For the New Search Workforce, Offer A Career

With SEM maturing into a full-fledged industry, I think it's time we began a conversation on managing the search workforce in our new era. Much more than offering jobs alone, we need to invest in our employees' careers: we need to help them navigate from where they are now--be they newbies or veterans--to where their role in search can take them next.

But before getting into specifics, let me explain why career development hasn't been a hot search topic up till now, and why it's becoming more crucial than ever.

A Brief History of Team Roles In most industries, career development requires choosing one industry path over another. Journalists need to decide if they want to aspire to become columnists, editors, or to go after a particularly good regional desk; waiters need to decide whether they're working towards restaurateur or head chef. Whatever the career path, it's all about working towards a more valuable--and also more specialized--role than they're in now.



But that kind of specialization is only relevant in a mature field--which has many different kinds of tasks to accomplish: those different tasks become the building blocks of different career roles. And search management has only reached that kind of maturity in the last few years.

Only a few years ago, search management was entirely a matter of building keyword lists and running them through a tool, so a campaign could be managed by a group of people who all served interchangeable roles. It's only within the last few years that we've taken things to the next level--synergizing search with offline marketing; rolling out landing page tests; and analyzing behavioral segmentation (to name a few new industry standards). And the more sophisticated campaign tasks become, the more those tasks are becoming different from one another--and the less sense it makes to have everyone do the same things.

It makes much more sense to match everyone's skills and interests with what they do best, which means segmenting your search management teams into separate workforce roles--like testing specialists, strategy specialists, and the like. That kind of segmentation makes search management complex enough to offer separate career paths.

Everybody's More Ambitious Many people who came to search five years ago sort of stumbled into it--maybe they were looking for a job in online marketing, and an open search position jumped out at them. Today, SEM is discussed in university marketing courses and hits front--page news, so even the freshest recruits are coming in more knowledgeable about search. Which means that search is far more an industry they've chosen-rather than stumbled into.

That means, in turn, that there are a lot more people joining firms who really want to develop a search career. Offering them career help in return gives them all the more reason to care about what they do; it also makes your firm more attractive to the most serious jobseekers, which is a surefire way to build the most talented teams.

Creating a Career-Focused Environment So what do I mean, exactly, by career guidance? I mean helping everyone find their niche within the newly-segmented search process. That means providing ongoing education in best practices and new industry developments; exposing new recruits--both in classroom settings and through hands-on experience--to a very wide array of search roles; and helping new hires find their strengths and interests. It means allowing employees to try new things, and to be able to explore new roles within campaign management as their careers progress. It means creating an infrastructure that helps every employee, at every level, to learn what role they want to take within the campaign process--and to build that role into a real career path.

Obviously, that's a vision that needs to be executed differently in every firm. But it's a shift in focus that the industry needs now--and that stands to build a satisfied workforce, stronger firms, and campaign management that equates strong client performance with personal career growth.

Next story loading loading..