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I really don’t interview that often, especially since things have been busy with the expansion of Search & Social, but wanted to share this really cool interview I did with Mikail Shakin of Shakin.ru, a Russian search marketing blog.
In the interview I discuss launching Search Engine Journal back in 2003, my background in SEO, why I got started in search marketing in the 90’s and my trip to Russia last year.
Сегодня в гостях у Shakin.ru особенный гость – Лорен Бейкер, основатель и главный редактор всемирно известного SEO ресурса SearchEngineJournal.com. Для меня большая честь взять интервью у Лорена. Если меня попросят назвать самого авторитетного SEO-специалиста в мире, я назову Лорена Бейкера. Я благодарю Лорена за то, что уделил время на интервью для читателей блога Shakin.ru.
Международное интервью – Лорен Бейкер, всемирно известный SEO-специалист
For the majority of you who do not read Russian, here is the English version of the interview :
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
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
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.
When you are an entrepreneur, you have to love what you do as it is your life.
For SEO’s that means you usually end up living, breathing and dreaming SEO.
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
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
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
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
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 vodka
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!