New SEO class pays off in job opportunities for marketing students

Contact: Angela DeYoung

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—When you search for a product, service or anything else online, where do you go and what results appear first in that search?

Western Michigan University marketing students are learning the complexities behind online searches and how to influence these search results. A new digital marketing course in the Haworth College of Business is helping students learn how to generate website traffic and conversions through search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing, and it is already making an impact. Students have been so successful in learning and practicing these skills that several Business Broncos have already found job and internship opportunities as a direct result of the class.

Isabel Henrickson, a senior expecting to graduate in fall 2022, was enrolled in the class and recently began a role as a global digital marketing intern for Atlas Copco.

“Because of this class, I have more than enough knowledge about SEO to create a plan for my employer,” says Henrickson. “I didn't need much training on the topic after I was hired because I already knew everything that an SEO intern would need to know. I have been able to create an entire SEO marketing plan for how to best optimize my employer's website, and we are already implementing it!”

Even a basic understanding of SEO can make a difference in the success of digital marketing efforts.

“Most consumers begin their buying decisions with search engines like Google, Amazon, YouTube or something more niche,” says Dr. Scott Cowley, assistant professor of marketing, who teaches the course. “Understanding the algorithms behind each of these search engines can mean the difference between a brand getting lots of visibility, site traffic and revenue, or none at all.” Cowley, who worked as an SEO professional and co-authored the SEO textbook used in the course.

Recent graduate Brandon Perini, B.B.A.’22, digital marketing and eCommerce major, says, “With the digital world always changing, this class teaches you ways to stay up-to-date with current trends. Being able to share my knowledge during interviews, such as commenting on how a company can update to Google Analytics 4, has had a big impact on my job search.” As a result of his SEO experience, Perini landed a role as a digital marketing intern with Dei Fratelli.

“We are changing the conversation about what a college is capable of teaching when we see new graduates getting jobs that usually require one to two years of experience,” says Cowley. “WMU students are graduating with key SEO skills in addition to experience using popular digital marketing tools such as WordPress, Semrush, Google Analytics, Search Console and Data Studio.”

Lauren Deppert, B.B.A.’22, was enrolled in the class and recently began a full-time role as an SEO strategist for Oak Hill Marketing.

“During the interview process, Oak Hill Marketing was so impressed with what this program offered. It was exciting to already have the exact skills they were searching for in a candidate thanks to this SEO class,” says Deppert.

Western is one of the only schools in the country to offer a dedicated SEO course that helps students get hands-on experience publishing high-quality content on their own niche websites. Phoebe Rohrer, B.B.A. ’22, used her website,, to raise awareness of 32 free mobile apps for sustainable living.

Rohrer also recently secured a role with DEKSIA as a digital marketing intern. “This class definitely helped me stand out in interviews. A class that is specifically focused on SEO and content marketing is not very common, and the employers I have spoken with are very impressed to learn that I gained these digital marketing skills through my college education,” says Rohrer. “To go a step further, I haven’t only learned about common skills and platforms, but I also have hands-on experience to back them up. My current resume looks as if I have been working in the digital industry for years from all the different real-life opportunities Dr. Cowley has implemented into our classes.”

WMU Haworth’s digital marketing major is an elite program with great employment outcomes for its graduates as well as hands-on skill building incorporated into every class. There are many career opportunities and specialties within digital marketing, from analytics to social media to SEO, and WMU’s business faculty members aim to help students discover what they love with pragmatic learning experiences.

Learn more about WMU Haworth's Digital Marketing and eCommerce program.

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