A Few Things To Look Out For When Hiring An Internal SEM Manager

Posted 8 months ago by @megroy_

When hiring a search manager, it’s good to know they can be trusted to balance your budget and also push the media to perform at its highest level. I’ve seen clients entrust a manager or team to their account with the business’s revenue on the line….and nothing happens. 

Hundreds if not thousands of dollars down the drain. Or perhaps even worse an agency will employ a managed service offering from a platform directly leading me to ask…what exactly were the agency members doing all day?

Below are a few things to look for when hiring an account manager (or even an agency) if you want to protect your bottom line while also increasing performance. We’ll break it up into two sections: technical skills and characteristic qualities.

Technical Skills

This outlines the “in the weeds” knowledge and skill to effectively manage an account from keywords to ads to testing to bidding.

  • Account Structure - great starting point to measure how effective a potential manager understands how intricate search is. The ecosystem of search, so to speak, is pretty intertwined, meaning one metric could impact another. This includes: 
  • Ad group to keyword to ad relationship and how this impacts CTR, CPC, and Quality Score
  • Match Types
  • Negative Keywords
  • Ad Extensions
  • Tools for keyword research - this can range from search query reports, third part tools like Ahrefs, Google Analytics, or Google predictive search

  • Bidding to KPI - understanding business goals is key to winning in search. Do you want site traffic or conversions? If conversions, is ROAS or cost per sale more important? Search managers take these into consideration when bidding to best performing keywords.
  • Google Display Network - Display can be great for brand awareness or even conversions for lead generation if audiences are targeted strategically. What audiences have they tested, and did they see success? Do they prefer video, Gmail, or Display or do they understand that each channel has its own purpose?
  • Audiences - creating a targeting and retargeting strategy is crucial to any account. What unique ways have they created or leveraged audiences? Do they use Google Analytics to custom create or utilize Google curated audiences? How do the audiences defer within the marketing funnel?

  • Conversion Tracking - If you’re optimizing to conversions, it’s impossible to understand if search is working or not without tracking. It’s important for search managers to understand how to create conversion tags and event snippets as well as testing to ensure they’re firing correctly. Do they use Google DevTools or Google Tag Assistant or other testing tools?
  • Analyzing Competitive Landscape - why did my CPC’s jump this week? Being able to look at Auction Insights, Google Trends, or Quality Score trended data can help paint a better picture on performance.
  • Scripts - Scripts are a great way to automate changes in an account or pull repots. I use them mainly for data aggregating and QA, such as an MCC level report I get every morning for day over day and week over week performance for each of my accounts. Has the search manager used these before? If so, which ones? There are hundreds of these available for free, but anyone can also create their own if they know JavaScript.
My best suggestion is to have them look at the account and point anything they would optimize and why. This will also demonstrate if they can effectively communicate strategy, optimization, and measurement.

Characteristic Qualities

I’m a firm believer that anyone can learn anything if they have a patient and knowledgeable teacher and the want to actually learn. This is why I typically value the below qualities over technical savviness, especially for entry level marketers. I realize these are not quantifiable and may sometimes be difficult to gauge but use your best judgement! If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Constantly looking for new opportunities

A search manager should always be finding ways to push the media through tests, tinkering with current setup, digging for data, new launches, etc. The mentality of set it and forget it, especially in the age of automation and machine learning, is not something to have.

Responsible and Accountable

Listen, sometimes bad things happen. Whether a competitor went in heavy one week or month and drove up CPC’s and the budget was wasted or one keyword was set on broad instead of broad match modifier, people make mistakes. Search managers should catch these things early before they get out of control and remedy the situation without blowing a gasket or playing the blame game.


No matter the situation, good or bad, search managers should always (ALWAYS) be transparent with their client. This may come in the form of an ad hoc analysis with insights about competitive landscape, overview of actual changes that were made in the account to push performance, or even contractual agreement to deliver weekly reporting. Creating a relationship and open lines of communication is important.

At the end of the day, if we wanted to boil this down to one thing, it should be that search managers WANT to work with you and get you great performance because it will be a win-win situation. At Search Sprints, we can help you build and train an in-house team, consult the current managers you do have, or audit/restructure your current account to best practices. Let us know how we can help, we’ve opened up our calendars!