Jill Whalen of High Rankings: Content More Important than SEO to Search Engines

Jill Whalen (Source: High Rankings)

If you know any name at all in the world of SEO and rankings, then you probably know the name “Jill Whalen.” Jill got started on the SEO scene back in 1990 when it was hardly a “scene” at all. In 1995, she launched her own company, High Rankings, which strategizes with hundreds of clients in over 40 industries on increasing traffic, boosting sales, and improving search engine rankings.

Jill was gracious enough to share some of her time with us to talk about SEO, content marketing, what’s changed, and what’s stayed the same over the decades. We started off our conversation talking about the relationship between SEO and content marketing. Jill’s response was intriguing. While many experts see the two as closely knit, Jill sees content marketing as a subset of SEO.

The SEO & Content Marketing Relationship

In Jill’s words, “The more high-quality content your site has, the more keyword phrases you’ll have the ability to be found for.  Each article or post on your site increases your ability to be found through search engines through a new set of keyword phrases.  The words naturally used in your articles make up a variety of combinations of long-tail searches. The beauty of this is you don’t even have to know about SEO in order for this to happen!”

Of course, as a SEO expert, Jill knows that it’s a little more technical than that. However, she sees truly good content as naturally having a decent amount of SEO value. And, it’s not just valuable to the search engines; good content also shows your company’s expertise.

According to Jill, “In today’s Google, anything that can demonstrate that your website is an authoritative source of information within your niche can be helpful. Plus, being an authority can be a catalyst for reporters using your company as a source when writing about your industry. This in turn can garner you links and social media mentions among other things. But also, something many wouldn’t think about is that if a human Google Quality Rater looked at your site, they would be more apt to give it high marks if it has lots of up-to-date, authoritative great content.”

Google’s AuthorRank

Of course, one of those ways that you demonstrate authority is with Google’s new and improved AuthorRank function. I asked Jill for her take on AuthorRank. She told me, “It makes sense to me that it will eventually be similar to Google’s PageRank. That is, the more high quality authors that mention some other high quality authors (either by linking to them within their own posts or through social media mentions and shares) the more the mentioned authors’ AuthorRank would increase.”

In actuality, what does that look like?

  • Having a clean social media network (e.g. not following back every follower).
  • Creating content that other authorities are likely to share with their followers.

Google+ in 2013

Google+ is picking up steam in the eyes of many, but not in Jill Whalen’s eyes. She’s of this opinion: “G+ is taking center stage only in Google’s mind! While they’re forcing people to sign up with it and link to their profiles in order to get authorship status, that doesn’t force people to actually use it. Facebook and Twitter aren’t going anywhere and I imagine they will still be the strongest signals that Google looks at throughout 2013.”

So, it seems that as much as things are changing with Google and page rankings, just as much is staying the same. This idea led me to ask Jill for her opinion on what’s changed since she got into the SEO business in 1995. Like many experts, she believes a lot has remained the same.

Social Media: Then & Now

“Surprisingly enough,” begins Jill, “most everything I talked about back then is still pivotal to SEO today. That’s mainly because even from the very beginning – while others were trying to figure out the latest tricks – I was always about creating great content for people while keeping search engines in mind. And even though we didn’t have Twitter and Facebook, social media still existed (without that name of course) in the form of forums and chat rooms. Hanging out online in places where your target market is hanging was as good an idea back then as it is now. While it didn’t have a direct SEO benefit, it still had all the online networking benefits that we see with today’s social media marketing.”

Common SEO (and Business) Pitfalls

Love it! Like all successful SEO experts, Jill recognizes that the basic principles that engendered online success twenty years ago haven’t changed. After all, they aren’t even specific to online success, but to business success in general! Nevertheless, many businesses are trying to create their own shortcuts and cheat the system. I asked Jill what she considered to be the biggest issue in her SEO site audits.

Her response: “Most of the mistakes are of a technical nature. It’s amazing how many websites are fundamentally flawed when it comes to being ‘crawler friendly.’ There are so many technical problems that can unintentionally create duplicate content and low-quality pages. The other major thing I’ve been seeing lately is bad link building practices. While they used to work like a treat before the good old Penguin update from Google last April, they have caused lots of headaches and some major traffic losses to many businesses. In addition, older sites that haven’t kept up with their competitors in terms of the type of content and overall usability of their sites have suffered a lot in the past year and a half.”

More Advice From Jill

Get more great advice from Jill, and increase your SEO knowledge (even if it’s currently none) by subscribing to Jill’s articles from the High Rankings Advisor. Thanks, Jill!

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Amie Marse is the founder of Content Equals Money. She lives in Lexington, KY with her two dogs: Billie and Lily. She has been writing content for her web based clients since 2005. She launched Content Equals Money in Oct of 2010, home of conversion focused content writing services. She loves to chat about small business development and how to make content equal money!

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    1. Thanks for the great write up of my interview, Amie! You had some great questions about content marketing and SEO.
      Jill Whalen was just talking about…High Rankings Question of the WeekMy Profile


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