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Expert Interviews - Kalena

In this interview we talk to Kalena Jordan from Search Engine College.

Kalena currently provides Online Search Engine Marketing and SEO training to people in twenty eight different countries around the world.

Can you tell me about your own background in search?

Like many of my colleagues in search, I kind of fell into this industry by accident. In 1996, I was working as Marketing Manager for an IT company and was given the task of learning HTML and creating the company’s web site from scratch. It was a daunting prospect! But during the site creation process I discovered Danny Sullivan’s newsletter about how to design a web site that would be found in search engines and I learned all I could about SEO principles before the term SEO even existed.

As a result of my efforts, an overseas company found my employer’s web site and entered into a global distribution joint venture with them. I was amazed by the power of search and totally hooked. All the positions I’ve held since that one have involved SEO and in 2001 I launched my own SEO consulting company. My colleagues and I founded Search Engine College in 2004.

And what gave you the idea for online training?

The concept of Search Engine College was originally created by my husband Jerry, (now SEC's Director of IT and Course Development), who noticed how often I was receiving and answering the same questions from confused webmasters about how to make their sites search engine friendly.

Jerry suggested that I make my replies available to everyone by creating an online course for newbies about search engine marketing. In early 2004, he introduced me to the excellent Open Source online learning software as a way of delivering the material rather than via an e-book.

The idea really resonated with me because I had been asked regularly over the years if I knew of any institutions that offered online courses in search engine optimization. I didn't, so I built the web site, recruited some industry colleagues as tutors, we wrote the courses and voila! Search Engine College was born.

So how does your online training process work and what subject areas do you cover?

Search Engine College offers instructor-led short courses and downloadable self-study courses in Search Engine Optimization and other Search Engine Marketing subjects. All courses are offered entirely online, to be taken at a student's own pace, in a time-frame that suits them.

Students simply choose which course to take and when they enrol, they are sent an access key and login to the online course area. They can choose to download and print their lesson materials or view them online and then they login to take their online review quizzes, submit assignments for grading by their tutor and take their final exams.

Currently, our subjects include search engine optimization, Pay Per Click, web site copywriting, link building and web site usability. But we hope to expand our course range within the next 12 months to include subjects like web design, blogging and social media.

Do you get involved in helping people choose which courses to take?

Yes, as Director of Studies, my job involves a lot of student liaison. Some students will ask for advice about whether to take SEO101 or SEO201 or which elective to take for a Certification Pathway. I generally ask them about their career path, goals and current skill set to help determine the best courses for them.

Is there a time limit for people to complete the training?

All students have 12 months access to the course area and lesson updates, which is more than enough time to complete several of our courses. During that time, we even assist students to gain employment in the search industry.

Is there an exam at the end of the training and do people get any kind of qualification if they pass?

We offer two kinds of learning styles: Certification and Self Study. Our Certification courses are tutor-supervised with tutors assigned to each course to guide students through the material and review their assignments.

Students who want to receive industry-recognized SEC Certification for a particular subject must take the Certification version of a course under tutor-supervision, receive at least a 70% pass on their quizzes and final exam AND complete set assignments to the satisfaction of their tutor.

Self-study courses are between $50 and $100 cheaper than Certification versions, but self-study students do not receive tutor-supervision, do not submit assignments and do not qualify for SEC Certification.

The lesson materials used are the same for both course styles but we offer both, because not everyone wants or needs industry certification. Our most popular qualifications are the Certification Pathways, which consist of 3 or more individual courses bundled together to follow a logical and distinct path of study within the broader search engine marketing field, for example Certified Search Engine Optimizer, Certified Pay Per Click Marketer and Certified Search Engine Marketer, (a combination of the two).

Being an online course opens it up for anyone in the world to take your training. Do you have people from many different countries taking part?

As a matter of fact we do! At last count, we had students from 53 countries enrolled at Search Engine College. Anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can learn search engine marketing with us, no matter where they are in the world.

Do you think there is an advantage to having industry certification when you are applying for a job in search?

Absolutely! We feel that certification is becoming increasingly important to potential employers and persons seeking careers in SEO and SEM.

The growth of the search industry has underscored the need for faster, more flexible training options. We also feel that the spread of misinformation and the growth of dodgy SEO practices have highlighted a need for best-practice industry certification as part of this training.

Our approach is to offer courses that teach only search engine-approved SEO methods by tutors that are recognized industry leaders. The courses are designed to fast-track training to ensure students gain the right type of SEM skills to make them immediately employable within the search industry.

So what do you think are the advantages of industry certification from the perspective of both a job seeker and an employer?

For job-seekers

• Proof of subjects studied and skills acquired
• Ability to promote certification on web site / CV
• A knowledge benchmark must be reached to attain certification
• Candidates who hold a marketing degree or specific industry certification in Search Engine Marketing may well have an edge over their fellow applicants when it comes to interview selection.

For employers:

• Ability to hire based on a proven skill set (e.g. ability to set up a Google AdWords PPC campaign quickly).
• Ability to impress clients with certified status of staff.
• Reassurance that only search engine-approved methods will be used.
• Less on-the-job training is required.

Another way to look at it is this: If you were looking to hire search marketing staff, wouldn’t you prefer to hire staff that have certification?

We’ve had recent graduates beat other candidates to interviews for high level SEO jobs, based solely on their Search Engine College training, so we know that is becoming more important to employers in the industry.

And finally, with the search engine industry changing so rapidly, how do you keep up to date with all the changes, and how often are your courses updated?

This is probably the most challenging aspect of running courses in search engine marketing. Because the industry is in a state of constant flux, we have to review and update our lesson materials every few months.

But that’s also the advantage of offering online courses – the lessons can be instantly updated and students are notified the moment a revised lesson is available for download. This makes our courses more flexible and valuable than say, in-person training or hard copy how-to guides. would like to thank Kalena for her contribution to the Expert Interviews feature.
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