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Googly-eyed: an intern's journey into SEM

Published: June 7, 2013

Author: Jonathan Oei

The author (left) at play.
The author (right) at play.

When I interviewed at PPC Associates for an internship, I asked my interviewer, Mike, about his experience at the company. With a straight face, he said “in the first month, you learn so much that your brain literally hurts.”
What an introduction, right? Looking back, I can tell you that Mike was right. There definitely was a steep learning curve in the beginning, but it’s important to be mindful that internships are supposed to prepare you for a career in a given field and that those initial challenges and mistakes are invaluable to a young marketer looking to gain experience with world-shaping platforms like Google.
I came into this internship with no prior experience; equipped only with an open mind and a curiosity to explore the ins and outs of marketing. Truthfully, I didn’t know what to expect and as an illustration, I expected my role to be similar to a minor league baseball player — a young prospect out of college learning and sharpening his fundamental skills with the goal of one day breaking into the major leagues.
While there are still some accurate parallels within that comparison, I’ve noticed that my role has been one of a utility player on a big league team. For those unfamiliar with baseball, a utility baseball player is someone who can play multiple positions, whether it be infield or outfield. He doesn’t always start games and is not necessarily an everyday player, but he fills in wherever he is needed and is extremely flexible depending on how his manager chooses to utilize him.
That has been my role these past couple of months: working on a plethora of awesome clients (GoPro, RocketLawyer, and American Red Cross, among others), executing on a variety of optimization-focused tasks, and being prepared to support the team wherever needed. I’ve also enjoyed the strong and vibrant team environment at PPC Associates. It is a collective effort to make sure accounts are well maintained and, more importantly, that clients receive the best quality of service possible.
From my experience, if I could impart some words of advice to someone interested in pursuing a career in search, I would say two things (along with the following advice, which I happened to get while job-searching):
First, I would study the Google AdWords certification material online because this helps you get a solid grasp of SEM foundations. Second, I would create a dummy personal account on AdWords to get acquainted with the user interface and to practice the concepts you’ve learned. These two suggestions would speed up your transition process and give you a great head start into the SEM field.
But don’t expect learning SEM to be easy; it’s admittedly difficult at first. I found that learning SEM is comparable to lifting weights. When you regularly lift weights, the muscle fibers in your body are essentially tearing. Then there is a healing process your body goes through that allows your body to build more muscle. So you have to tear your muscles first in order for them to grow bigger and stronger and in search, the same rules apply.
One of the key lessons I’ve been taught at this internship is that it’s okay when mistakes do happen as long as you learn from them. Ironically, the phrase “practice makes perfect” isn’t present in the SEM vocabulary because I’ve been told that as a marketer, you can always improve on your craft and find new ways to work smarter, be more efficient, and be more productive. Another tip I’ve been taught is to always ask questions. Getting direct answers from experienced marketers will further aid in your learning process and cover all the remaining bases.
One of my favorite quotes is by C.S. Lewis: “there are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” As a young marketer myself, I believe that statement to hold true for the remaining three months of my internship, for PPCA as a disruptive online marketing agency, and for the future of the SEM industry as a whole.
And in Ron Burgundy-esque closing fashion, “Stay Googly, Internet World.”
Ed’s note: Since authoring the post, Jonathan has been promoted to a full-time position as Account Associate.

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