4 Reasons Why SEO Courses Aren’t Taught in College and How to Learn It On Your Own

This is a post from our New York consulting intern Samiha Huque. For the past year Samiha has been juggling her time at college and working at Distilled. Samiha is now an alumna of St. John’s University, where she studied Marketing.

Samiha, take it away.


As a college student, you’ve probably noticed that you don’t have very many options for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) courses. During my undergrad experience I’ve had only one class even mention SEO—but after my internship at Distilled, I learned these four reasons why it’s not taught in college.

1. The industry is always changing

SEO is always changing—sometimes even a couple times a year. Why? Because Google is always improving. Google can come out with major changes to their algorithm and shift everything for search marketers. There have already been so many changes. At one point, SEO was all about ranking for the right keywords, sometimes even if it wasn’t relevant. Today that’s not the smartest move to make because as we enter the world of mobile revolution and voice searches, Google wants to focus on user experience and offer a more genuine interaction. The focus from when the industry first began to right now has completely shifted. It would be difficult for a professor to create a course if the rules and guidelines have a tendency to change or be updated.  

2. It’s a pretty broad industry

SEO is a pretty broad industry. It’s a technical business that depends on analytics and data but it can also get pretty creative. SEO can dive into things like creating content, blog post writing, social media, even PR and outreach. This is actually one of my favorite traits of SEO, I love being able to combine all the knowledge I have from all different places and being able to apply it to SEO. It would be hard to create a course that’s able to get into all the different aspects that are a part of SEO.

3. There isn’t one set method

There isn’t a set method or even a set guide to do things. There is no way for anyone to judge which tool to demonstrate with over another. It all depends on the site and what the problems are. During my internship I learned best from trial and error. The same recommendation and strategies can’t always be reused and it depends heavily on what is being optimized. SEO can also get pretty theoretical so it could be hard to determine one set method to teach a course.

4. You’re already learning...

Like I mentioned before, SEO is really broad and you can build your experience through classes you’re already taking right now! I was able to apply things I’ve learned in my computer, marketing, and statistics courses to work I’ve done at Distilled. I learned about VLOOKUPS and pivot tables in statistics which helps when analyzing data. Through my marketing classes, I learned about strategy development and problem-solving. In my computer classes, I learned about HTML and CSS which also came in handy during my time here at Distilled. Although there might not be an SEO course you can take at your college it doesn’t mean you’re not already being prepared!

So, is it for you? How can you learn it?

  • Don’t worry, no matter what your major is you can still get into SEO. After talking to many people at Distilled and at SearchLove San Diego, I’ve learned that you can come into the field through any major. I’ve met Journalism and English Majors who have entered SEO through content writing and copywriting. Computer Science majors and other technical and majors are valuable in SEO for analytics. It takes dedication and creative thinking to become an SEO expert.
  • Become a self-taught beginner SEO. Information is easily accessible online, there are also courses online that can help you learn on your own like DistilledU which offers knowledge in core skills every SEO needs to know whether your a beginner or an intermediate. It’s what I used to help me get my foot in the door and it gave me a good basic understanding of SEO. Once you get through the modules you can also take a look at Distilled’s blog to stay updated and continue learning!

  • Get some hands on experience. There are lots of local charities to reach out to who would love to have volunteers. Getting yourself an internship is another great way to get experience. At Distilled I had access to a lot of SEO tools, information and people who were more than willing to help me learn new things. You can also apply your SEO knowledge to your own social media platforms. Most platforms like Facebook and Instagram have their own analytics tracker and gives insights on data and engagement that you can use to your advantage! A quick hack to turn your Instagram Insights on is by switching your personal account to a business account in your settings. This doesn’t affect how others see your profile it just gives you more data to work with.
  • Check out local meetups. Check out local meetups. Conferences can get pricey, going to meetups is often free and they offer the perfect opportunity to improve your knowledge, learn more about the industry & meet the people who will point you in the right direction.
  • However if you can get some budget, try attending a SearchLove conference. SEO conferences are a great place to learn more about the field as well as meet the experts. The SEO community is very inviting and the professionals are always willing to meet up and share their knowledge and experience with others, all you have to do is be there and ask. At SearchLove I was able to network with people in the industry and learn a bunch of new things. It was definitely a valuable and fun experience for me and I would recommend at least attending one!

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About the author
Tim Allen

Tim Allen

Tim joined Distilled in March 2013 after making a considerable impression upon Duncan and Tom Anthony by wearing a Panda jumper to his interview. Originally moving from Lincolnshire to London to study acting at Reynolds Performing Arts, Tim soon...   read more