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Bright Spot in a Dim Economy: Search Engine Marketing Agencies Pay Well Even At Entry Level and Jobs are Out There

SEMPO's First Agency Salary Survey Shows Compensation is Attractive for Beginning and Seasoned Agency Professionals

Chicago, August 5, 2008 - Marketing professionals looking for a solid growth career with competitive compensation might want to consider joining a search engine marketing agency, based on the results of SEMPO's ( inaugural survey of current trends in agency salary scales, announced today at ad:tech Chicago. SEMPO (Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization) conducted the 2008 survey of 565 agency marketing professionals, with titles ranging from CEO to Optimization Specialist.

Of those respondents with up to one year's experience, 60% reported annual salaries in the $30,000 to $50,000 range. Compensation tracks strongly with experience. At the next level, two to three years experience, almost 34% reported salaries in the $50,000 to $80,000 range. At the more seasoned end of the spectrum, of those professionals with nine or more years experience, just under 40% are earning between $90,000 and $140,000 annually.

Professionals at the highest pay scales are working for smaller companies: of respondents with nine or more years experience, more than 58% work for companies with 100 employees or less, while exactly 40% say their companies manage 51 or more clients.

"The search engine marketing sector continues to be a bright economic beacon, as more marketing budget dollars shift to online campaigns. SEMPO's first look at agency salary compensation provides an objective proof point that the search marketing profession is one to consider as a growth career with attractive compensation," says Dana Todd, chairperson of SEMPO and Chief Marketing Officer, Newsforce, Inc.

Job and Budget Responsibilities

More than 33% of the survey respondents said they managed both pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns and organic search marketing efforts. Another 35% said they worked primarily in PPC; some 20% worked primarily in organic search.

About 53% of respondents managed monthly SEM budgets up to $150,000. Some 16% managed monthly budgets from $26,000 to $75,000.

SEMPO's agency survey also reveals about 30% of the respondents plan on staying in the agency sector in their next position, joining another search agency, an interactive marketing agency or an interactive marketing branch of a traditional agency.

Agency Salary Survey Highlights


  • Roughly 5.5% of survey respondents have nine or more years of experience in the search marketing industry.
  • Just under 40% of those respondents make between $90,000 and $140,000 annually.
  • 36.7% manage both pay-per-click advertising and organic search efforts, while another 33.3% manage the people who manage both search efforts.


  • 30.5% of survey respondents have between two and three years of experience in the search marketing industry.
  • 26.6% of respondents in this category make between $40,001 and $50,000 per year, while 33.6% make between $50,001 and $80,000.
  • Just over 42% of these respondents work solely with pay-per-click advertising efforts.


  • 16.5% of survey respondents have up to one year of experience in the search marketing industry.
  • Just over 37% claim annual salaries between $30,001 and $40,000, and 23% fall in the bracket just above that range -- $40,001 to $50,000 per year.
  • More than 10% of respondents in this category came to their current employer from interactive-marketing agencies and fewer than 10% came from traditional-advertising agencies.
  • Just under 47% of respondents, who are new to the search marketing industry, manage up to five clients, while more than 20% manage between six and 10.

About the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO)
SEMPO’s 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,, SMX and Search Engine Strategies.

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