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Why is SEO Not Taught in School?

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SEO / January 28, 2020

I’ve been asking myself this question ever since I started doing SEO and teaching others how to do “good” SEO. For a long time, I was frustrated that I had to wait until the very end of my college degree to learn the basics of technical SEO, but with several years of experience behind me, it makes a little bit more sense.

SEO Is An Unusual Field of Study

In my mind, there are two ways to get into SEO:

  1. Have a technical background that allows you to start doing technical SEO on a website.
  2. Have a background in sales & marketing and apply customer acquisition techniques on a website.

In both of the above situations, SEO is (in most cases) the last skill a student learned in a standard College course or training. A technical developer or a marketing strategist rarely gets to talk about SEO. It is often something they will find on the Internet, almost by accident. It is simply a more “mysterious” discipline than, for example, paid media.

That being said, there are resources for learning SEO if you have a technical background, just as there are similar resources for a sales-focused approach. The resources are there, just use them wisely!

SEO is Constantly Evolving

In a presentation I made last year, I mentioned that Google changes the way it analyzes websites, on average, 8 times a day (a nice statistic from our friends at MOZ). As a new teacher (I’ll discuss this in more detail below), I understand the problem of having to reconfirm a course curriculum almost weekly… 

Some SEO experts will say that a good search engine optimization strategy is designed and executed to be immune to algorithm changes. I apologize in advance, but I completely disagree. No company is safe from a database refresh or the removal of duplicate results in SERPs. The medium is changing quickly and schools and teachers might not want to take the risk of presenting information that could be obsolete in a few weeks.

Then again, there are SEO concepts that remain immutable and will always be valid, no matter how much search engines change. Technical SEO, for example, has kept the same foundations for a very long time and Google is very vocal about what it likes and dislikes on websites.

SEO Requires a Complex Expertise

It’s quite obvious, there are different aspects of SEO, and each of them requires a particular expertise. This is why, in my opinion, it is difficult to find a “good” SEO expert. Too often these people only have experience in one vertical: technical, content or links.

A good SEO expert might not master these three SEO sub-disciplines perfectly, but will proudly wear the label of “t-shaped marketer” or “v-shaped marketer”. Someone who knows a little bit of everything in all three spheres, but he’ll specialize, for example, in technical SEO (maybe due to a technical background or a passion for code). Obviously, an expert in all three disciplines would be ideal, but we must remain realistic.

There are excellent SEO guides to help you understand all the complexity of this digital marketing tactic. Whether it’s the MOZ guide, the Hubspot guide or the Google guide… the resources are accessible to anyone looking to learn more about SEO!

Is It Possible to Teach SEO?

When I take a step back, it doesn’t seem like such a crazy idea to teach SEO. But, there are a few things to consider:

  1. When teaching SEO, you need to get back to basics and focus on areas that aren’t really impacted by search engine updates.
  2. We must also take into account the students’ backgrounds. Do they have a technical background? Do they have a sales background? Have they learned the basics elsewhere?
  3. The resources used for teaching must be up to date and the professor must always be on the lookout for changes in the industry.

And… I’ll have the honor to test these statements at the Cégep de Saint-Jérôme starting February 7, 2020. I’ll be teaching a course called: “Solutions Web en commerce électronique”, for 11 weeks. Teaching is a real challenge, but teaching a course on a constantly changing technical discipline is even harder.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pascal Côté

SEO Director @ Bloom

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