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Reality Check: In-House Search Marketing Pays Well But Not Dot Com Hype Levels

SEMPO’s 1st Ever In-House SEM Salary Survey Reveals Traditional Approach: SEM Job Salaries More or Less Commensurate With Experience

Wakefield, MA, January 10, 2008 – In-house search engine marketers (SEMs) are receiving healthy salaries in line with their experience levels but if you want a salary in the mid-to-high $100s to the $200K range you are usually going to have to invest five to seven years to get there – a traditional dynamic in which experience brings greater compensation. The Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO),, today announced this and other top line findings from its first-ever survey of in-house SEM job salary compensation.

One of the key findings is that roughly one third of in-house search engine marketers are managing monthly budgets in excess of $200,000. "We anticipated a lower ceiling of monthly spend closer to the $100,000 range so we were pleasantly surprised,” says Duane Forrester, co-chair of SEMPO’s In-House SEM Committee and Lead SEO Program Manager with Microsoft. "The $200K monthly spend is a healthy barometer of the search marketing industry and it syncs up with SEMPO’s current trend projections that SEM spending will double by 2011, to more than $18 billion.”

A cross section of global entry level, mid and upper level, in-house managers and in-house analysts completed the online survey during the fall of 2007. There were 656 completed surveys, a strong market response to this inaugural project. The survey was open to all in-house SEM professionals – working in organic or paid search. SEMPO membership was not a requirement to take the survey.

The pool of respondents also reflects the relative newness of the industry and the flatter organizational charts prevalent in companies today, Forrester notes. Some 64% of the respondents have five years or less SEM experience.

As expected, less than four percent of the respondents had a vice president’s title and more than two-thirds of the VPs have from one to 10 people reporting to them. About 20% of the VPs said they earned between $100,000 to $120,000. Interestingly, 25% said they managed both SEO and PPC efforts while 29% said online and search marketing were combined functions in their organizations.

SEMPO’s largest pool of survey respondents – more than 26% - came from managers, whose compensation clustered in the $60,000 to $90,000. Despite the manager’s title, SEMPO found that almost half did not directly manage people.

Senior managers and directors comprised close to 20% of the respondents. Salary ranges for senior managers clustered in the $70,000 to $100,000 range, with more than 36% reporting an annual salary of $80,000+ to $100,000.

Director level compensation tracked with experience: more than 18% of the directors taking the survey said they had from five to seven years experience. About a quarter of this group reported annual salaries between $100,000 and $120,000. With this comes greater responsibility: more than 44% said they managed monthly budgets in excess of $200,000.

Reality Salaries
While robust, the SEM salary data captured in the survey shows basically realistic tracking of compensation with experience and title. "While there are a good number of six figure salaries people need to understand all the salary levels represent reality. SEMs need to be realistic about their careers and plan as they would for any viable career opportunity,” says Forrester. "On the other hand, if you’re ready for a six figure job, go get it! There are a lot of good jobs out there.”

Budget Levels

Budget data collected also shows polarization: while one third of the respondents are managing monthly budgets at the $200,000 level, at the
opposite end of the spectrum, 26.6% are managing budgets of up to only $25,000/month.

Other budget findings:

  • Of those managing budgets greater than $200,000/month, 42.3% are managers, and within that group, 27% report salary ranges in excess of $100,000/year.
  • 39.4% of respondents managing monthly SEM budgets in excess of $200,000 report having 3 years of experience or less. 34.2% have between 3 and 5 years experience, and those with 5+ years of experience totaled 26.4%.
  • 42.6% of those managing budgets larger than $200,000/month do not manage staff. 92.9% are part of a dedicated "in-house” SEM team and 77.4% of those "teams” are considered to be part of their company’s Marketing departments.

About the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO)
SEMPO is a global non-profit organization serving the search engine marketing industry and marketing professionals engaged in it. Its purpose is to provide a foundation for industry growth through building stronger relationships, fostering awareness, providing education, promoting the industry, generating research, and creating a better understanding of search and its role in marketing. Representing thousands in over 30 countries, SEMPO has over 720 members. It represents the common interests of companies and consultants worldwide and provides them with a voice in the marketplace. SEMPO’s education and outreach initiatives are sponsored in part by Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google, and Search Engine Strategies.


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