SEM Going Legit – Literally EDU

Some of my readers have voiced a concern about the legitimacy of online classes. Many have a strong desire for a valid, and perhaps -- dare I say -- accredited SEM course.

One of my readers, Kristi Conley, shared this comment:

... I have often felt frustration and hopelessness when trying to figure out the best way to help clients. When I returned to school over a year ago with a desire to work in Internet marketing, I was surprised to find there wasn't any real training, never mind a degree, that fit what I wanted to do. Most advisors I spoke to couldn't provide direction and weren't even familiar with the industry.

I have now come to believe the skills I need are a merging of different fields. I definitely need marketing knowledge as well as computer skills. I have built my own "degree plan," and realize it is a constantly evolving practice. The danger is sometimes the frustration is so overwhelming that I feel like it's not worth it and want to quit. Establishing standards for the industry would greatly benefit creative, innovative, intelligent people like myself; people the industry is in danger of losing because of a lack of standards and training.

Which is exactly what we're going to address today.

Accreditation and Time

After digging through some research and sources, we found that while SEM or SEO is an up-and-coming topic and a hot-button for savvy college students, the colleges and universities don't have it so easy. Did I mention accredited? That's right, before anyone in the post-secondary world can create a course, it must be created in theory, pass through boards and deans, and be completely vetted. That can take anywhere from two to five years.

That's not to say, however, that just because "SEO and SEM Go To White Castle" hasn't made its premiere that we don't see those characters in cameo appearances elsewhere. Boston University, as well as other schools, have course modules of and about SEM and SEO. These pieces parts appear in Internet marketing, digital marketing, or e-marketing courses. As far as creating a major in SEM, it's a long way off. I'd be happy to see a class.

Continuing Education, the SEM Way

And classes we found. The following is a list of a few different colleges and universities around the country that offer courses dedicated to SEM or some sort of Web marketing. Of course, these are all contained within the non-accredited, continuing education branches of these schools. However, it gives us hope. Take a look at these programs and then contact one of your local colleges to see if they have something similar.

A couple notes on the listings:

  • "Extended" and "Continuing Education Department" mean the same thing. These are all continuing education as official, sanctioned curriculum classes have not yet appeared.

  • Depending on the listing and the information, prices and CEUs (continuing education units) run the gambit.

  • I was able to find these listings (and all the others I didn't include) by Googling for: "search engine marketing" site:.edu

Glasscock School of Continuing Studies -- Rice University

In this course designed for those with varying levels of knowledge and experience in SEO, participants will learn thinking on how to improve Web site rankings across the major search engines and how to increase qualified traffic. They'll also learn how to analyze search engine results and edit a Web site to increase traffic and conversions. The basic principles of how search engines work will be discussed as well as advanced SEO techniques, including how to optimize dynamic pages and how to increase conversion rates without sacrificing rankings. Training materials will include the latest in industry developments.

UC Berkley Extension

SEM, a popular and ever-growing Web marketing application, is the overarching term to describe marketing a Web site through search engines, including single or combined efforts to improve organic listings, running pay-per-click (PPC) ads, using pay-per-inclusion, and getting listed in vertical search placements. This workshop, intended for a variety of marketing professionals, teaches the basics of SEM and provides a solid foundation to intelligently and cost-efficiently apply SEM to a current or future business.

Rutgers Continuing Education -- PPC or SEM

This nationally recognized Pay Per Click Marketing (PPCM) online course and training program has been developed because of the high demand for PPC marketing specialists. PPC marketing is a sub-set of SEM, and refers to a specific type of advertising where you pay a search engine every time a potential customer clicks on your ad. These ads appear on search engine results pages (SERPs) and sometimes on the pages of sites within a search engine's network of partners. A job in the paid search industry can be unbelievably lucrative. As noted recently by Jennifer Laycock of Search Engine Guide, "There are quite literally more jobs than there are skilled marketers and salaries can skyrocket to almost embarrassing levels." This extreme demand means PPC marketers can pick and choose their jobs and/or clients. Experts in select specialties such as PPC advertising are enjoying even higher demand than usual, as advertisers outbid each other to have their site shown for popular keyword searches on Google, Yahoo, and MSN.

This is but a small smattering of what's out there. If you're aware of other offerings at another university, please e-mail me with the details.