By Brian Fairbanks and Laurie Davies
Search engine optimization is the practice of fine-tuning a website and its pages to "rank" higher in organic search engine queries, also known as natural inquiries that aren’t influenced by paid advertising.
The reason SEO is so crucial is that ranking "first" (meaning, your webpage appears at the top of a search engine results page) can lead to greater visibility and potentially new customers or visitors. Appearing at the bottom of the first page or not on the initial results page at all, on the other hand, can devastate click rates or relegate a company’s online presence to the black hole of the internet.
No one wants that — especially innovators or creatives who have developed unique products or services. In fact, going to great lengths to innovate and develop a product but not cracking the SEO code is sort of like opening a fresh new restaurant in a dark alley. You may have created an inspired menu and an inviting ambience, but it won’t matter if no one stumbles upon you.
With SEO knowledge, you can take that restaurant from the internet’s back alleys to Main Street, figuratively speaking. And the best news is, you can pursue SEO online and at your own pace (or devote resources for someone on your team to do so). No one’s promising you’ll become the king of Google Analytics overnight, but data-driven SEO tools can help you get results.
Still not convinced?
Writes GISuser, the "average consumer spends twice as much time online" as they did only a few years ago, and businesses have responded accordingly. SEO-savvy business leaders and marketers who optimize their websites increase the chances that customers and visitors will find them and reach out online.
"Deciding to hire an SEO [expert] is a big decision that can potentially improve your site and save time," notes the Google Search Central blog.
So, how do SEO professionals put their skills to work? Some common services include:
SEO professionals may have different areas of expertise and a variety of backgrounds, but some common best practices include these dos and don’ts:
|Promise to get someone a first-page ranking||This can be very difficult and is never guaranteed, especially against more established companies that have invested heavily in digital marketing||Promise to "improve" their performance in some capacity|
|Agree to questionable, vague, or outright illegal activity||Spamming, hacking, or otherwise interfering with a search engine results page or the search engine itself can get you banned or get the company in deep legal trouble||Work within the rules and confines of the law to develop excellent SEO the right way|
|Bombard search engines with new information or pages||Same as above — it feels like spamming||Build up a company’s SEO slowly and steadily|
|Take on more than you can handle||For some websites, SEO is complicated and client budgets are unrealistic||Explain the situation and the solution — a client may move on to a vendor who can provide more for less, but at least you didn’t oversell (or overextend) yourself|
With companies striving to improve and optimize their online presence, there is a demand for qualified SEO professionals, which is where SEO certification comes into the picture.
Strictly speaking, not every job requires SEO certification. But for anyone interested in professionally specializing in this niche, or if someone is looking to understand how they can improve a personal or professional website on their own, certifications can be the solution. Certification is a way of validating — to yourself and your employer — the digital marketing techniques you’ve learned.
SEO certification is what it sounds like: training and education that bolsters a student’s SEO skills. To earn the certification, you have to complete training and demonstrate your skills and knowledge successfully.
Many SEO certifications can be earned through online courses, which may include webinars and often include online exams. As for pricing, these courses can cost up to $7,500.
University of Phoenix offers an online noncredit SEO course called Introduction to Search Engine Optimization, which covers strategies and web-based tools as an introduction in learning how to boost traffic to your site. This professional development course is self-paced and 100% online, which means participants can learn at their own pace and their own schedule — and apply what they learn immediately.
Investing in an online SEO certificate can help you learn how to:
Learning SEO online just makes sense, since it’s work that will mostly be done to optimize your brand’s online presence.
Every course is different, so it’s important to consider your goals when selecting an SEO course. Are you a beginner looking to spruce up your website’s performance, or are you a professional looking to turn your talent and interest into a career?
Some common topics in SEO courses are:
This is the million-dollar question for anyone considering SEO certificates or an online SEO course you pursue. While there are opinions on both sides, GISUser makes a definitive case, stating that those looking for a career in digital marketing must receive SEO training and a certificate.
And there are advantages to doing so. Consider, for example, the following: