Hiring someone is a strenuous and confusing process—hiring a person (or people) to run the SEM for your company can be even more so. Whether you decide to work with a freelance contractor, use an agency, or hire internally, there are certain qualities of SEM professionals that distinguish the adequate from the awesome. If an individual has these three particular qualities, chances are that she or he will make a great SEM professional. Even if a person lacks relevant experience, with expertise in these three areas, he or she will have the potential to become an SEM master.

So what are the three traits common among SEM masters? (1) An SEM professional must love data. (2) He or she has to be a wordsmith. And, (3) any great SEM expert will be a self-starter. These three qualities are important for specialists and anyone else on the SEM team, but they are especially important for those managing and overseeing SEM campaigns.

How to Love Data

To the outside world, marketers seem like creative gurus: picking the colors that will sell, coming up with entertaining taglines, and creating storylines that will engage customers. But, in the age of digital marketing, data has cemented a greater role in marketing—especially in search. To find a good search marketer, find someone who loves combing through numbers. Seek out the person who makes decisions based on statistics.

It’s important that SEM marketers use data to make a choice, not to confirm one. In the former case, someone decides something first and then uses the stats to back up that decision. In the second case, someone’s using data to back up a decision they’ve already made. This is an important distinction about the relationship of SEM professionals to data. It’s easy to bend statistics to say what you want. SEM professionals should be objective and scientific when making their decisions. They should make decisions only after they have consulted the data.

Why a Wordsmith?

In SEM, data drives decisions. But, paid search is just as much about copy as it is about statistics. SEM masters understand the nuances of words and terms; they know the value of the right buzzwords, and the ways to engage customers with language. Not only that, but a great SEM copywriter knows how to produce great copy efficiently—both within a constrained word limit and on a rapid and consistent basis.

Copywriting and wordsmithing are where the creative side of marketing shines through—but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s all about creativity. Remember, that data drives decisions and any great SEM marketer will weigh different keywords and versions of their copy against one another to see which combination of words works best. Writing in SEM is all about getting a reaction, and lucky for marketers, the data will reveal how many reactions you get and what kinds of reactions they are.

SEM Self-Starters

The world of SEM is dynamic and fast. Best practices are constantly changing, as are the rules of the SEM game. Search engines constantly update their SEM formats, and search marketers must keep up. Unfortunately, if you’re not a self-starter you probably won’t fare well in the ever-changing SEM race.

SEM is a real-time marketing platform. This is great for marketing purposes, but demanding on marketers. The speed of paid search means that SEM marketers have less time to produce an ad than most of their colleagues working in other marketing platforms. An SEM master works speedily and effectively. SEM masters must trust their colleagues and rely on data to drive decisions on the fly.

When you find a marketing professional who is data driven, crafty with words, dynamic, and self-motivated, you know this person will be a great SEM marketer. If you’re a marketer with these qualities, then you should know that you’re on the path to becoming an SEM master.