For years, I imagined Jill Whalen, of High Rankings, crouched over her computer in her sweat pants or pajamas pouring over web page source code to be optimized for search engines. She always struck me as passionate about her craft and certainly, devoted to her newsletter readers every week as sheâ€™d patiently answer their questions.
The first time I met her was in a hotel lobby in Boston two years ago, when I came as a guest to experience one of her High Ranking Search Engine Marketing Seminars. She was easily the most relaxed person in the group. I expected I would like her when Iâ€™d heard she likes to be in bare feet. I can relate to that. When I saw her the next day, in a suit looking business-like and professional, it was a small shock. This famous SEO is a powerhouse speaker who not only pulls off a two-day seminar every few months, but eats lunch with attendees and makes sure theyâ€™re getting their every question answered by either herself, or her team of presenters.
The desire to be with fellow search marketers is what drove her, and her business partner, Pauline Kerbici, to launch SEMNE or the Search Engine Marketing Organization for Individuals and Companies in New England.
I did a taped interview with Jill and Pauline while covering the Chicago Search Engine Strategies conference in December, 2006. We managed to find a quiet place because the press room is usually noisy and hectic. On this day, I sat down and simply invited them to relax and talk. I wanted to learn more about their plans for SEMNE.
What gave them the idea?
It was an idea that started slowly, as if on a whim at first, but based on a desire to, as Pauline said, “network locally.”
â€œThis is something both of us wanted to do,â€ Jill remembers.
They didnâ€™t have any local connections in Massachusetts. I asked if the intent is to find others in â€œlocal search marketingâ€ or â€œlocal business in generalâ€. Jill gave this example.
â€œYou know, when youâ€™re here [at a search marketing conference] thereâ€™s lots of people to talk to, and when you get home, there isnâ€™t anybody to talk to about it. There are probably a lot of people out there who donâ€™t get to come to these. They canâ€™t afford it, canâ€™t get away, or theyâ€™re not in the industry but still want to know about it.â€
One day, while Pauline was away on vacation in New Zealand, Jill did some domain research. It didnâ€™t take long to find what she wanted and she locked into SEMNE.org.