Scott Milrad is the Director of Online Education at Market Motive, developing Internet marketing courses and curriculum for Market Motive’s online education programs. Originally on track to go the traditional collegiate teaching route, Scott completed his Masters Degree in literature and creative writing at San Diego State University before diverting his scholastic attentions and finding himself as a multimedia developer at the heart of the dot com boom. Always vowing to get back into academia, Scott landed at Market Motive with the promise of combining his passion for teaching with the unlimited possibilities of the Internet.
Eric Enge: Can you provide us an overview of your role at Market Motive?
Scott Milrad: My title is the Director of Online Education, so I put together all the course curricula and I work with the faculty on new content. This includes planning out new videos, filling in the gaps where we have problems in our curriculum, putting together the learning paths for extended courses and certifications and then running the Master Certification Program.
Eric Enge: So, you are the in-charge of the curriculum?
Scott Milrad: Yes.
Eric Enge: Can you give us an overview of the Market Motive Master Program then?
Scott Milrad: Currently we have four Master Certification tracks – SEO, Web Analytics, Pay Per Click and Online PR. What we have is a program that takes a group of people through one or two of those over a three month period that includes online video classes quizzes, live workshops with the faculty and a final peer review.
So, in our first month, each member goes through those series of videos, take the quizzes and at the end there will be one big comprehensive test of about fifty to one hundred questions, depending on the discipline. They need to pass that test to move on to the next level. After that, there will be two or three longer essay questions relating to the program or the discipline, which they have to answer. After that, members complete an hands-on project that represents a culmination of their learning. All work is reviewed by peers and the dream team faculty.
An SEO, for example, will build a website from scratch with SEO in mind. Starting from a blank template, they have to build title tags, Meta description tags, page copy, do some page sculpting, build the internal linking program and the site architecture.
Then they have to write an essay about why they did certain things, their strategies and how to go about doing various things within the SEO program. After this, they go through a peer review. We exchange projects and one person will evaluate another one based on their criteria for building the project. Finally, we finish with the all-faculty panel review. This is where the faculty looks at everybody’s projects. And then, we’ll ask a series of questions on something that someone has done and ask them a little bit about that. Along the way, each of those projects has to have a basic level of high quality to move onto the next level. It then culminates with the faculty panel, where our students must earn three faculty endorsements to graduate.
Eric Enge: It sounds like the SEO is focused on onsite SEO type practices, is that right?
Scott Milrad: For the hands-on project, it is practical to focus on onsite SEO,
Eric Enge: Link building isn’t currently a part of the curriculum then?
Scott Milrad: Link building is definitely a part of the curriculum as is keyword strategy and more. We have several training classes on off-site strategies and Todd Malicoat gives some fantastic video classes on link building strategies. We initially were going to include that as part of our other project, but we would have had to extend the program longer, so we decided to focus the hands-on project on straight onpage SEO.
Another example of a time-sensitive hands-on project is out Online PR people having to contact a series of bloggers to persuade them to blog about our program and the Master Certification Final. Interestingly, online PR is a short form of link building . It also crosses over into SEO; the cool thing about a lot of this stuff is that there is definitely cross over.
For example, Landing Page Optimization and Pay Per Click are integrally tied together in the same way that Online PR and Social Media are. You can make an argument that there is crossover in most of the disciplines.
Eric Enge: Right. And, which of the programs have you found most interest in so far? PR, Pay Per Click, SEO or Analytics?
Scott Milrad: SEO is definitely the most popular and I think Online PR is a close second. SEO is so popular because that’s where people feel they should start out. So then, they add Online PR, or Analytics, or PPC. Generally, you don’t have people doing SEO and PPC together, but I’d say many of the candidates are recognizing the need for cross training.
Eric Enge: Who is signing up to participate in these programs?
Scott Milrad: That’s another really good question. So, we’ve got people that are running their own business. We have senior directors at significant public companies. We’ve got people that work for agencies. We have people that already work for the specific discipline that we are teaching. We have people that are in the analytics track that work for analytics companies and want to be taught by the best and truly master analytics.
For this next round, we have a lot of agencies who want to get their interns through the program and up to speed so that they can actually put them on the contracts and have them do some real work.
We also see some young folks right out of college who want to get into Online PR and Social Media.
Eric Enge: Right. So, do you offer a lower-level certification or is it just the master certification?
Scott Milrad: We do have a lower-level certification; we have a practitioner certificate program that we send people through. It’s actually a part of our monthly subscription model. So, people who are existing members at the all-access level can participate in the practitioner certificate, and it’s similar to the learning path of the Master Certification Program.
It has approximately the same amount of videos, weekly workshops and quizzes, but a less demanding test at the end and no hands-on projects, peer review, or publicity. If they pass that, they get a practitioner certificate to show that they’ve gone through a program and learnt the basic of whatever discipline they’ve gone through.
Eric Enge: So do a lot of people start with the more basic stuff and then move on to the next level after that?
Scott Milrad: Several of our candidates were already in a program. Because they’ve already seen some of the basic classes and they may have even gone through the practitioner track, they were ready for the next level, which is what master certification is all about, going to that next level.
I would say people that are true beginners can still do well if they are really dedicated, but I think you kind of need a little bit of a base if you’re going to just jump into a higher level.
Eric Enge: What about industry endorsement of these programs, has there been any of that?
Scott Milrad: I think that the industry has been keeping a really close eye on us, and, the program. We have some pretty interesting people that have already registered to be part of that, both observers and A-list guests that are going to come and participate, But yes, the industry has received us pretty well because it’s not just some slides and a test. It includes hands-on real life projects and a peer review of the top names in the industry.
Eric Enge: I would think your goal would be to get some rock stars to come out of the program.
Scott Milrad: Absolutely. I mean, now you are hitting on what this is all about. We don’t take it lightly, we don’t put people through the program and just go, “oh, we took your money and we’ll give you a certificate.” We are putting our own name behind this and we are expecting that when people come out of this they have the ability to go and run an agency or on their own and put the things that we taught them in the program into practice effectively. So yes, we are definitely looking for some superstars to come out of it.
Interestingly enough, the interactive nature has resulted in a really great group of people and they’ve got to know each other well. We do a weekly office-hours conference call where we get on and talk about what’s going on depending where we are in the program. We discuss the classes and projects in Online PR, or PPC or Analytics; we just get into discussion about whatever anybody is having problems with.
What we found is that people are actually really starting to help each other, so we have a few people that have already excelled at the program and we got them to help us out with it a little bit. Then it becomes a symbiotic relationship and they help each other. So yes, we are really excited and hopeful about people coming out of here and being true superstars.
Eric Enge: So in October you started this latest round of Master Certification, right?
Scott Milrad: I think the program actually started at the very beginning of November.
Eric Enge: Can talk a bit about the specifics of what people have been through during the past months and how it’s going to culminate in your interactive event?
Scott Milrad: Mastering internet marketing takes a significant commitment, and a three month program is just about right for folks with a fulltime job, and have a fulltime family too. . If we were all in college then this would just be a nice little semester or quarter course. Being out in the real world is a bit of a time commitment, so not everyone has what it takes to finish. Those that stick it out are already benefiting from the results.
Essentially we spend the first month reviewing the online classes and attending live online workshops. There are approximately ten to fifteen hours worth of videos that candidates must attend, depending on which discipline it is.
The second month is dedicated to articulating what you have learned via essays and planning for the hands-on project, taking everything you have learned and putting it into practice. And then, the final part is going through the peer reviews. People are really turning around and are now able to access another person’s project from the outside.
That kind of goes to the idea of not just being in-house, but being able to look at a company’s existing program and evaluate it from the outside.
On the other hand I think if you actually reduce this program by 50% and made it a six-week program, people could still get through it. They would have to commit a lot more, but there is always a balance in trying to figure out the right amount of time to give people so that they have to get on it early enough, yet at the same time we have to make sure everyone has enough time to get things done.
Eric Enge: For the SEO project people get a starter website from you, and then they have to flush it out. Are they supposed to do a certain number of pages or they are just working on that particular website?
Scott Milrad: There isn’t a specified page amount. I give them a front page and it’s really just a shell, with a couple of images, a few hundred words of page copy and a secondary page so that they have two pages from which to build. We then ask them to modify that to build a site with five to ten pages so we are able to see what architecture they put together and to see how the internal linking.
Things like title tags, Meta tags and page sculpting can be done in one page or two pages. But, the rest of it, inner linking, overall site architecture, is going to obviously require more pages. But, they can put a dummy copy for the final five pages if they want as long as we see the architecture they are putting together.
Eric Enge: Now that their projects are nearing completion, you are planning an event. Could you tell me a little bit about that?
Scott Milrad: We are calling it the Faculty Panel Gauntlet. It’s sort of “American Idol meets SEO” certification. Right now eight candidates have made it to this level and will participate in the event. There will be at least eight faculty members, plus a few associate instructors as well. As I said, a couple of surprise guests will be on there as well. What we are going to do is a lightning round type of event where there is going to be a series of questions from each faculty member to each candidate.
Michael Stebbins, the CEO of Market Motive, will host the event, and he will decide in what order the faculty members will ask their questions. After each question to one of the candidates, the candidate has a minute or two to respond. We will just keep going that way for about an hour.
At the end of it candidates have to get three faculty endorsements to go on. So, at the very end Michael will be asking for everybody’s opinion and get the thumbs up and thumbs down. All we’ll do is ask if people are ready to move forward or not.
Eric Enge: This is going to be broadcast?
Scott Milrad: It is going to be broadcast; we are doing a live webcast of everything, a screen share and over the phone where everybody can call in and listen in on the whole thing. It’s interesting, because all the faculty members are on it, and they are all over the country, and our candidates are all over the country as well. So, we are going to have a lot of people that are calling in from all over the place participating in one big event.
Eric Enge: What’s the date of the event?
Scott Milrad: That is going to be January 27th at 9 am Pacific Time.
Eric Enge: Why did you decide to make it interactive?
Scott Milrad: Because this is how we perform in the real world. As consultants and experts we perform under the scrutiny of a client. Perform under the scrutiny of the know authority in the market, and you have a good chance of serving your clients well. Also, we aren’t hiding the fact that this is fun and it generates some publicity for Market Motive.
Eric Enge: You are practicing good SEO promotion.
Scott Milrad: We are practicing good Online PR promotion. It’s not a surprise that part of Online PR’s final project is to promote this event. It’s very circular in that way, and they need to release a press release and try to get the most people to their landing page about the event. By the way, Mario Bonilla at PR-Web was most generous to our candidates.
In the end, it’s just an effective way to bring what we are doing to the surface and show the public what we are doing. And again, it’s supposed to be fun; we have no intention of trying to embarrass anybody on this call, and we tell people that it is not required that they be on it. If you are uncomfortable with speaking in public or you just don’t want to be grilled, they don’t have to.
It’s also a great way for them to get public exposure, and we are going to publicize the people who finish the program on our site. Part of the idea is to promote the graduates, have fun and to get the word out there about what we are doing.
Eric Enge: Right. It is a lot like site clinics at the major trade shows.
Scott Milrad: Yes.
Eric Enge: Outside people who want to look in on this can think of it in the same way they would think of a site clinic, as an opportunity to see people who really know their trade grow and dig into the issues with a given site implementation.
Scott Milrad: Yes, exactly. When you get the best and the brightest up on the panel debating an aspect of Internet marketing, it’s pretty exciting. And, we haven’t had the entire faculty on one call since that first conference call two years ago. So, it’s a good opportunity to get everybody in one place, and we’ve got some personalities too so it should be interesting.
Bryan Eisenberg is certainly not shy, and Avinash Kaushik is an absolute pleasure to listen to at anytime. Lots of opinions and authoritative people. It should be a lot of fun.
Eric Enge: Thanks Scott!
Scott Milrad: Thank You Eric! I enjoyed it.