SEO Degrees?

    April 30, 2007

We recently posted the video of an interview I did with Greg Jarboe at the 2007 SES New York conference. In the video, Greg and I were discussing the general lack of qualified search engine professionals that seemed to be one of the main buzz-themes of the conference this year. We both agreed that it was past time for mainstream universities to step up to the plate a little bit and start including some of this stuff in their coursework/disciplinary offerings.

Some of the early comments to the video are common enough. You hear it thrown around as a response to the concept fairly often. Universties can’t teach SEO because it changes too quickly. the technology is just too new… the landscape changes too fast… the rules and guidelines are too fluid. Actually, I really couldn’t disagree more.

As a matter of fact, I kinda think that’s a cop out argument. I’ve been following the industry for almost 8 years now and while things are definitely fast paced and rapidly evolving – I certainly wouldn’t go as far as saying SEO couldn’t or shouldn’t be taught at the university level.

Medicine – for example – another industry that changes at an extremely rapid pace. There are lots of other examples — tax law for accountants, building codes for architects etc etc. Every industry/profession has changes.

Sure the search industry might have more changes than some and the resulting changes might completely invalidate or render moot things that were taught 6 months ago. But I don’t think that is unique to SEO. I also don’t believe it should preclude it as a course of study in universities.

Look at some of the things that change in medicine. Hormone replacement therapy, mammograms, — Vioxx anyone? Things change just as fast in medical science as any other field – that certainly isn’t any kind of argument against medicine being taught as a cirriculum. When things change in medicine there is typically a lot more on the line than a 1st page result for ringtones. For that reason, Doctors are required to complete so many CME (continuing medical education) hours every year depending on their area of practice and what state they are in.

The fact that an industry or discipline ‘changes too much’ is a horrible reason/justification for it not to be taught. The fact of the matter is, there is a huge deficiency of qualified search people right now. There are some organizations like SEMPO and the DMA working to develop/create training and certification programs – and that’ll surely help. At the end of the day however, the question isn’t (nor should it be) SHOULD universities be teaching this stuff – the question is WHEN are they going to start and WHY is it taking them so long.

SEOs constantly complain about their industry being looked down on as shady business. They get all huffy when somebody like Calacanis questions the philosophical merits of their profession, yet many of them bristle at the thought of SEO being taught in colleges. I submit to you that if SEO were part of the marketing curriculum in mainstream universities across the country, it’s own area of specialization -or maybe even it’s own discipline – this staffing crisis be gone in short order. Beyond that, the industry itself would be legitimized and accepted on a far broader basis than it is today.