sem experts share

15 SEM Experts Share What Students Need To Succeed


With how fast the Internet Marketing world moves, knowing which areas to focus on and the skills and habits to acquire can be a huge advantage to you. It’s always nice to receive advice from the experts in your field of interest.

With a little help from our friend Jason (director of web strategies for Monkey Bar Storage/organizer of the Idaho Web Marketing Group), we’ve put together this awesome search engine marketing expert roundup post for students looking to further their SEM/PPC skills.


Occupation: President at Argent Media – Internet Marketing Agency

I think students need to learn the traditional basics of marketing, and also be highly familiar with popular internet media and web technologies to be successful in our industry. Read the top news sites like Search Engine Land, Ad Age, Mashable, etc to keep up with new developments, too.

Follow: @si1very



Occupation: Senior Digital Marketer at SolarWinds

Build something & Show it off!

Example: create a piece of content that you can turn into an email drip campaign.

Here are some awesome resources that students should take advantage of:

Great Newsletters to be on:

Interview tips

Follow: @ben_beck


Chad Henkel


Occupation: Director of Marketing and Awesomeness at Nifty Marketing

Read the book “Who Moved my Cheese?” (super short read). It applies in life every bit as much as it does to succeeding in this industry. Without question someone will move the cheese and you can either quit and die or find new cheese. Expect your cheese to be moved frequently in this industry.

I think people who are successful in this industry know that no one owes them anything. They divorce themselves of entitlement and hopes that others will solve their problems. Most everyone will end up working for a small/medium business (still applies to big biz too!) – the problems that exist in each business will always be nearly identical and it all boils down to: Communication. Learn to ask for what you need, do your best to solve the problem, then draw on resources if you’re stuck. If you’re charged with a task it’s likely because no one else knows the answer either. In business my experience has been, especially in this industry, solving problems will make you an expert. Having others hold your hand while solving your problems makes you a commodity. Be an expert.

Take classes about internet marketing and develop a passion for whatever aspects you like most with it. Fuel that passion by taking whatever you learn and applying it to real problems that you can take on. I usually fail several times before I succeed so don’t lose hope or confidence when something doesn’t come out perfect the first time. I received my first job in Internet marketing by reaching out to someone that I knew was deeply involved with it so make sure you humbly network as much as you can.

Follow: @chadhenkel




Occupation: Online Marketing Analyst at TaskEasy

New stuff is happening and you don’t want to miss it.

In online marketing there’s a lot that’s changing and not just year to year but month to month and even week to week. Because of how often the industry changes it’s important to find a good source that you can plug into daily to stay on top of everything. My favorite sources are,, and the great master of the internet itself, Google.

Online marketing is like baking a cake.

There are a lot of ingredients needed in baking a cake to get your desired result. My online marketing campaigns usually involve bits and pieces of PPC, content marketing, technical SEO, link-building, social media, affiliate programs, email marketing, print marketing, and of course conversion analysis. Depending on the campaign these areas of marketing play varying roles, but it’s important to consider the potential that each one has in reaching my target audience. The moral of this story is that you shouldn’t get carried away with using one marketing channel, try mixing and matching and see if you can’t optimize your ROI and make your boss happy.

Remember you’re dealing with people.

Online marketing does not contain an exact equation that will work every time. Sometimes what worked for you one week doesn’t work for you the next week and it’s frustrating but that’s the way it is. Don’t freak out, just put yourself in the shoes of your customer and try to understand their needs and wants. Look at the data and see if there’s something in there that will help you understand how to reach your customers. And as much as possible when you’re putting together your campaign ask yourself “Knowing what I do about my customer, would this content/event/channel/product connect with them?” and then be honest with yourself.

We’re all just winging it.

There are some really smart marketers out there that have a lot of history with their markets and know their customers so well that their campaigns consistently perform well. But for the most part we’re all just hoping that the marketing project we’ve been working on for months, that is taking up a huge chunk of our budget, brings in some customers and makes the company some money. So relax, do your homework on your customer/market, try to produce work you’d be proud of, and hope for the best. Failure happens, learn from it and move on.

Final thoughts.

I feel like the students should be reminded that if they don’t obtain essential skills in areas like online marketing, content creation and email marketing they’ll most likely just end up in sales.

Follow: @jacobfyoung




Occupation: SEM Manager at Helix Education

The most valuable Internet Marketers are hungry to learn and work hard to acquire knowledge. They don’t just read about AdWords or SEO, they read about technology, business, design, psychology, economics, and more. They know how to filter the vast amount of information on the web to identify what matters. And they don’t just read. They do. They understand how the channels and levers of the digital world interact with each other and how digital and brick and mortar business work together. Here are a couple specific insights:

  • Know the metrics that matter. Get as close to the money as possible.
  • Know how to communicate strategies and data. You need allies if you are to execute the types of strategies necessary for long term success.
  • Do whatever needs to be done. Don’t shy away from something because it isn’t your job or you’ve never done it before.

Follow: @AaronEdgell




Occupation: SEM Specialist at

Learn to communicate. If you can’t present information, reasons, and expected outcomes you’ll have a very difficult time accomplishing anything. You’ll almost always be working with a budget and you can’t expect clients or your employer to simply let you spend more money just because you think it would be a good idea. You’ll also be working with people from all kinds of departments such as Finance, IT, Engineers, Buyers, and more people of varying levels of influence. Employees that can communicate and present information so that other departments understand are usually the most successful.

Remember that Internet Marketing isn’t just about keywords and ranking for those keywords. It takes time, money, and effort to figure out what will help a business grow. You may find that you spend days looking through data trying to figure out why your website is having problems and all the while you are trying to figure out what is going on the company is losing money.

The last thing I want to suggest is that you do your due diligence on any company you apply to work for. There are a lot of companies out there that want to take advantage of you and your skills. I worked for one agency that the rules of the company were, “The house always wins.” Literally the company would spend weeks designing programs that were meant to motivate the employees, but were impossible for anyone to accomplish. I also discovered that the company paid me less than I was owed. I brought it up to the my manager and the problem was fixed about 2 months later, however I started paying attention and 3 more occasions the company shorted my pay check. Every time it would take the company around 2 months to pay me what was owed. Do your research.

Follow: @LanceBreck


Mark Jensen


Occupation: President of Get Found First

I think those that succeed in online business are those that learn to transcend the medium of ‘online’ and realizing that online business is just business. Google’s Adwords marketplace mirrors real-world economics. It takes capital to enter a marketplace. Relationships matter. Barriers to entry matter. Being good at sales matters. Surrounding yourself with people smarter than yourself matters. Online business isn’t a person just putting up a website and then making 10k a month. Supply chain, marketing, sales, margins, etc. etc. Succeeding in online business takes exactly what it takes to succeed in business. The technical skills or PPC/SEO/Webdevelop are impressive to learn and really important to understanding and evaluating opportunities. In the end, they are tools in a much larger kit.

Follow: @Just_Markus


Robert Brady

Occupation: Founder of Righteous Marketing

Learn Fast – internet marketing is constantly changing and at a very rapid rate. When new technology emerges, everyone starts at square 1 and the fastest learners win the race.

Keep Learning – While related to #1 above, this point is more about continuing education after the initial foray. Remember the tortoise and the hare? Even if you jump into a new area quickly, you’ve got to stay ahead by continually improving, otherwise the tortoise passes you.

Make Connections – As the saying goes, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” While that’s not entirely true, knowing people will get you more opportunities to show what you know and the personal recommendations that get you hired over the other person.

Give, Give, Give – Be generous and people will be generous in return. Start the cycle yourself and don’t keep score. Karma evens things up eventually.

Follow: @robert_brady


Stu Draper


Occupation: Founder of Stukent

I think that the number one thing students need to succeed in our industry is an understanding of how to plan and present a marketing strategy, including presenting and justifying budget for the plan. Now, more than ever, they have to be well-rounded. Knowing PPC is great. Knowing SEO is great, but if you can’t see how it fits in the bigger picture of the business’ overall marketing strategy, you’re not as valuable.

I recommend students get real world experience by moonlighting for a family member that can’t afford to hire a real company, or by doing work on their own site.

Follow: @stu_draper




Occupation: Principal at Add3

Students need:

  • to pay attention to detail
  • a mind for numbers + problem solving skills(economics/finance educated types tend to do pretty well as a result)
  • since I’m in an agency setting – customer service is key

Follow: @blizzle




Occupation: Partner at Kick Point – Digital Marketing

I have a degree in Geography and a certificate in Ecosystem Restoration. It isn’t the education, it’s what you do with it. We do care that you went to school and got a piece of paper but we really don’t care what it was in.

Follow: @danaditomaso


Mike B.


Occupation: Founding Partner at

For my money, the best skill set is the one that is created by a rigorous liberal arts education that includes science or math as well as a background in the social sciences. Why? So that they can think, read and write. The things we do are somewhat vocational in nature and can be learned on the job but as they move forward within our company or their own, they will be called on to assimilate the many and frequent changes in our industry into a new model. That will happen on a regular basis and they need the skills to cope with that.

Follow: @mblumenthal


Mike Ramsey


Occupation: Founder/CEO at Nifty Marketing

In order to succeed in the industry you need to have the desire to constantly learn, constantly share, and constantly test everything. This is not the industry where you can just do the basics and be successful.

Follow: @MikeRamsey


Mary Bowling


Occupation: Co-founder at Ignitor Digital

I recommend looking for people who are self-starters, can think for themselves, love challenges and are highly adaptable.

People who need to have step-by-step instructions for everything and believe there is only one right way to do anything don’t last long in this business.

Follow: @MaryBowling




Occupation: Account Manager at Orangesoda

In able to be successful in our industry, I would say that you need to have a desire and interest in internet marketing. Obviously without that, you won’t get very far. With that desire, you have to put in work, even if that means extra work, staying long hours, or at home. The thing about this industry is it is constantly changing. In able to be successful you need to be able to adapt to those changes. You need to be someone who can embrace change and be able to stay up to date with those changes. You also have to be creative, in trying new things or ideas.

Follow: @Nielsen1Casey


Now it’s your turn. There’s been a lot of great advice shared. What will you do now? How will you start applying the shared advice?

Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear it!

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