DMA Offering Search Marketing Certification Program

The Direct Marketing Association has
announced a new certification program in search marketing, which is to launch at
its annual conference next month. From the press
release:

Driven by DMA’s Search Engine Marketing Council (SEMC), with cooperation from
the major search engines Yahoo!, MSN, and Google, the program has been developed
in response to the nearly daily changes in this dynamic marketplace that
profoundly affects the tactics and knowledge used by today’s search marketers.

and:

DMA’s certification program is the first program developed by a major
marketing association designed to train and certify the level of competency of
in-house and agency marketers. Members of the DMA involved with program
development include marketers, media properties, and search engines.

The program will include two levels of certification:

  • Level 1: Designed for individuals able to work under the direction of an
    advanced search engine marketer. These individuals would know and be able to
    employ current best practices in organic or paid search marketing.
  • Level 2: Designed for individuals who are capable of devising, creating,
    and managing effective search engine marketing programs within agencies or
    as lead members of in-house marketing teams. At this level, individuals can
    seek advanced certification in organic or paid search

A new site for the program,
www.dmasearchcertification.org
, currently directs over to this

page
, which makes it seem as if certification is only through attending the
DMA conference. That’s not the case, as covered further below.

Search marketing certification has
long been
suggested
(and see also
this), but
the issue has generally raised concerns within the search marketing community
itself, which doesn’t agree on standards. That controversy and debate is a major
reason why the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization
avoided
pushing
for certification program when it began back in 2004. It was a
morass SEMPO didn’t want to step into.

The certification gap has largely been filled by the search engines
themselves. Both
Google
and
Yahoo
offer programs designed to help search marketing firms and agencies
present themselves as certified, accredited or professional in someway (though
Canadians are

overlooked
by Google’s program). These programs focus only on paid search,
however.

Now DMA is stepping forward into the space, promising certification for both
paid and organic search. Here are some questions I had for them, along with
answers:

Q. Exactly what cooperation are the search engines providing?

The search engines have members on DMA’s Search Engine Marketing Council (SEMC),
which is driving this initiative. This participation has resulted in
tremendous support, including to access to some of their training own
materials. As the program is still under development, the extent of their
involvement will also continue to evolve.

Q. Are the search engine endorsing this certification?

There are no specific endorsements. DMA’s intent is not to compete with
existing certification programs, but to encourage DMA members and the direct
marketing community at large to take advantage of the opportunity to leverage
the expertise of industry leading interactive marketers as they continue to
utilize search interactive technology more effectively within their own
marketing programs.

Q. Any concerns that existing search marketers might be concerned that
this effectively makes them "uncertified?"

There are several opportunities for search engine marketers to pursue
professional development and certification. DMA’s certification program
reflects the training of the marketers DMA member companies and agencies
employ and we also intend to provide a training path for their junior
marketing staff. We are excited to offer a program that enhances the
performance of DMA members as a service to them and the entire direct
marketing community and intend for this to exist as resource.

Q. Is the only way to enter the certification program to attend the
first four modules as part of the conference?

We are launching the program at in San Francisco at DMA 06 as a preview.
Marketers interested in DMA’s certification don’t have to attend these modules
to enter the program. They can send in an application at any time and then
take the coursework.

So far, I haven’t seen a ton of reaction to the announcement, either positive
or negative, though it has only just come out. Jennifer Laycock over at Search
Engine Guide
writes:

I can understand that it might lend some credibility to search marketers that
are just starting out and have yet to establish a reputation for themselves, but
I’m hard pressed to believe that successful search marketers that are already in
the business are going to go through the trouble of taking the courses required
to earn the certification. I see this as something similar to Google’s
certification program for AdWords….

Time will tell how this gets received by the community. There was certainly a
time coming where someone needed to step up to the plate and offer some type of
certification, but I’ll be curious to see if the DMA is the one that is able to
actually pull it off.

I agree — it’s very much watch and see. I certainly believe there are plenty
of good basics that can be learned, to the degree people can say they’ve been
trained or educated in the area. Certification still feels like a charged word,
however — suggesting those without it are perhaps subpar.

Then again, if Andy Beal

can join
SEMPO after being

so dubious
about the group initially, maybe the times are a changing and
ripe for certification to be successful :)

Postscript: Threadwatch reports that SEMPO is apparently to launch a training program later this year

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