SEMPO Survey: Faltering Economy Drives Demand For Search Pros

In-house search engine marketers raked in the bucks this year. In 2009, salaries for an individual contributor with one to three years experience ranged between $40,000 and $80,000, according to a survey released Monday. The Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO) survey found that senior managers earned between $70,000 and $120,000; and vice presidents responsible for large SEM campaigns or a team of specialists earned between $160,000 and $250,000.

If there's a downside to this year's stats, the survey reveals that the majority of respondents are working to maintain -- or increase -- the return on investment from search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaigns with flat or restrained budgets.

Duane Forrester, senior program manager of SEO for MSN at Microsoft for the Americas, says the faltering economy had a direct influence on the success of search marketing. It helped to drive up demand for SEM professionals this year. "More businesses are investing in between one and three people because it's a relatively low-cost way to drive business online," he says. "An investment of $80,000 for one individual annually can increase the business revenue between 10 and 15 times during the next five years."

The ability to step out of college with a Bachelor of Arts degree and work at a search marketing job on the side -- for example, by volunteering at a non-profit for a year -- allows many to score a job making between $50,000 and $60,000 annually, Forrester says. Any company that does work online is looking for employees with SEM skill sets.

SEMPO In-House Salary Survey chart

The highest number of respondents in the survey reveals that the primary focus of their role is organic and PPC only; however, this varies depending on the person's role in the company. Aside from SEO and PPC, respondents deal mostly with social networking and email marketing campaigns. When asked who they report to in the organization, 71% said marketing; 13%, other; 8%, IT/programming; and 7% marketing communications.

Many respondents receive full benefits and 401k options. When asked if a company couldn't offer the salary requested, perks would offset the gap, telecommuting, vacation and flex time were the top options.

The majority of the SEM budgets came in below $50,000 or above $250,000. The travel industry was the largest business-to-consumer category represented, and the Internet was the largest business-to-business category represented in this survey.

More than 600 in-house SEO professionals completed the survey, ranging from individuals to vice presidents.

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