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Interview: Jill Whalen, High Rankings®

Jill Whalen
Founder and CEO
High Rankings®

Jill Whalen is a pioneer in search engine optimization, beginning in the field in the early 1990s and founding High Rankings in 1995. Since that time, High Rankings has grown to be one of the pre-eminent SEO companies in the United States, working with hundreds of clients in more than 40 industries to enhance their presence through proven and dynamic search engine strategies that lead to increased traffic, more conversions and enhanced sales.

CB: What fascinates you about the web?
JW: Its ability to make the world so small.

CB: What would you change about it?
JW: The commercialization of the web has created a lot of junk that is thrown out there in hopes of it somehow making money. I would love to remove all the junk online and only keep the quality stuff. But I know that will never happen!

CB: Do you have a blog? If so, what makes your blog unique?

JW: While not technically a blog, our email newsletter archives are set up sort of like a blog. In other words, once the email newsletter goes out to its 25,500+ subscribers, each “post” is also available on the High Rankings website like a blog post where people can comment. It’s set up with RSS feeds, and pretty much everything else that a typical blog would have. Because of this, and the fact that I also write two other columns a month as well as post on our High Rankings Forum and numerous other online places on a daily/weekly basis, I have nothing left to write in a blog!

CB: What technology has had the greatest impact on how you do your job?

JW: I’m not sure I could pick one thing, as all the technology I use works in conjunction with everything else to create a complete package for successfully performing my work. I suppose if I had to choose, I’d say the use of Firefox and all its awesome extension add-ons is probably what I rely on most often these days. Every time I have to use IE for one reason or another, I totally miss all the Firefox extensions!

CB: Who has influenced or helped you the most in your career?

JW: There have been a variety of people throughout the 13 years since I’ve started in business. Back in the mid-late 90’s, I was influenced by the email discussion newsletters about internet marketing and search marketing which were published by John Audette. Those inspired me to create my own email newsletter in 2000, as well as helped me to establish myself as an expert in the SEO field.

I also owe a debt of gratitude to Danny Sullivan, who’s been the voice of search marketing since the 90’s. He used to refer business to me and also gave me my start in speaking at the early Search Engine Strategies conferences.

In addition, the numerous friends whom I met in various online venues as well as at conferences, have been a great help both personally and professionally. People like Karon Thackston, Christine Churchill, Scottie Claiborne, Kim Krause Berg and Debra Mastaler have all provided me with a reliable network of friends to outsource work to, as well as count on for support through thick and thin.

And last, but not least, since growing High Rankings beyond just me for the past few years, I’ve relied heavily on my colleague and friend, Pauline Jakober, as a sounding board for business decisions. She’s helped me to start to break out of my solo entrepreneur mentality, in order to grow High Rankings into a more professional business. I assure you this is no easy task, so she deserves a lot of credit for hanging in there with me!

CB: What makes you uniquely suited to your suited to your role as a SEO consultant?
JW: I’m not sure why or how, but for whatever reason, I just love SEO and everything about it. I think it’s partially the ability to think with both sides of my brain that helps. Having a creative and a technical side seems to be important in this business. For whatever reason, SEO just feels like common sense to me, so that when I look at any website, I know exactly what needs to be done to “fix it.” I think I was somehow born to do SEO, even though there was no such thing until I started doing it back in the ‘90’s!

CB: If you had one sentence to pitch a potential client, what would it be?

JW: If you’re not receiving all the targeted search engine traffic that you should be, then your website is broken and you’re essentially leaving money on the table.

CB: What are some of the most frequently misunderstood aspects of SEO?

JW: That there are quick fixes. Let’s face it, if there were things you could do quickly and easily to gain more targeted search engine traffic, everyone would be doing them. Instead, SEO is generally is a long-term investment in the overall health of your website.

It takes a while to do the preliminary research necessary to know even where to begin with the SEO process, and then time to create an SEO strategy, and then even more time to put everything in place. After that, it still takes time for the search engines to do their part and decide that your website is indeed one of the best for the relevant keyword phrases people are typing in.

CB: I believe that everyone has a specific and unique talent that comes in handy at just the right time. It might be something most people know about you or something very few know. What is your super-power?

JW: That might be my ability to break down the complicated into its essential parts while ignoring the unimportant details, and then describe it to others in everyday language that they can understand in a straightforward and concise manner.

CB: If the worlds technological and economic systems were to collapse and revert society to locally-focused, agrarian communities, what role would you assume?
JW: Perish the thought!

I would probably go back to being a caretaker of children. I was a mom at home for many years when my kids were young, and taking care of and teaching children was really my first love before the Internet came ‘round! I’m generally more comfortable around kids and computers than regular adult people!

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