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How To Stay Current With The Swiftly Changing SEM World

Well, my friends, this column, a one-year search course is coming to an end soon. Hopefully, you’ve learned enough to manage and steward your own paid search accounts. For those of you already engaged in search engine marketing, maybe you learned a few extra tips and tricks that have helped you out through the year. This column has predominately focused on the execution side of SEM, but there’s certainly more to being a search engine marketer than running PPC accounts.

This industry is constantly changing and it’s important to stay on top. Not only will you learn more to do your job better, but it’s expected of professionals in any field to continuously grow their knowledge. You don’t want to miss out on anything that can help you be the best search marketer you can be, do you?

Here are some things you can be doing to stay current with the search marketing industry:

Read the engine blogs. When it comes to getting great information, it’s always a best practice to go right to the source. Inside AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing Blog, and adCenter Blog are solid sources of content in our industry and will keep you abreast of the various changes to the platforms, terms and conditions, new tools, engine webinars, etc. They’re not updated daily so this can certainly be more of a weekly check in. You can also subscribe to their RSS feeds into Outlook or whatever feed reader you choose.

Demo new technology. The various technology vendors surrounding the search industry are excellent sources of innovation and new ways to approach the medium. Whether it’s search management platforms like Marin, ClickEquations, Clickable, or Kenshoo, competitive research such as AdGooroo or Compete, or even tools like WordStream or BoostCTR, you can learn a lot by talking to these folks who are always trying to push the envelope to gain your business. They can provide you insights into how they see the industry evolving and even help you benchmark your own efforts versus other agencies. Obviously, they’re not going to betray the trust of your competitors, but vendors are usually very helpful with questions like “Do you think other agencies are doing (fill in the blank) this way?”

Go through the tools with a fine tooth comb. You’d be surprised how much you don’t know about your own tools once you start going through them. Go into every menu and check out every option to find ways to better manage and optimize your accounts in ways that you never knew you could. I really think that the search engine marketers who know their engine platforms inside and out have a distinct edge over the ones that just know how to do the same tasks over and over. Hopefully, I’ve been able to highlight some of these deeper features through this column, but the only real way to get a high level of competency is to block off an afternoon and just go through the systems yourself.

Leverage your engine contacts. Engines assign account managers and support based on spend levels so not all of you are going to even have a contact at the platforms to utilize. However, if you do, let me stress that you should take full advantage of their help. These folks know their systems better than anybody and can help make you shine with your advertisers and bosses. Whether it’s quick questions, optimization help, clarifying terms and conditions, or simply just getting an extra set of eyes to look something over, your engine contacts are usually glad to help.

Read the trades. Frankly, if you’re reading this post, congratulations, you are already taking advantage of the massive amount of content on the web for PPC. In fact sometimes there’s just too much content. A lot of it is redundant as bloggers cover the same recent headlines. There are a lot of great sources out there and I know I’m absolutely going to make someone cringe in horror that I forget them, but here’s my short list for SEM blogs: SearchEngineLand.com, SearchEngineWatch.com and Search Marketing Daily by Mediapost.

Attend trade shows. Conferences and trade shows are wonderful spots for SEM professionals to learn and teach each other the best practices of our business. Most of the bigger search conferences such as Search Marketing Expo (SMX), Search Engine Strategies (SES), and Search Insider Summit (SIS), have speakers who are top practitioners in the biz as well content sessions that really can grow your search knowledge. There are also usually some fun networking events surrounding the conferences where you can get to know other search marketers.

Webinars. There are always a bunch of search marketing related webinars throughout every month. Whether it’s from vendors who are delivering free info in order to reach search marketers or even the Search Marketing Now series, what’s better than not having to leave your office to get some professional content? Also, if you register and attend, the presenters will usually answer whatever questions you have and might even send you their presentation which you can share with colleagues.

Build your own network. Over time and through networking events, I’ve been able to build up my own inner circle of online marketing experts which I’m able to tap into whenever I have a question or issue which I’m not able to work through. I recommend using LinkedIn as a way to keep in touch with various industry professionals and ex-colleagues that may someday help you out in a pinch or provide some outside perspective to something you’re thinking about. In fact, I had someone that I worked with over four years ago recently contact me to see if I could walk her through a search-related issue and I was more than happy to help.

Blog. One of the reasons I find blogging personally so fulfilling is that it forces me to reflect on my experiences and search for new ideas to present in my posts. I also find that when I have to put into words things that are flying through my head that they become more concrete and tangible ideas. Don’t worry that you may not have deep expertise on this industry. Just write. Maybe others who are just starting out will benefit from your mistakes and victories. But, even if you don’t get any readers, it’s still a great way to continue to raise your own bar.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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