General SEO

5 Best SEO Certifications: Free & Paid

Si Quan Ong
Content marketer @ Ahrefs. I've been in digital marketing for the past 6 years and have spoken at some of the industry’s largest conferences in Asia (TIECon and Digital Marketing Skill Share.) I also summarise books on my personal blog.
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    Since university degrees in search engine optimization (SEO) are rare, certifications are a popular way to prove your knowledge or expertise in SEO. However, the problem is that such certifications can be provided by anyone.

    So if you want to get an SEO certification, you want to make sure you’re completing an online SEO course where:

    • The course material is comprehensive, accurate, and actually teaches you the basics of SEO.
    • They’re well-regarded in the industry.

    To find online courses that fit the bill, we polled our 200K+ newsletter subscribers on the top SEO certifications they would recommend.

    Here are the five SEO certification courses that our subscribers gave the most votes:

    1. Ahrefs Certification Course

    Ahrefs Certification Course

    Duration: 7 hours 4 minutes
    Price: Free with an Ahrefs Webmaster Tools account
    Instructor(s): Sam Oh
    Level: All levels

    This is our own advanced SEO certification training that teaches how Ahrefs’ tools and data work. It’s split into modules representing each of our tools.

    The modules breakdown in the course

    Even though the focus is on gaining a deep understanding of our toolset, you’ll still learn key SEO concepts like keyword research, competitive analysis, content marketing, link building, technical SEO, on-page SEO, and more.

    Completing our course is also useful for career development, as many SEO and marketing managers ask for familiarity with popular SEO tools as part of job descriptions.

    Our certification course is currently in beta. So you won’t be able to take a final exam and get an SEO certification (for now). Don’t worry, though; we plan to add the certificate in the near future.

    2. Google SEO Fundamentals by UC Davis

    Google SEO Fundamentals by UC Davis

    Duration: 29 hours
    Price: Free
    Instructor(s): Rebekah May
    Level: Beginner SEOs

    Created by the University of California, Davis, and powered by Coursera, this course teaches fundamental SEO concepts. There are four modules in this course covering keyword research, on page SEO, off page SEO, and technical SEO. There are also four assessments to complete. Once you’ve passed, you can earn a career certificate that you can add to your LinkedIn profile, resume, or CV. For example, here’s one given to my colleague, Joshua Hardwick:

    Google SEO Fundamentals certificate

    While the course is well regarded and prestigious, it comes at a huge time cost of 29 hours. You could build and potentially rank your own website on search engines in that amount of time. It might be better to consider the other certifications on this list.

    Many SEOs used to mistakenly claim that they were “Google certified” after completing this course. This was likely because Google used to recommend it, even as late as July 2023:

    Google used to recommend the certification by UC Davis

    However, Google has since redirected this page somewhere else and, as a result, stopped recommending this course. 

    3. SEO Certification Course by HubSpot

    SEO Certification Course by HubSpot

    Duration: 3 hours 51 minutes
    Price: Free
    Instructor(s): Rachel Sheldon, Matthew Howells-Barby
    Level: Beginner SEOs

    This free SEO certification course is part of HubSpot, a SaaS company known for inbound marketing (the founders even wrote a book about it). 

    With six lessons and 26 videos, the course runs at close to four hours. It covers SEO basics, on-page and technical SEO, how to perform keyword research, link building, optimizing your website for structured data, and SEO reporting (including how to use Google Analytics and Google Search Console.)

    There are also five quizzes to complete, after which you can gain a certificate. For example, my colleague, Joshua, took this certification and obtained this certificate:

    SEO certification from HubSpot

    The course is free, but you’ll have to sign up for a HubSpot Academy account.

    4. All-Around SEO Training by Yoast

    All-Around SEO Training by Yoast

    Duration: 3 hours
    Price: $99/year
    Instructor(s): Joost de Valk
    Level: Beginner and intermediate SEOs

    This is the first paid SEO certification on this list. It costs $99 per year, and you get a certificate, badge, and access to the course for one year. (You can share this on LinkedIn, your resume, CV, etc.). The self-paced learning course covers:

    • How to target keywords that drive organic traffic
    • Create website content hat convinces those visitors to buy or become returning visitors
    • Avoid basic SEO mistakes with a solid technical SEO foundation
    • Organise your site structure
    • Get more links to your site
    • Develop an SEO strategy

    You also get access to all other Yoast academy courses and the Yoast SEO premium plugin.

    Considering that Yoast is probably the most used SEO plugin, this may actually sound like a steal.

    If you’re unsure about dropping that amount of money on an SEO course, Yoast also offers a free sample lesson for you to try:

    Start a free sample lesson on Yoast

    5. SEO Foundations on LinkedIn

    SEO Foundations on LinkedIn

    Duration: 1 hour 32 minutes
    Price: ~$40
    Instructor(s): David Booth
    Level: Beginner SEOs

    Part of LinkedIn Learning, this course has five modules and five chapter quizzes to assess your knowledge. The course content covers:

    • What SEO is
    • Keyword research
    • Website content optimization for SEO
    • Technical SEO (including how to use Google Search Console)
    • Link building

    Passing the course means acquiring a LinkedIn Learning Certificate of Completion, which you can easily add to your LinkedIn profile.

    Shareable certification from LinkedIn Learning

    Unfortunately, this is a paid course—but it’s relatively affordable. You can even start a one-month free trial on LinkedIn Learning and complete the course within that period. 

    Let’s be straight: 

    Most SEO certifications aren’t worth it.

    Here are a few reasons why.

    1. Most employers don’t care about SEO certifications

    We asked 15 SEO hiring managers for the skills and requirements that they deem important when hiring an SEO specialist. In all, 86% said that SEO certifications aren’t important, with the rest saying that they’re only somewhat important.

    86% of hiring managers say that SEO certifications aren't important when hiring an SEO specialist

    Not one hiring manager said they were very important. 

    So if you want an SEO certification to add to your resume and LinkedIn to attract job offers in the SEO industry, I have bad news.

    2. SEO certifications don’t guarantee a good SEO education

    Getting an SEO certificate doesn’t necessarily mean that you learned anything useful. It just means that you learned something

    So don’t let the allure of a certificate cloud your judgment when learning SEO. If the syllabus doesn’t look helpful, don’t bother.

    3. SEO certifications only teach you theory, not practical skills

    Knowing the theory only gets you so far. 

    If you want to become an SEO expert, our advice is to start a website as soon as possible after learning the basics of SEO. Getting your hands dirty and trying to rank a website will teach you more SEO skills than an SEO certification.

    4. SEO certifications take a lot of time

    There are 13 hours of material in Google’s SEO Fundamentals certification

    Number of hours of material in Google’s SEO Fundamentals certification

    That’s not a negligible amount of time. You could spend that time building and ranking a website. If you’re stuck, you could simply Google around and consult existing free resources. And it’s probably a better use of your time if you already know the basics of SEO.

    5. SEO certifications often have bad questions

    Look at this question from an SEO certification exam:

    A question from an SEO certification

    Google actually recommends you use hyphens rather than underscores in URLs. So it’s not a true or false question.

    Here’s another question, this time from Google’s SEO Fundamentals certification:

    A question from Google’s SEO Fundamentals certification

    You can see we got the answer wrong. If we must guess, the correct answer is likely “optimizing site keywords.” But that’s a terrible answer—it sounds like something you’d see in 2009, not now.

    If you are a hiring manager and see such questions in the quiz, will you trust the certification? And by extension, will you trust the knowledge of the “SEO certified” person? 

    Probably not.

    6. SEO certifications are too easy to pass

    For most certifications, if you failed the exam, you could retake it shortly after your initial attempt (between 0 and 12 hours).

    This sounds great if you’re a “test taker.” But since most questions are multiple-choice, it’s only a matter of time before you pass the exam via trial and error or Googling. 

    This diminishes the value of your certification. Imagine if it was this easy for college exams. The job market would soon become saturated with graduates, and degrees would lose much of their value.

    7. SEO certifications are often just marketing ploys

    Passing an SEO certification gets you a certificate (and sometimes a badge too). You can show this off on your resume, LinkedIn profile, or website. That raises brand awareness for the creator of the SEO certification. 

    This is probably why many of them are easy to pass. Passes lead to brand awareness.

    Here are some commonly asked questions about SEO certifications.

    What is an SEO certification?

    An SEO certification is awarded to a person who passes an assessment after completing an SEO course. 

    The proof of achievement, either in the form of a certificate or badge, is what differentiates an SEO certification from an SEO course. 

    Is there a Google SEO certification?

    Kind of.

    Google offers a free “Fundamentals of Digital Marketing” certification through the Google Digital Garage. It includes 26 modules, ~14 hours of material, and covers many aspects of digital marketing—with three of them solely dedicated to SEO. It’s accredited by the Interactive Advertising Bureau Europe and The Open University.

    If you’re looking to learn Google Analytics, there’s also the Google Analytics Certification.

    Should you pay for an SEO certification?

    Judge the course by its material, not by the certification. If the course contains material you didn’t know before or can likely teach you advanced SEO skills, then it’s worth paying for.

    Final thoughts

    Most SEO hiring managers see certifications as unimportant when hiring SEO specialists. We agree.

    So here’s our advice:

    • If you’re an SEO beginner, find a good SEO course (here’s our free course). Then execute and try to get more organic traffic to your website.
    • If you want to get a job, do the same thing because SEO results speak louder than an “SEO certification.”

    Looking for more SEO courses? Check out our free courses at the Ahrefs Academy.

    Any questions or comments? Let me know on Twitter (X) or Threads.

    Article Performance
    Data from Ahrefs
    • Organic traffic
    • Linking websites

    The number of websites linking to this post.

    This post's estimated monthly organic search traffic.