2009 Search Marketing and Social Media Salary Survey


Search engine and social media marketing are industries that continue to grow even in the face of one of the worst economies since the Great Depression. Talented and skilled SEO, PPC, SEM and SMO professionals are still in hot demand, despite the grim economic backdrop.

Recently, we conducted a survey of search engine marketers and social media marketers to get an idea of the current state of SEM and SMO. More than 100 SEO, PPC and SMM professionals participated in our survey, giving us a window into their experience level, primary fields of expertise, and more to the point how much inbound marketing professionals are earning, given the global recession.

The results of our survey may surprise you.

2009 Search Engine Marketers and Social Media Marketers Salary Survey

Interpreting the SEM, SMO Survey Results

So to recap the results of our survey:

  • The majority of participants have been involved in search engine marketing or social media for 1 to 3 years, so are relatively junior in the industry
  • The vast majority reside in the Northeastern United States
  • More marketers specialize in organic search engine optimization (SEO) than PPC or social media marketing
  • It's close, but more SEMs and SMOs in our survey work for an agency, though the number of in-house marketers isn't far behind
  • Most search and social marketers earn between $25,000 to $50,000 followed closely by those earning $50,000 to $75,000

To me, the most intriguing stats are in fact the salary figures, which seem low. But that certainly could be a byproduct of the economy, where workers are earning less (forced to take pay cuts) and underemployed (forced to work fewer hours), as well as the fact that the majority of people taking our survey have 3 years or less experience and aren't in their prime earning years yet. I suspect it's a combination of both.

In any case, this survey helps to illustrate that search marketing and social media are both still young industries, so the majority of the workforce is relatively inexperienced. The results may also indicate that even search engine marketing and social media salaries aren't immune from the recession.

Final Thoughts on Our Search Marketing, Social Media Salary Survey

There are a few more points of interest I gleaned from the data that are worth noting:

  • If you have 1 to 3 years of experience, live in the Northeast, do SEO for an agency and make less than $25,000, then you, my friend, deserve a raise because comparatively you're underpaid. So email your manager this survey, casually drop it on his/her desk or save it for your next review. ;)
  • It appears that the Southwest has a shortage of search marketers and social media professionals. Meaning that maybe it's an underserved area and ripe for the picking. So if you can't find work in the Northeast, maybe you should pack your bags and head to Texas and stake your claim.

Special thanks to everyone who participated in our survey. It gave us some great insight into the current state and makeup of the professionals who engage in social media marketing and search engine optimization.

Find out how you're REALLY doing in AdWords!

Watch the video below on our Free AdWords Grader:

Visit the AdWords Grader.


Sep 10, 2009


Just wanted you to know that someone is reading your good articles and that your effort is appreciated.

I live near Chicago, had one part-time client, charged $100 per hour, and earned $25,000 part-time from the client in my best year (2007).

I can only guess, that people go into SEM for the creativity and analytic fun you can derive from helping a company increase its profits through the Internet. That was my experience.

I wonder how many of those you surveyed had side projects that yielded income.

Thanks for the article. I won't wait for some company to "bless me" with high SEM wages. I think in this business you have to be very entrepreneurial.


Ken Lyons
Sep 11, 2009

Hey, Richard. Thanks for the kudos.
I definitely think SEM is a magnet for those with an entreprenuerial spirit. The ability to work remotely, put in odd hours and of course be your own boss is certainly a draw for the rogue freelancer.
Best of luck in Chicago.

Joseph Salamone
Apr 13, 2010

My company is going to downsize and most likly shut down the plant I am working in. I have been a closet seo /webmaster for a few years now and I am thinking of switching careers into sem. My question is are the certificate programs being offered online worth their cost? and do prospective employers want a certificate or a portfolio of work you have done?