As with any field that requires some level of expertise, the search engine optimization (SEO) space is filled with self-proclaimed experts looking to profit from their knowledge — and not from applying it. As a result, you can learn everything you need to know about SEO for a nominal fee and come out of it with a shiny certificate that lets you show off your knowledge. It sounds like a pretty good deal, right?
If you’re a marketing professional, SEO certifications aren’t going to win you any clients. They care about what you can do, not about whether you have a piece of paper that says you do keywords well. And if you’re looking to learn SEO on your own, there are better ways than paying out the nose for a course that offers nothing beyond what can be found in Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO.
“I run an online education company that has taught SEO to over 3,000 students around the world,” writes SEO expert Brian Dean. “Despite the fact that we offer several different SEO programs, we don’t offer SEO certifications…An SEO training course is a great way to learn, [but] most programs don’t allow you to put your knowledge into practice.”
In other words, a certification or training program can be helpful if you’re feeling overwhelmed and have no idea where to begin teaching yourself SEO. By working within a structured learning environment, you can learn at your own pace and with the help of someone who verifiably knows what they’re doing. There’s less risk of being led astray by a snake oil salesperson or following bad advice.
Specific advanced certification programs can also be quite helpful, as they break down complex concepts and ideas into something that’s more easily digestible. Take Schema Markup, for instance. And some of the certifications offered by Google, such as Analytics Academy, Google Marketing Platform, and Search can be a great way to brush up on your skills.
Better yet, Google’s certifications have a characteristic the other programs don’t. They’re free. So long as you have a valid Google account, you don’t need to pay a cent — all you need to do is complete an assessment on Skillshop, and you can start learning.
It seems like that’s a bit more valuable than shelling out to a third-party vendor, no?
SEO certifications and training programs aren’t without merit. They can be an excellent way to learn as a beginner, provide a good refresher if you’re feeling shaky on certain things, and help you understand advanced concepts. Ultimately, though?
Most certification programs are quite simply a waste of money. They don’t teach you anything that isn’t already freely available online. And unless they feature guided instruction from an educator, they don’t provide a better experience, either.
Save yourself the time, money, and effort — practice your SEO in the wild instead.