HighRankings.com was a search engine optimization (SEO) consulting and training company based in Boston, Massachusetts. In an online world where people will do almost anything to rank high on search engines, High Rankings made a simple promise to its clients: “We use only legitimate, honest methods to get you in the top listings under the most relevant keywords for your pages” (Source).
After publishing for about 20 years, HighRankings.com went offline. What happened to a firm that once claimed to have “grown to be one of the pre-eminent SEO companies in the United States?” (Source). We took some time to unravel this mystery, and we identify eight of the most important and influential articles that Whalen’s site ever published.
The History of HighRankings.com
HighRankings.com was established in 1995 by Jill Whalen. Whalen’s journey into the SEO field started when she was a stay-at-home mom raising three children. She started an online parenting chat room, which became so popular that it required a website to house the forums.
When the HighRankings.com was created, Whalen started learning how to code and attract traffic to the site. She began by analyzing listings with the words “parenting chat.” She then incorporated the terms she discovered into her page. This would be the beginning of a journey that would later lead to her being called “a pioneer in the SEO website marketing industry” (Source).
Whalen has since retired and now spends her time working on her blog, “What Did You Do With Jill.” She says that her new mission is “to teach as many people as [she] can about how life truly works so that they can live their own lives more fully and happily.” Whalen is also the author of the book “Victim of Thought: Seeing Through the Illusion of Anxiety.
In its early years, HighRankings.com assisted clients by checking search engines once every week to ensure that the pages that clients submitted were indeed indexed by the search engines. At that time, checking that your pages were indexed was a time-consuming task (Source).
HighRankings.com advised clients to closely monitor the indexing of their pages as “the search engines [seem] to add and remove pages at will” (Source).
HighRankings.com grew over the years to offer other services, including website reviews and answers to why a site was not doing well, and recommended what needs to be done to meet the needs of website visitors.
For those looking for a quick-fix SEO solution, High Rankings was honest: “we’re not a good fit.” The site was clear about whom it wanted to work with: “If you’d like to be educated about SEO best practices that will keep your website optimized long after we’ve done our job–then we should talk” (Source).
The Most Influential 8 Articles on HighRankings.com
HighRankings.com may no longer be publishing, and Whalen may have moved on to other things, but some of the topics the website focused on are still relevant to this day. We took some time to find the most influential articles published on the website.
The list we presented below is based on the number of links an article received from other websites, editors, and writers. We believe that the real staying power of an article is in its ability to attract attention from the online community.
1. Ten Tips to the Top of the Search Engines
Whalen starts this article by noting that “Having a website that gets found in Google, Yahoo, and Bing isn’t hard to do, but it can be difficult to know where to begin.” She then presents what she called her “latest and greatest tips to get you started.”
Even though this article may have been written over a decade ago, some of the tips it contains are still relevant. For instance, she advised website owners to optimize their content for the target audience and not search engines. She advises that when you know who your audience is, you will likely create the type of content that the audience will be searching for (Source).
Another piece of advice that still seems to be useful today is that you should “make sure your site is ‘link-worthy.’” This is important because “other sites linking to yours is a critical component of a successful search engine optimization campaign, as all of the major search engines place a good deal of emphasis on your site’s overall link popularity” (Source).
2. The Meta Description Tag
In this piece, Whalen discusses why a Meta description is a critical component in your SEO and overall marketing strategy. She starts by noting that while the “Meta description tag may not affect your page’s ranking in the search engines, but this tag can still come in handy in your overall SEO and social media marketing campaigns.”
Whalen then describes the Meta description as a “snippet of HTML code that belongs inside the <Head> </Head> section of a web page.” She then provides some reasons why it may be useful for your SEO and general marketing strategy:
- It can provide information about the contents of a page and tell a visitor whether it contains what they are looking for.
- Sometimes, search engines use a part of your Meta description when they show “extended sitelinks” for a website.
- Social media marketing links, such as Facebook and Google+, use it as a default description.
3. All About Title Tags
If there is one thing that many webmasters will agree with, it is the sentence: “The title tag has been – and probably will always be – one of the most important factors in achieving high search engine rankings.” If done properly, title tags should be an accurate and concise description of the content on a page.
Whalen advises that when struggling with rankings because people are simply not clicking through, “fixing just the title tags of your pages can often generate quick and appreciable differences to your rankings” (Source).
4. Can Meta Tags Such as the Keyword tag Bring High Rankings to my Site?
Although Whalen’s advice to include meta keywords is largely seen as outdated in 2020, her advice to “Stop worrying about Meta Tags and focus on what really matters” is still timely.
So, what really matters, according to Whalen?
- Choose your relevant keywords.
- Write the site’s content based on these keywords.
- Create a title tag using the same keywords.
- Create a Meta description tag as a marketing sentence, also based on these keywords.
5. Getting into Google
In this article, Whalen reports about an evening at the third SEMNE event (Search Engine Marketing New England). She provides details about a presentation by Dan Crow, then a director of crawl systems at Google. Whalen reports that Crow was “spilling the beans about how to get your site into Google.”
Some of the advice from Crow was:
- Besides having high-quality links, building a site with unique content can be a significant milestone towards being indexed and ranked.
- The Webmaster Central Tool (today called Google Search Console) plays a vital role in providing information about a particular site, including backlinks and the keyword phrases that people have used to find each page of a website.
6. Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines
This article features the book titled Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines by Jill Whalen. The book’s central idea is, “To successfully rank highly in the search engines, the words on your Web pages should never be an afterthought but a major investment in your search engine optimization campaign.”
7. 16 SEO Tactics that WILL NOT Bring Targeted Google Visitors
In this article, Whalen lists some tactics that she says are “done to websites in the name of SEO that, in reality, have no bearing on it.”
Some of the tactics Whalen names include keyword-stuffed content, linking to Google and other popular websites (“it’s the links pointing to your pages from other sites that help you with SEO, not the pages you’re linking out to”), and making insignificant changes to freshen content (Source).
8. Link Popularity
The message in this article is simple: “If other sites are linking to your site, it must be a winner; therefore, it deserves a boost in the rankings… People link to good sites, not bad ones.”
Whalen also uses the rest of the article to explain the difference between link popularity and PageRank. She also explains how link popularity works, where reciprocal links come from, and whether owners of websites should care about link popularity.
Given the Popularity of the Site, What Happened to HighRankings.com?
Whalen announced in 2013 that she was “moving on from SEO”. She believed that Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithm updates finally removed the possibility of gaming the search engine results, and that most SEO consultants were now arguing that clients simply create great content that their customers wanted — a strategy that she had been recommending for nearly two decades. HighRankings.com went offline sometime in 2015.