SEO Certification - Has your SEO Team been properly trained?
Here is a scary question that may
cause some upset, but it is still an important question that
you should ask before hiring anyone who offers big promises
about getting your Web site ranked for high visibility. Have
you ever thought about asking to see the qualifications of
your SEO team? Is there any evidence that they have ever been
structurally trained in the skills they claim to have? SEO
certification is two-fold.
1. Proper training in the full scope of search engine
marketing skills and influences
2. An examination to determine that the student is found to be
competent in those skills and worthy of certification.
The question you might want to ask in performing due diligence
"Tell me about where you were trained in search engine
marketing skills and do you hold a certification of skills to
show that you are up to date and competent for the current
Okay, so what's so hard about asking this question? Don't be
surprised if you catch a few people unawares.
It sounds like an
easy enough question, but you might be surprised to find out
how many people out there are talking the SEO talk,
but have actually never been structurally educated or had any
professionally training at all.
One common response is, "Oh, I am "self taught"
and have known all about how to submit to search engines for
years." A reply like this needs further questioning
because anyone who thinks that top Web visibility comes from
"submissions" is already considerably shy of
understanding on how search engine marketing works. The
fallacy of "submitting to thousands of search
engines" to increase your traffic is one of the oldest
cons that is still being practiced.
Or how about reply.."Sure, our people know all about how
to work with Meta tags." Okay, but do they know that Meta
tags are probably the least important influence in over 100 other
elements that go into building true relevancy.
Also be aware that someone who answers by saying "We can
guarantee to get you listed with every search engine out there
including Google, MSN and Yahoo!" The catch here is of
course anyone can get you "listed" but a reply like
this does not say where you will be listed.
I spoke to someone using this ploy to take as much as $60,000
from a company but never had any intention or concern with
getting the company any visibility. In the end of our
conversation, I even got him to admit it to me. As it turns
out, this individual did not even believe it was possible to
get a top 10 ranking himself, yet he was taking the customer's
What's the scoop these days on SEO certification and
how can you make an educated decision on hiring SEO help?
SEO certification - here are a few other tips to
consider when looking for qualified SEO talent:
extremely cautious of anyone who places great emphasis on
"submissions." They've never been trained and do
not understand search engine marketing if they place a lot
of emphasis on submission services. Submitting to a
"Directory" is still important, but there are
good reasons why, you should NOT submit to search engines.
outright to see the individuals "SEO certification of
skills." If they have one, take a good look at the
company that delivered their certification training. Do a
search to see if that training company's Web site can be
found in top results for competitive SEO training phrases.
For example if the training company only shows up in PPC
advertising, how could they possibly be training others in
gaining visibility in the organic results, if they cannot
achieve it for themselves. The same with any company that
uses unsolicited e-mail marketing to push their services.
Think about it....if they were up to date in their skills,
they would not be resorting to Spamming you.
- Beware of
anyone who "guarantees" a number one ranking in
Google or other search engines. These offers are designed
to "look safe" and "sound safe" so
that you * think* you cannot possibly lose out. A great
deal of confidence is bolstered using superlative laden
language that convinces you that there is no possible way
you can lose. We have seen many people come to study in
class to build genuine SEO and SEM skills (unfortunately
after they trusted their Web site to the wrong people.) In
some case their sites had been banned and then we've had
to help them clean up the mess to get back into the search
engine's good graces.
- Watch for
hints in dialogue when someone speaks of knowing all the
"tricks" to "outsmart the search
SEO Professionals do not "outsmart" or
"trick" the search engines at all. But they've
been trained in how to create truly relevant, high quality
content that ranks based on developing useful pages that deliver high
value to the visitor and satisfy the reason why the
visitor searched in the first place. Many bits of dialogue
are quite telling, so listen carefully when someone is
describing there services to you.
strange as it sounds, this industry is not JUST about top
rankings. Ultimately, the goal is to gain top rankings but
also you must understand how to compel visitors to
respond. It's only when these two elements together
are working that you'll produce your ultimate
objective....to make sales, or earn money and profit from
your Web site.
Even if your objective is not to make sales, you'll still
need to be easily found and you'll need to compel your
visitor to take some kind of action to fulfill whatever
objective you have.
- Ask the
company you are considering for hire, to provide you with
a few business referrals where you can obtain a phone
number and actually speak to a few of their clients. This
can be someone who is in a different type of business and
it can also be someone who can answer your questions in
Questions you might ask of their client: 1) In terms of
percentage, how much has your company profited by using
this service? 2) Are there any pages on your site
that you wish might perform better? 3) Would you say that
these SEO services have exceeded your original
expectations? These types of questions will encourage the
referral to reflect on their relationship while not
sounding too threatening or prying.
feel that you literally have to become an SEO expert in
order to get your Web site performing well. If you have no
interest in building the skills, you can still get a solid
education in all of the principles and techniques that
will help you easily identify truth from error. This
education can literally save you thousands of wasted
dollars and get your project launched correctly the FIRST
- Watch out
for so called "training companies" that may have
a secondary agenda (other than teaching you the genuine
SEO skills manually.) There are companies that say they
will teach you the skills, but in the end, they are hoping
to make learning "seem more difficult" in hopes
of having you end up hiring THEM to do the work. Some
schools give you some general knowledge but in the end,
they want you to buy their special SEO tools like an
What else can you watch for in "SEO
Certification" values offered by various training
- Find out
if the SEO training company recognized by any established
For example, some training companies may be able to offer
University CEUs (Continuing Education Units.)
This means that at least a University or governing
authority has examined the curriculum and exams in detail
and the company has had to comply to meet a certain
standard in order for the University to stand behind them.
- Have a
look at the SEO training company to see if they have ever
delivered any training on behalf of one of the major
search engines? Not too many training organizations have
been approached or selected to deliver educational
seminars on behalf of a major search engine, but there
- Find out
how long the SEO training company has been in business?
One of the very
first and oldest SEO certification companies on the
Internet is Online
Web Training who, with their instructor led classes
allows for a "certification of skills" document to be issued attesting to the truth
that the individual has
been instructed in either Basic SEO or Advanced SEO skills
under the guidance of an instructor and then is examined
and found to be competent in understanding the information
and demonstrating the skills by passing an exam.
- Does the
training organization offer an annual
re-certification program to ensure that the SEO keeps
their skills right up to date? SEO skills are only
effective as long as they are right up to date. If the
service you are considering for hire only has a
certification dated for 2006 or earlier, just be mindful
that a lot of changes happen regularly in this industry.
- Does the
SEO training organization have a history
of successful students that can demonstrate how their
skills have impacted their Web site business or client's
- Does the
SEO training company offer extended "mentoring
programs for ongoing support."
- Does the
SEO training company have convenient training
locations on a localized level. The value of
certification training that is delivered face to face and
in person by a certified instructor, with hands-on
instruction makes for the very best dynamics in SEO skill
building, knowledge retention and includes mentoring right
in a local community with no need to travel.
has a right to know that it is possible to find and hire SEO
professionals who not only have been structurally trained and
certified in their SEO skills but, they'll want qualified
talent that cares enough to keep their skills updated at least
on a yearly basis.
Before you make your buying decision or enter into any
agreement, it is up to you use wisdom and perform some due diligence
to ensure that the SEO/SEM team you hire has got what it
takes. Not just to improve your rankings, but to improve your
conversions and improve your bottom line too.
I expect to hear some complaints about this article, from
those who have never had any training before (there's a lot of
them out there that like to use SEO as a buzz word.) But it is also
a "heads up" and an opportunity to those who
understand what is happening and want to prepare for it now.
SEO certification as a topic is here to stay and more and more
we will see the public not jumping into the old time mistakes
as they become more aware, more educated and execute much
better judgment. The future belongs to the SEOs who build a
solid, long term business and keep themselves up to date. The
prize will be having clients that will stay with you for your
whole life, because of the difference you make to their
business. That's no different than any other real world
business and the way it should be.
A smart, modern SEO service that has the goal of building
"long term business relationships" and "clients
for life" takes time to ensure they first have skilled
people in place that can to genuinely help their future
clients before taking any client's money. Business is about
making money, but life is about helping people. If you focus
on equipping yourself to "help people first" you'll
never need to worry about making money.
About John Alexander
John's articles can be read in publications like REALTOR
News, SitePro News
and many others. John Alexander is Co-director of Training at Search
Engine Workshops offering live, SEO Workshops with
pioneering SEO educator Robin Nobles, author of the very first
comprehensive online search engine marketing courses. John is author of
e-book called Wordtracker
Magic and has
taught SEO skills to people from 87 different countries world
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