Search engine optimization (SEO), as defined by Webopedia, is “a methodology of strategies, techniques and tactics used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the search results page (SERP) of a search engine — including Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines.”
A shorter and clearer answer is “any activity that attempts to improve a website’s search ranking.” It’s basically advertising your site widely and loudly enough that people searching for your sort of business actually see a link to your content at the top of their search results.
SEO is a volatile environment filled with constant updates to algorithms and endless studies of user intent. There are a number of reputable organizations that can teach the basics of SEO, but the certs offered are always going to depend on current SEO trends and the credibility of the organization. Because SEO is such a volatile environment, it is difficult for any organization to create a step-by-step certification program.
For example, internet behemoth Google receives more than 3.5 billion searches per day, and it would seem a natural fit for them to offer an SEO certification. There are actually a number of good reasons to do so.
There are even more good reasons, however, for Google not to do so. In the process of creating a cert, for example, Google would likely end up divulging, whether directly or indirectly, a certain level of information how their search ranking algorithms work. And especially in recent years, letting anyone get wise to more than a few basics about how the search ranking sausage gets made is something they have absolutely refused to do.
Users have come to see searches as “sacred.” They use Google because they trust it. If they suspected, as some insist, that results were biased, that suspicion could lead to a large drop in users.
While Google doesn’t certify users in SEO directly, they have created a suite of training courses that help individual users, as well as corporations, track a wide range of SEO related data. Users have the option of becoming Google certified in AdWords and Google Analytics.
Listed below are the products that Google offers and information about what each course covers.
With more than 3.5 billion searches each day, Google boasts a market share of over 70 percent. Whether we are looking for a local restaurant, auto repair, or florist, we Google it.
But the biggest search engine in the world doesn’t make its money from people searching for local businesses. Well, not exactly. Over 90 percent of Google’s yearly revenue comes from their online advertisement platform AdWords.
AdWords allows businesses to post keyword-specific advertisements. Ads purchased through AdWords can show up at the top or the bottom of the user’s search results. They can also show up on any number of Google’s other services like YouTube, Google+, and Google Display Network.
To help business owners understand how to maximize their AdWords budget, Google offers various courses business owners can enroll in. To become AdWords certified, you will need to pass the AdWords Fundamentals exam, and any one of the following courses:
- Search Advertising
- Display Advertising
- Mobile Advertising
- Video Advertising
- Shopping Advertising
Once you enroll in the AdWords program, study materials are made available for each individual topic. Each course covers the basic and intermediate levels of core product knowledge. They also teach best practices for managing your company’s ads for each specific area of advertising.
This certification is valid for 12 months after you pass your exam. To recertify, you will need to retake the AdWords Fundamentals exam and at least one other course before your certification expiration date.
The benefits of becoming AdWords certified are that you can show prospective employers that your online advertising skills have been validated by Google. (There is a Google Partners public profile page that lists your certification.) You can also help your organization earn the Google Partner of Premier Google Partner badge. You can read more about the requirements to earn the Partner Badge.
Figuring out what words or phrases to use to direct people to your site is a good thing, but you also have to be able to measure and report their effectiveness. Google Analytics is a great way to do so.
Google offers five courses for those looking to learn more about how to track their digital campaigns. Each course builds on the knowledge of the previous course, so it’s important to take them in order.
- Analytics for Beginners — Introduces users to the Google Analytics platform. It walks the participant through account creation, analytic implementation, data collection and report navigation.
- Advanced Google Analytics — The second course in the program provides a deeper dive of the analytic platform, introducing the processes of collection, configuration, and reporting.
- Ecommerce Analytics: From Data to Decisions — Once you have learned the basics of the platform and how it works, Ecommerce Analytics helps users make sense of their e-commerce data.
- Google Tag Manager — Users learn how to simplify and manage site tags, without editing code, to help increase site performance.
- Mobile App Analytics — For those businesses that utilize mobile applications, the Mobile App Analytics course shows users how to broaden their customer base for a more robust return on investment.
One caveat to note is that while you can always take these courses, Google doesn’t always certify them. You will need to check in with Google’s Analytic Academy periodically to see which certifications are available.
Other than Googles AdWords and Analytic training courses, there are very few SEO certifications to speak of. While there are some reputable companies who offer training in the basics of search engine optimization, the courses focus more on teaching people how to perform the basics of SEO than on earning a certificate. Some of the more dependable companies include Moz, Boostability, Lynda, Market Motive, and Search Engine Land.
Google is the 800-pound gorilla of search engines. As the number one search engine in the world, when they change their search algorithms, the entire internet is affected. So when Google shows you how their changes will affect your site, it’s smart-money to listen to what they have to say.
SEO like the internet itself is constantly evolving, and truthfully, there are really only two ways to gain functional SEO knowledge:
- Read — There are hundreds of sites dedicated to understanding the ins and outs of SEO. Find ones that you like and that are followed by others. Read their posts and articles, and ask questions as needed.
- Practice, Practice, Practice — Build your own website and practice the techniques you read about. Your site can be about anything and you’ll gain valuable SEO experience.