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The Growth of SEJ Since 2013 #MarketingNerds

In the 100th episode of Marketing Nerds, Jenise Henrikson shares the humble beginnings and journal of making Search Engine Journal grow as a publication.

SEJ: From 2013 to 2017 and Beyond | Marketing Nerds

Visit our Marketing Nerds archive to listen to other Marketing Nerds podcasts!

In this 100th episode (!) of Marketing Nerds, Jenise Henrikson, CEO of Alpha Brand Media, sits down with SEJ Executive Editor Kelsey Jones to give our listeners a bit of background on how Search Engine Journal started, as well the good and the ugly of helping grow the site into the brand it is today.

Want to Win FREE Books?

It is Marketing Nerd’s birthday party, but you get the gifts! To celebrate our 100th episode of Marketing Nerds, we are giving a bundle of books from industry experts that have appeared on Marketing Nerds over the last two years:

marketingnerdsgiveawayHere is how you win:

  1. Listen to Marketing Nerds Episode #100
  2. Keep your ear out for Kelsey to say the “code word”
  3. Fill out this Google Form (one entry per person; duplicate entries will be removed)

We will choose a winner using from all the correct responses and announce it on August 26th! 

Here is the haul you get (with their Marketing Nerds episodes, in case you want to listen):

Here are a few transcribed excerpts from Jenise and Kelsey’s discussion, but make sure to listen to the podcast to hear everything:

Search Engine Journal: A Quick Overview

Search Engine Journal is owned by a company called Alpha Brand Media, and I’m CEO of Alpha Brand Media. I have three other partners: Loren Baker, who is the founder of Search Engine Journal, Brent Csutoras, and Kevin Henrikson.

I have really had to go back and go through the archives to remember what it was like back then, and what we did, and where we were. It was kind of amazing to see the timeline of even what the site looked like, and what our priorities were, and the things that we wished for three years ago.

We were in an interesting place with the company—with ABM and with SEJ.

A Diamond in the Rough

SEJ was one of thirty sites that we were running, and SEJ, by far, was not our primary focus. We were kind of keeping a plate spinning in the air for a lot of different concerns.

We did see the potential in SEJ—a great audience, good traffic numbers, and it seemed like it had a lot of promise. But it had some problems.

We weren’t publishing consistently good content, we didn’t have a content strategy, we didn’t have an editorial strategy. We made mistakes. We published posts by authors who turned out to be fake, and we justifiably got raked over the coals for that.

And we realized we had to make a decision. One of those was doing tactical things like beefing up background checks and editorial process, and trying to raise the quality bar.

But other things were more strategic, and that was — do we double down on Search Engine Journal and put more of our focus and resources there? We ended up doing that. We ended up selling off all of our other sites to focus on what we thought was a diamond in the rough, which was SEJ.

Asking the Right Questions

Having you ask those questions, I think, really helped all of us. It helped us see it through a fresh pair of eyes.

“Why are things done that way?”

“Well, I don’t know. Let’s figure out a better way.”

It was really formative in helping us come up with the editorial process and guidelines.

I remember creating my janky little graphic of swim lanes and who’s doing what and my little arrows and stuff. I definitely am never going to be graphic designer, but I think it got the job done. And that was sort of the beginnings of, I think, what was starting to be a grown-up publisher, really.

Implementing Strict Guidelines

I love hearing that people think that we’re too hard to write for and that they’re not writing for us anymore, honestly. I mean, it works out for us and it works out for them. I think, “Hmm maybe we’re not being stringent enough if people thought we were easy to write for.” They’re not meeting the bar in one way or another then that’s okay.

If they’re not meeting the bar in one way or another, that’s okay. They can write for someone else, but we’re not going to reduce our standards. What we’ve been doing so far has been working for us, and we’re still getting top-notch, rock star content. If people opt out, that means that the process is working, and our team is working.

The Drawbacks of Being Biased to Action

I am in love with the idea that we are biased to action, but that does get in our way sometimes. We’re so excited about this new idea [that] we forget about the other ones we were supposed to be implementing.

That’s bit us in the behind, I think, at times, but I think we’re getting better at it. We’re still maturing, we’re becoming more and more grown up every day.

The contests, the social contests. It sounded like a good idea, but it didn’t quite pan out.

Then there is SEJ Summit, a marketing conference we host and organize and have put on for the last three years. That’s something we’re learning about. Becoming event and conference organizers in a space that has lots of competition.

Organizing Conferences and Meeting Online Homies

Our team is a hundred percent remote. We do video chats once a week, but there’s nothing like seeing each other in person, and I think it’s the same way with our audience.

We can talk to them on Facebook all day long. We can tweet at them and feel like we’re developing homies out there online, but real life is where it’s at. Being able to talk to people and ask them what they’d like to read or see more of or learn more about in the marketing space, about SEO, it’s being able to make that a personal connection and talking to people that know the site has been really rewarding. That’s why we do conferences.

Attitude is Everything

If we talk about commonalities of who works out as a team member of our little tribe and who doesn’t: Number one is self-starter. Someone who understands the mission and creates their own way to get there and doesn’t need the recipe.

That goes hand in hand with listening and asking others what they think and not always trying to jump in with the answer.

Search Engine Journal in 2017 and Beyond

I would say continue learning. Keep that growth mindset. Failing does not mean you are a failure.

I think that it’s something all of us have to continue to work on and move towards in terms of embracing risk and failure and trying again. I think we’re pretty good about encouraging each other to do it.

Looking into the future, that’s where I would like to see us sort of evolve.

To listen to this Marketing Nerds Podcast with Kelsey Jones & Jenise Henrikson:

Think you have what it takes to be a Marketing Nerd? If so, message Kelsey Jones on Twitter, or email her at kelsey [at]

Visit our Marketing Nerds archive to listen to other Marketing Nerds podcasts!

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Category SEJ Show
Aki Libo-on

Aki is a content strategist, marketing consultant, and former assistant editor of SEJ. When not at work, she is busy ...

The Growth of SEJ Since 2013 #MarketingNerds

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