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A Window Into Whalen’s World

The team at Black Tie Digital Marketing recently had the pleasure of getting a peek into the world of SEO pioneer Jill Whalen. Having built an SEO driven empire, Whalen has now shifted her life’s focus towards health and we wanted to know how the transition was going. As your Melbourne, FL SEO resource we truly had a blast getting to know Jill Whalen outside of the SEO arena. Read our captivating interview here:

As history reflects, your career began with a website on parenting. Do your kids take any of the credit for your achievements in SEO? And what role do they play in your new way of life?

​No, my kids don’t take any credit for my SEO career. Honestly, I don’t even know if they remember (or knew) I had a parenting website as that was in the early 1990’s.

However, while they wouldn’t take credit for my career, I take a little credit for my oldest daughter’s career! Because she grew up in a home where we always had computers and the Internet, and because she often heard my conversations with clients on the phone about online marketing, much of it rubbed off on her. While she works in politics, she is basically doing marketing as it applies to the politicians and/or​organizations she works for. I remember a time when I had to convince her to try Twitter against her will, which is funny because it’s become one of her main political marketing tools!

As to my kids playing a role in my new way of life, it’s not all that relevant as they’re all adults now. I do sometimes discuss with them my new found knowledge of healthy eating and my current understanding of how life works, but they’re not all that interested at the moment. 🙂

Do you still keep up with SEO related news or is that interest truly in the past for you?

​A lot of my Twitter and Facebook friends are from the SEO world​ (although I have nuked many), so I do end up seeing some SEO news now and then. I don’t go out of my way to find it, however, and only read some of it if it seems interesting to me.

Is there any part of the SEO world that you miss that your new lifestyle does not provide?

Not that I can think of. The SEO community that I was part of was filled with a lot of great, friendly and helpful people. But I have found other communities inline with my current interests, who are just as welcoming and friendly. So that was a nice surprise! ​

I also really enjoyed speaking at conferences and holding seminars when I was an SEO consultant and I definitely would like to do that again. I’m pretty sure those will play some part in my future, but most likely on different topics. Interestingly, for a long time I was avoiding anything to do with SEO or websites in general. But recently I’ve started helping out a few people and organizations with their websites. It seems that as much as I want to get away from it, I can’t just throw away my years of knowledge. I’m definitely not planning a comeback into the SEO world, but I’m enjoying fixing up a few websites just for the fun of it.

SEO is important to building market share and increasing brand exposure, but as your life transition suggests it’s not the only thing in life. What advice would you give to people attempting to balance both a successful web presence and a healthy life?

I can speak to this from my own experience, because I basically started over from scratch with my new blog. While at the same time, I’m attempting to continue to live a healthy lifestyle. For me, having a successful web presence is all about being passionate about whatever it is you do and sharing that with others online. For instance, when I learn something new or have a particularly interesting insight, I always feel the need to share it via my blog. And because the information I’m sharing is that which I’ve experienced myself, my passion for it usually comes through. This in turn ideally inspires others, who may sign up for my newsletter, or follow me on social media or tell their friends who might be interested in my experiences.

At the moment, however, my situation is different than most people’s because I’m not yet attempting to make any money off of what I’m currently doing. I imagine a lot of people reading this would say that it’s easy to live a healthy ​life when you don’t have a whole lot of responsibility. But I’m up for the challenge of seeing how things pan out if or when I get back into some sort of work mode. I can already see even through the free consulting help I’ve been doing, how easy it can be to get caught up in work and let other stuff suffer. I realize that I’m going to have to be very mindful of how I move forward. My hope is that because I’ve made a lifestyle change rather than just temporarily doing healthy things, I should be able to stick with it. At the same time, my fear is that I’ll slip back into old habits. Time will tell!

A huge part of what makes a great writer is their ability to translate a moment of inspiration into full sentences that other people can relate to. You’ve mentioned in your blog that you often have those moments when you’re out running, hiking or showering. How are you able to hold onto those thoughts until you get to a pen or a computer?

​Ha! That can certainly be a challenge. I usually have to write down the inspiration as soon as I can, or yes, it can be fleeting. In fact, a few weeks ago I had some sort of epiphany while in the shower that I meant to write down as soon as I got out, but somehow managed to forget. The next day I was wracking my brain to remember what it was. I knew I had some sort of insight, but just didn’t know what. Funnily enough, it came back to me later that day when in the shower again! Ironically, the inspiration was in regards to some topic that had been staring me in the face all day, yet I never made the connection until showering again. (This is a great example of how quieting our minds is what allows new…generally better…thoughts to appear. Which is something I’m a firm believer in.)​

What have you learned about yourself through your transformation to a healthy lifestyle that you didn’t realize during your career in SEO?

​OMG soooo many things. Just so many. ​One of the main things I’ve learned is that my identity is fluid. That is, everything that I think I am one day, can be completely different the next (although it generally doesn’t happen over night like that). For instance, my identity for 18 years was that of an SEO. It was who I was. Then all of a sudden it wasn’t. How can that be? If you had asked me even a day or two before I made my “Leaving SEO” announcement if I would ever be anything but an SEO, I would have said that it was  highly unlikely.

​But it’s more than just career stuff that has shown me how fluid my identity is. ​It’s everything about me. All of the things I thought I was, such as someone who was “allergic” to vegetables and exercise, someone who’s generally pretty lazy, someone who has no stamina, someone who’s afraid to sing in public, and on and on and on, has all changed. And not just changed, but is basically the opposite. This post of mine speaks to this issue as well: Change Who You Think You Are By Changing Your Perceptions.

While many of us have heard the saying that we create our own reality, I believe that this is what it means. Our reality is the way we think about things. So when you start to think about things in new ways, by its very nature, your reality starts to change. How fricken cool is that?!

Living healthier is a very popular topic for blogs and is quite a different topic than SEO. Do you find that your SEO followers have made the transition with you to continue following your posts or have you managed to find a new following? 

​I was surprised at how many of my hard core SEO followers of my old High Rankings Advisor Newsletter immediately signed up for​ my new newsletter. At the time, I kind of thought that they did it more out of curiosity than anything. However, I was recently looking at my unsubscribes from the new list, and was somewhat shocked that most of my old “fans” have stayed with me. And they are in fact, the ones who tend to open the emails and click the links. So that’s pretty cool. But when I think about it, everyone regardless of whether they’re into SEO or business or waitressing, or whatever may still have an interest in the topics I’m currently addressing in my blog.

I’m also very pleased with the new following I’m slowly building. A few of my posts get a decent amount of Google traffic right now, and I’m gaining new newsletter subscribers at a decent rate. I found when doing SEO as well as doing what I’m doing now, people appreciate free information that comes from actual experience, regardless of what the topic is. That’s how I built my SEO business in the first place–providing solid, free, info that works. I can already see how that “strategy” if you want to call it that, will work in any business, or any endeavor. It’s what I always told my website marketing clients to do to build their businesses. I love that now that I’m starting from scratch, the same principles apply and continue to work wonders!

A lot of people have great ideas but lack the fortitude to see them through. You were able to not only fortify a long lasting career in a brand new industry, but also make a successful life transformation. To what do you credit your determination?

​I guess I never really thought of it as determination. For me, it always was (and always is) about having fun. Learning to optimize websites for search engines and people back in the 1990’s was a blast. There were no blogs or tutorials or conferences to learn from. It was a matter of studying the search results and the pages that were being shown for each search query and figuring out why the search engines decided to show those particular pages. ​For me, that’s how I learn best–by rolling up my sleeves and just doing.

As far as my life transition goes, I don’t think of that as having come from determination either. Because determination will only take you so far. In fact, I’ve never felt like a person who has a lot of determination. I just decided I needed to make some changes, and did it. I’m pretty good at hearing that little voice inside me, and when I actually listen to it, positive outcomes start to unfold naturally. Successful transformations (and really, success in general) doesn’t happen over night, but incrementally. I had no thoughts or goals about creating a life transition. I just wanted to lose some weight. Therefore the few small things I started doing towards that goal, eventually grew into larger things. For instance, counting calories, turned into eating healthier foods, which turned into cooking more and doing more exercise. All of that and more over time ultimately ended up creating a complete 360 degree transformation of me. (See this post 17 Things I Never Would Have Done a Year Ago to see what I mean.)