Careers in SEM


Looking for an entry level job or internship in SEM? This is an overview of how to approach the search and a list of companies that might have relevant entry level and internship opportunities.

I’m in the market for a teal desk for my office. I know what you’re thinking. “Aren’t we all?” But don’t worry, I discovered that there are plenty available for everyone. I know this because I searched for a desk online using Google and saw thousands of results. Companies like Crate and Barrel had paid to have ads with their information show up as an answer to my search. Had I clicked on the ad and made a purchase, Crate and Barrel would have had their Search Engine Marketer to thank. Search Engine Marketing Specialists place the most effective advertising they can to help companies achieve maximum exposure on search engines so that they can attract more customers and purchases.

SEM Careers

Photo Credit: Flickr user Mr. Imperial

Search Engine Marketing Career Guide Overview

  1. What a Search Engine Marketing Specialist Does
  2. A Typical Day for a Search Engine Marketing Specialist
  3. Salary and Career Progression for a Search Engine Marketing Specialist
  4. Best Locations for Search Engine Marketing
  5. Pros and Cons of Being a Search Engine Marketing Specialist
  6. What You Need to Know for a Career in Search Engine Marketing
  7. Search Engine Marketing Resources
  8. Careers Related to Search Engine Marketing
  9. Companies with Jobs and Internships in Search Engine Marketing

What a Search Engine Marketing Specialist Does

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a type of Internet marketing that involves promoting websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results pages. To do this an SEM specialist uses paid search engine placements and contextual advertising. In a way, SEM also includes marketing a website using search engine optimization (SEO), which involves rewriting website content to achieve a higher ranking in search engine results pages. Generally an SEM Specialist is solely responsible for marketing campaign management across various channels including adjusting bidding, making ads creative, and changing keywords.

A Typical Day for a Search Engine Marketing Specialist

While a typical day for a Search Engine Marketing Specialist may vary, it generally includes these tasks:

  • Creating, categorizing, and refining keyword lists to create a comprehensive campaign that drives qualified visitors to client sites
  • Managing campaigns on ad platforms for pay per click (ppc) media such as Google Adwords, Microsoft Adcenter and Facebook
  • Implementing successful bidding strategies and effective keyword management using third party software using metrics data
  • Building and analyzing performance reports
  • Presenting data on monthly and quarterly calls to clients reviewing metrics and optimizations
  • Communicating regularly on status, timeline, budget, deliverables, performance reporting, and competitive intelligence analysis to internal teams
  • Collaborating with intercompany departments to drive cross functional SEM initiatives
  • Managing day to day vendor relationships
  • Staying abreast of current SEM literature, search engine trends, competitors, algorithms, and best practices and strategies in the management of online paid media
  • Identifying, testing, and analyzing new growth opportunities
  • Continually monitoring, revising, and conducting ad and landing page tests

Salary and Career Progression for a Search Engine Marketing Specialist

An SEM Specialist makes about $30,471 – $63,242 per year. From there you can go on to become a Senior SEM Specialist ($84,000 per year on average) or a Digital Marketing Specialist ($71,000 per year on average).

Best Locations for Search Engine Marketing Specialists

Here are some hot spots for SEM specialists:

  • San Francisco, California
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • New York, New York
  • Austin, Texas
  • Tampa, Florida

Pros and Cons of Being a Search Engine Marketing Specialist

  • It’s a type of marketing many companies need as the internet grows
  • Tweaking ad creative and verbiage can be fun and creative
  • Fast-paced environment will keep it interesting
  • Lots of time on a computer
  • Lots of time crunching numbers in an Excel
  • Can be hard to keep up with quickly changing industry trends and rules

What You Need to Know for a Career in Search Engine Marketing

To be an SEM Specialist you’ll need a bachelor’s degree, preferably in Marketing or Advertising. You’ll also need to be familiar with search engines and their algorithms, and you’ll need the ability to analyze and interpret complex data in Excel. You should familiarize yourself with programs like Marin, Omniture, Google Analytics, Google Adwords, and other search engine related tools and vendors. You’ll also need to have strong written and verbal communication skills, attention to detail, and the ability to thrive in a fluid and demanding environment, juggle multiple projects, and interpret data to make business recommendations.

Search Engine Marketing Resources

If search engine marketing still sounds like your cup of tea, here are a few things you should do to get started.

Required Reading

Key Folks to Follow on Twitter

Blogs and Websites

Networking Opportunities

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Companies with Entry Level Jobs and Internships in SEM

Emerge Media Logo

Emerge Media - Emerge Media is a Chicago, IL based company that is “taking on the essential roots of everyday tasks and breathing real life into the technology behind them.”

See the complete Emerge Media profile

WPromote Logo

WPromote - WPromote is an El Segundo, CA based company that calls itself “the country’s leading Online Marketing firm." They help clients with SEO, PPC, and Social Media.

See the complete WPromote profile

OneIMS Logo

OneIMS - OneIMS is a Skokie, IL based company that offers “everything from services like branding and web design to online marketing strategies like SEO and PPC.”

See the complete OneIMS profile

Team Detroit Logo

Team Detroit - Team Detroit is an ad agency that in 2006 brought together parts of five legendary agencies that were under the same ownership and already working with Ford.

See the complete Team Detroit profile

Fever - Fever is a New York, NY and Madrid, Spain based startup social network that is “changing the way people make plans.”

See the complete Fever profile

Centro Logo

Centro - Centro is a Chicago, IL based company that works “to improve the lives of those working in the advertising industry by building media management software."

See the complete Centro profile

Houzz Logo

Houzz - Houzz is a Palo Alto, CA based company that offers “a collaborative platform for home remodeling and design."

See the complete Houzz profile


REVOLVE - REVOLVE is based in Cerritos, CA and is the “virtual home for an unrivaled collection of the world’s most coveted brands.”

See the complete REVOLVE profile

Lyft Logo

Lyft - Lyft is a San Francisco, CA based company that offers “on-demand ridesharing” in nearly 20 cities across the country.

See the complete Lyft profile Logo - is based in Emeryville, CA, and it “is a leading authority in wall décor and the world’s largest online retailer of posters, prints, and framed art.”

See the complete profile

Jockey Logo

Jockey International - Jockey International is a Kenosha, WI based company that aims “to satisfy the human need for comfort” by offering more than 600 styles of underwear and t-shirts.

See the complete Jockey International profile

TextLinkBrokers Logo

TextLinkBrokers - TextLinkBrokers is a Mesa, AZ based company that services the “needs of professional SEM agencies and individuals looking for high quality link development.”

See the complete TextLinkBrokers profile

Signpost Logo

Signpost - Signpost is an NYC based company that offers a “cloud-based platform that makes digital and mobile marketing simple and effective for SMBs.”

See the complete Signpost profile

Zurple Logo

Zurple - Zurple is a Carlsbad, CA based company that builds software that starts "conversations between Realtors and leads that culminate in closed transactions.”

See the complete Zurple profile

BoomTown Logo

BoomTown - BoomTown offers is a Charleston, SC based software company that “has generated millions of leads for real estate teams.” 4,329,036 leads to be exact.

See the complete BoomTown profile

I Will Teach You To Be Rich Logo

I Will Teach You To Be Rich - I Will Teach You To Be Rich is a business that was started by Ramit Sethi to help people achieve their career and financial dreams.

See the complete I Will Teach You To Be Rich profile

Adpearance Logo

Adpearance - Adpearance is a Portland, OR based digital marketing agency that crafts campaigns that bring traditional marketing principles together with new tactics.

See the complete Adpearance profile

Vibrant Media Logo

Vibrant Media - Vibrant Media is the NYC based world "leading provider of in-content contextual technology that gets brand content and advertising discovered across platforms."

See the complete Vibrant Media profile

YaSabe - YaSabe is a Herndon, VA based company that is "committed to connecting businesses, Latino culture, and community."

See the complete YaSabe profile

HomeAway Logo

HomeAway - HomeAway is an Austin, TX based company that offers “the world’s leading online marketplace of vacation rentals."

See the complete HomeAway profile

90octane Logo

90octane - 90octane is a Denver, CO based online marketing agency that does online advertising, email marketing, microsite and landing page development, SEO, and PPC.

See the complete 90octane profile

The Webstaurant Store Logo

The WEBstaurant Store - The WEBstaurant Store is a Lancaster, PA based company that offers an “innovative, easy-to-use website to meet the purchasing needs of food service professionals."

See the complete The WEBstaurant Store profile

Gupta Media Logo

Gupta Media - Gupta Media is a Cambridge, MA based online marketing agency that focuses on the entertainment and music industries.

See the complete Gupta Media profile


LION - LION is a Dayton, OH based company that designs, manufactures, and markets products “to ensure the health, safety and performance of first responders."

See the complete LION profile

Sentient Jet Logo

Sentient Jet - Sentient Jet is a Cleveland, OH based company that “arranges more air charter flights than any other jet charter procurement business in the country.”

See the complete Sentient Jet profile

SEER Interactive Logo

SEER Interactive - SEER Interactive is a Philadelphia, PA based online marketing agency that specializes in SEO, SEM, Analytics, and Conversion Optimization.

See the complete SEER Interactive profile

Direct Agents Logo

Direct Agents - Direct Agents is a New York, NY based “digital marketing agency specializing in performance-based digital solutions."

See the complete Direct Agents profile

MeUndies Logo

MeUndies - Me Undies is a Beverly Hills, CA based company that offers “the world’s most comfortable underwear in all your favorite colors and styles.”

See the complete MeUndies profile

SpareFoot Logo

SpareFoot - SpareFoot is an Austin, TX based company that “has the largest inventory of storage units on the web.”

See the complete SpareFoot profile

adMarketplace Logo

adMarketplace - adMarketplace is a New York, NY based company that “delivers data-driven performance to the Internet’s leading marketers through" their search syndication platform.

See the complete adMarketplace profile

BlueGlass Interactive Logo

BlueGlass - BlueGlass is a Tampa, FL based company aiming to “change the way companies market themselves online with extraordinary strategies, service and software."

See the complete BlueGlass profile

LeagueApps Logo

LeagueApps - LeagueApps is an NYC and DC based company that offers “digital management and marketing solution for local sports leagues, tournaments and events.”

See the complete LeagueApps profile

Pardot Logo

Pardot - Pardot is an Atlanta, GA based company that provides online marketing automation software to businesses and is seeing insane growth.

See the complete Pardot profile

Slingshot SEO Logo

Slingshot SEO - Slingshot SEO helps clients reach customers through search, and they have achieved a three-year growth rate of 2,391%–putting them at #136 on the Inc. 500.

See the complete Slingshot SEO profile

Situation Interactive Logo

Situation Interactive - Situation Interactive is a New York, NY based agency focused on creating amazing experiences for amazing brands.

See the complete Situation Interactive profile

Doner Logo

Doner - Doner is a Southfield, MI based ad agency that provides brands with “constant energy, unwavering vigilance and a devoted belief in staying fresh.”

See the complete Doner profile

42Floors Logo

42Floors - 42Floors is a San Francisco, CA based company that wants to finally bring the $25 billion office space/commercial real estate market online in a proper way.

See the complete 42Floors profile

C-4 Analytics Logo

C-4 Analytics - C-4 Analytics is based in Saugus, MA and they offer services ranging from social media strategy to SEO to advertising analytics.

See the complete C-4 Analytics profile

WeddingWire Logo

WeddingWire - WeddingWire is“the category leader in local business reviews (think “Yelp of Weddings”)," and they're hiring at their Bethesda, MD office.

See the complete WeddingWire profile

Cogo Labs Logo

Cogo Labs - Cogo Labs (formerly Adverplex) is a Cambridge, MA based incubator that focuses on growing Boston based web companies, and they're hiring.

See the complete Cogo Labs profile

Fareportal Logo

Fareportal - If you love travel and technology, then it would be hard to find a better place to work than Fareportal in New York City.

See the complete Fareportal profile

Instructure Logo

Instructure - If you get excited about the nexus of education and technology, then a career with Instructure, based in Sandy, UT, might be a good fit for you!

See the complete Instructure profile

Everyday Health Logo

Everyday Health - Everyday Health provides “consumers, healthcare professionals, and brands with content and advertising-based services," and they're hiring.

See the complete Everyday Health profile

drchrono Logo

Drchrono - Drchrono is a Mountain View, CA based startup that helps medical practices run better through technology, and they're hiring.

See the complete Drchrono profile

HY Connect Logo

HY Connect - HY Connect is a Milwaukee and Chicago based fully integrated agency that offers some great job opportunities for new grads.

See the complete HY Connect profile

LearnVest Logo

LearnVest - LearnVest is based in New York, NY and helps women "live a richer life" by providing personal finance content and tools, and they're hiring.

See the complete LearnVest profile

Vertive Logo

Vertive - Vertive is an Austin, TX based performance marketing company with some really exciting job opportunities for new and recent grads.

See the complete Vertive profile

Underground Elephant Logo

Underground Elephant - Underground Elephant is a San Diego, CA based performance marketing company that has phenomenal job opportunities for new and recent grads.

See the complete Underground Elephant profile

360i Logo

360i - 360i is a digital marketing agency with an awesome careers site and some awesome looking career opportunities.

See the complete 360i profile

OpticsPlanet Logo

OpticsPlanet - OpticsPlanet is a Northbrook, IL based online retailer of all kinds of optical equipment and they have some fantastic job opportunities for new and recent grads

See the complete OpticsPlanet profile

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