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English/Journalism Graduate Develops Passion for SEO at UPMC

Would you mind telling us a little about yourself?

My name is Jessica Henry and I graduated from Seton Hill in 2012 with a degree in English/journalism and a graphic design minor. I selected this major because I loved news writing.  I appreciated that SHU had a program that used modern programming to help make me more competitive in the field. By the end of my first semester when I took “Writing for the Internet,” I knew I wanted a career in web writing. 

You're currently working in SEO at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). What kind of work do you do exactly?

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” I like to tell my interns to think of SEO like building a house. You start with the foundation (technical SEO, sitemap, robots.txt, etc), and then build the walls (web pages) and windows (strong content built inside keyword research). My days are filled with building strategies to grow our web traffic. I also oversee UPMC’s local SEO strategy, which involves making sure our hospitals, EDs, urgent cares and other facilities display the correct NAP (name, address, phone number) and hours of operation on major local aggregators. 

"By the end of my first semester when I took “Writing for the Internet,” I knew I wanted a career in web writing." 

When did you start working in SEO and what about the position interested you? 

I applied for a position at UPMC when I was about 6 months post-grad and literally learned SEO on the job. I’ve always been a self-starter and loved to learn new things, so it was a great fit for me. It helped that I had experience in WordPress and Microsoft SharePoint because I could focus on learning about SEO. I loved that SEO is kind of like solving a puzzle. I’d get a list of keywords to target and spend my days building fresh content or metadata to fill the content gaps. 

How do you think your time at SHU helped to prepare you for this role?

A couple of the media labs I was enrolled in focused on web writing. My graphic design minor also came in handy because I learned some advanced HTML coding, some of which I still use today. I took an independent study with Dr. Jerz my final semester and spent time learning how to optimize and design a WordPress site. This was really helpful when we started building a blog for UPMC in 2014. I hated how tedious blogging felt in college, but it prepared me for my job today so I’m very thankful for it. 

Do you have any advice for students looking to get into the digital marketing field?

Take some classes in HTML or WordPress if you can. Get as many internships as you can - the students we bring on as interns or new hires these days typically have 2-3 by the time they are seniors in college. Take time to invest in your education outside the classroom. There are free certifications from Google for analytics, YouTube, paid search, etc. that will make you more competitive. Also check out moz.com and read their beginner’s guide to SEO and just generally watch their Whiteboard Friday series. It’s a weekly 10 min video and it will help you keep up to date with what’s going on in the industry. The future of marketing is digital.