It doesn’t happen as often now, but for a long time there were folks running around town touting that they were “Google certified” as part of their pitch, which frankly is deliberately misleading. In this post, we’ll clear up what that actually means so when you hear it you’ll at least know how to best react to it.

Note that although this post is a bit of a pull-back-the-curtain style, it’s not to say that anyone with this certification is innately being dishonest. It’s how they talk about their certification that creates confusion.

Here’s the context: Someone approaches you selling SEO services and makes it a point to say that they’re Google certified, with the implication being that you can trust them because even Google stands behind their work.

What you should know: That Google certification simply means they’ve taken a brief course and demonstrated best practices for Google Adwords, receiving a thumbs-up from Google that they can sufficiently handle Adwords campaigns for others.

But Adwords campaigns are not SEO — not in the sense that the term SEO is usually meant.

Both Adwords and organic SEO involve keyword research and clever use of them in titles and copy, and ultimately the fruits of both endeavors end up with your materials on Google’s search results. But that’s pretty much where the similarities end.

Google Adwords is advertising. Pure and simple.

SEO, the way the term is meant to be understood, is a collection of techniques that affect a website’s organic (read: non-paid) listings in Google search results. So someone having a certification for doing paid ads on Google has very little to do with organic SEO.

There’s nothing inherently bad about this certification. If you’re looking for someone to manage your Adwords campaigns, this is a good person to call. But a lot of these folks throw this title around to make themselves seem more knowledgeable and trustworthy about regular SEO, which is misleading and dishonest.

It’s certainly possible that someone obtained this certification AND is a great organic SEO guy/girl. But in my experience, people that lead with touting that credential are not that person.

I’ve personally met several Google certified guys who clearly knew nothing about link building and on-site SEO, for instance. And conversely, I am not Google certified myself because I don’t do much with Adwords, but that has nothing to do with how good of an organic SEO guy I am.

Hope that helps.