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Review: Search Engine Optimization Specialization with UC Davis

Reviewed By Product Expert and Coach
Elizabeth Hogue
February 25, 2024

Program Overview

SEO (search engine optimization) analytics is a great career choice for someone looking to break into the field of digital marketing. Knowledge of various SEO concepts is an extremely practical and critical skillset that will make you invaluable to any digital company. As an aspiring SEO analyst, or someone looking to upskill with stronger organic search chops, we'd recommend checking out UC Davis's SEO Specialization.  If you're interested in learning more about the general field of SEO first, check out our job guide here to learn more about necessary skills and core competencies.

UC Davis's beginner-level specialization teaches the principles and theories behind Google search algorithms and how to apply practical skills to improve the search ranking of a website. The courses cover topics such as on-page and off-page optimization, optimizing websites for local and international users, conducting SEO website audits, and aligning SEO strategies with those of the overall business. The program finishes with a hands-on capstone where students can apply their skills to a complete a comprehensive SEO consulting task.

The five courses to complete the specialization are:

The material is taught by real industry professionals, Rebekah May (Head of Organic User Acquisition at Fishbrain) and Eric Enge (Author of "Art of SEO") and covers the basics to become a proficient in SEO quickly and efficiently.

If you only have time for one course and want to be extra dangerous with SEO this year- maybe you're starting a blog or a product manager looking to expand your traffic- we especially loved the fundamentals course (#2 in the curriculum). We love this course because it covers the basics and methods of conducting keyword research, which is a huge part of creating an effective SEO strategy. In fact, we conduct keyword research almost every day here at Bridged-- pro tip!

The curriculum is meant to be consumed over a 20-week period, but it can also be completed at your own pace.

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Weekly Breakdowns

We’ve recapped the learning objectives from each week to set your expectations for course material. The great part about this program is that you can jump to any course, and any section if it’s interesting to you. For example, if you’re looking to just learn about social and influencer marketing, you'd jump to course 4, weeks 2 & 3.

To audit an individual week-- find the exact course (we've linked them individually here) and click "audit" to save it to your profile. Then open the desired week on the side panel that aligns with our recaps.

Course 1: Introduction to Google SEO

Learning Objectives from Week 1: Introduction to Google SEO

  • Understand the basics of SEO and its role in business and shaping the Internet.
  • Identify the different types of SEO job roles and career options.
  • Review the evolution of SEO and the development of search engines.

Learning Objectives from Week 2: Current SEO Trends & Best Practices

  • Understand the concept of relevancy as it relates to search results and the importance of adhering to SEO best practices.
  • Compare and contrast the functionality of search engine algorithm updates and the ways in which webmasters may try to bypass them.
  • Define important ranking factors used by modern search engines and learn how to avoid or correct penalties applied by algorithms.

Learning Objectives from Week 3: SEO of Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond

  • Understand how concepts like topic association and semantic analysis relate to the relevancy and trustworthiness of search results.
  • Analyze the role of social media and emerging technologies on the landscape of SEO and demonstrate the power of branded search.
  • Practice optimizing content for a website to improve search results.
  • Create an optimization strategy for a client to increase their ranking while following best practices.

Learning Objectives from Week 4: Your Audience and Building Personas

  • Compare and contrast different groups of personas and learn how to market to them.
  • Practice using SEO tools to conduct an audience analysis and develop personas of your ideal buyer.

Course 2: Google SEO Fundamentals

Learning Objectives from Week 1: Getting Started and Introduction to On-Page SEO

  • Understand differences in key areas of SEO strategies.
  • Optimize keywords in meta data using On-page SEO techniques.
  • Conduct a competitive analysis on a web page and identify meta-tags for on-page SEO recommendations.

Learning Objectives from Week 2: Introduction to Off-Page SEO

  • Understand off-page SEO and understand building links to your site.
  • Interpret brand recognition through social media.
  • Learn ways to improve page authority using social media.

Learning Objectives from Week 3: Introduction to Technical SEO

  • Identify how to employ best practices in your technical SEO strategy.
  • Create sitemaps and robot.txt files, plan redirects, and manage site errors.

Learning Objectives from Week 4: Keyword Theory and Research

  • Examine keyword theory and understand the common behaviors of web searchers.
  • Use a variety of SEO tools to conduct an audience and learn how to use this data to develop personas of your ideal buyer.
  • Practice developing a list of optimal keywords that will help get your site recognized.

Course 3: Optimizing a Website for Google Search

Learning Objectives from Week 1: Introduction to Optimizing a Website for Google Search

  • Use keyword research to optimize website for targeted traffic and help reach business goals.
  • Learn a process for selecting the best keywords based on relevancy, keyword intent, competition, and potential for conversion.
  • Identify and evaluate competitors, map keywords to pages, and create a keyword map for clients and personal website.

Learning Objectives from Week 2: Advanced SEO Strategies

  • Understand the importance of content in determining the success of a website and how to analyze, organize, create, and improve it.
  • Conduct competitive content analysis and internal content audits.
  • Create a site-wide content strategy and learn about local SEO tactics and best practices.

Learning Objectives from Week 3: Mobile/App SEO + Metrics & KPIs

  • Optimize an app in app stores, including the use of keywords and keyword tags.
  • Understand the concept of A/B testing and how it applies to app optimization.
  • Learn the importance of screenshots in app downloads and how to use KPIs and ROI to evaluate the profitability of a project.
  • Understand the value of survey findings and the importance of forecasting SEO impact.

Learning Objectives from Week 4: Creating an SEO Campaign

  • Learn how to manage your relationship with clients and discuss important topics in initial meetings.
  • Understand how to manage client expectations and track and report progress towards their goals.
  • Develop a solid approach for achieving a productive and successful client relationship.

Course 4: Advanced Content and Social Tactics to Optimize SEO

Learning Objectives from Week 1: Introduction to Advanced Content & Social Tactics to Optimize SEO

  • Recap the basics of on-page and off-page SEO and understand how they work together.
  • Identify and demonstrate best practices for obtaining links and building an optimized link profile.
  • Develop a content marketing campaign and build reputation and visibility online by building your own audience.

Learning Objectives from Week 2: Social Media Marketing

  • Understand how social media supports the development of a company's online reputation and visibility, and how it impacts SEO.
  • Practice tips for building relationships with social media influencers and choose appropriate platforms based on audience demographics.
  • Use successful social media strategies to build and engage your audience.

Learning Objectives from Week 3: Influencer Marketing

  • Define influencer marketing and understand its role in driving reputation and visibility.
  • Examine the benefits of working with influencers and learn best practices for building positive relationships with them.

Learning Objectives from Week 4: Creating World Class Content

  • Identify great content and analyze what content gets the most shares.
  • Create world-class content and develop successful partnerships to support content marketing efforts.

Course 5: Google SEO Capstone Project

Learning Objectives from Milestone 1: Gauging a Site's Opportunity for Improvement

  • Evaluate a website and determine how it can be improved and ranked higher.
  • Create a proposal for stakeholders or clients outlining the optimization steps to be taken.
  • Create a set of metrics to gather data and develop an SEO plan to track and assess the effectiveness of the strategy.

Learning Objectives from Milestone 2: Initial Research Phase

  • Develop a buyer persona to identify your target audience.
  • Conduct keyword and competitive research to frame your optimization strategy.
  • Use the information gathered to develop a successful optimization strategy for the website.

Learning Objectives from Milestone 3: Conducting a Content Audit & Technical Review

  • Analyze competitors' content through a content audit to position your own SEO campaign.
  • Conduct an internal content audit to identify areas for improvement and compare your site to competitors.
  • Create a keyword matrix to assign relevant keywords to specific pages on your website.
  • Review the technical aspects of the site to identify any factors that may impact ranking.

Learning Objectives from Milestone 4: Presenting Findings

  • Create a presentation to showcase findings, analysis, and recommendations to peers.
  • Make a pitch video in which you present your SEO strategy to a potential client or employer, outlining how it will improve ranking and business.

Quick Content Note

We'd be remiss to not mention the several negative-leaning reviews mention that some of the course recommendations are outdated. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you approach job security), SEO trends are constantly changing, sometimes weekly, and it's tough to keep up with a certification-structured course.

While this makes some of the assignments tricky, we still recommend taking the learnings as a beginner with a grain of salt and reading other SEO resources to stay current on trends. SEO certifications are huge in the industry, and this one is no different.

Cost and Auditing

The program is only $49/month, and comes with a Linkedin Certificate on behalf of the University of California at DaviIf you complete the curriculum on the proposed timeline, it should take about 4-5 months, though you could blitz through it on a break in far less. While that seems steep, compared to a degree or bootcamp this micro-certification is a steal!

If you have a learning budget, or are dedicated to upskilling your career with a data-focus– we recommend paying for and completing the program to get the shareable certificate (GET RECEIPTS!). This will help make your Linkedin more searchable to recruiters who may be looking for specific keywords and programs.

To audit the program and simply learn the material, this program is completely free! Thanks Coursera!

Student Reviews

This program is tried and true, with each course averaging well over a thousand reviews and an average rating between 4.5 and 4.8. The capstone has a little under 400, which is to be expected for a predominantly online class. For Coursera standards, the course is incredibly popular and highly rated!

Some of our favorite positive review points:

  • I don't know that SEO is truly simple and logical or if it just appears this way because of how clear and easy to listen to Ms. May is. I do feel she has supplied a lot of very useful information, pointed to a lot of great tools and websites., and am already making improvements as a result of her classes.
  • A great intensive course that solved the dilemma I had about keyword research, competitive analysis, content audit& analysis and finally it goes to the detailed process of dealing with actual clients as an SEO specialist and what how should you start.

Aggregations of negative review points:

  • Instructors take a long time to reply to questions or discussion boards.
  • Tests sometimes contain confusing or conflicting answers.
  • A lot of the required reading is public knowledge and findable with some simple google searching (like Moz articles)

... and our favorite overall review:

Optimizing a Website for Search is an excellent course. If you do this after you have completed Search Engine Optimization Fundamental, you have all the information to do SEO for your own website or as an affiliate marketer or even start a career as SEO analyst freelance on UpWork or Fiverr.

You will get also a variety of links to keep learning, and ready-made Excel templates for various tasks, such as keyword research, SEO audit and many others.  Last but not least, the instructor delivers.  Thank you
-Alessandro P.

Supplemental Materials

For the fans of general marketing practices: Google Digital Marketing & E-commerce Professional Certificate

Google sponsors this professional certificate via Coursera that focuses on several aspects of digital marketing and e-commerce. No experience is required, and the program only takes about 6 months.

This certification teaches skills and tools such as Canva, Constant Contact, Google Ads, Google Analytics, Hootsuite, HubSpot, Mailchimp, Shopify, and Twitter. You will also have the opportunity to work on projects like customer personas and social media calendars to build your portfolio.

For the SEO-curious: Become a SEO Expert with Linkedin Learning

Learn with Linkedin how to implement various SEO strategies, including how to conduct keyword research, build internal and external links, optimize your pages and content, measure your successes and progress, and plan for a successful long-term SEO strategy. LinkedIn Learning is free with a LinkedIn Premium subscription ($30/month).

This course is great if you're new to marketing and interested in learning about more options than just search engine optimization. LinkedIn Learning subscriptions are great for exploring many options with one cost.

For the web analytics power-user: Google's Data Analytics Specialization

Google also sponsors a data analytics certificate program through Coursera. This is one of the more coveted certificates in the industry for learning the Google Analytics tool specifically, hence our recommendation of this course from Duke. Google's course is also free to audit, but same rules apply if you want the certificate to show off at $49 a month.

UC Davis's Work Study SEO Program

The official title of the work study is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Specialized Studies Program, and it is hosted by UC Davis Extension as one of their Continuing Education and Professional Studies offerings.

The program is very similar to the program hosted on Coursera. Both programs are online, and have a 4-6 month completion window. The courses of the work study program are outlined below (notice the similarities to the specialization!)

  • Fundamentals of SEO
  • Optimizing Websites for Search
  • Advanced Content and Social
  • Advanced SEO strategies

The main difference in the programs is the work study offers personalized instructor support, updated lessons, and more structured schedules. The other difference is the cost: to participate in the online work study, it's $800 a class or $2,720 for all 4 courses if paid all upfront.

That is not very feasible for someone exploring the option of SEO, so we'd recommend starting with the specialization to see if the materials and concepts interest you.


UC Davis's program is a great way to sharpen your SEO skillset in a traditional online classroom format. A certification in SEO is a great way to show diligence and focus on emerging technology without breaking the bank with an additional college degree or bootcamp.

Here at Bridged we are huge fans of stacking micro-certifications to achieve desired career results. This program could be one notch in your arsenal to really kick your technical expertise into gear!

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