I’m all for professional standards. I’ve held a few professional licenses – paid my money, attended the classes, passed the tests, been fingerprinted (really), even performed a three month unpaid apprenticeship (a form of slavery the teaching professional calls “Student Teaching”).
I thought I understood the process… until recently, when I researched certification as it applies to search marketing. Here, apparently anyone with an inflated SEO/SEM resume can hang out their shingle and with one wave of an expensive wand, take your money and pronounce you “certified”.
You’ve got to wonder how this might apply to the medical profession. “Forget Medical School. Holistic herbal medicine mystic and part time storm door salesman, Roggie Clam, will teach you all you need to know to set up your own successful medical practice.”
Let me make this clear: I am not referring to the various search engine certification programs such as Google’s Advertising Professional Certification, Yahoo’s Search Marketing Ambassador program or MSN’s evolving certification process. These are product and company specific and have been refined by people who deal with these products daily. You are certified as a skilled user of their systems. Period.
No, what has my head spinning are the oversold SEO and SEM certification programs now being offered by various groups, gurus, training sites and trade organizations. For little more than $100 you can be “certified” as an SEO/SEM professional by an interactive piece of software that offers no human contact. Or, for a few thousand more, you can jump onto some traveling road show being offered by self-proclaimed experts who have paid to piggy-back onto a trade show. Or… you can visit an online “training center” where in the same week you can learn website design, SEO, HTML and quite possibly spot welding – all from the same instructors.
My point is this: There are a number of very smart people out there who do the hard work of search marketing on a daily basis. They have developed systems, tools, best practices and done extensive research that they apply daily in the management of successful search marketing campaigns. These aren’t commentators, they’re the real professionals – the folks in the trenches – and few of them have the time to launch a traveling road show hawking classes that take them away from the SEO/SEM clients they serve daily.
If you have a chance to learn from these people, do it. Their insights are invaluable. But don’t go looking for a meaningless certificate to hang on the wall. If they’re really working in the business, they don’t have the time to invent one.