SEM StrategistJob Description, Salary, Career Path, and Trends

An SEM Strategist, or a Search Engine Marketing specialist, identifies insights and trends by collecting and interpreting data in search initiatives and campaigns. They formulate and maintain budgets and create comprehensive tests and reports to analyze web analytics, PPC campaigns, and more.

They can optimize landing pages and existing copy for SEO purposes, perform keyword discovery and optimization, and analyze competitors’ advertising. By carrying out tests, and compiling reports from traffic and competitors, these experts can achieve maximum ROI for online ad campaigns.

These strategists need to have an eye for detail and be able to find trends and key insights to develop clear and engaging content that’s tailored for the target audience. These professionals will additionally need to have strong interpersonal skills, as they’ll work with data scientists, marketing teams, and customers to help develop marketing strategies for the company.

Sample job description

Are you knowledgeable in search engine optimization? Can you take a company’s ranking to new heights? If so, [Your Company Name] is in search of a search engine marketing (SEM) strategist. This candidate will be responsible for making recommendations on how to grow brand awareness, increase engagement, and drive sales online after tracking how consumers find the company webpage. Duties include working closely with the marketing team to create content strategy and achieve set goals, analyzing key performance indicators of websites, determining target demographics, and identifying real-time search trends and social media topics. The ideal candidate will be able to work well with a team, multitask, be organized, self-motivated, and a critical thinker. Attention to detail is a must, and knowledge of search engine trends is essential. This candidate must have one or more years of experience as an SEM strategist, or similar role, and the ability to understand SEO, search engine algorithms, and web traffic data.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Determine target demographics and campaign goals
  • Establish and report KPIs throughout digital campaigns
  • Collaborate with web developers to optimize the user experience and interface for search engine visibility
  • Develop an online content strategy to increase brand awareness and consumer engagement
  • Work closely with marketing staff to develop engaging, relevant content
  • Identify real-time search trends and social media topics
  • Research emerging industry trends and analytics tools to improve search engine

Education and experience

The position requires a bachelor’s degree in computer science, digital marketing, integrated marketing communication, or a related field.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Ability to identify KPIs for campaigns
  • Strong knowledge of web analytics tools
  • Expertise in search engine optimization
  • Excellent problem-solving and critical-thinking skills
  • Expertise in traditional and digital marketing channels
  • Solid communication skills

Preferred qualifications

  • 3-4 years in experience working in paid search
  • Certifications within Google Ads and Bing 
  • Knowledge of 3rd party bid-management tools

Average salary and compensation

The average salary for SEM strategist is $78,500 in the United States. Position salary will vary based on experience, education, company size, industry, and market.

LocationSalary LowSalary High
Phoenix, Arizona$78,050$105,600
Los Angeles, California$88,050$119,150
Denver, Colorado$73,350$99,300
Washington, DC$89,400$120,950
Miami, Florida$73,050$98,850
Orlando, Florida$67,350$91,150
Tampa, Florida$68,050$92,050
Atlanta, Georgia$71,350$96,550
Chicago, Illinois$82,050$111,050
Boston, Massachusetts$88,700$120,050
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota$70,700$95,650
New York City, New York$93,400$126,350
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania$76,050$102,900
Dallas, Texas$74,050$100,200
Houston, Texas$73,700$99,750
Seattle, Washington$85,400$115,550
National Average$66,750$90,250

Typical work environment

SEM strategists will usually be located in an office and may work together with others within the marketing department. They will be seated at a computer the majority of the time and can be expected to work regular hours.

Typical hours

The work hours for an SEM strategist are typically from 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday, in an office setting. However, longer or different hours may, at times, be necessary.

Available certifications

SEM strategists require extensive experience in search engine optimization, internet search trends, website analysis, and several years of experience before being eligible and considered for this position. Receiving further certifications can help set SEM strategists apart from the crowd. Here are two of the most popular ones:

  • Search Engine Marketing Course Online. This course through Brain Station offers a professional certificate in Search Engine Marketing, in an online classroom while teaching you to leverage industry tools to implement organic and paid search strategies, drive traffic, improve brand presence and support business growth. 
  • Digital Marketing Bootcamp. This course is offered by the University of Denver through a virtual classroom experience. In the Digital Marketing Bootcamp you will learn how to create and execute successful marketing strategy, gain real world experience using tools and technologies such as Google Analytics and WordPress, and benefit from a wide range of career services to help equip you for success.

Career path

The road to starting a career as an SEM strategist begins with earning a bachelor’s degree in a computer science or digital marketing field, such as information technology project management or integrated marketing communications.

The skills and knowledge needed to develop a robust search engine marketing strategy require years of formal education and training to obtain. Some universities and colleges offer SEM certification courses for candidates to further prove their bona fides to potential employers. Becoming Google Ads certified is a great way to demonstrate your expertise advertising on the world’s most popular search engine.

SEM strategists must stay on top of the emerging tools and trends in search engine optimization. Attending search engine marketing seminars and conferences (on and offline) is an excellent way to sharpen your SEM skills and stay relevant in the industry.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 13-1161

2020 Employment740,900
Projected Employment in 2030904,500
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 22% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift163,600 increase

Connecting consumers with engaging, relevant content is essential for any SEM strategist, but how users will find that content will keep evolving as Google perfects its search engine algorithm. Voice and visual search — as well as programmatic advertising and artificial intelligence (AI) — look to change the way SEM strategists think about consumer engagement.

With its changing algorithms and best practices, search engine marketing can be a difficult channel to master. SEM strategists will continue to follow the industry and share their expertise.

Sample interview questions

  • How do you decide which keywords you would like to target? 
  • Do you have experience with SEO? 
  • Which analytical tools do you use? 
  • What is the relationship between content and SEO 
  • What are the most common issues for on-page SEO ranking? 
  • Is our website search-friendly? What would you do to improve SEO?
  • How much time per week do you invest in planning your strategy? 
  • How well do you work with content creators? 
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 
  • Why do you want to be an SEM strategist? 
  • In your own words, describe the role of an SEM strategist 
  • How has your previous experience prepared you for this role? 
  • What is your greatest strength? 
  • What is your greatest weakness? 
  • How would you respond to conflict with a co-worker regarding disagreement about your SEM strategy? 
  • What interests you most about this position? 
  • What, according to you, are the qualities an SEM strategist should possess?
  • How do you define yourself as a hard worker?

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