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Interview with Jill Whalen, Search Engine Optimization Expert


Jill Whalen is one of the premier search engine optimization experts out there today. She is the founding owner of HighRankings.com, and makes herself available for search engine optimization advice in the HighRankings Forums. Read my interview with Jill as we talked about her views on search engine optimization, where search marketing is headed, and an average "day in the life" for Jill.

What is your basic search engine optimization philosophy?

My basic SEO philosophy is that in order to have long term success with the search engines, you have to give them what they want. All search engines really have the same goals and want the same things, i.e., to show the best, most relevant pages for any search query that someone types into their engine. So if you have a site that provides the search engines with what they want, you can't really go wrong.

How did you get into the search engine optimization field?

Back in 1994 I was into chatting on the IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and had a parenting chat room there. To complement the chat room, I created a parenting website. Like most people with a website, I wanted it to be easily found in the search engines, so I looked at which sites were showing up under various search phrases, and figured out what I needed to do to make it happen for my parenting site.

By 1995 I was starting to create websites for some small businesses, and always included SEO services with that. (Although it wasn't called SEO back then, it was considered more to be "submission services" which was pretty much a misnomer.) I always found SEO to be a fascinating puzzle, and had a lot of fun figuring it out. By 1997, having been figuring it out for so long, I was well on my way to being far ahead of the learning curve then most people, and I decided to give up designing sites (because I really wasn't very good at that!) to concentrate on just SEO.

How has search engine optimization changed since you first started out?

Well, like I said, it wasn't even called search engine optimization back in the mid-nineties. But for me, SEO hasn't changed a whole lot since when I first began. I was never one who created doorway pages, or tried to hide text or anything like that. I realized from the very beginning that the text you put visibly on the page had a powerful effect as to how your page would show up in the search results for any given keyword phrase typed into the engine. So, my same basic philosophy of making your page the most relevant held even back then.

Probably the biggest changes were in the tools and the information available to SEOs. In the old days, there were no keyword research tools, so we simply had to guess at what people might be searching for that was related to what our clients offered. Sometimes we'd guess right, and sometimes not. Today, we have tools such as Wordtracker and KeywordDiscovery which can show us exactly the phrases people are using.

We're also able to measure results much better these days. Instead of relying on useless measurements such as rankings, we can actually measure search engine traffic and how it converts within any given site. This is much more helpful and useful when determining the success of our campaigns.

There is also a ton of SEO info available today. Unfortunately, this isn't always a good thing as much of it is conflicting. I suggest that people take what they read with a grain of salt. Try to find an SEO method that works for you that you're comfortable with, and then disregard the conflicting advice you might read.

This interview with Jill Whalen is continued on page two.

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