From time to time, companies can make major blunders in the products they release and Google is no exception. Their latest is releasing a free course on digital marketing basics and getting some basics very wrong. Not only that, they offer a certificate at the end of it which you can then claim you are certified in digital marketing by Google itself: a recipe for disaster as far as I’m concerned.
A couple of weeks ago, you could hear a lot of SEO people and a lot of agencies calling Google out for their latest stuff up. And let’s face it, Google does stuff up from time to time but this time, actually on May 2nd this year, Google announced a digital marketing e-commerce certification course, which meant that you could do a course about basic digital marketing. And you would think that a certificate from Google stating that you are qualified to talk about digital marketing now would be a great thing. But it’s not.
The outcry that went out a few weeks ago was about the fact that Google was sharing mis-information that a lot of SEO people, including myself, have been trying to debunk as SEO myths for many, many years.
Google being at the forefront of what digital marketing is, how it works, how SEO works and how you can rank a website on their search engine. You would think that they would know what the hell they’re talking about, but as it turns out, they really don’t.
Just to give you an idea of what the actual course is all about; the course is called ‘fundamentals of digital marketing’. There are 26 modules in the course, which, discuss a host of digital marketing strategies, if you want to call them that. And just to give you an idea what some of the topics are; there’s a lot to do with social marketing, social media marketing, get discovering search, be noticed with search ads, improve your search campaigns, get noticed locally., local SEO, mobile SEO, what you need to do. It talks a little bit about Google analytics about Google search console, how to build an online presence and ‘how do we expand internationally’? So it covers all the basics, which is fine. There’s something like 40 hours of video content. And then at the end of each module, you have a quiz with right or wrong answers and it’s usually a multiple choice type thing. And it won’t let you move past that particular module until, you pass every question. So in other words, unless you agree with everything that Google has just told you, it won’t let you go past to the next module and that., to me, was a bit of a warning red flag, I guess you could call it. I actually did the course a couple of weeks ago and I’ve got the certificate, which is lovely.
It’s a very professional looking certificate that is for sure. And what it says, it’s got a Google digital garage printed at the top. And it says my name, Andrew Radics has been awarded this certificate of achievement for the successful completion of the fundamentals of digital marketing certification exam on the 15th of May, 2022, and it’s signed by the managing director of Google, Australia, and New Zealand, a lady by the name of Townsend, Pamela who’s the CEO of IAB Australia. And what IABAustralia? Well, I mean, you can have one in every country. I’ll actually read you this statement about it. It’s about “digital advertising, which includes promotion, advertisements and messages delivered through email, social media websites, online advertising on search engines, banner ads, and on mobile or websites and programs”. So it’s kind of like a watchdog, which keeps all these digital advertising companies like Google, like Facebook and all the rest of them in line, or some sort of check on them if you want to call it that.
Here’s the thing. When I did the final exam, I actually passed. I got 90%, which is okay, but the only reason I got 90% was because 90% of the time I agreed with what Google was telling me. There was a load of stuff in those videos and in the questions from my experience in this industry for over 16 years, that wasn’t true, that wasn’t right. And there were a lot of answers that you could choose from whereby you could have had more than one correct answer, but it would only let you pick one answer. That to me is always a little bit misleading.
Now somebody a little bit more perceptive than what I am went through this course. They found some rather disturbing advice in one of the modules talking about what is known as keyword density and the amount of words you should have on your page or blog posts to actually start ranking.The video talked about, you should have more than 300 words on your webpage. And it talked about keeping your keyword density below an industry standard of 2%, which simply means that no more than 2% of the time, should you be including the words or your keywords in that particular article or blog posts. I’ve been in this industry for over 16 years, and I can tell you, and I’m sure a lot of other SEO’s will agree, there is no such thing as an industry standard of 2% keyword density and anybody who says keyword density is a thing is ignorant. It all depends on what industry they’re in. It all depends on how competitive their industry is for keywords and all of that.
Every single SEO will tell you that there is no such thing as an industry standard. A lot of the time, it depends on what you’re targeting. So. For Google to come out in an official certification type course and say, you need to have at least 2% of your keywords in the body of that 300 word article is just so…absolute bogus. I couldn’t believe when I read this, that Google of all businesses would say something like that. Say something that SEOs have been trying to debunk for years upon years upon years. It really blew my mind. It just goes to show you though that, Google is definitely not an expert when it comes to search engine optimisation. And I dare say that a lot of people who work at Google who put these things together, don’t know SEO’s themselves. They are just reading stuff. They read on the internet or from what people have told them. Now, this particular person in the article, which appeared in an online, uh, magazine, I guess you could call it called “search engine land” figured out where this notion of 2% keyword density came from.
Many of you are probably familiar with a WordPress plugin called Yoast. I’s a plugin that helps you optimise your website with meta-tags and keywords and all that sort of stuff. So it’s a very popular plugin and it’s not actually a very bad one either, but, in there, they give advice and I quote, “we advise writing more than 300 words for regular posts or pages while product descriptions should be over 200 words. Why is that? A higher word count helps Google better understand what your text is about. And generally speaking, Google tends to rank longer articles higher”.
And this is what Google wrote in its own course. Quote, “write more than 300 words on your webpage. Your webpage is more likely to be ranked higher in search engine results pages i you write a higher volume of quality content” So, is that a coincidence? I honestly do not think so. And the funny thing was that once they were called out on this, they actually deleted that video and put up a new one, not mentioning anything about keyword density or the number of words you should have.
We all know if you’ve been in industry for a fairly long time, the amount of words that you put into your article or onto your blog posts or onto your homepage or whatever it might be, to get the results that you’re looking for will vary a lot depending on what industry you’re in. And of course, what year it is.
Simply put it back in 2007, this is when this whole keyword density thing started. Basically, when you put 250 words roughly on your posts, you were considered to be well optimised, to be able to rank for whatever keyword you’re targeting. Then it increased to 500 then to 1,000 I read in some recent post.Major players such as HubSpot, they claim between 2100 to 2,400 words is the ideal length for a blog post. And like I said, that will vary depending on who you ask.
Everybody stuffs up from time to time. That is true. However, my concern with all of this is Google said as recently as 2016, that having a certified course from them would be a very, very bad idea.
And of course they were right. And they should have stuck to that. My problem with this is simply that anything where you claim or can claim you are certified in, presents a little bit of a danger. We’ve got enough rogue operators in this industry. There is no regulation within this industry to regulate what people post, to regulate what people claim to be the best way to do something.
And of course the worst part is these people can take these courses and as long as they pass. The passing level is 80% and you can put this certificate onto your website and you are a Google certified SEO, digital marketing expert. There are enough clowns in this industry without giving them some sort of a certification for a course that is riddled with errors. This one thing about the 2% keyword density and having a minimum of 300 words and you’re doing fine. is just one piece of bad advice. I came across several, and this is why I only scored 90% because the other 10% were things that I knew were bogus that I knew don’t work, that I knew weren’t true.
This is the problem. And here we are. We have just given these rogue operators something official. Google is supposed to be the world’s expert on search engine optimisation to know what works within digital marketing, to know what works to be able to get your website to the top of the searches. It doesn’t.
It’s cobbled together, all these bits and pieces from across the industry from various blog posts and websites and whatnot. I’m sorry, but this Google course is a load of crap. I know it’s harsh, but they should have stuck to their guns in what they said in 2016. And now they’ve created something that is going to give all these rogue operators a license to say, “I am certified in SEO”. And then of course you hire them and you discover after many, many thousands of dollars probably, that they do not know what they are doing. I am very disappointed with this whole thing and I hope Google takes it down. I mean sure, keep the courses and all of that. I really don’t care, but don’t issue certificates to people when the information is not 100% reliable.
So if you see anybody or if you interview an SEO company or an SEO individual saying, yeah, I’m certified by Google, I’m an expert… red flag! Let that red flag go up and actually mean something to you. Don’t just accept the fact that they are ‘certified by Google’ in search engine optimisation and digital marketing, that they are worth anything as far as them being able to get you the results that you need for your website. So I just take care.
I thought I’d bring this up because this seems to have just kind of slipped under the radar and it hasn’t been talked about much from what I can tell. So I hope this helps and as always, just be careful who you hire to do your search engine optimisation or your digital marketing or your Google ads or your Facebook ads or whatever it is.
There’s a lot of rogues out there and unfortunately Google has now certified some of them. I hope this is actually a little bit helpful. And if you do come across anybody, just check them out a lot more in depth than what you would normally. Just because they’ve got a certificate, it means nothing.
So thanks for listening and look forward to next time.