opportunties in paid search

Recently, I’ve been receiving emails from recent college grads asking me about the future outlook and job opportunities in paid search. also referred to as PPC. I’m here to tell you as a paid search recruiter that the “outlook” is NOW- the field is on fire. I’m also here to tell you that it’s not a job for everyone, so I’m devoting this post to those who are thinking about opportunities in paid search, either on the client or agency side, or as a consultant.

The numbers tell the story. When the final figures are in for 2015, spending for all forms of search marketing is expected to surpass $30B. That’s more than the total annual revenues of McDonald’s. That’s a lot of Big Macs!  There are hundreds, if not thousands, of agencies that specialize in search, with the lion’s share of that going to paid search. By the way, for the purposes of this post, I am defining paid search to include paid search ads, paid search advertising, pay-per-click, cost-per-click, and cost-per-impressions.

Obviously strong math skills and analytical know-how are a given. Does that mean that without a mathematics or statistics degree the odds of success are stacked against you? Not at all. I know one PPC stud who majored in Russian literature. But let’s put it this way:  If you have even one numerophobic bone in your body, think about another career. If you’re going to live it, you need to love it.  It’s not rocket science, but you need to be as comfortable with numbers as your accountant. It’s lots of data, it’s lots of Excel pivot tables, it’s conversion rates, it’s spotting numerical trends. You get the idea. If none of that gives you the nervous shakes, you’re half way there in your search for opportunities in paid search.

The thing about these jobs that a lot of beginners don’t realize is that it takes much more than math and computer skills to be good in paid search. Eventually, you’ll want to move up from analyst to a Manager, usually after you’ve had at least a few years under your belt.  At this level, you’re now responsible for the performance of the person who’s doing the job you used to have, as well as possibly others who are engaged in other aspects of search engine marketing.  Hopefully, one of your former supervisors took you under his or her wing and taught you something about motivating others along with the other stuff managers do like budgeting, training, vendor review, etc. This is also where communications skills really start coming in to play, particularly if you’re working for an agency that has clients that know paid search about as well as they know 18th century monarchs of Buganda. I call it “client speak”, a form of no-nonsense, clear and concise communication that tells clients, both externally and within your own organization, exactly how your work can help grow their business. Business acumen becomes almost as important as split-testing site links, and on the agency-side you might even participate in new business discussions, which can really be fun. It also requires creative thinking, and by that I’m not talking about design or copy. Sometimes the right answers just don’t jump off the page. I talked a lot in my book (paid search recruiter chapter) and in my other writings about how it’s not just what you know about the data, but what you don’t know, and solving problems that you and your client were not even aware of.

The opportunities in paid search are enormous, it’s an outstanding entry point for a career in digital marketing, literally thousands of organizations are actively seeking candidates to fill these roles, and it is among the highest paying entry level positions in the digital marketing ecosystem.