Formal SEO Higher Education Options

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For many of us, something just won’t get done the way we want it done unless we do it ourselves. SEO, unfortunately, can easily fall into this category. While working with SEO experts and agencies is a great way to learn more about the industry and improve your website’s success, many want to become that expert. Every website or company owner has a background in some particular department, and as SEO continues to evolve, this is a great place for a boss to have a solid background.

The problem is that higher education options are somewhat limited. Many of those working in SEO agencies have been learning on the job for ten years; but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are some formal higher education options out there for those who want to earn that real certificate. While practice and experience is going to be key in the industry, a little bit of extra formal training certainly never hurts.

SEO Certifications and Programs to Consider

Higher education typically refers to programs in a college or University, but in this case it can also refer to programs where you earn a certificate of completion and/or achievement. There are many scam-type “certifications” out there revolving around SEO, so it’s important to really do your research and make sure your money and time are well spent.

Below are a few different higher education routes you can take, all of which are from reputable sources that offer quality courses/programs:

  • Bruce Clay SEO Training. Bruce Clay has been in the SEO game for nearly 17 years, and he has created several different SEO programs you can complete. He offers a full course-load of classes for 4.5 days at either a standard or advanced level. Once you register, you get perks such as a 12-month membership to tools such as SEOToolSet ®. There are different discounts available, but generally the program starts at $1795.
  • SEO WebConference & Certification Training (from SEMPO). SEMPO stands for “Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization” and they offer training courses each year. Experts such as Eric Enge, Bill Hunt, and SEMPO President Chris Boggs are a part of this year’s program that offers a 5-week online-only certification training.

Other notable programs to consider:

  • Moz Academy. Despite the fact that the name sounds very official, the Moz Academy is actually just a series of several different video lessons that get right to the point. Moz (formerly SEOMoz) is one of the most respected websites and companies in the SEO industry, so being a part of their academy is great. You have to be a Moz subscriber, but you can start a free 30-day trial if you want to check it out first. 

It’s important to remember that getting SEO certified means more than just bragging rights. Sure, clients are going to love hearing about where you went and got your training and it will make you look good, but it’s about finding the formal education that is really going to teach you what you need to know. It should help your business in the end.

So Is Higher Education SEO Really Worth It?

For many, no, an SEO certification really isn’t worth it. Clients are not quite at the point yet where they are looking for any type of certification because higher education in SEO isn’t currently popular. Because Google isn’t offering anything for SEO (unlike PPC and analytics work), certifications aren’t always taken as seriously as they are in other industries. Still, it’s good to know your options and determine what is best for you and your future. Below is a video from Matt Cutts from 2010 that still rings true today. It explains why SEO certifications are problematic for the search engine:

Have you been through a formal SEO program in the past? Would you recommend it to others? Let us know your experience and your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo Credit:

Amanda DiSilvestro

Amanda DiSilvestro

Online Content Editor/Writer at HigherVisibility
Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword density to recovering from Panda and Penguin updates. She writes for HigherVisibility, a... Read Full Bio
Amanda DiSilvestro
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  • Thomas Smith

    And there I was under the impression that SEO can’t be taught due to fluctuation and it’s unpredictibility… Well, I’m glad we cleared that one up.

  • Andy Calloway

    Surely SEO can’t be a qualification because there’s nothing to say who’s right and who’s wrong. Sure you can teach best practices (which basically distils to “do good content and publish wide”) but I certainly wouldn’t trust anyone who came to me with a qualification. I’d be asking “Who said you do it this way?”

    Only Google knows what works and I don’t see any certificates coming from them any time soon.

  • Brent Manning

    What about Distilled U? From what I have seen their courses are continuing to evolve over time adding new modules and updating to keep up with the the latest trends. Also there is the Academy within hubspot that offers some excellent learning material.

  • Mike

    Obviously they are just trying to sell you something, last time I checked they don’t run, update or have any knowledge of what Bing, Gooogle and Yahoo are going to change and when they are going to change the Algo.

    Outrageous pricing as well, complete joke. Anybody that says they have a SEO certificate from ACME SEO training Academy would certainly make me stop and listen.

  • Jeremy Cid

    I’m learning more and more that so much of SEO is somewhat subjective. Part of the problem I see with any type of certification problem is that the Internet as a whole is too large to allow for monitorization across the board. Take for example Google’s best SEO practices when it comes to Titles and Descriptions. They say do this, else you might be penalized. Yet, I’ve come across several competitor websites who do the exact thing Google itself says not to do, yet they rank higher than some of our clients. It’s simply too large and growing at an astounding rate for any single entity, even Google, to adjudicate evenly across the board.

  • Jeremy Cid

    The problem with any SEO certification is that it’s somewhat subjective. By that I mean that the Internet as a whole is simply too large for any single “authority” (such as Google) to adjudicate across the board. I’ve come across websites that deliberately go against Google’s best practices, yet they continue to rank within the first 5 spots of the SERP. That’s not a slam against Google. But not even they have the capacity, at least at this point, to accurately monitor every single website and distribute “punishment” evenly for each one.

  • Amanda DiSilvestro

    You definitely have good points, and that is what I have been hearing since I began in this industry as well. In any case, it’s nice to have options so you can decide if you believe these certifications or you think Google is the only one who can help. That’s kind of the mentality I had when I decided to write this article! Worth thinking about–thanks for reading!

  • Alpesh Brahmbhatt

    Hi Amanda Thanks for sharing this information Regarding SEO higher education related all that point is best and useful for understand and i really like it. This type of details Thanks..

  • Will Lam

    I’m surprised you guys didn’t mention DistilledU made by the folks at Distilled! In any case “Formal SEO Education” is a bit misleading as I thought you were referring to Universities/Colleges.

    In addition to that, there are schools that are popping up to address the skills/knowledge gap like General Assembly as well as Startup Institute in New York and Boston respectively.

  • Tammy

    I have taken Bruce Clay’s training twice, and in truth I learned a little bit more each time. Even if it was just to clear up minor confusion with the basics of URL structure and other foundational SEO tactics. “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”
    ― Albert Einstein
    And these trainings I felt made me feel less foolish.

  • Riza

    It won’t hurt as long as you have the energy, the time, and the finances to use in order to get that degree. Because if one doesn’t have the energy to put in, any efforts of learning will be wasted. Time wasted as well.

    If clear on all three issues, I would definitely recommend getting formal SEO education.

    Nice options you’ve got. That’s why I shared this on the IM social networking site,

  • Eli Overbey

    In college, you are taught math, english, business, art and psychology. All of these subjects flow into search engine marketing:

    Math: If you know how to interpret data, you will go far in SEO. Basic mathematic courses teach data interpretation, trends, and understanding graphs.

    English: If you are an outstanding writer, with content free of grammar errors, you will be an SEO rock star. English teaches the basics of writing, and SEO adapts that content for the web. English helps writers crafts creative ideas in a way that is free of errors and typos.

    Business: Most colleges will require you to take one business course, or a similar marketing course. In these classes, you will learn about the value of a customer, attrition, and how gaining customers is everything. SEO evolves around these very principles.

    Art and Psychology: Anyone who has dabbled in SEO knows that UI, UX, and web design play a huge role. The basics of art, the fundamentals of web design, and the understanding of the human (psychology) largely effect SEO in terms of design, analytics (flow, bounce rate, etc…) and the users interactions.

    If SEO is an underlying element in all of these classes, why isn’t it taught as a course in a design, marketing, journalism, or a business program? It absolutely should be.

    The end goal of higher education should allow students to take theoretical ideas and use them in every day life. The problem with most graduates today is that they have very little practical application, thus the need for internships.

    Teaching students search engine marketing a) builds on a foundation they already have, and b) gives them a tangible skill that puts them ahead of the curve.