Jenny Wiseman is the Editorial SEO Manager at TechTarget Inc. based in Needham, Massachusetts.
Can you tell us a little about TechTarget and your role there?
TechTarget is an enterprise IT media company offering technology professionals information via our suite of market-specific websites, conferences and lead management services. Some of the main functions of my job include working with the editorial and marketing staff to educate them on search engine optimization techniques; developing strategies for improvements to our sites; and working with the product development team to recommend technical and design changes.
When and how did you first get interested/involved in SEO?
Back in 2001, I was working for a small internet startup as an editor when I was first introduced to the concept of SEO. I was taught how to make “hallway pages” for every single topic on the websites. I was immediately fascinated by the concept, so I started studying it and following the trends. It was really more of a hobby for a while and I remained an editor until 2006 when I finally turned my hobby into a career at TechTarget.
Does TechTarget's business model present unique SEO challenges? What do you struggle with? What have been your biggest triumphs?
I think search engine optimization itself is the challenge. It’s constantly changing, it takes a lot of time and patience, and it is not the easiest concept to explain or understand. So it’s definitely a challenge to keep up with the changes, while at the same time helping so many different people understand SEO and how to incorporate certain techniques into their daily work. I think Google is often thought of as “Big Brother” and people get frustrated thinking they have to change their ways because of a search engine, when really Google is changing for its users. So I think one of my biggest triumphs has been helping people understand SEO and that we are actually doing this for our readers – the searchers – and not for the search engines.
What optimization efforts, either on-page or off-page, seem to make the biggest difference?
Making sure your site has unique, quality, keyword-rich content with strong inbound links. It can be a real challenge keeping a site free of duplicate content, but the more you can do to prevent it, the better off your site will be. Additionally, some of the more basic stuff goes a long way, such as having optimized title tags and content, focusing on the long tail and having static URLs.
Are there challenges in working with writers, editors, journalists, marketers and so on in terms of getting them to comply with SEO best practices?
The challenge all around is helping people understand the importance of keyword research and that we can’t assume we know what people search for. There’s often an expectation to be number one in Google for certain terms, when really the terms aren’t what people search for. I spend a lot of time emphasizing the importance of keyword research and understanding searcher behavior.
The challenge with writers and editors is they are very creative people and SEO sort of takes that away from them a bit. Internet-based journalism has changed a lot due to search engines, and now the headlines that work very well in magazines and newspapers tend to be too vague and lacking in keywords for search. Our writers and editors are also asked to do keyword research before they pitch ideas or write stories. So I think it can be a challenge for them to go from thinking about how to write a good story based solely on what it’s about to thinking about how to write a good story based on what people are searching for. There’s definitely a loss of creative freedom there.
How much overlap is there between organic SEO and paid search marketing at TechTarget? Are there synergies?
My team puts equal energy into both paid and organic search marketing because they go hand-in-hand. Our paid efforts support our organic efforts and together increase our overall traffic. You learn so much more about your audience and you expand your reach by focusing on both.
What are the biggest changes you've seen in search since you started working in SEO?
Years ago it seemed like there was less focus on user experience, so it was much easier to manipulate search results. Google has since taught us to focus on the searcher’s experience more and now we really have to pay attention to the changes they are making to learn what is/isn’t acceptable. Also, Google makes updates far more frequently now, so they really keep us on our toes.
What do you think of Bing?
Personally as a user, I’m not a fan from what I’ve seen so far. It’s always interesting to see what the other search engines come up with as they attempt to beat Google, but I can’t say I see Bing being any more popular than MSN or Live were.
How do you stay informed? Do you attend any search conferences? What are your favorite search blogs or other resources?
I’ve been to some of the bigger conferences – SES and SMX. I check a lot blogs daily, mainly Google Webmaster Central, Search Engine Roundtable, Search Engine Land, SEO Book, John Battelle, and of course, Matt Cutts.
What software or tools do you use regularly to make your job easier?
In addition to our own internal data, I rely a lot on Google’s Webmaster Tools to keep an eye on how our sites are performing. I also frequently use Google’s AdWords Keyword tool, WordTracker and Keyword Discovery for research. Xenu's Link Sleuth is a great software program for analyzing links quickly, and there are a lot of good Firefox add-ons like SEO for Firefox (but you do have to be careful because some of the add-ons will cause you problems with Google).
What do you see happening with SEO and online marketing in the next 10, 20 or more years? Do you see it as a lifelong career for you?
I think as long as we have the internet there will always be a place for search marketing, it will just keep evolving. Businesses need someone to pay attention to how people are finding information and how to make sure your information is what they are finding. It’s especially interesting now to watch the social media sites becoming more and more popular. Combine that with increasing mobile device usage and the demand for instant information is going to be even higher. People are already starting to use Twitter as a search engine, so I think it’s only a matter of time before we see an even bigger merge there.
What else is going on with you? Surely you don't do SEO all the time …
I used to let my interest in SEO consume far too much of my time, but now I try to leave it at work. When I’m not working I like to do things that don’t involve sitting in front of a computer, such as spending time with my husband and other people in the real world, reading books, watching stupid comedies (most recently The Hangover, which I highly recommend), gardening and writing. I’ve promised myself I will write at least one book and I try to work at that goal when I can.