The SEO Profession Gets Serious: Third-Party Certification on the Horizon

The SEO industry is growing up. The Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO) just announced that it’s gathering information to find out if a third-party, industry-wide SEO certification is a feasible option.

As many of you know, there are programs out there that work to educate on Internet marketing methodologies and even offer certification. These were created mostly by those who wish to spread sound Internet marketing practices.


But, the introduction of a third-party accredited certification program could take the SEO concentration to a whole new level.

This would help solve the problem of trying to figure out what education matters in Internet marketing. As of now, employers and clients have few options to assess a person’s credentials for a job:

1) Formal education: A person’s college background may or may not have anything to do with Internet marketing since very little colleges offer curriculum as of now.
2) Experience: How long a person has been involved with SEO or Internet marketing and their professional achievements associated with it.
3) Certification programs: Completing educational programs from either industry leaders or some other lesser-known organization, whether online or in a classroom setting.

What this proposed offering from SEMPO does is illustrates that the SEO industry is shaping up to claim its place in the professional world, and sending a wake-up call that we’re serious about proven SEO practices.

So, what can you do to help develop our industry? SEMPO launched the SEO Job Task Survey to get feedback on what material should be included in a third-party certification program for SEOs.

This survey will help define the skills needed to be an SEO practitioner. Your feedback could help standardize the profession internationally.

You don’t have to be a member of SEMPO to weigh in on the survey. Let’s all take an active part in developing our profession and the industry.

Jessica Lee is the founder and chief creative for bizbuzzcontent Inc., a marketing boutique that focuses on digital content strategy and professional writing services for businesses.

See Jessica's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (18)
Filed under: SEO
Still on the hunt for actionable tips and insights? Each of these recent SEO posts is better than the last!
Bruce Clay on May 8, 2024
The Always Up-to-Date SEO Checklist
Bruce Clay on April 4, 2024
What Makes an SEO Program Successful?
Bruce Clay on April 3, 2024
How Can I Improve My Website Rankings Through SEO?

18 Replies to “The SEO Profession Gets Serious: Third-Party Certification on the Horizon”

I know my response to this post is a little late to the dance but I do agree with you Jessica, it is a good idea. I especially think it helps legitimize newbies such as myself. We don’t have many clients to showcase, so a certification at least says to the customer that we have undergone some formal training.

I know that there are a few “SEO Thought Leaders” or Gurus that are against it. But, it’s easy say no to certifications when you have been in the game for a long time. Question for you, have many of your experienced SEO colleagues disagreed with your opinion?



Interesting piece. It will also be interesting to see if any type of standards in either the practice of SEO or the certification of SEO evolves in the coming years.

I agree! Thank you, Tom :)

lol.. that would be “no nos”

hmm.. Thinking a list of “no-nons” might be better than any type of certification…

as in a form,with lots of radio buttons…

In SEO, we do the foillowing.
[] link wheels
[] doorway pages
[] auto query tools not using approved Google API
[] hidden keywords
[] multiple domains with slightly different content.


Hi, Steve! Yes, you mean adhering to things that aren’t ethical and don’t add long-term value to websites? More of a Hippocratic Oath for the SEO profession?

This is a great development. Something needs to be done to keep all the overnight SEO guys from popping up and promising the world.

Hi there! I’m hoping that’s what SEMPO has in mind, not to necessarily rule with an iron fist, but give a layer of security to the profession. Thanks for joining the discussion!

There are pros and cons to this. SEO is seen as a dark and secret art when it really is not. So a certification to dispel these beliefs are good. Also, there are Adwords certification courses so why not SEO? On the down side, like mentioned before already here, one method SEO is not the case anymore. We use a range of methods in varying situations. Plus who will certify it, Google? Bing?

What happens when Google changes its algo’s, shall we retrain? Like MCSE’s have to every other year.

Hello! All great points. Maybe it’s something that can be an added bonus for those in the industry. So it’s not horrible if you don’t get certified but if you do, it’s an added level of qualification. I don’t know what SEMPO is thinking, but perhaps it’s more of an adherence to certain White Hat guidelines versus actual techniques. Thanks for your comment!

It would be good from an employer’s point of view, that’s for sure!

Adam makes a great point. If it is like CompTIA or Microsoft certs it might finally mean something. I think the participants would almost have to specialize in one aspect vs. hitting all at once. Between back links/link prospecting, conversions, analytics, paid inclusion, social media.. would be much better to get very specific on one vs. being somewhat skilled at all.

You make a great point, Brent, and thanks for your comment. We often wear so many hats as Internet marketers, is it ever feasible to be an expert in all of them, or should we be knowledgeable in many and specialized in one?

This certification idea comes around every few years or so. There are so many ways to do SEO that certification often penalizes someone because they don’t approve of a method.
I think we should work on a better hub for clients to rate companies. There are some of those out there but they don’t seem to get any traction.
The proof is in the results.

Hi Sage, great idea — like a Yelp for Internet marketers! I think certification should be less about penalizing and more about showing qualifications and a commitment to ethics and methodologies. Thank you for reading, Sage!

This is something that is so badly needed. There is to much misinformation out there. I know many people that do SEO work are not welcoming this, but I believe it is a positive. Just like my previous field, I would love to be able to show people that I have a degree, or certification, and that I took the time to learn from some of the best. The certs that I have looked into now, leave me thinking that they are nothing more that a weekend course over a book that I could buy at a garage sale. For those that don’t like the opportunity, just as with any other profession, more certifications and more training means more money. Embrace the changes. I hope that they happen soon.

Hi, I agree with you. Many professions have certification where there was none prior; I’m sure they also went through this same situation. Thank you for taking the time to join in!

SEO is something that is ever evolving just like web analytics. The WAA (Web Analytics Association) has a certification program that’s got little followers basically because of the price and the limited places you can actually take the certification. As someone that’s gone through the Web Analytics program at UBC I can tell you it had a lot of value based on the principles it offers. What’s good about it is that it offers the foundation to build on and approach from a professional angle.

In SEO there’s no such professional angle at the moment and the only thing distinguishing us is our web analytics and Adwords certifications which is something. However, I think we can all agree some standards in SEO are necessary. The misinformation out there and garbage I keep hearing about SEO is really hurting the industry. One of people’s biggest complaints about SEMPO currently is that their courses are quite dated. ISO accredited certifications are required to update content every three years but when it comes to SEO it would be at the very least annually to be productive.

While I doubt most search professionals are going to give up most of their proprietary information/sources on search there’s definitely a lot of us that would be more than happy to share the fundamentals to straighten out the industry. If this is going to happen things need to be current, and professional like any CompTIA or Microsoft certifications.

Adam — great comment.

I agree that whatever certification is in place needs to be updated often. While there are some things that will rarely change, the industry is so fast-paced, outdated techniques just will not do.

I also agree that some sort of standardization will help the rest of the business world take SEO as seriously as we do.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Serving North America based in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area
Bruce Clay, Inc. | PO Box 1338 | Moorpark CA, 93020
Voice: 1-805-517-1900 | Toll Free: 1-866-517-1900 | Fax: 1-805-517-1919