SEO certification is a controversial topic, to say the least. In a fast-growing industry like this having no professional standards whatsoever, websites offering certification courses are in hundreds and the basis of their certification remains a mystery.
Is there an industry-recognized SEO Certification Program?
After doing some research on their claims of a “peer reviewed” process, we realize that there existed only one established group named Search Engine Marketing Journal and that’s in past tense.
In fact there was only one organization that came close to the credibility of being a “standards body” and that was SEMPO Institute, launched in 2008 by the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization, but was closed in 2012.
Even though many certification programs do exist, they don’t fill the shoes of an industry certified course because
- There is no uniform code accepted industry wide as to how the certification course has to be conducted, what should be included or is required of the course. This is primarily due to the absence of Google’s own certification program like AdWords. We will see about it in detail soon.
- Much has been discussed about “ethical SEO”, whether they should be included in the certification as many of the so-called industry experts raised concerns about the damages unethical SEO’s could do. But there is still no clarity on where the line between ethical and unethical SEO is drawn.
- There is no consensus on who should be responsible for administering such a program. Again, it should have been Google.
- Without access to the actual algorithm of Google’s search engine, it is impossible to prove if an SEO practice is right. That doesn’t mean there are no such practices. Some have been known to have been tested and confirmed by experts from Google. But eyebrows are still raised by industry experts on how much is actually valid.
- Only a few“masters” in the field actually exist. So if a website says expert training, take it with a pinch of salt.
So why doesn’t Google offer a certification course for SEO just like they do for Google AdWords?
This is a commonly discussed question in the industry and it didn’t come as a surprise when it was raised in a virtual keynote with Gary Illyes. Let me break down the key points in his answer,
- Google would have to frame a curriculum, provide training and conduct certification tests so that people passing will have an acceptable level of understanding. Gary’s main concern seems to be the cost involved in providing such training. But I feel there is more to it than just money.
- The algorithms that run Google’s AdWords are relatively static and Google does not change their working or add features frequently. So updating the curriculum for AdWords certification is simple. But that cannot be said for SEO. Thousands of updates are added every year to the search algorithm making it that much difficult and laborious to update the curriculum for Google SEO certification.
- As said earlier, for any SEO certification to be valid and useful, Google might have to reveal more of their search algorithm, is know-how and how it works more than they are willing to. This is particularly harder for the search reps than the Adwords reps that are able to give straightforward answers. Search reps often have to circumvent the questions as their answers may soil the integrity of search engine
- Gary also pointed out that Google might have to charge for any SEO certification program it conducts as it would need to cover the investment on resources like training materials, exam construction and maintaining a certification database. Also because charging for the course would make people take them seriously. But therein lays the conflict of interests. To quote Gary, “Search doesn’t ask for money for anything.” At Google, Search is Sacred.
By now you would have understood the level of ambiguity surrounding the SEO certification. SEO is more of an art than a method. It is safe to say that there is no value in SEO certification except that the process of certification itself can generate income. That said, there are methods to become a professional in SEO without a certificate hanging on your desk. Allow us to demonstrate
Take a leap of faith
Look for an opportunity, preferably an internship or even a low paying job that allows you to work around SEOs.
Even Batman had a mentor
The best way to learn would probably be to find a mentor with whom you can spend time and even assist them in their work. Nowadays, people connect through social media with virtual mentors whom you can follow and ask questions.
Content is king
Another basic method is to search for content and read. Read everything you can get your hands on from recognized sources or from people you follow.
If you are done with all the above, then it’s time to get down and get your hands dirty cause the best method to really master the subject is to work on real time projects.