I wrote this initially as a new forum post after I saw someone being disparaged for saying he is a “Certified SEO Professional”. I don’t believe we should poke fun at someone who claims to be a “certified SEO” or asks about certification offerings.
I see opportunistic charlatans through to some respected names in the industry who offer a certification. Just as a car driver’s licence is a certification but is not an endorsement of expertise, there is a case for SEO certification.
As a hiring manager, I know that in Melbourne it is next to impossible to advertise for an SEO and get more than one resume from someone who has real SEO experience, that is an in-house SEO role or an SEO agency background.
As a recipient of spam, I know there are numerous individuals and companies who claim to be SEO experts, but their websites show little evidence of this expertise. There are so-called SEO Certification companies who will sell you a certification badge, but again their own website shows little evidence of such knowledge.
There are people who ask about SEO certification, suggesting there is a need.
The usual question is “Who will certify the certifiers?” I don’t think there is a perfect answer, but the history of every profession might reveal a similar dilemma at the beginning. Are we happy to let the SEO profession remain an amorphous cloud?
If you asked within a given context, e.g. Webmasterworld members, who is an expert SEO, you might get a dozen names from anyone you ask and many of the answers would have a common core, say, five individuals.
Do we want a situation where the world has just five experts, certified by acclamation? Are they experts because they have time to display their logical reasoning at length — given that we cannot often see their work in practice?
Then there are other islands of expertise, such as other SEO forums, training companies, and SEM industry associations, who have their own list of experts, certified and otherwise.
What I see happening is similar to a university comparison. There is the Ivy League and then there is the rest, including the School of Hard Knocks. The putative certifying bodies will not go away just because some of us pooh-pooh their product. The self-trained experts will quietly continue to succeed by dint of their own effort. Some of these certifying entities will do a great job of marketing their Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval stamps and employers will begin to look for this Seal in resumes.
The main barrier is ego. Look at any person who rubbishes SEO certification. Has he positioned himself as an expert, say, by operating an SEO business? Has he convinced himself that he is really good because his projects have all been resounding successes? Therefore, he may feel no need to be certified. Is he threatened by a growing number of newbies clutching their certifications?
The other barrier is a lack of cohesion. Relatively few SEOs join SEO associations – for a variety of valid reasons, particularly when they work for their own websites and not for clients. While they do not need a certification, are they saying that they do not need formal SEO training, where the certificate is merely an outcome? If they were starting today, would they prefer the trial-and-error path that most of us have endured in our early days, until we found Webmasterworld?
Is there anything we can do to influence this outcome? Please comment.
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