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In-house search engine marketers (SEMs) are receiving healthy salaries, but those in the mid-to-high $100K to the $200K range usually go to those with 5-7 years’ experience, according to a new survey from the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO).

SEMPO announced the top-line findings from its first-ever survey of in-house SEM job salary compensation last week.

One of the key findings is that roughly one-third of in-house search engine marketers are managing monthly budgets in excess of $200,000.

“We anticipated a lower ceiling of monthly spend closer to the $100,000 range so we were pleasantly surprised,” said Duane Forrester, cochair of SEMPO’s In-House SEM Committee and lead SEO program manager with Microsoft.

“The $200K monthly spend is a healthy barometer of the search marketing industry and it syncs up with SEMPO’s current trend projections that SEM spending will double by 2011, to more than $18 billion.”

Among other key findings:

  • Some 64% of the respondents have five years or less of SEM experience.

sempo-in-house-sems-by-title.jpg

  • Less than 4% had a vice-president’s title, and more than two-thirds of the VPs have from one to 10 people reporting to them.
    • About 20% of the VPs said they earned between $100,000 to $120,000.
    • Interestingly, 25% said they managed both SEO and PPC efforts, while 29% said online and search marketing were combined functions in their organizations.
  • The largest pool of survey respondents – more than 26% – came from managers:
    • Managers’ compensation clustered in the $60,000-$90,000 range.
    • Despite their title, almost half did not directly manage people.
  • Senior managers and directors composed close to 20% of the respondents:
    • Salary ranges for senior managers clustered in the $70,000-$100,000 range, and more than 36% reported an annual salary of $80,000-$100,000.
    • Director level compensation tracked with experience: more than 18% said they had 5-7 years’ experience.
    • About a quarter of directors reported annual salaries between $100,000 and $120,000, and more than 44% said they managed monthly budgets in excess of $200,000.
  • Salary distribution among SEMs with 0-3 years’ experience:

sempo-in-house-sems-0-3-years-experience-by-salary-range.jpg

  • Salary distribution among SEMs with 5-7 years’ experience:

sempo-in-house-sems-5-7-years-experience-by-salary-range.jpg

Budget Levels

Budget data collected also shows polarization: while one third of the respondents are managing monthly budgets at the $200,000 level, at the opposite end of the spectrum some 26.6% are managing budgets of up to only $25,000/month.

Other budget-related findings:

  • Of those managing budgets greater than $200,000/month, 42.3% are managers, and within that group 27% report salary ranges in excess of $100,000/year.
  • 39.4% of respondents managing monthly SEM budgets in excess of $200,000 report having 3 years of experience or less. 34.2% have 3-5 years’ experience, and those with 5+ years of experience totaled 26.4%.
  • 42.6% of those managing budgets larger than $200,000/month do not manage staff. 92.9% are part of a dedicated “in-house” SEM team and 77.4% of those “teams” are considered to be part of their company’s Marketing departments.

About the survey: A cross-section of global entry-level, mid- and upper-level in-house managers and in-house analysts completed the online survey during the fall of 2007. There were 656 completed surveys. The survey was open to all in-house SEM professionals – working in organic or paid search. SEMPO membership was not a requirement to take the survey.

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