Interview with Loren Baker, Editor in Chief of Search Engine Journal

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Today’s guest at MikeShakin.com is Loren Baker, Editor in Chief of world famous SEO resource Search Engine Journal. This interview was originally given for my Russian blog Shakin.ru but i decided to publish it’s English version on this blog. I appreciate that Loren took time to answer my questions.

Interview with Loren Baker, Editor in Chief of Search Engine Journal

Loren, thanks for the interview. When did you first get involved with search marketing?

Thanks for interviewing me. I first got involved with search marketing in 1999 when I was a university student. I was looking for an internship in advertising and marketing as I was majoring in both fields. A lot of students were taking jobs at large businesses, but I found an opportunity interning for a small online marketing consultant, and took a chance in a field which was it its infancy at the time, but I knew it would be a challenge and would result in a lot of opportunity.

Now, search marketing is a huge industry and almost all businesses use search to gain customers or sell products. It was a good choice.

How many hours do you work daily and what are your daily tasks?

I really do not clock my hours, but I would guess that I more or less work about 12 hours a day.

I usually wake up in the morning and check email, reply to tweets, check rankings, analytics and drink coffee for about an hour. then I review blog posts in draft mode on Search Engine Journal, moderate comments, track search news and view some forums for another hour or so.

I then drive into the Search & Social offices and play boss all day, going over client campaigns, writing proposals, building links and researching search marketing initiatives. Running a business takes a lot of time, and there all always issues that do not have to do with search marketing. I also try to take about an hour a day to build relationships with new people in search, and promote the great articles and blog posts on Search Engine Journal.

I used to run the blog all by myself but now I have some great help from Ann Smarty and my partners at Search & Social, Jordan Kasteler and Dave Snyder. Still, with all of the help the blog still needs a lot of attention behind the scenes.

SearchEngineJournal.com is one the best sources of information in the SEO world. Why did you launch SEJ? Where are you now with SEJ?

This is a rather long story and although I launched SEJ in 2003, the story begins in the year 2001. In 2001, I had been involved in SEO and search marketing for 3 years and at the age of 26 I decided to take a hiatus from SEO and took up an English teaching position for a company in Japan. I wanted to travel and experience different cultures, and this was a great way to do so. As much as I loved search, I wanted to have some adventure in my life outside of the office, and this was my chance.

While in Japan, I was only on the computer about 3 or 4 times a week, but at every chance, I would always check rankings of the sites I used to work on, and also check up on search forums. I had always been heavily involved in forums like HighRankings, SitePoint and email lists like I-Search, and continued to check up on the trends.  In 2003 I moved to Brazil, to continue my mid-twenty adventures, and realized that unlike Japan, teaching English in Brazil would not pay my student loans.

So, I decided to take on some contracting work for the online marketing agency I had originally interned with. I was happy to be back and they were very happy to have me working on their clients again. 2001 thru 2003 were very large years for SEO and search marketing, and I had to play some catchup. I always enjoyed writing, and decided to start tracking down search changes and my SEO research in word documents and my own newsletter.

Then, I read how Google had acquired Blogger.com and how blogs & “web journals” were going to become a hot commodity online. I decided to launch my own site to do my own writing on, and did some research to find that SearchEngineBlog.com was taken, as was SearchBlog.com … so I searched for different domain names and stumbled upon SearchEngineJournal.com … I really loved the name and thought that it would be a strong brand because it reflected the trend of web logs (as blogs were called at the time) or web journals while also associating the brand with University Research Journals and the Wall Street Journal, so I decided to transition my newsletter into a new blog, Search Engine Journal.

SEJ started as a personal project and after a while I noticed that I was getting more and more traffic, incoming links from authority sites and offers from companies to advertise on the SEJ 3 months after I started the project. My first advertiser paid me $35 a month to put a little box on my sidebar. When I first got the check, I was so excited.

Search Engine Journal was one of 3 or 4 search blogs at the time, and this was before Search Engine Watch became a blog and about 5 years before Search Engine Land  launched. So a lot of the success of SEJ has to do with timing, passion and opportunity … I launched the right blog at the right time.

Over the years, with the help of many loyal readers and contributors, SEJ has become one of the most recognized and well read blogs in not just search marketing, but all online marketing.  And as search grows, so does the direction on the blog. I started out writing tutorials and news … and the blog still publishes the same style of news and tutorials (especially with the great Ann Smarty on board) but we expand into different disciplines of search and online marketing. We write a lot more about Facebook now because Facebook can influence search results.

I think keeping a positive and edgy approach to blogging with also giving others in the industry the chance to shine has really been the secret of SEJ’s success. What started out as a personal project grew into a full time job as a publication / professional blog and has also helped to launch my Internet marketing agency, Search & Social. It’s really a dream come true.

About how many visitors daily does SearchEngineJournal.com receive?

SEJ gets about 15,000 unique users per day, with 30,000 RSS readers, over 3,000 Facebook Fans and syndication on Yahoo & Google News. For the most part, I’d say that the majority of search marketers read SEJ daily. There is always room for improvement and new ways to deliver the message to readers, such as Twitter feeds and targeted social news sharing sites.

You are recognised as an authority on SEO - other than an extensive knowledge of the subject, are there any other factors that you think has helped you raise to the TOP in a very competitive industry?

I’m not sure if I’m one of the best SEO’s or a “top” SEO, but I’ve always made it a point to go the extra mile for clients and to also share what I have learned in the field of SEO with others who are new to the field.

In addition I would say that when I started SEO, I was primarily working as an “on-site” SEO, performing audits, troubleshooting, rewriting content, fixing site infrastructure and more or less ranking sites based on changes made to the site. I also do a lot of competitive intelligence to learn how the competition is ranking and what Google likes about them. Only was it afterwards when I started building links and implementing social media initiatives into the overall SEO structure.

I’d say that being well rounded, and open to change has been a major factor. I gain a lot of knowledge from covering news and forums on SEJ, I like to make it a point to apply that knowledge to my work. I think that is only fair for me and the client.

Where do you see the world of SEO in 2-3 years time?

I see SEO going in a much more social direction, with search results targeted at user behavior becoming more and more prevalent. Google has the ability to profile the sites we visit, the ads we click and the groups we belong to on different social networks along with the content that we share on Twitter… along with our years of search history. I do not see social search or personalized search bringing an entire transformation to SEO, but for businesses or bloggers : make sure you build your readerbase and subscribers. Also, encourage them to share your content on Twitter, Facebook, Odnoklassniki .. .etc.

The more your content is shared by your readers, the more they will introduce others to it and those people will also become your readers. This will influence the search results for everyone. I still believe that onsite usability, relevance, incoming links and conversions will still play a huge role in SEO … about 85% of it.

Thanks a lot, Loren! What is your final word to Russian bloggers?

I spent 3 weeks in Russia last year, visiting Moscow and Omsk, the hometown of my wife Janna. I really enjoyed the trip, the atmosphere and the food. I did not however get a chance to experience the technical changes which are currently going on inside Russia, but I did get an understanding of the Russian dominance of social media and the importance of Rambler and Yandex to the Russian search landscape.

If you’re a blogger writing for Russians, I would say that the next big thing to happen in Russia is to be the surge of the mobile web beyond smartphones, with tablets and slates becoming more and more used everyday in Russian life, even outside of Moscow. Russians are people on the go, and yes, the home PC has become a main research and communications factor in the Russian household, but Russians web connectivity will grow at the mobile level; in the subways, the buses, the trains, the shuttles and on foot. So, if you are a Russian blogger writing for a Russian audience, again … attract more RSS subscribers and followers as these are the loyal readers who will be reading your content while on the go.

If you’re a Russian blogger writing for an International audience, you’ll have to take more into account that Yandex and Rambler won’t you? First of all, subscribe to Search Engine Journal’s RSS feed as we’re building out our SEO news coverage. Also, be sure to follow SEO forum conversation in forums like Webmaster World, High Rankings and others. There is a great blog in the US called Search Engine Roundtable which summarizes the main conversations happening in search forums, I highly suggest subscribing to it.

One big tip is to encourage comments and conversation on your blog. The comments after a blog post can transform an original paragraph or two into a chapter of content. Your readers are your greatest ally when they comment or have a conversation on a blog post.

Also, one thing I like to do is read and follow blogs which may not be about search, but have proven success in their respected fields. This way, I get “outside of the box” and come up with ideas from top blogs like TechCrunch, Mashable, GigaOm and paidContent. Every time I read one of these blogs, I get an idea for Search Engine Journal, maybe an idea on displaying advertising or perhaps a new column idea. Learn from the best!

Mike Shakin

Update: Loren published this interview on Search Engine Journal: Interviewed on Russian Search Blog Shakin.ru 



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