SEMPO Salary Survey: In-House Search Pays Well, Experience Counts

January 14, 2008

This article is included in these additional categories:

Paid Search | Search Engine Optimization

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.


  • 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:


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


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.


Explore More Articles.

Marketing Charts Logo

Stay on the cutting edge of marketing.

Sign up for our free newsletter.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This