March 7, 2018
If you’re working on advancing your SEO career, you might have considered earning a certification in the field. There are plenty of different certifications out there to choose from, but picking the right one isn’t always easy, especially because there’s a lot of conflicting information about these programs on the internet. Just how useful are SEO certifications? Will earning one help you achieve your career goals?
The short answer: it depends. Certifications aren’t always necessary to work in SEO. In fact, many expert SEOs manage just fine without ever earning a certification. But getting certified can be helpful in some situations. This article will clear up the issue of SEO certifications and explain when you should (and shouldn’t) consider earning one.
Earning an SEO certification can serve a number of purposes. First and foremost, getting certified creates official documentation of your learning. Anybody can claim that they know how to do something, no matter what their skill level actually is. Earning a certification gives you a way to back up your claims. In a field like SEO, where many people are self-taught, this can be very helpful in getting employers to sit up and take notice of you.
Earning some certifications can also help you fill out your resume. If you’ve just launched your SEO career and don’t have a lot of real-world experience to add, certifications can help you get a foothold in the field and land that first job. Earning certifications as a newcomer doesn’t just highlight the skills you’ve worked on – it also shows that you’re committed to learning and able to follow through on what you start.
Finally, some employers prefer to hire people who have certain qualifications. If you’re shooting for a job that favors applicants with specific knowledge, earning a certification in that subject can give you a leg up over your competition. Some employers even require their employees to earn certifications as a form of training.
It’s clear that SEO certifications can be useful. But if you’re currently a beginner or an intermediate-level SEO, can getting certified make you an expert? Unfortunately, the answer is no.
Certifications can only teach you so much because true SEO expertise comes from doing hands-on work. You can learn important principles by earning certifications, but knowing how and when to apply those principles can only come from experience and practice. Think of certifications as a starting point, not as the culmination of your learning.
Getting certified isn’t guaranteed to land you a job, either. Some people cheat on their certification tests, which makes many employers wary of trusting those credentials. Employers also tend to prefer hiring people who have prior experience working and getting results in the field, regardless of what kind of qualifications they have on paper.
None of this necessarily means that you shouldn’t earn a certification. If you have gaps in your knowledge or weaknesses that you’d like to fix, certifications and courses can help you even out your profile of strengths. Working on a certification or course can also be a good choice if you like structured learning environments. However, if your goal is to impress employers or become an expert, certifications should only be a small part of the entire picture.
Still think earning a certification might be helpful for you? Here’s a list of popular online certifications and courses that you can look into. Some are free, while others will run you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Of course, you should research any certification thoroughly to make sure it will meet your needs before you sign up for it.
If you want to try earning a certification without making a big financial commitment, HubSpot’s free course is a good place to start. You’ll take 12 classes on various aspects of inbound marketing and then complete a 60-question test to earn your certification.
Moz’s free Udemy course is another ideal way to brush up on SEO basics or see if online courses are a good option for you. And since the video-based course is three and a half hours long, you can try it out without making a major time commitment.
Cost: Starting at $33/month
Whether you’re learning SEO from scratch or you want to patch some holes in your knowledge, DistilledU can help you. For a monthly subscription fee, you get access to more than 133 hours of video content about SEO, ranging from basic to advanced topics. The cost is $33 per month if you pay for an annual membership up front, while a monthly membership is $40.
ClickMinded’s 7-course program provides an easy-to-follow introduction to all things SEO and digital marketing. You’ll be able to earn a certification for each course, as well as a certification for completing the whole program. The one-time membership fee provides lifetime access to all of the program’s content, so you can return and brush up whenever you need to.
Cost: Starting at $1049
The Data and Marketing Association offers a marketing certification program as well as a variety of shorter certificate programs. If you want a good overall grounding in digital marketing, the certification program may be what you’re looking for. The certificates, while not as in-depth, can help you master specific aspects of marketing. A certificate starts at $1049 for members, while non-members can expect to pay $1799. Earning the full certification costs $1499 for members and $2499 for non-members.
Cost: Starting at $25/month
The Online Marketing Institute’s SEO certification program consists of 14 separate lessons on various aspects of SEO. Participants earn a certificate of completion after successfully finishing the course. A basic subscription costs $25 per month, while a pro subscription is $45 per month.
Market Motive’s SEO certification course offers 17 hours of video that you can watch at your own pace. It also includes 15 hands-on projects, so you can start putting your new knowledge into practice right away. For $299, you’ll get access to the course for 180 days.
Cost: Starting at $99/month
Search Engine College offers a variety of courses and certifications that will get you up to speed on whatever SEO techniques you’d like to learn about. You can take courses for $99 per month, but if you’d like to earn a certification as well, the cost goes up to $295.
If you want your SEO training to carry some serious weight, consider earning a certification or certificate from a university. The University of California at Irvine is one university that offers an SEO certificate, and all the required courses can be taken online. At an average cost of $3538, this program isn’t cheap, and you can expect to spend between six months and a year completing it. However, many employers will take your credentials more seriously if they recognize the institution that awarded them.
So, what’s the final word on SEO certifications? First of all, you don’t need one to be successful as an SEO. You don’t even need one to understand what SEO is. However, there are some circumstances – such as earning a specific qualification for your job – when getting certified might be worthwhile. And earning a certification probably won’t hurt your resume or job opportunities, as long as you choose one that’s legitimate and well-regarded.
Not sure if a certification is right for you? No worries – you can still build your expertise without one, even if you’re starting as a beginner. A good alternative to earning a formal certification is simply creating and optimizing some websites on your own. This will give you the hands-on experience that employers love, and it will help you strengthen your problem-solving skills in real-life situations. Once you’ve built up some SEO skills on your own, you’ll be able to decide whether certifications will help you improve your knowledge further.
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