commit: 6b2ca8a - #414 (2014-03-05 12:54:44 -0500)
I've been in numerous discussions about this topic with those around me, but I would like to see what the Inbound.org community has to say on the subject. The question I have for you is simple. Is a college degree neccesary for SEO? I can see points on both sides but personally I found myself paying thousands of dollars for teachers to teach me something I learned 2 years previously. SEO is developing so fast that colleges can't seem to keep up. With all the information online, and building experience with my own projects, I didn't need an expensive piece of paper to tell me I can be successful.
As I look around at the big names in the tech industry it is full of people who left college to pursue their dreams. Rand Fishkin himself dropped out to start what is now the leading SEO company in the world. I'm not saying going to college is a waste of time, it certainly has its place. However, do you feel it's necessary for SEO's to have a degree in order to be successful in the industry? For you business owners, how much weight does a college degree play in an applicant who demonstrates all the skills you were looking for?
It seems to me that businesses are looking less and less at degrees and more and more at experience and passion in the individual. Then again I could be completely wrong about all of this. What are your thoughts on this?
I don't think it is necessary to be successful in SEO, however, I do believe it can be very beneficial. That being said, I've seen some of the most motivated people hustle to learn and then implement the skills necessary to be "successful" SEOs. I also agree with your passion comment. If someone has enough drive (passion) to become successful at a particular task or career, I feel that it is hard for a degree to hold them back from success.
Completely agree with you. No degree can guarantee your worth and skill development in a particular field. And as far as SEO is concerned, the more you get involved with the marketing structures of web 2.0, the more you get better with SEO.
No, but the person will probably have significantly better writing skills, which is a top requirement.
Agree! plus one have to have a clear understanding of market and how marketing stuff works.
I completely disagree that college degrees imply better writing skills. One of the worst writers I know has an English degree and couldn't spell his way out of a paper bag.
That's what Kane is saying actually... college degree is not must but having a good writing skill is!
That's a bit anecdotal.
Say that a certain percentage of high school graduates have "good" writing skills, I would assume that upon completing college their writing skills have gotten better, not worse. And some percentage of the people who had "bad" writing skills in high school will have switched to the "good" group upon graduating college. If both of those assumptions are correct, then having a college degree does increase the probability that you're a good writer.
SEO is a interdisciplinary field within online MARKETING. In my opinion it would be valuable to have at least a clou about marketing which can give you a degree. Especially as a in-house SEO I see that you have to deal with a lot of different people (developer, designer, product management etc.) You need good communication skills to convince those people, when dealing with the board you need to know how to present projects etc.. I think a degree mixed with good life experience is the best prerequisite for an SEO
Yes, you need good communication skills for certain jobs within the search community. However, do you have to go to college to acquire good communication skills? Nope. Some people are naturally suited to be great communicators. I'm not even sure it is something a marketing degree would aid you in.This isn't saying that certain degrees can't be beneficial to Search. I'd imagine a lot of people with degrees in Computer Science, Mathematics, Statistics, etc. would be well suited to some of the more in depth portions of SEO.
I know many successful SEOs who don't have a degree in a relevant field or a degree at all for matter. The fact of the matter is that SEO is such a new and dynamic field that a university program that teaches it wouldn't be able to stay up to date. I'd hire the best candidate for the job, degree or not.
I came out of university with an English Language & Literature degree. In the age of content marketing, this degree has no doubt helped me in producing engaging content. If asked whether I saw it as a requirement, or other degrees such as marketing, then I'd say no, almost definitely not.
Just to pick up on this point:
SEO is developing so fast that colleges can't seem to keep up. With all the information online, and building experience with my own projects, I didn't need an expensive piece of paper to tell me I can be successful.
I actually think that tutors at a college/university would be able to keep up and adapt - I think the practical problem would be aggregate marking of coursework and exams. It would be extremely difficult to benchmark and classify people's work year on year, as the industry changes so much.
I was thinking the same, I have being to various interviews
where they have asked for a degree in business, marketing or similar.
I have also spoken to some huge agencies in the UK and most
of them don’t care for a degree as long as you have a passion for SEO and you’re
willing to show you want to learn.
I think knowing the basics and having skills in stuff like
Excel, Powerpoint and also being good at writing works well
I don't think so, I've met many SEOs with degrees and they aren't that great. The flip side is, are there any great SEOs without a degree?It's not necessary but it will help them. It shows they are able to stick to something, they are able to do hard work, be taught academic skills which should help them understand between the different kinds of sources.
In sum its not necessary but it would definitely help them.
Disclosure: I have a degree :)
There are a ton of top SEO's that don't have a degree. Barry Adams, Mike King, Justin Briggs, to name a few. Jon Cooper became a top link builder before he graduated High School! Bottom line, it doesn't matter how you learn. If you rock, you rock.
Considering I don't have a college degree, I'd say no. However, I realise that college degrees serve a purpose beyond instruction in the chosen field of study, and that is proof (to some degree) of a certain level of intellectual prowess. And, trying not to sound too conceited, this has never been a problem for me (I'm a member of Mensa, which apparently indicates to the uninitiated that I'm pretty smart, though my own experiences as a Mensa member have made me realise that a high IQ does not correlate well with the ability to think properly).
When recruiting new staff, their college degree is one of the lesser bits of information. I'm more focused on their work experience, personality traits, and attitude. Specific SEO skills can be taught, after all.
No. I wouldn't hesitate to hire someone without a degree if they were smart, passionate and had obvious web skills.
That being said, I got a couple of degrees and don't regret the decision. It definitely helped me reach where I am today.
Having an education and having a degree are two very different things.
The great thing about SEO is that there is so much to learn, and there are so many related areas that directly intertwine with SEO strategy and tactics (marketing, social media, public relations, computer science, etc) that those who succeed in the industry are those who are willing to not only continuously learn themselves, apply what they've learned to better SEO itself and teach what they've learned to others to better the industry & promote innovation.
I agree with that others have said about intelligence and passion being requirements as well- and obviously neither are classes offered at (most? all?) universities. However, college helps many realize what their passions are, how to focus their intelligence and learn some of the discipline needed for the professional world. Others teach themselves or learn from interactions and experience. Still more are incredibly smart and innovative, yet maybe not so professionally focused or groomed - but they can be taught these things.
Do I regret getting my undergrad degree from Indiana University? No. To be honest, I didn't really want to attend college to begin with (thanks mom & dad) - but I'm glad I did & am grateful to my parents for their support & encouragement throughout - because I personally benefited greatly from it.
Do I judge others for not having a degree or consider them less qualified? HELL no, there are people I learn from on a daily basis who don't have a degree. To tell the truth, I don't even know whether or not most people I learn from have degree(s), because it is such a non-factor in measuring professional or industry intelligence.
Recruiters are incredibly short sighted if they cannot look past a lack of a degree - which is a problem internal to an organization, not the industry as a whole.
In short: it doesn't matter how you know what you know, as long as you know it, can speak intelligently & passionately about it and always want to know more.
I personally think it's only a matter of time until businesses start to re-alloacte their funds from PR and advertising to SEO. And if higher education is quick on the uptake, they're going to want to start adjusting the way they teach those two subjects.
If you could combine the three (PR, advertising, and SEO) then you should have a pretty killer subject that will be able to take in all the old school tactics for PR and advertising and combine it with SEO. All three are evolving, but PR and advertising don't hold a candle to SEO.
Having a degree can open certain doors for you, but I think it doesn't matter as much what subject you actually study. I also think degrees in the internet/marketing/startup world will become increasingly unimportant...a degree is not a measure of intelligence, nor a reflection of how successful you'll be professionally.
I personally don't think a degree is necessary, but there are different things to look at. For example, if someone didn't get a degree, what were they doing with that time? Were they working on a project that is relevant to the skill set you're looking for?
I would prefer to have someone with two years of experience than someone fresh out of college, however having a degree gets you a foot in the door. It's hard enough to find an entry level position with a degree, let alone without one.
Regarding the comments about copywriting, there are many ways to improve your writing skills. Sure, college aids in that, but again that's why it's important to know what a non-degree holder was doing with their time. Would you want a popular blogger without a degree writing for you or someone with a marketing degree? Vise versa, would you want an analytical graduate doing your analytics or a popular blogger who doesn't have their analytics goals set up?
A degree is another form of experience. If it fits what you're looking for, than great.
Understanding marketing theory is increasingly important as SEO moves from the technical tweaks to content strategy. Additionally, aligning a site strategy to an organisation's overall marketing plan will be difficult if you don't have at least a basic understanding of subjects such as diversification ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diversification_(marketing_strategy) ) or haven't read a little Kotler ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Kotler )
My degree was in marketing and that knowledge has assisted me massively in bridging the technical divide when explaining digital marketing strategy to non-techy marketing folks.
That said, these days, you can learn so much yourself online that the concept of a degree is somewhat anachronistic - for the old school it is proof of a certain level of competence I guess, but if someone can demonstrate knowledge, insight and understanding through their work or output, it's a bit more of an even playing field. Especially when SEO/content marketing success can be so easily measured.
"for the old school it is proof of a certain level of competence."
This is exactly true. I worked in the higher ed space for a while and surveys showed HR often uses the degree as an arbitrary filter to cut down on the applications they have to slog through.
I've witnessed firsthand that people get SEO work based on the social proof that they are legit: what SEO blogs have they commented on? how active are they on twitter? what blogs have they been published on? do they have their own blog? If so, how's their writing?
To do that stuff, nobody needs a degree.
Personally, I'd like to see degrees stop being used as a hiring filter and individuals start proving in the social sphere that they care about the industry they want to work in.
As one who worked in SEO before earning a Master's Degree in Internet Marketing I can say that SEO can certainly be done without a degree. One can learn keyword research, how to optimize a page, how to create content, how to analyze data, etc. But I would argue that the college degree helps one think at a higher level - thinking strategically, communicating, being disciplined and organized, managing operations, working across digital channels, and bring it all together to ultimately create value for a client.
Sure I learned loads about inbound marketing at school, but more importantly I learned how to bring it all together to create and execute a strategy.
I certainly understand that SEO moves quickly, but I would argue that schools can keep up. Many of the new trends and tactics may change, but the core of SEO and marketing remains the same. Agencies are faced with the same problem of staying up to date with what creates value and somehow they can stay alive and deliver value. So why can't schools do the same? In the case of my alma mater Full Sail University, graduates can go back and retake any course for free to stay up to date on the latest trends and tactics.
I know numerous grads from Full Sail that have gone on to do great things and be very successful in their own right. And just because their name is not Rand or Will does not make them irrelevant. No offense to Rand or Will - you both are brilliant :)
All this to say, it comes down to how you best learn and absorb information. Do you learn best through a formal classroom environment? Great. Or do you learn best through hands on experience? Brilliant. The key is to finding the opportunity and environment that will support your preferred learning style. And by no means does having a degree guarantee anything. All it is is a learning style. It's up to you to translate that degree into success.
Is your question, should I get a college degree if I don't have one AND will this be beneficial to SEO? OR I already have a college degree, would getting a marketing degree or one with focus on SEO help me?
I think in the first case having a degree would help your career just because it proves you have been educated to a particular standard.
In the case of the latter - I don't think a college degree is going to help you enormously with SEO. From what I have seen getting a thorough grounding in the concepts and practicing SEO is what will make you better. Your going to run up against unique challenges and have to find creative solutions to those which will in turn expose you to more tool & techniques.
I also don't think the content in SEO is rocket science unless your getting deep into analytics. As others have suggested I think the sheer pace and amount of subject matter thats a challenge to digest.
Nope, don't think it's necessary at all. My degree is in classical piano performance, which is basically worthless anyway - unless you want to check credentials before hiring me at your church, wedding or funeral ;)
I might also add, Rand doesn't have a college degree.
A degree is a piece of paper that proves you can apply yourself to learning a field. Which is nice, but not necessary if you're too busy applying yourself to that field to bother getting one in the first place. I'd say college is a worthwhile investment - as is education on any level. I'd say there's a correlation between being capable in your field and having a degree in said field. But it's certainly not causal or without some extremely important exceptions.
For employment in the United States in 2013, not having at least a BA means your resume isn't even looked at. This is the reality for entry level positions of nearly every discipline. Startups, agencies, and certainly with corporate America... it's all the same. They all want a BA. Sure there are outliers who stand out and get noticed, but for the majority of job seekers, not having a degree is the equivalent of career suicide.
A degree might be necessary to get in the door - businesses are still very old school in their mentality as far as formal education goes. You're right to say that it will be far more challenging for you to get in the door with some businesses without one.Likewise, If you're not starting the business yourself, there's no question that a degree will likely aid in getting the job unless, as I mentioned earlier, you've been hustling in that industry already and proving you can get things done. While degrees are nice to see on resumes, recruiters are still reading about what work you've actually gone out and done.A degree proves you can learn something. Results, however, prove you can DO something.So, a degree no doubt helps getting the job. But it's far from necessary to show you can DO the job if you've been applying yourself already.
No. I nor my brother (who got me into the field) have degrees in marketing, english nor business yet we are successful in the SEO field. I could talk business shop better than the majority of business owners I meet and though I am not that beautiful of a writer I get along just fine. Also for those who want to know a good bit more about business but can't be bothered with an MBA, I recommend reading Rework by the guys over at 37signals!
"If given a choice between investing in someone who has read REWORK or has an MBA, I'm investing in REWORK every time. This is a must read for every entrepreneur." --Mark Cuban
I can only speak from personal experience honestly and from those who I have studied. I honestly believe that SEO is too fast paced to justify schooling for. With Google implementing 400+ algorithmic changes in a year the second a textbook or course would be created it would become obsolete.
I do believe however that learning the core psychology behind marketing could be extremely beneficial, yet for some people this comes naturally. When I was first getting into SEO I read SEOmoz's beginner's guide which taught me the general idea of SEO and the structure of who, what, when, where and why. I also read the 'Secrets of SEO' by Danny Dover and Rand which gave me a lot more in-depth insight into SEO psychology. In a way print can work for SEO yet I have to say that about 60% of the "best practices" type topics in the 'Secrets of SEO' are now outdated.
I don't think its necessary, but I think as with anything its a plus. The one thing I am noticing more and more of though is that more companies that are hiring are listing it as a requirement and in most cases want a Bachelor's or higher in marketing, communications, or PR. Makes it pretty frustrating when you are on the job hunt and have 5+ years experience and only an AA in Graphics Design.
As a small business owner, I am certainly open to the idea of hiring someone who has the right skills- degree or not. But as for my own experience, I find having college degrees opens doors more easily. When I say I have an MBA, it makes people more comfortable. Did I learn stuff in my undergrad business degree that I use today? Not really. Do I use stuff from my MBA studies? Not really. I fully believe that my skills would be the same now, degree or not. I learned from work experiences, not classes.
So I guess if you look at college to teach you a technical skill like SEO- then a degree is not really useful. But for long-term career value, I think it is important.
I guess it depends on how you are measuring value.
If you try to get a job at a big SEO company or a big agency and you have a degree in Marketing or IT ect, it will help you (but it will not be the be all end all)
That been said experience at big well known companies and a good online profile and proven results from your past work will also be a very important factor in the interview process. I know because in 2012 I probably interviewed close to 50 people for SEO/content positions.
If you want to work in specific country's, I also believe you need a degree for the visa application process.
I guess it depends on how you view SEO.
SEO 'techniques' of the future will not be in the control of the agency, but will depend on how Google and others change their algorithms. This was always the case to an extent, but Google are now having to compete for online revenue, whereas previously, they had much of this to themselves.
In order to increase their revenues, the Google model is changing to disallow previous SEO techniques, making people move towards paid for products like PPC instead. A bit like the tax system, it will become a process of identifying SEO 'loopholes' and then shutting them down.
Unless there is a degree with some element of forensic research into finding loopholes, it won't be much use for very long. You may find that a resource such as inbound.org is a better source of info!
I have interviewed many applicants for SEO positions and the degree is the last thing that I look at. I totally agree with what Megan Brown mentioned earlier about an education and a degree being totally different.
When I look to take on SEO's I look at 3 main aspects, 1. How they come across in the interview, 2. There general knowledge on SEO. I am not worried about specifics as I can teach it. I am concerned that if they do not have the experience they have taken the time to go out and research the subject. 3. Are they savvy. No3 is probably the most important for me, I want someone who is a bit scrappy, someone who doesn't take the obvious choice and is prepared to do things differently to get a result.
I have had degree holders turn up for interviews who have the academics on paper but little in the way of common sense. Then there are the others who think that it is there right to a job because they have the degree.
That aside, I do always ask for a certain level of English And Maths. Generally in the UK I say GCSE (sorry don't know the US equivalent) grade C and above in both although if the other aspects are right then they can get interviews with a slightly lower grade.
Great comment, Rich. This makes me want to start a discussion around how to interview SEOs. Think I'll go do that now...
Thanks Jonathon, I will check in a bit, that will be an interesting topic. Especially as there seem to be so many different view points on this matter.
I thought this landing page for an online university's Internet Marketing BS and MS were apropos. Just think, you have to wait four years to learn advanced SEO. Suckas!
I think a college degree will fill the gap of minimum requirement for a candidate. I think having a college degree is always a good addon ! but yes it can not decide about candidate's ability !
I think it's more important for today's SEO to have experience in traditional forms of media like TV and print. I's there that you get to really understand the true value of organic search as you see how expensive and how limited these forms of media are. You also get to see exactly what the vast majority of marketing execs and business owners deal with much more frequently than forms of online marketing.
Today's SEO can't just be a techie or good at building links. As we move forward into the age of mobile and social proof, the real seo "expert" is going to understand how to bring everything together into one campaign.
I think a degree for SEO would be thoroughly useless, although a degree in marketing helps, especially if supported by a lot of knowledge about the online marketing environment... and then PRACTICE! Although you will still learn more in three months of work than in three years of academic studies!
When I did my degree (Law, University of Glasgow) there was a pretty strong focus on transferable skills from day 1. Albeit I was taking a vocational course, the emphasis was not entirely restricted to that field and in fact the University provided us with information in our first year detailing the many and varied non-legal careers that Glasgow law graduates had gone on to have. I think many of the skills and much of the experience that I acquired in my studies and subsequent legal career are absolutely helpful in the work I do today.
Hello Brandon,This is a nice question. SEO is complicated but it’s not really necessary that one must be a degree holder just to understand the complexities of this subject. If you are the person who is willing to learn and have knowledge on IT, then you can be a successful SEOer. Besides, I know a lot of non-degree holders who are more successful than people who even have a master’s degree. SEO is only for those people who would like to learn.