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A recent article in MediaPost.com titled “Hiring Line: Keep Your People Happy Before Someone Else Does” touched on the fact the new media advertising industry (such as paid search) has zero unemployment and workers are very hard to find and difficult to keep. There are just not very many people with any kind of experience in this industry.

So if you are reading this and are looking for a direction for your career, we encourage you to consider search engine marketing. There are basically two paths you can take: natural search engine optimization (SEO) or paid search marketing (pay-per-click, or PPC).

SEO is the process of optimizing web pages to achieve high natural search engine rankings. There is some talk about the diminishing importance of SEO given the rise of social search (sites like technorati.com and del.icio.us), but we think it will be a while before you can disregard natural search. Look at it this way: as long as people continue continue to use computer-based search engines like Google and Yahoo, and as long as your competitors are ranked in those search engines, then you need to be an aggressive competitor and get your site to the top of the rankings.

PPC is the process of running paid search ads alongside natural search results in the search engines. As search engines continue to make it more difficult to generate natural rankings, paid search has become more and more important. It is the single most targeted form of advertising there is. You place your advertising message in front of people are looking for exactly what you have to offer. PPC now includes image ads, video ads, and various other formats. But in its most basic form, it is still the use of words to compel the reader to take some action. It’s an advertisement.

SEO and PPC involve two different skill sets. Although there is an element of copywriting in both, SEO involves coding, knowing how to write clean HTML and use stylesheets for formatting, as well as a lot of manual labor in the form of generating links to a web site. PPC is more like a traditional advertising medium, although you have to be skilled at managing bids, which involves some math.

If you seriously want to get in the search engine marketing industry, we advise you to become skilled at both SEO and PPC. You will become a highly desired employee and will have no trouble finding employement (well, that partly depends on where you are – search engine jobs are not found here in the South yet like they are in other areas).

To learn SEO and PPC, you are largely on your own. There are few training courses on the subjects. The best way is to learn it is to set up a web site for yourself, get your hands on as many books on the subjects as you can, and just start experimenting.