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 she’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 I’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 they’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.”

“This is something both of us wanted to do,” Jill remembers.

They didn’t have any local connections in Massachusetts. I asked if the intent is to find others in “local search marketing” or “local business in general”. Jill gave this example.

“You know, when you’re here [at a search marketing conference] there’s lots of people to talk to, and when you get home, there isn’t anybody to talk to about it. There are probably a lot of people out there who don’t get to come to these. They can’t afford it, can’t get away, or they’re not in the industry but still want to know about it.”

One day, while Pauline was away on vacation in New Zealand, Jill did some domain research. It didn’t take long to find what she wanted and she locked into

(Please continue reading to learn more about this year’s plans for SEMNE, as well as other information from my interview with Jill and Pauline.)

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Kim Krause Berg’s long background in web design, SEO and usability includes software application functional and user interface testing, accessibility, information architecture and persuasive design. She shared her passion for Usability and SEO through her site and private consulting at Cre8pc for 17 years. Kim founded Cre8asiteforums in 1998. In the fall of 2012 she sold her forums to Internet Marketing Ninjas and retired from private consulting to join their Executive Management team where she continues her work in usability testing, customer experience and conversions design.

My Online Course: Web Site Usability 101


American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T)

Information Architecture Institute

Usability Professionals Association (UPA)