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Learn the basics of SEO: 4 reasons an SEO course is worth it

By Brian Fairbanks and Laurie Davies
September 24, 2021 • 8 minute read

At a glance

  • An SEO course can help increase website traffic through organic search.
  • SEO validates digital marketing skills to potential employers.
  • SEO impacts a company’s web rankings, click-through rates, and bottom line.
  • University of Phoenix offers a Foundations in SEO course that ends with a certificate of completion.

Understanding the benefits of search engine optimization (SEO)

Ever wonder why some pages pop up at the top of your internet search results and others — maybe yours — languish down the list? When it comes to ranking toward the top of a search engine query, the magic of landing on top isn’t, as it turns out, magic at all. It’s just good search engine optimization (SEO).

SEO strategy can benefit anyone with a website, whether you’re a business owner, blogger or digital marketing specialist. And if you’re thinking about turning a passion for SEO into a career or sharpening your skills to improve rankings, getting an SEO certification is one way to take that first step.

But what is an SEO certification, why is it valuable and where can you get it? Let’s dig in a little deeper to understand the details and merits of this digital specialty and the best ways to develop your skills in search engine optimization. We’ll also look at what you can expect to learn in an SEO professional development course and why an SEO certification is worth it.

SEO on mobile device

What is SEO?

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.

What do SEO professionals do?

“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:

  • A careful analysis of your current site and your ranking (if applicable) on the first few pages of search engine queries in your field. If you’re a doctor’s office in Omaha, for example, you might want to appear on the first page of results for the search “doctors Omaha.”
  • Research potential keywords that are relevant to the field (doctors, Omaha, medical office, etc.) and compare those against other options.
  • Present advice on ways to revamp, finish a build-out for or edit a website.
  • Create new content or edit existing content for the site, including blog posts and images.
  • Offer SEO tips, create documents or even develop training seminars for other staff members who work with web content.

How to stand out as an SEO professional

SEO professionals may have different areas of expertise and a variety of backgrounds, but some common best practices include these dos and don’ts:

DON’T THE REASON DO
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

What is an SEO certification?

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:

  • Improve the visibility of websites
  • Interpret analytics reports for trends
  • Do keyword research
  • Evaluate Google Analytics to identify improvements in your digital marketing

How to learn search engine optimization

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:

  • Google Analytics
  • Content marketing
  • Keyword research
  • Link building
  • On-page optimization (and off-page optimization)
  • Google Ads
  • Mobile-friendly SEO
  • SEO strategy in general
  • Backlinks and backlinking
  • RankBrain (a machine-learning AI system that Google uses to sort search results)
  • SERP (aka search engine results pages)

Is an SEO course worth it?

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:

  • You get a solid foundation for SEO: The industry is full of acronyms and jargon. You can’t gain an edge in something you don’t understand. When you go through certification, you help eliminate the gaps.
  • You learn what to avoid: SEO training can keep you from unintentionally spamming or using gimmicks that can actually end up hurting your site in rankings.
  • You can easily and readily share your skillset: A certificate means you get a shareable certificate, so employers and clients know you have what it takes to compete in SEO.

search engine optimization strategy

How does SEO impact a business’s bottom line?

Search Engine Journal describes SEO as less of a marketing cost and more like a business investment: SEO is “relatively inexpensive in the grand scheme of things, and the payoff will most likely be considered in terms of a brand’s benefit to the bottom line.”

And SEO isn’t just for global companies with global reach. Search Engine Journal also reports that for small- and medium-sized businesses, local search has become a central part of their success. Those who tailor local SEO can help a company canvass a local vicinity and carve a local edge.

Knowledge of brand optimization, use of backlinks, and a strong emphasis on user reviews are tricks of the local trade that can boost a brand’s local messaging. These are the types of nuanced skills that SEO certification can help deliver.

According to an article by The Business Journals, there are three key metrics to assess whether your SEO efforts are paying off:

  • Organic search traffic. An SEO-friendly site should see increasing organic traffic.
  • Bounce rate. A high bounce rate hurts SEO, so keeping your traffic engaged (through great content and great user experience) is key.
  • Conversion rate. “Conversions may be the single most important SEO metric for small business marketers,” according to the article.

To that latter point, SEO can also help a business create content that stimulates interest in its brand without an overt sales pitch. Called “content marketing,” this approach can help you attract and engage potential customers and promote brand awareness — and well-crafted SEO can help put this messaging in front of people, so that when it’s time for them to buy, they’ll remember the brand.

In an article from Higher Visibility, 67% of content marketers say that SEO is their most efficient tactic.

SEO: It’s habit forming

To optimize content, SEO specialists must understand the search habits of users. Generally, “organic,” or natural search, outperforms paid searches. This is true even though sponsored or paid content is given more prominent positions on search pages while organic results are bumped down the page.

While statistics vary based on timeframe and methodology (a recent Higher Visibility article pegs organic search at 53% of all website traffic), organic rankings get clicks. In fact, according to that same article, over 99% of users click on one of the links in the first SERP.

This makes a site’s organic ranking crucial. More tend to skip past paid content to get to organic search results. Statistics from Advanced Web Ranking show that a ranking of one to three accounts for more than half of click-throughs.

Going mobile – SEO in our hands

Just when you thought you had a handle on SEO, remember that many users hold your efforts in the palm of their hands. Literally.

According to an article on Smart Insights, mobile devices are now the top option for searches. What does this mean for SEO and SERPs?

According to the article, only 13% of websites retain the same position for search across all devices. In other words, a site might rank well on desktop but not even show up in the first page of rankings on mobile. This can have major financial consequences, especially if the demographic a site hopes to reach relies primarily on mobile usage.

An SEO specialist can navigate these nuances, making sure that a site is optimized for mobile as well as desktop.

Cracking the SEO code

SEO is essential in the hands of today’s digital marketers. A marketing course can help deliver the course material to develop expertise in SEO strategy — and hone the raw tools an SEO expert relies upon to excel in site rankings and optimization.

Many tools can help SEO professionals pull the data they need quickly and efficiently. These include Moz, SEMRush and Ahrefs. While they have various strengths and niches, in the hands of an SEO specialist, these tools can be maximized to:

  • Drive insights and reporting
  • Grow organic traffic
  • Track SERP positions
  • Analyze competitors
  • Understand what customers are searching for
  • Conduct link analysis

Other tools can analyze page speed (Google PageSpeed Insights) and responsiveness to mobile (Mobile-Friendly Test). It’s important to use the right mix of tools for a company’s budget, size and objectives.

SEO course at University of Phoenix

The University offers Introduction to Search Engine Optimization, a self-paced professional development course that teaches participants how to use web-based tools and strategies to improve the user site experience and drive organic web traffic.

The course takes approximately 30 hours and is available for one year after purchase. It requires no course materials and, upon successful completion with the achievement of 85% or higher on the lesson assessments, you receive an uploadable Certificate of Completion.

Learning SEO is both an art and a science. And with the world moving in an increasingly digital direction, there’s never been a better time to learn it.

Learn more about how you can delve into the world of SEO with our professional development course.

Get to know SEO’s close cousin, social media marketing, in our blog article!