Why SEO Should Be Taught in College

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    If you were to interview someone working in SEO and ask how he or she began their careers, most of them will say that they just “happened” to become interested in the industry. These people may have a degree in English, or were avid writers, and then learned the SEO tools needed to promote their content. Or perhaps, they were web designers, and learned a few more skills that could make them an extra buck. People just seem to happen to fall into SEO.

    SEO in College

    Photo Credit: Alejandro Escamilla

    The reality is that people are not taught SEO, but they should be, especially in higher education. Without a standard for the field of SEO, anyone and everyone can say they know some SEO.

    Most students graduating with a degree (with any correlation to marketing) will say they know SEO, and then they will mention something about “meta tags and keywords.” The reality is: these graduates know nothing of SEO, and it is one of the reasons that SEO gets a bad wrap and little attention by most consumers.

    In fact, when working with clients, most wonder why I can’t accomplish #1 rankings for every keyword in a week. Clients say, “It’s just a little tweaking of the keyword tags, right?” The lack of educational standards in SEO is weakening the field and the credibility of our jobs.

    As a former graduate student in media communication and an instructor at the college level, I have worked with a fair share of students and peers who graduate unintentionally lying to potential employers. On their resumes, they put those three letters (because they understand meta tags!), and they have no idea what SEO actually entails.

    With this in mind, there is a huge opportunity for search engine marketing to be taught in higher education. Here are four reasons why it should be:

    1.Creating an educational standard for SEO increases the credibility of the field.

    I have worked with countless clients that want SEO services, but they are afraid that I will rip them off. Why? Because countless companies promised them #1 rankings, wasted their money, and now their website is worse than before. I, now, have to convince my client that we do things by the book, white-hat. I have to convince clients that my field is legitimate.

    Without an educational standard for SEO, anyone can claim to do SEO, and if an 18-year-old blogger with no formal training can do SEO, then I cannot demand a high salary (or even a job).

    The lack of educational training in SEO (mainly because the fields are new) is destroying our field.

    2.SEO can help new graduates get their foot in the door at a reputable marketing agency.

    At the beginning of the article, it was stated that most people just “happen” to fall into the world of SEO. Teaching students the tools needed for SEO can help them be “prepared” to work in SEO.

    When most students graduate with their B.S. they have three options 1) take an internship, 2) go to graduate school, or 3) move back in with their parents and work an hourly job.

    But teaching students SEO, can help students get ahead. This can help students land jobs such as “SEO Manager,” “SEO Strategist,” or even “Entry Level SEO.” These jobs are better than internships because they A) are paid, and B) generally, have room for growth. The SEO community is like none other, and most bosses are willing to take a chance on someone who understands the power of links.

    Going to college is about getting a job, and teaching students SEO equips them to do just that.

    3.SEO encourages analytical thinking, and that is what higher education is all about.

    In college, you are taught math, english, business, art and psychology. All of these subjects flow into search engine marketing:

    • Math: If you know how to interpret data, you will go far in SEO. Basic mathematic courses teach data interpretation, trends, and understanding graphs.
    • English: If you are an outstanding writer, with content free of grammar errors, you will be an SEO rock star. English teaches the basics of writing, and SEO adapts that content for the web. English helps writers crafts creative ideas in a way that is free of errors and typos.
    • Business: Most colleges will require you to take one business course, or a similar marketing course. In these classes, you will learn about the value of a customer, attrition, and how gaining customers is everything. SEO evolves around these very principles.
    • Art and Psychology: Anyone who has dabbled in SEO knows that UI, UX, and web design play a huge role. The basics of art, the fundamentals of web design, and the understanding of the human (psychology) largely effect SEO in terms of design, analytics (flow, bounce rate, etc…) and the users interactions.

    If SEO is an underlying element in all of these classes, why isn’t it taught as a course in a design, marketing, journalism, or a business program? It absolutely should be.

    The end goal of higher education should allow students to take theoretical ideas and use them in every day life. The problem with most graduates today is that they have very little practical application, thus the need for internships.

    Teaching students search engine marketing a) builds on a foundation they already have, and b) gives them a tangible skill that puts them ahead of the curve.

    Teach SEO

    Photo Credit: Alejandro Escamilla

    To not teach students SEO, is to not equip them.

    4.Finally, One course in SEO is a resume builder for graduating students.

    SEO should not just be a buzzword that’s used on resumes. It should be a skill that is taught in a class, like the Adobe Creative Suite (for Graphic Designers) or Final Cut (for Broadcast). A great course in SEO could cover any of these topics and students would graduate with these skills on their resume:

    • HTML
    • CSS
    • Google Analytics
    • PPC – Adwords
    • Raven Tools
    • Link Building
    • Blog Writing
    • Keyword Research
    • On-Page Optomization
    • Lead Development
    • WordPress (CMS)
    • The list could go on….

    Instead of students graduating and writing “excellent communication skills” (when their skills may not be excellent) they can now write tangible skills on their resume.


    It has been said that you cannot teach students SEO because the field and search algorithms are constantly changing.

    Answer: Everything is changing. Teaching students SEO is just like teaching them design, engineering, or nursing; every field is constantly changing (maybe not as quickly as SEO), but there is still change. If you really want to be good at anything, you have to keep up with it.

    Most importantly, we have to remember that teaching SEO (or any subject for that matter) is more than just teaching students a subject. The best professors engrain in their students a passion for learning, and that is what SEO is all about – constantly learning.

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      1. Brooke D. says

        I couldn’t agree with you more. Technology is constantly changing, as are the devices and programs we use it for, so why shouldn’t we begin learning these tools in the field of education? Isn’t the point of education to prepare us for the real world and to obtain a job? SEO is something a lot of employers are looking for as an essential skill, and I believe our education programs should be preparing us for this.

        We are constantly updating our programs (Ex: Adobe, Apple, Final Cut), which means our educators must adjust their lesson plans, so why not adjust for SEO as well. Great article!

      2. Richard Horvath says

        You Are absolutely correct that SEO should be taught among the curriculum . Even though the industry is always changing, there is valuable information to be had. Young-professionals will benefit from understanding how companies help drive traffic to their sites, and how to keep their interest.

        We look forward to more posts like this one,

        Richard Horbath

        • says

          Thanks Richard.

          I completely agree and wanted to add (after you clarified it), that I don’t think SEO should be a college major. My case is NOT that SEO should be a major in college, rather, it should be a course (or two) in the greater scope of a related subject, such as Web Design, Marketing, Business, etc…

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