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SEM is Another World

Published: December 14, 2011

Author: 3Q/DEPT

Nimen hao! I’m writing this from Pudong airport in Shanghai. It’s my first time in Shanghai, but my third time in China – the first time was in 2006, when I moved to Beijing for six months to study Mandarin. Reflecting upon that time during this recent trip to China, I realized that for many of the people on the PPC Associates Production team, entering the field of search engine marketing is a lot like moving to a new country. The members of my team come from a wide range of backgrounds (IT, retail management, law, finance, education, and writing, among others). While they all possess the skills to succeed as search engine marketers, they must first learn how to navigate this strange new world.
It could be the jetlag speaking, but hear me out:
1)      SEM has a language of its own: Just as I had to learn the basics of Chinese to handle everyday life in Beijing, newbies on the PPC Associates scene have to learn an entirely new lingo. There are acronyms (CVR, CTR, CPC, ROAS, CPA, and CPL to name a few); search engines and display networks (Google/AdWords, GDN, Bing/MSN/adCenter, Yahoo Display, etc.); third-party platforms (SearchForce, Marin, Omniture, and more); all the different components of PPC campaign management (keywords, ad groups, description lines, display URLs, sitelinks, max CPC, negatives); and on and on…
2)      Things may not work as you expect them to: Even if you haven’t been to China, you may have heard stories about people spitting, the absence of lines, and other seemingly “rude” behavior. But it’s only rude to those of us who grew up in another culture – to the Chinese, it’s just the way things are. When I’m in China, I have to put aside my American rules and accept that things aren’t done my way. In a similar vein, as search engine marketers we have to learn to put aside our beliefs at times and give in to the way the users do things. In other words, the users – via the stats we pull on queries and ad performance – tell us what’s right in their world. It can take some getting used to: It was a hard lesson the first time I wrote an ad that I thought was absolutely brilliant, only to see it tank when we released it on AdWords. Learning to think like a user and accept that they call the shots is an important lesson for people new to SEM.
3)      You may never learn it all (but you should try to): Languages and places are always evolving. I could have stayed in Beijing for 5, 10, or 20 years, and I know I would have continued learning or experiencing something new every day I was there. Search engine marketing is the same: Whether it’s a new feature in AdWords, a new client industry to comprehend, a different way to approach tasks in Excel, or an entirely new platform, there are constant opportunities to learn something new in this industry. Learning the basics lets you get by, but in order to thrive in this new world, you must never stop the pursuit of knowledge.
The people who join our Production team face a steep learning curve that flattens out over time, but it never completely goes away. To me, that’s the most exciting thing about search engine marketing: It never gets old, because it’s always changing. It might not be quite the same as packing up and moving to Asia, but as far as jobs go, it’s pretty damn exciting!
Laura Rodnitzky, Director of Production
– Questions? Comments? Email us at blog at ppcassociates dot com.

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