Beware of SEO Certifications and SEO Certified Consultants

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As SEO continues to grow as a viable and affordable marketing method for many small- and medium-sized businesses, there have been numerous SEO companies and individuals that have started to trot out SEO certifications to enhance the “validity” of their online authenticity and work. Now, this isn’t necessarily a negative practice or a scam, but the general public should understand that there isn’t an authoritative or industry recognized certification for SEO.

I would caution against any SEO service that claims that their SEO certificate is the way to prove legitimacy and trust within the industry or as a way to accurately distinguish their company’s genuineness from the competition. There are so many certifications available from different sources—with varying degrees of difficulty—and there currently isn’t an established or objective way to substantiate who’s genuinely an SEO professional or expert with a certification.

What is Certified?

Let’s think about it. A certification is generally issued by a recognized institution (professional body) “to safeguard the public interest” and “is a designation earned by a person to assure qualification to perform a job or task.” So where are these SEO companies receiving their certification from? As far as I know, search engines aren’t offering certification courses, nor are they affiliated with any SEO companies (as that would skew and/or manipulate search engine results).

To offer certification for something, there has to be an established industry standard—a right or wrong way to perform. Although SEO has best practices—with these practices coming from various SEO communities and companies, as well as webmaster guidelines from Google—there isn’t a 100% right or wrong answer to every SEO practice. Likewise, each of the SEO certifications is coming from third-party entities…and where are they getting their authority from?

Now, I’m not saying that SEO certifications are evil, but if, as a consumer, you’re convinced that a certain SEO company is more qualified than another based on a certification, then I believe that the certification is deceiving.

Examples of Certification

Google offers an AdWords Certification Program for those who want to “demonstrate…proficiency in AdWords” and is “a globally recognized stamp of approval.” This is a legitimate certification from the actual authority of AdWords: Google. Likewise, Google offers a Google Analytics Certified Partner program. Both of these programs require certain requirements and various tests set by Google, and there is only one legitimate entity that can issue a certification: Google. Obviously, you can see the difference between these certifications coming from Google and the many SEO certifications coming from various, non-authoritative websites.

Can obtaining SEO certifications be beneficial? Perhaps. I’m sure that you have to know something about SEO to pass them. However, they are definitely not validated from any search engines or SEO governing bodies and shouldn’t be used to differentiate who is good at SEO and who is not.

You Be the Judge

What should you use to judge an SEO company’s worth? I personally would look at their history of success (i.e., case studies), as well as their business practices and even terms of use. Remember, almost anyone can pass a simple SEO certification test and put up a little “SEO certified” badge on their website, but not everyone can show a history of delivered results.