Should Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Be Taught At College? Pro et Contra
By Melissa Burns
Talk to almost any SEO specialist and you will find out that he doesn’t have any specific education but somehow stumbled upon this job. People from all walks of life become SEO experts: marketers, journalists, mathematicians – it doesn’t matter who you are, as the majority of SEO people are self-taught anyway. But why it is so? Does it have to be so? Why don’t colleges offer a legitimate degree in this sphere?
As it turns out, there are very good reasons for it. Let’s take a look at them.
1. Rules Change Every Day
As Google is the absolute hegemon in the field of web search, any course in SEO would be more or less limited to studying how to influence its results. Unfortunately, Google is very, very far from being a stable organism – on average, its search algorithms go through 500-600 changes per year (it is once or twice every day!). And while absolute majority of these are just minor tweaks that are almost unnoticeable for an untrained eye, at least once a year Google issues major updates like Google Panda or Google Penguin that throw the entire industry into disarray.
As a result, SEO specialists have to follow these changes every day and keep their methods up to date. No formal educational program is capable of keeping abreast with such a swiftly changing industry – yes, there are a few courses that deal with the topic, but what they teach you is likely to become obsolete mere months afterwards.
2. Lack of Universal Standards
Yes, SEO is heavily based on statistics, analytics, raw data and metrics, but it is far more creative than you may suppose. As time goes on, the industry is less and less concerned with the quantity of links and more with their quality, and it means that it will inevitably drift from mechanical link-building to original, creative and unusual methods of attracting traffic. And even now each specialist, firm and team (at least those of them that are worth anything) have their own style of work – website marketing by Eminent SEO, for example, is mostly aimed at increasing organic search engine traffic and site visibility.
3. Variety of Tools
It is only natural that such a popular industry turned into a battleground between dozens upon dozens of developers, all offering their analytic software, campaign building tools, data mining programs, metrics, platforms and so on – yet none of them managed to corner the market. There are lots and lots of tools with similar yet not identical characteristics: some are slightly better for one task, some for another. In such an atmosphere it would be very difficult for a course author to choose any particular tool, because they depend more on preference than anything else.
There is, however, a growing number of people who believe that no matter what, SEO should be taught at college, either as a separate discipline or as a part of a larger course, like Marketing. Their major points are that SEO isn’t unique in being constantly subject to change, and that a more systematic and formalized approach to teaching it would give, firstly, credibility to the industry in general and secondly, a sound base for students to build their further careers on. Even if the principles themselves will get obsolete faster than they are taught, there are still basic notions that remain more or less the same, and knowing these principles students will have easier time adapting to the changing realia of the market than when all they have is method of trial and error.
Some universities introduce SEO-like courses in their curricula even now; it remains to be seen how effective they are going to be.
Melissa Burns graduated from the faculty of Journalism of Iowa State University in 2008. Nowadays she
is an entrepreneur and independent journalist. Her sphere of interests includes startups, information
technologies and how these ones may be implemented in the sphere of education. You may contact
Melissa via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org