There are probably a few of you out there that are managing PPC campaigns and SEO initiatives or have contemplated pursuing a search marketing career.

If you’ve worked for a small agency or a small to medium business typically the search marketing specialist is expected to handle both SEO as well as PPC campaigns. They both deal with search engines and keywords. Why not right?

But as you gain more experience and begin to work with larger enterprise PPC campaigns or you begin working with very unique SEO situations (i.e. localized sites, large network of websites, etc.), you will come at a crossroads in your career. You will need to specialize or at least focus your attention on one more so than the other.

The following is a comparison of the two career paths.


SEO Career Path

Being an SEO for more sophisticated clients or as an in-house SEO working with larger websites or network of websites (whatever the case may be), is a full time gig. Assuming you’re an actual practitioner and not a manager of people, you need to stay in touch constantly with:

  • New search engine developments and algorithm changes
  • Webinars and new techniques
  • Learning from  your own experiences

On top of that you have to work with various teams or individuals:

  • Managers & Stakeholders – Trying to get buy-in or reporting results
  • Web Developers – Training them and supplying them with requirements
  • Project Managers – Trying to squeeze in your requirements amongst the other 100 resource intensive requests outside of SEO
  • Writers & Content Managers – Training, tweaking and improving the site’s content
  • Social media specialists, Marketing & PR – Squeezing as much link juice out of their outward facing efforts

You’ve also got to be very analytical:

  • Performing website audits
  • Analyzing web metrics, log files and configuration files
  • Pouring over code to make sure it follows best practices
  • Drafting requirements and proposals
  • Performing keyword research

This doesn’t even touch on the “culture changing” hat that you have to wear to try to convince clients or your in-house team that SEO is a worthwhile endeavor.

Who Will Be Successful at SEO?

  • As an SEO you have to be able to prioritize and re-prioritize. You are usually working on other people’s schedules and priorities, not the other way around.
  • Being a people person is extremely helpful because you’ll need to collaborate with others to execute on your proposals
  • Being analytical is a must
  • You have to stay up to date with the latest info. So being a self-starter is important.
  • Most SEOs I come across are entrepreneurial; meaning they pursue opportunities with their clients or as an in-house person on their own without direction from others.
  • Patience is also important attribute as well. It applies to waiting on results or waiting on other people to do tasks.

All this is very dependant on the type of clients you encounter or the size of your organization (if you’re an in-house SEO). But as an SEO, it’s a role that can change from day to day.

PPC Career Path

As a pay per click analyst or specialist, as you move up the food chain and work on enterprise level PPC campaigns with annual budgets dipping into the 7-figures, it too is a full-time career. When you’re spending that much time and money on a collection of campaigns, expectations are high.

As a PPC analyst 80% of your world is data.

Whether that’s analyzing PPC bids, click through rates (CTR) conversion rates or cost per acquisition (CPA); you are knee deep in data on a daily basis.

You’ll likely be working with Excel sheets, using it to create  your PPC campaigns or exporting data for analysis. Excel will be your #1 tool.

Who Will Be Successful at PPC?

  • You’ve got to like numbers and be able to analyze them and make recommendations based findings.
  • You have to be able to write compelling ad copy with strong calls to action.
  • You will also likely be responsible for the optimization of landing pages and checkout processes. So an eye for improving conversions and usability will benefit you.
  • PPC is a numbers game, so you have to be relentless at squeezing as much revenue and cost savings out of your campaigns.

If you’re the type of person that likes relatively instantaneous results with successes that can be directly tied to your efforts, then PPC might just be right for you.

One thing that is consistent in both SEO and PPC is that nothing every stays constant. Things always change and for the most part anyone who looks at either career should already know that ahead of time. It keeps things interesting and things don’t stay the same for very long. Hopefully this was helpful to anyone sitting on the fence 🙂

Hey there, I'm Marc!

I'm the Director of Growth Channels @Hootsuite. I've worked in digital marketing since 2000 for agencies, startups and companies like Electronic Arts & SAP. Thanks for checking out my site where I share digital marketing strategies on how to increase website traffic and generate more revenue.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *