SEM Specialist: description, tasks, and salary

The SEM Specialist (Search Engine Marketing Specialist) is that professional dedicated to Search Engine Marketing, the branch of online marketing that deals with bringing qualified users to a website and converting them into customers. But who is the SEM Specialist, and what do they do? What are the differences between an SEO specialist and an SEM specialist? I will try to explain this in this article. His job is to plan online advertising campaigns, pay-per-click, or through newsletters by increasing link popularity and evaluating, through analytics, the results of these activities.

The SEM Specialist: a multifaceted figure

The SEM Specialist is a multifaceted figure: there are SEM Specialists who have strong communication skills, others who have strong psychology skills, and others who have strong analytical skills.

sem specialist skills

The SEM Specialist is the one who starts the first part of the analysis. Basically, in the beginning, we start with creativity, the communication link that then drives marketing. Marketing is the sale; communication is the vector that leads to the sale. One of the success determinants of an Adwords campaign is the click-through rate (CTR). Having a good CTR means being able to positively influence the user to click on the ad. The SEM Specialist, in this case, must deal not only with the marketing part but also with the creative part.

The analysis is then a determining factor in the success of any Adwords campaign.

Psychology, finally, because one must have absolute attention to an SEM world that is evolving on real-time analysis. Hence, this Specialist is a figure who has the ability to work synergistically and at least one of these three characteristics: the ability to communicate, to understand customer attitudes and a good mathematical mind.

SEM Specialist: working as a freelance or web professional

A person has to be a professional; he has to be good at what he does; he has to know what he says, and he also has to have the courage to say “I don’t know” when he doesn’t know something. One has to have the courage of one’s own actions; one has to be very active in research and development and, therefore, in the study, thus acquiring professionalism and presenting oneself as a web professional.

Becoming a SEM Specialist is different from training to become an SEO Specialist. The latter, in fact, deals with improving the organic and non-paying positioning of web content in Google SERPs through a combination of on-page and off-page techniques.

Let’s understand this professional figure in detail by interviewing Damiano Oliva, SEM Specialist at Dunp Advertising, a communication and marketing agency.

interviewer andrea ciancaglioni

SEM Specialist: who are they and what is their job description?

interviewee damiano olivaThe SEM Specialist, simplifying the concept, is the one who deals with advertising on search engines. The objective is to have sponsored results appear on the first page of the search engine. This activity is carried out via the main Google Ads advertising platform, which is accessed through Google.

Although there are other search browsers, our work is done exclusively through Google. The SEM Specialist is a complex figure; in fact, we can find professionals who deal with Google Adwords, newsletters, and Facebook ads across the board.

interviewer andrea ciancaglioni

How to become an SEM Specialist?

interviewee damiano olivaReporting on my personal experience, I took up this job by chance. I have a background in the humanities, graduated in Communication at the University of Roma Tre, and worked for a year and a half as a press officer at the Chamber of Deputies. I realized that this was not the right career path for me and attended a master’s degree in marketing, communication, and digital strategy.

I started to delve more and more into digital marketing until it became my current profession. The best advice I can give to anyone interested in becoming an SEM Specialist is to start studying Google in-depth and take the basic and advanced certifications for Display and Search Network. These are the fundamental steps to start thinking in terms of SEM.

interviewer andrea ciancaglioni

What are the skills of the SEM Specialist?

interviewee damiano olivaHumanistic skills certainly come in handy for an SEM specialist. One must possess creative skills that are useful for ad creation, as well as analytical skills to interpret data and reports. One certainly needs to have an affinity with numbers to analyze key metrics: from an ad to CTR to conversion rate. One should not be frightened by mathematics and numbers, but it is essential to be familiar with them.


interviewer andrea ciancaglioni

What are the main tools a SEM Specialist must know how to use?

interviewee damiano olivaTo become a SEM Specialist, one must certainly learn how to use Google Adwords, the main platform, in detail. Without it, it is impossible to set up advertising campaigns. Google Analytics is also very useful (in this regard, we offer you our Web Analytics Course), which gives us an in-depth overview of all data. Finally, a lot of work is also done with Excel.

In addition to this specific software, one must ‘work with one’s head a lot’ and analyze Google’s SERPs to see how competitors behave. Studying the ads and landing pages of competitors is a ‘best practice’ to set up a correct and winning strategy. In my agency, I work closely with the following:

  • A programmer who helps me realize the landing pages
    A graphic designer with whom we develop advertising banners

The work of a freelance SEM Specialist combines all these skills in a single professional figure. Working in a digital team facilitates the tasks of an SEM professional.


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interviewer andrea ciancaglioni

From which companies do most job offers come?

interviewee damiano olivaA large part of the job offers for SEM Specialists come from communication agencies. In these realities, one finds oneself managing several client accounts.

Other entities, such as those operating in travel and tourism, e-commerce, and all companies established to do business digitally, can offer work. The SEM Specialist can easily find work due to the high demand in the market. In a period of economic crisis and relative recovery, it could be a winning move for professional retraining to specialize in digital marketing or other professions that gravitate around the world of the web.

The SEM Specialist is one of the most important figures for any Web Marketing strategy and, together with the SEO Specialist, is one of the most sought-after professionals in the Digital world. Although it is easy to find “SEO/SEM Specialists” who can offer all-around services, it is very important to understand that they represent two very different types of activities, requiring different skills and competencies.

Online Advertising: some numbers

The Online Advertising market in Europe is worth more than 25 USD billion and records positive growth trends every year, unlike traditional advertising. The United Kingdom, Germany, and France lead the ranking.

online advertising statistics

This simple fact should make it clear what the potential of this market is and how important a professional figure such as the SEM Specialist is (and will be) capable of helping companies to publicize their brand in an increasingly digital world.

Below, you can find some interviews with leading SEM Specialists to further explore the topic and to fully understand what it means to specialize in this type of profession.

The first speech is by Andrea Testa, founder of Blubit, a company that deals with Digital Marketing at 360 degrees, a Top Contributor to the Adwords Community since 2010, and a University Professor at IULM.


SEM between theory and practice

One of the most important things for a young SEM Specialist is to have the right amount of time to study. What comes out, however, when one starts physically working on campaigns is that all that is theoretical must necessarily develop and evolve through practice; in fact, what theory explains does not always translate into practice in an SEM campaign.

The theory is important because it provides the basis to be able to think independently and to be able to evolve what are the theoretical concepts, rework them, transform them, and evolve them into something productive for the customer. One of the things, therefore, that must always be taken into account when approaching this job is to understand that theory is a basis, and it is then the actual practice in the field that will determine the success of a good SEM Specialist.

Real-Time Bidding: a new form of Online Advertising

Real-Time Bidding is actually something that some leading SEM Specialists are already supposedly implementing. It clearly allows users to be stimulated at the very moment they visit certain websites. It must be remembered that, at the moment, Real Time Bidding consists of the purchase of advertising space within portals. We must therefore make an initial distinction between what is push marketing and pull marketing.

Pull marketing is the ability to provide an answer as soon as the question is asked, so it is a type of marketing that can be combined with search engines. Push marketing, on the other hand, is a type of marketing that is submitted to customers and, therefore, necessarily has to be as borderline as possible. It is not a type of marketing like television, where I am watching a game and a car advertisement appears.

Real-Time Marketing is, in borderline push-pull terms, a very important thing because it provides, shortly after the navigation steps, content that is probably very interesting for the customer.

The real key to success lies in determining unique users. The SEM Specialist will have to be able to understand when the user is the same, even if they are surfing from three different devices (smartphone, tablet, and desktop). Firstly, it will be necessary to take a step back to determine what are the unique visitors; secondly, it will be necessary to engage in Real Time Bidding, but only when the SEM Specialist is able to understand that the user is the same.

The second speech was by Sante J. Achille, an SEO/SEM Consultant with 20 years of experience in the world of the web.


Sometimes when surfing the web or talking about specific topics, the figure of the SEM Specialist is joined by the figure of the SEO Specialist. SEO and SEM are different topics that are part of the same macro set. Let us look at some aspects together and understand what they are about.

Differences between an SEM Specialist and an SEO Specialist

The term SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing and encompasses all those paid online advertising activities aimed at publicizing one’s website or blog. The term SEO, on the other hand, stands for Search Engine Optimization and defines all those activities carried out to improve the ranking of one’s website or blog on search engines.

It is, therefore, easy to understand the difference between the two: the SEM Specialist must be able to manage Adwords or Facebook Ads campaigns and also more complex Remarketing and Real Time Bidding tools; the SEO specialist, on the other hand, must be perfectly familiar with the most effective SEO Copywriting and Link building techniques and at the same time know how SEO Tools such as Majestic SEO, an Online SEO Tool useful for monitoring website backlinks, and other very useful software work.


Thanks to the speeches by Andrea Testa, Sante J. Achille, and Damiano Oliva, we delved into the figure of the SEM Specialist; we saw what skills and aptitudes young people wishing to work in this sector must possess, but also the tools and instruments used by specialists. We saw some advice for those approaching SEM and what the job opportunities are for this specialist.

If you are interested in becoming an SEM Specialist, Digital Coach offers you the opportunity to follow a few courses. Specifically, the SEM Advanced Course, the SEO/SEM Certification Course, which also includes the SEO area, or follow our SEO Manager Certification Course

If, on the other hand, you are interested in the world of the Web at 360 degrees, you have the possibility of taking the Ecommerce Manager Course or the Web Marketing Program


If you, too, want to become an expert in online advertising, contact an expert.
They can guide you on the best path to acquire the necessary skills



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