On a fairly regular basis, I get emails from readers asking me about SEO Training and SEO certification. While there's no shortage of options out there for in-person training, (including our own SBMU conferences) it can be difficult to get yourself or your team to the right place at the right time. Thankfully, quite a few options are springing up for people who are looking to expand their knowledge without leaving their office.

No True SEO Certification

It's important to remember there is no true SEO Certification available right now. With no official governing body of the industry, and no standards laid out to follow...true certification would be impossible. That said, several companies and organizations are now offering certification in the sense that they'll certify you've taken and passed their courses.

There are quite a few options out there right now, but here are three I'd be most likely to recommend.

Market Motive

marketmotive.gifOne of the most affordable SEO certification programs comes from the team at Market Motive. Michael Stebbins and company have bundled "practitioner certification" with their $299 a month training fee. This makes it a great option for companies looking to get ongoing online training for their staff on a variety of topics. Market Motive offers certification in:

  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Web Analytics
  • Paid Search (PPC)
  • Social Media Practices
  • Online Publicity
  • Conversion & Landing Page Optimization

The Market Motive team features some of the best and brightest in the industry and is run by my good friends Michael Stebbins and John Marshall. I've had a chance to look around their system and I'm familiar with nearly all of their faculty. They're also fast becoming the go-to option for larger companies looking to get online training for their in-house marketing staff.

If you're looking for a more intensive certification option, Market Motive also offers a "Master Consultant" certification for $3500. This option requires 30-60 days of course work and a peer review by the Market Motive faculty.

The Direct Marketing Association (DMA)

The first big player on the scene to offer SEO and SEM Certification courses was the Direct Marketing Association back in late 2006. Despite initial skepticism from some within the industry, the DMA has done an excellent job of recruiting some of the best and brightest in the industry to teach their classes.

dma.jpgThe classes here are organized by Matt Bailey and include tracks from SEO all-stars like Lee Odden, Debra Mastaler, John Marshall, Matt Bailey, Christine Churchill and Mike Moran. That said, the DMA has made it clear they've focused on finding the best teachers for any particular topic rather than simply the most "popular" expert.

They're broken down into two levels of classes. Level I classes are designed to bring people up to speed in the all things search related. They serve as a starting point for practitioners and as "background" for business owners and directors who simply need to learn enough to make smart hiring choices. The Level II classes are designed specifically for the people who will be in the trenches doing the work themselves.

One of the nice things about the DMA classes is they're self-paced. You can work on them as you have time, follow up with the teachers via email and even rewatch the sections you don't quite feel you've got a handle on yet. Costs are not cheap. There's a $299 application fee ($399 for non DMA members) plus additional fees for each level of training. Level I classes will set you back $1599 ($1899 non-DMA) and Level II classes will set you back $1699 ($1999 non-DMA). When you get to Level II classes, you'll need to pick either an organic search or a paid search focus. If you'd like to run through both sets of classes, it will cost you an extra $750.

If you'd like to get certified in everything they have to offer, it will run you $4350-$5000. On the other hand, the DMA is one of the best known professional marketing organizations around, so there's an air of credibility that comes with having completed their course work.

Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization (SEMPO)

sempo.gifThe closest thing to a governing body for the search industry is the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization (SEMPO). SEMPO launched their own certification program earlier this year as part of the SEMPO Institute. Courses range from around $300 to nearly $1400, depending on the topic and whether or not you are a SEMPO member. Students get a certificate of completion when they've finished the course and pass the final exam with a score of 75% of higher.

One of the key differences about the SEMPO certification program is the ability to have an entire agency "certified." Granted, the requirements are pretty light, with just 20% of an agencies search team needing to complete a single course to quality. SEMPO offers higher levels of certification as more employees from an agency take and pass SEMPO approved course work. Agency applications cost $250 annually for certification rights.

Experience is the Best "Certification"

As with most other things in life, certification is ultimately just a piece of paper from someone else saying you've learned what they wanted to teach you. While it can be handy in a professional environment, most companies will still be best served by employees who spend time in the trenches testing ideas and learning by doing. The true value in certification courses is not in the piece of paper you get, but in the quality training you can receive by learning from those who live and breathe search engine marketing on a daily basis.

December 2, 2008

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.


Thanks for this valuable information !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It has been a number of months since this Certification post and I am keen to undertsand if anyone has undertaken any of the above courses and to what success.
I look forward to your feedback perhaps to enlighten my decision.

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Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > Knowing Your SEO Certification Options