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SEO certification and why it’s so confusing

SEO Certification and why it’s so confusing 

SEO as a business need is not going anywhere in a hurry. Since it became one of the ‘buzz’ terms in 2014 its popularity and status as a serious industry has been confirmed, and university courses and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s) are starting to appear for those keen to study SEO fundamentals.

Updates to algorithms change things from one moment to the next for organic search results, and the volatile and competitive nature of the online world also means the life of an SEO consultant is never boring. In 2015 a tool called RankBrain came in, giving different factors different weighting and changing what works from one keyword to the next. Ranking well will involve different SEO tips from one month to the next, and you can expect different ways of doing things to fall in and out of favour with Google. Google guidelines need to be monitored constantly too.

Because search engines still need help understanding websites, and there are literally hundreds of factors at play, there is a space for technical as well as creative skills to point users to your website by ranking higher in organic search results. Marketing by itself won’t ever be as effective as helping people who are already looking for what you offer to find you through organic search, which Google still promises never to charge users for. With this in mind, it’s impossible to ignore the importance of SEO, and any extra knowledge or insight into how people who have success are finding it will be helpful.

What should an SEO course include? 

If you’re thinking of doing an SEO training course, you’ll want it to include bits of everything that you will need to know to rank well, even if you’re stronger in one area or another. If you have a team to work with think about everyone’s strengths and weaknesses before committing to a course.

Don’t forget, creative skills like research and writing guest posts, design and networking will be relevant as much as technical know-how for understanding and operating new Webmaster tools or SEO tools. Keep all of those things in mind when considering what you want to be included in any course you are thinking of taking.

Just some topics you can find courses on are writing for the web, content strategy, keyword research, website performance, user experience, on-page optimization and performing an SEO audit.

There are courses that can be taken online, or at university, and they offer technical SEO information and advice, like how to use Analytics, where to find important data and how to tell which sites are strong for getting backlinks to and which ones you want to avoid.

They also offer tips and tricks to use with copywriting, to make sure that blog posts you’ve written will be published and get visits, and how to create extra content such as Infographics, sharable memes and data-rich content.

What sort of skills you are most interested in will depend on what business you’re trying to market, and how big your team is, as well as your budget for SEO related work. Every aspect plays a part on successful SEO and it is really up to you to decide what you need most, what your business or career will benefit from and what courses provide good value for money.

Google will probably never offer SEO training

No matter what you’re looking for, it’s worth noting that there is not, and possibly never will be, any standard ‘Google SEO Certification’. Google offers AdWords Partner certification for paid search, but nothing exists for organic search. The AdWords and Analytics certificates are online marketing qualifications from Google, and though they are useful if your company does PPC advertising, they do not teach anything about how to achieve higher organic search traffic rankings, which is a very complex subject with many parts to it.

There are a lot of free courses that you can take to provide a taste for different areas and help you decide if you want to commit to a longer paid course or certificate from a training provider. For alternative providers, there are places like coursera, Udemy, and many university websites as a place to start looking.

What are the different options for getting SEO certified?

When you’re looking for a certification, there are a lot of options as already mentioned. You can do one module, free, online course, or a whole university style diploma over a few months or a year. You can also do courses as an individual or as part of a business. There are new providers popping up all the time too. Big organisations with a reputation such as Stone Temple and Moz, and colleges and universities are all worth looking into.

Is being SEO certified worth it?

Being SEO certified will give you a lot of knowledge, in certain key areas, but it is still up to you to prove your worth as an SEO professional if you choose to go down that road. Just like with any piece of paper you get, if you want to increase your income and your reputation in the industry, you need to show that you know what you’re doing with your expertise, and that you will be reliable and committed to staying up to date and acting in the best interests of clients or bosses. When Google decides to bring in an update, like Penguin or Panda, you have to be prepared to change your strategy fast. There are some who argue that courses don’t teach fast enough for students to keep up, because they might be learning outdated material, but there is probably still going to be foundation information that’s useful, and a blueprint for understanding changes in the industry available from any reputable industry course.

Whatever way you choose to learn and develop your SEO skills, it’s worth doing some research, and knowing what exactly you want to get out of any course you take. You should be able to find out about presenters and lecturers ahead of time, too.

SEO is about two really important concepts: authority and popularity, so it makes sense to learn from someone with some existing authority and a name in the industry unless you are after strictly technical skill development.

Having passion, dedication and willingness to keep learning will be the biggest things you need to succeed, and those will help you no matter what course you decide to do. You’ll build yourself a name based on how well you apply what you learn, so as you do work for clients make sure they spread the word about you, and let your results also speak for themselves.

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