What does ‘certified’ mean in digital marketing terms?

Posted on August 19, 2019


Most people understand the terms ‘certified’ or ‘qualified’. It means someone has taken a course, or series of courses, in a particular subject or field and has successfully passed tests, assessments and exams to gain a qualification in that field. If we’re looking for an electrician, we want one who is qualified. If we’re looking for a gas engineer, we want one who is qualified. If we’re getting on a plane for our holiday, we definitely want a pilot who is certified.

We wouldn’t expect Dave from the pub to be flying the plane, fitting a gas fire or rewiring our house electrics, would we? Unless he also happened to be qualified in one of those fields.

With some jobs, though, it might be OK to have Dave from the pub wade in on. For example, doing a house clearance, moving some furniture or maybe even giving you a lift to the airport (presumably a suitable time after he has left the pub). It’s also worth noting that Dave, from the pub, probably doesn’t have the experience or necessary insurance to perform those jobs so, while he may be more than capable, if something goes wrong you won’t be covered.

So, what about those jobs that don’t have recognised qualifications, yet some people who do them still call themselves qualified or certified? Digital marketing is one such job. There isn’t a formally recognised qualification to become an ‘SEO expert’ (search engine optimisation expert) and, to be honest, there couldn’t be and indeed shouldn’t be. The skill of digital marketing is more about experience, interpretation and experimentation in order to be actually any good at it. It’s something everyone does differently, and should do differently. If we all did SEO the same how could anyone rank #1 in Google for anything?

I recently saw a company advertise on social media that they were now ‘SEO certified’. They announced this proclaiming they could now use their company’s suite of tools to help clients get more business through their websites, as though they were experts in the industry.

But what does this mean? In this particular context in means the company has passed tests to allow them to sell the digital marketing services of their franchisor. They, themselves, have no previous experience in digital marketing.


They have instead completed a course from their franchisor allowing them to sell SEO as though they were experts. Their customers, most of which would be through their core business of being a printer, would have no idea as to their ability in the digital marketing field. Instead they’d hear how the company was ‘SEO certified’ and, thus, must be good at digital marketing.

You should listen out for people telling you how they’re ‘SEO certified’ and then ask them for examples of their experience. How long have then been in the industry? How many clients have they helped with their digital marketing? What sort of companies have they worked with? What is the biggest change they have seen in recent years within the industry? What are some of the mistakes people make with their digital marketing?

If they can’t answer these questions then perhaps they’re not really experts in digital marketing at all. Perhaps they’re just trying to sell a service they know very little about because they also know their target clients know very little about it.

Technical Director at Engage Web
Darren is Technical Director at Engage Web, as well as being a co-founder of the company. He takes a hands-on approach to SEO and web design, helped by more than 20 years’ experience in these fields.
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