In part 1 of this series, we showed how SEM account managers can avoid getting fired; part 2 detailed how they can improve account performance and “deliver the goods” to their organization in the form of conversions or sales. In my final installment here, I’d like to discuss how to take things to the next level in order to advance your career.
A good SEM account manager should strive to be like Alexander the Great — while you’re conquering one land, there should be an adjacent one you have your eyes on. That “next land” may be display, paid social, or even SEO or email marketing. Either way, if you do a good job with the small responsibilities you’ve already been given, larger responsibilities are sure to follow.
These items in particular should make your management stand up and take notice; and worst-case, you’ll be garnering experience that could help you get a promotion by leaving and working for another organization at some point.
Three things can get you more responsibility: finding opportunities for more reach, making major improvements to CPA or ROAS and expanding efforts into other channels.
Additional reach can come from a myriad of sources. One tactic is to simply expand into other channels, or larger audiences (like turning on the “Search Partners” setting in an AdWords campaign, or advertising on the Google Display Network). Reach, i.e., impressions, can also be garnered by bidding up on AdWords (and thus showing higher, and usually more often) or placing ads on Bing Ads. Here are some other ideas for increasing reach:
This is typically done one of three ways: better targeting, out-of-the-box thinking or conversion path optimization.
Better targeting can simply mean meticulously going through search query or placement reports and adding negatives to the account. In my experience, you can lower the CPA of a typical Google Display Network campaign by a factor of two if you go through your placement reports and add individual websites, as well as entire categories of websites, that are unlikely to perform well for your business (say, wrestling sites or dating sites).
Out-of-the-box thinking examples include things like shifting your lead gen strategy from a contact form-based one to one where you’re doing audience building and giving leads something of value in return for their information. Or it could be something in the other direction, like “ungating” your early funnel campaigns to allow prospects to research and educate themselves so they are more likely to convert when they come in on a later-funnel campaign. I love out-of-the-box thinking, and if you have any interesting anecdotes to share, do tell!
Conversion path optimization is the topic of numerous other articles on Search Engine Land, but basically it involves holistic analysis of a website visitor’s journey between the initial entrance to the site and the ultimate conversion. Tools like Unbounce and Optimizely can help tremendously with this process; landing page tests can result in a big lift to conversions, and making steady improvement in conversion rate is a great way to show your boss that you have the “optimization” chops it takes to get the job done.
If you want to become a CMO someday, probably the quickest way to get your career started is to work in paid search — but the most critical channel to master is actually email marketing. Think about it — what area is most transforming the way marketing works? Answer: marketing automation, which grew out out of email marketing.
Additionally, Facebook and Google are increasingly adopting methods of targeting individuals — custom audiences, customer match and so forth — and being able to understand audience management, and how to grow, engage, retain and monetize an audience, is a core function of any large marketing organization.
Paid social and display are fairly straightforward channels for a paid search account manager to shift into. The concepts and measurement are similar; only targeting is truly different.
SEO is perhaps a bit more tricky. However, if you have gaps in your marketing team’s ability to cover various channels, it’s well worth considering running in and filling the gap. Napoleon is said to have believed that above all else, be noticed. There’s nothing in wartime that’s sure to get you attention more than picking up a weapon and rushing into a gap, and business is no different.
If you can effectively embrace other channels (thus expanding your own capabilities), obtain more reach for your organization (usually leading to a larger budget you can manage) and make constant improvement in CPA or ROAS, you’ll be a hot commodity: an SEM account manager who knows what they are doing and imparts success to their organization.
If you get a chance, I highly recommend doing some pro bono work with a nonprofit; many of them qualify for the Google Grants program, meaning that Google will fund up to $10K/month of spend on AdWords campaigns. Often, nonprofits are even more open to trying new things than large for-profit organizations, and they will gladly be your willing guinea pigs on new types of campaigns. Not to mention, spending some time on a cause you’re passionate about can give greater meaning to a career that all too often is narrowly focused on going for the throat and getting those conversions.
And don’t neglect training and helping others; if you can help bring the rest of your team along on the marketing journey, you’re helping them, your organization and yourself. You’ll probably be in this business for a long time, and these people are probably going to be with four to five companies over the next 15 years or so — what goes around, comes around!
Now that you’ve successfully kept yourself from being fired, optimized your campaigns on an ongoing basis and expanded your role to include other channels, you’ve made yourself invaluable to your organization and accomplished a lot along the way. Most of all, you should be thankful to be in such a great industry, where work abounds, so many people need help and the rewards are, generally, linearly proportional to your willingness to work hard.
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