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7 Habits of Great New SEMs

Published: October 10, 2013

Author: Sean Marshall

I’ve been working on a new project for the last three months. Though I’ll share the details another day, a big part of my work has been training and coaching someone who’s brand-new to SEM. While I’ve done my share of hiring and training in the last five years, I think it’s safe to say working in Google AdWords has never been this complex. Under the circumstances, I thought I’d share some advice for folks new to the space (and it might be a good reminder for some of you grizzled PPC vets out there)….
1) Identify your key learning account. Most entry-level SEM jobs will be in agencies, and while learning the ins and outs of PPC is hard enough, it’s impossible to do it across multiple accounts. There’s a ton of value to doing the same task across a half dozen accounts to get experience, but, when it comes to depth, pick one account and lock in. If you spread yourself thin across multiple accounts too early and hammer out all sorts of different tasks, it’ll take you 5x longer to really learn.
The benefit of focusing on a single account is depth and context. The more you learn about a single business, the more color and context you can incorporate into the work you do. I often hear people complain that SEM can be mundane. Well, if you’re trying to learn everything about a single business and its SEM program, you won’t get bored. It’s the depth of detail that sets certain SEMs apart, and this focus is the right way to go. Dive into each client like it’s your senior thesis.
Dive in!
2) Take the right work home. You’ll have plenty of time to take work home (black Friday is just around the corner, e-comm folks!); you shouldn’t take it all home from day 1. One thing you should definitely take home is your calendar. I’m all for unplugging and recharging batteries, but if you aren’t checking the next day’s calendar before going to bed, you’ll walk into your day disorganized and are likely to struggle. Which leads me to my next point…
3) Always know priority 1. Many client engagements revolve around weekly calls, and it’s imperative you know when those are. Anything that requires some work on your part and touches multiple people’s schedules is likely priority 1. While it might not be the first thing you tackle in your day, it’s usually the type of mission-critical stuff you have to allocate time for or suffer the consequences. I love the flexibility of my work, but if I somehow forget I have a 10am call tomorrow morning, that day will be derailed.
4) Find value in what you do. This one is a lot harder than it sounds, but at any given moment, you should be able to answer: why am I doing this? If you can’t find value in a task, why bother doing it? Sure, you repeat many of the same tasks over again, but if you’re driving real value (e.g. saving money or increasing sales), then redundancy is a good thing. If you’re able to answer WHY you are doing a certain task, you’ll be in much better shape, and chances are, it’ll help you figure out what to do next.
5) Practice makes perfect. Over time, you’ll have to juggle from account to account like a stealth ninja. Multi-tasking is key in this job, but until you’re expected to have a full plate, take advantage. I’d never recommend someone run a negative KW review for a mature account every day, but if it’s your first month on the job, run that search query report daily. Someone asks you to find the KWs with the most conversions over the last 7 days? Great. Do that and then do it again for the last 30, for this month, for last month, for the year. Then, do it for the ads, do it for campaigns, do it for placements. Learn to use the same filters around multiple tabs and just LOOK at data. Mastering the UI is key and you’ll only learn if you practice, practice practice.
6) Check email. This is technically part of “take the right work home,” but it deserves its own section. You don’t have to reply, but you need to stay on top of your inbox. Here’s the deal: it’s a 24hr business. If you want to go dark from 6pm to 9am, good luck. I’d rather walk in with some idea of what I need to do that day, and it’s something you need to get used to ASAP.
7) Learn from mistakes and stay humble. Learning by doing doesn’t mean you’ll nail everything from the start. You’re going to make mistakes, and the person teaching you should be putting the right buffers in place to either QA your work or mitigate the impact of your mistakes. You need to come into things with the right attitude. Don’t get discouraged by mistakes – use them as fuel to learn and take care not to repeat them.
Good luck!

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