Review: Fixing the Search Skills Gap - Prolific London Search Marketing Dinner
The Search Marketing Dinner gathered 10 of the search industry's leading professionals together to discuss how the education of PPC and SEO can help fill the skills gap in the industry.
Taking place at The Ivy Market Place, the purpose of the dinner was to discuss ways in which the fundamentals of search can be better taught at different levels of education.
Whilst Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising are still the two strongest sectors within Digital Marketing, there's a trend of university courses in Marketing failing to offer sufficient modules in Search, sometimes opting for more attractive topics such as Influencer Marketing.
Nicky Wake, Prolific London, Managing Director
David Schulhof, Red Hot Penny, CEO
Ric Rodriguez, iProspect, SEO Director
Nick Wilsdon, Vodaphone Group, Head of SEO
Michelle Wilding, The Telegraph, Head of SEO & Content
Laura Crimmons, Silverthorn Agency, Founder
Simon Wharton, PushON, Director of Business Strategy
Dan Coleman, Red Hot Penny, Operations Director
Judith Lewis, Digital Marketing Specialist & Search Judge
James Murray, Bing, Product Marketing Manager
The evening started with David Schulhof (Red Hot Penny) talking about some of his findings. At a guest lecture last year with final year Marketing students, he asked the audience who had heard of 'Search Marketing'. Shockingly, not one person in the 100-strong crowd raised their hand.
Further investigation by Schulhof led him to discover that many Marketing courses didn't offer modules in search marketing, despite it being a key pillar of digital marketing in the industry. He highlighted how, with the amounts being spent on university degrees these days, the course subject needs to be relevant, which could lead to more people leaving university wanting to pursue Search Marketing rather than just falling into it.
Simon Wharton (PushON) claimed that it's more important to address the teaching at school level. This was echoed by Ric Rodriguez (iProspect), who said that demand for Marketing training at University level, the industry needs students to be taking an interest in it whilst at school. The profile of marketing to prospective students was outlined as a key area for improvement.
Many university degrees cover influencer marketing, Wharton pointed out. When the group discussed why courses chose to cover influencer marketing but not search, Laura Crimmons (Silverthorn) suggested that search professionals hadn't done enough to make it as appealing. Ultimately, universities have the pressure of attracting students.
Judith Lewis suggested that actually going into schools to talk to kids about search would be worthwhile. Crimmons echoed this by pointing out many at the table had done guest lectures at universities but not at secondary schools.
Nicky Wake (Prolific London) moved the discussion on to the question of what form of training would be most effective - an apprentice, degree, or work on a gap year. Crimmons showed a preference for internships because they enable companies to hire students at the end. The number of apprenticeships being made available by agencies is an area the attendees were keen to explore.
There's a need to do some further research about University teaching of Marketing and then to have a conversation with educators, claimed Wake.
The attendees agreed to all contribute contacts to a shared database of industry professionals who are happy to go into universities, colleges, or schools and talk about search marketing. James Murray (Bing) said that in order to make serious developments in shortening the skills gap, it's necessary to get it on the agenda for big companies. Further pointing out how this is an industry that's dying to employ smart people.
It's was clear to many of the attendees that young people are willing an open to learning, but guidance and raising awareness of the Search industry is needed.
The objective of making SEO and PPC becoming more attractive is a priority, Wake added. Schulhof noted how the dinner was a good initial discussion and how it's a perfect time to get the ball rolling. "A few years ago, you never would have got agencies together around a table."
Any search experts who are interested in getting involved, please get in touch with Sarah - firstname.lastname@example.org