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Up Close & Personal with the Women in SEO – Part II

womeninseo2 Up Close & Personal with the Women in SEO   Part II

As promised, here is the second installment of Up Close & Personal with the Women in SEO. If you missed Part I, click here! This week I had the pleasure of interviewing another batch of inspiring and driven ladies. Scroll on down to find out their predictions on the future of SEO, their successes, and maybe even discover some awesome songs while you’re at it.


Lisa Barone Up Close & Personal with the Women in SEO   Part II

Lisa Barone

Overit | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn

1. How did you get your start in SEO?

Accidentally? I started working as a Technical Writer for a company that, as luck would have it, turned out to be an SEO company (it was a little unknown company called Bruce Clay, Inc ). My would-be supervisor Susan Esparza asked me during a phone interview if I knew what “SEO” stood for and after emphatically staying “YEEES!” I went and looked it up.

Early on in my employment there, I was given the company blog as a sort of “pet project” when my other work was slow. Things snowballed from there taking me from full-time blogger to VP of Strategy at Overit where I’m responsible for creating fully digital campaigns from start to finish.

2. What has been the biggest challenge as a woman in a predominantly-male industry like SEO?

I haven’t experienced many challenges as a woman in the SEO industry. I truly believe this is an industry where people don’t care who you are, what you look like or where you came from – they pride you for the work that you do and your quest to do more. The world would probably be better off if more industries (or groups) worked like the SEO industry, at least in that respect.

One area where we do still have room for growth is in how women are treated at conferences, but I don’t think that’s an SEO issue as much as it is a human one.

 3. What would you consider your greatest success so far?

Eh, thinking like that makes me a little uncomfortable. There are certainly many things I’m proud of. For example, I’m proud of many of the hard stands I’ve taken publicly and the change in the industry I’ve fought for and helped create. I’m proud of the catalog of liveblogging I’ve contributed and given back to the industry. I’m proud of the marketing agency I co-founded and voiced, and was able to hand off to my partner to continue. And I’m incredibly proud of finding the new media rebels at Overit. I don’t think I’ve ever worked with such a creative and talented set of people. Being here is something I take a lot of pride in.

On a personal level, I’m also very proud of the TEDxAlbany speech I gave two years ago. I’ve received such a powerful response to that talk even to this day. It’s become such a passion that I’ve spearheaded the return of TEDxAlbany with a new event on November 14 that I’m really excited about-.

4. Where do you see the industry of SEO in 5 years?

 In five years we’ll be optimizing digital experiences for wearable tech (that we won’t wear on our wrists) and will have accepted that there’s no such thing as Online Marketing and Offline Marketing and that we’ve always just ever been on the same team without realizing it.

5. What would you say is the song that best describes your working habits? Why?

 I’m probably saying something horrible about myself here but: The Only Way I Know with Luke Bryan, Eric Church and Jason Aldean.  I’ll often start my Monday off with that because it’s a bit aggressive and gets me itchin’ for a productive day.  I love it.

Heather Lloyd Martin Up Close & Personal with the Women in SEO   Part II

Heather Lloyd-Martin

SuccessWorks | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn

1. How did you get your start in SEO?

I was working as a freelance copywriter in the mid-90s. I used to write all types of copy – for instance, magazine articles, sales pages, display ad copy and brochure content. I was freelancing for some online publications (like Entrepreneur Magazine,) but online publications were a new concept. This is before most companies had web sites, so I was straddling the line between print and online writing.

I met Jill Whalen in a discussion group and she needed an experienced copywriter. Suddenly, I entered the world of SEO writing – and a new career was born! We started speaking at conferences together and spreading the SEO content word. And today, I specialize in teaching in-house and freelance copywriters how to write commanding SEO content.

Looking back, I’m often amazed at how quickly everything changed. One moment, I’m freelancing and writing brochure content. The next, I’m working in a fast-paced industry that’s constantly changing. SEO copy used to be an afterthought. Now, it’s an incredibly important (some say the most important) online marketing strategy. I’ve been doing this for over 15 years and I still love it.

2. What has been the biggest challenge as a woman in a predominantly-male industry like SEO?

I hear this question a lot. And my answer always is: it’s never been a challenge. I have always been treated with respect – even during the early days of SEO when there were maybe five women in the industry.  In fact, I count many of the “men of SEO” among my closest friends. I’ve been able to go to them for business and life advice – and hopefully, I’ve been able to return the favor along the way. I’ve never lost business because I was a woman, nor have I ever been talked down to or harassed. Certainly, I know some women have had a much different experience. For that, I’m very sorry. But my experience has always been positive.

3. What would you consider your greatest success so far?

This is a tough one. I’ve reached many milestones over the years. I’ve worked with search engines, travelled all over and been able to speak at literally hundreds of events (I love public speaking, so this has always been a huge plus for me.) I feel blessed that I’m in such a fun industry around other super-smart and kind people.

On a personal level, probably my greatest success is having a business that fits my lifestyle. Sure, there are some 12 hour days here and there. But for the most part, I work normal, reasonable hours. I feel present at the end of the day. And I have the time to do fun things when the mood strikes me. I love my flexible work schedule and I can’t imagine anything else.

On a business level, my greatest success has got to be my SEO Copywriting Certification training. To me, it’s more than just a good way to learn the SEO copywriting fundamentals. I see it as a way of giving back and training the next generation of writers (as well as the current generation, too!). I love hearing peoples’ success stories after they complete the training. Sometimes, an in-house copywriter emails me and shares how much her content has improved. Or I may hear from a freelancer who shares how his business has increased after he finished the training. I love it!

4. Where do you see the industry of SEO in 5 years?

My guess is we’ll see more consolidation, and a larger push towards integrated online strategies. Smaller businesses will be bought out by larger companies (when it makes sense.) Certainly, there will also be a place for the consultant or small SEO/SEM shop. But I see more clients wanting more than just “SEO.” They are looking for inbound marketing strategies – and that encompasses quite a few skill sets.

I don’t see SEO being “dead” anytime soon (no matter what the sexy headlines say!). As for SEO copywriting – good content has always been a crucial factor, long before Google. Even if keywords completely go away, the writing quality is still important. Heck, even if Google goes away, people will still need writers to entertain, entice, provide information and attract leads. Maybe we won’t be “writing for web sites” anymore. Maybe we’ll be writing for a completely different medium someday. That’s OK. I think SEO copywriters have the ultimate job security.

5. What would you say is the song that best describes your working habits? Why?

I had to think about this question – good one! For me, it would probably be “Don’t Worry. Be Happy.” As an entrepreneur in the SEO space, there are tons of things I could worry about. What’s Google doing next? What if I don’t bring in X dollars this month? What if I freeze on stage and forget what I was going to say? What if my flight is delayed and I miss my connection? I used to worry – a lot. Then I realized that worrying really didn’t do anything other than drive me nuts. Not to mention, it would cause my productivity to tank – it takes a lot of energy to stay stressed out all the time. So, whenever I feel my stress levels rise, I silently sing the song to myself. It helps.

Anna Moss Up Close & Personal with the Women in SEO   Part II

Anna Moss

FireCask | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn

1. How did you get your start in SEO?

I completed a Law degree and went on to be a commercial property solicitor. I started working at the peak of the market and a year later the recession kicked in so I decided it might be a good idea to retrain in another field. I got an entry level job at a SEO and web design company in Manchester city centre and was trained in all aspects of online marketing.

After 6 months, and after bringing the company in a number of clients and building strong relationships with a number of clients, I saw that there was little room for me to progress and so I decided to leave. I had one client paying me £400 a month and working from home from my dining room table. The day after I left to set up on my own it struck me that I might have made a huge mistake however 3 years on I can now see it was the best decision I made for my career. I now run (with my business partner) an agency called FireCask and we have worked with some amazing clients from the Amy Winehouse Foundation to Expedia EAN; and across various fields from legal and accounting to online gaming and retail.

2. What has been the biggest challenge as a woman in a predominantly-male industry like SEO?

When I first started in SEO people would always say to me I had got into the industry because my husband was already established in it. To a certain extent this was true as I had never thought about getting into the online marketing world but people were using this as some kind of way to make me feel like I was completely incompetent. I think the biggest challenge has been proving that I can do my job and do it well!

There have been times when men, at conferences and meet ups, have flirted with me but it has been completely harmless. For any comments that have ever been made that some women might find offensive, I give it back 10 times stronger and it turns into a laugh!

I think sometimes the men in the industry get a bad reputation when it isn’t deserved and it has been something I have wanted to write about for a long time. Yes, it is a male dominated industry but it was like that in the legal sector as well and I think how you deal with it is completely personal, it has never been a real issue for me.

3. What would you consider your greatest success so far?

My greatest success so far was winning Young Businesswoman of the Year 2012 in the Women in Business Awards for the work I had done for my agency and in the industry. My agency has been nominated and shortlisted for a number of awards, I have featured in the Top SEO Women 2013 list and I have finally been recognised and respected for the hard work and blood, sweat and tears I have put into building a successful agency.

It might sound cheesy but there are days when I am sat in our office and I see my 4 employees, my 4 interns and the student I mentor from a local college and I feel a massive sense of pride, especially as I am only 28. Building a business is the easy (well not easy) part but making it a success is the hard part and where FireCask is today I can honestly say it is a success.

4. Where do you see the industry of SEO in 5 years?

This is a tricky one and seems to be something that people are always asking. Firstly I must say that I am not the most technically minded person in SEO and there are others out there who would be far more qualified to answer this than me but I will answer with where I want to see my agency go. I personally would like to try and move away from client side and being a service provider and into more of a consultancy sector as well as producing tools for SEO.

I think there are so many agencies out there all trying to do the same thing that at some point Google is going to make rules even stricter to the point where it will be impossible to go on with SEO today as a way of working. We are already starting to see these changes now, and Google’s algorithm updates will only continue to hit abusive activity.

I think unique and creative content will always be something that is at the forefront of SEO but people need to start thinking about it in a different way and not simply words on a blog/page of a website. Content is the area that I love and thrive in and I am excited to see where the industry takes it in 5 years’ time.

5. What would you say is the song that best describes your working habits? Why?

The opening lines to “Hard Day’s Night” by The Beatles (“it’s been a hard day’s night and I’ve been working like a dog”) or “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen. Definitely not Dolly Parton’s “Working 9 till 5”. I don’t believe working 9-5 when you have your own company is even possible and even before I had my own agency I always worked longer hours…I really love working!

Lisa Myers Up Close & Personal with the Women in SEO   Part II

Lisa Myers

Verve Search | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn

1.     How did you get your start in SEO?

In 2005 I was working for a Marketing Agency as a Project Manager and had just come back from maternity leave when I was offered the opportunity to set up the agencies SEO & Analytics department. I had some prior knowledge of web analytics (this was the Urchin days when we spent days looking at log files) and I was very technical minded. However I didn’t know the first thing about SEO, I threw myself into reading everything I could online about about SEO and SEM. It was a light bulb moment for me, finally something I totally got. The combination of technical, analytical and creative was perfect for me. I was hooked. Within 2 years I had grown the Search Department of the agency to become a highly profitable and important part of the business. But I saw so much potential and things weren’t moving fast enough for me, so in 2009 I started my own agency; Verve Search. 5 years later I have an agency of 21 people, doing SEO and Content Marketing in 7 countries for some of the biggest brands in the world.

2. What has been the biggest challenge as a woman in a predominantly-male industry like SEO?

I think the challenges as a woman in SEO has reduced a lot in the last few years, at a conference this year I was totally amazed when I realised that at least 40% of the attendees of the 1500 people were women. 5 years ago that would have been more like 5%. Which is great, each year there are more women entering the industry.

But there are still some challenges to overcome, there is still an assumption that women aren’t technical. I still get stumped when I’m in a meeting and people automatically turn to my male team members when it comes to the technical part, assuming they will be talking about that part. It also took me years to get to speak on a technical panel at a search conference, I would do pitch after pitch on technical SEO and Schema but never get picked as a speaker. Instead getting offered the “keyword research” and “social” panels. It really pissed me off. But I kept pitching. This year all the SEO-Chicks are doing a technical SEO panel at the UK Digital Marketing Show at the end of this month!

In addition I still experience sexist behaviour and remarks at industry conferences and events. But the remarks are a lot less frequent than they used to be, still there is no excuse for that kind of behaviour. But for every person in the industry that still behave like Neanderthals there are at least 20 people that are encouraging, respectful and helpful. I’m not saying you shouldn’t take notice or not get offended though, in fact if anyone is sexist towards you, pick them up on it!

I have also done a lot in the last few years to try to encourage women to step forward, break barriers. In particular to do with being a mother and working. When I was 8 months pregnant with my second child I spoke at a conference in the UK, as I walked on that stage you saw 200 confused faces; people are not used to pregnant women speaking at a conference. But once they get over the initial shock and actually start listening to what you are saying you will earn their respect. A few months later, after I had my baby, I was speaking at SES in London but my baby was only 3 months old and I was still nursing, so I brought her with me. I spoke at two sessions and ran to the speaker room in between to feed her. The shocked faces in the speaker room was priceless. But in order for women to feel it’s ok to be a mother and a career person we need people leading by example, speak at conferences when you are pregnant, show that you can still be good at what you do even with a baby in tow. Make people listen, don’t sit back and complain that they won’t if you haven’t tried. In fact, listen to Yoda: Do, or do not, there is no try! Make them listen.

3. What would you consider your greatest success so far?

My greatest success is seeing my employees work together and flourish. Going from 8 people in 2012 to 21 people at the end of this year has been a challenge but it’s very rewarding when you see the projects and results. I have some truly talented people working at my agency, seeing them progress and realising their potential is the real reward.

On a personal level , I am of course also very grateful and proud of the awards  that I have received since I started in SEO, including “Search Personality of the Year” UK Search Awards 2011, “35 Women Under 35” High Achievers List 2009 (Management Today), “Best use of Technology” Blackberry Woman & Technology Awards 2008.

4. Where do you see the industry of SEO in 5 years?

I believe the industry is in a vital area of change at the moment, we have already seen the big shift in going from automation and questionable outreach to quality matters the most. I think the content quality and creating sites that appeal socially will continue to be important. As for the term SEO I think it will disappear, but I really do believe that it doesn’t mean the need for SEO will change. More and more digital generalists, marketers, PR and publishers will take a bit chunk of the SEO budgets unless SEOs don’t move quickly enough to refocus and rename the things that we do.

5. What would you say is the song that best describes your working habits? Why?

“Ain’t no mountain high enough” – because I don’t believe anything is impossible, I believe SEO and the challenges of running a business is like a labyrinth; once you get to a dead end you just have to go back and try another. There is always a way out.


Rae Hoffman Up Close & Personal with the Women in SEO   Part II

Rae Hoffman

Sugarrae & Pushfire | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn

1. How did you get your start in SEO?

I fell into the industry by accident. My oldest son had a massive bilateral stroke when he was two weeks old that left him severely physically and mentally handicapped his entire life (he passed away last November at the age of 15). Long story short, I founded the first international support group for parents and families of pediatric stroke survivors to ever register with the American Heart Association.

I figured there had to be a way to make some money online to supplement all the time I spent volunteering with the support group. I stumbled into affiliate marketing and marketed my affiliate sites with SEO. Within less than a year, I was making a full time income with it. Two years later, I stepped down from running the support group after attending my first PubCon in 2003 and focused on my affiliate and SEO business full time in order to be able to afford the best I could for my oldest son (and his subsequent siblings).

 2. What has been the biggest challenge as a woman in a predominantly-male industry like SEO?

Honestly? I don’t feel that has ever been an issue for me (and I came into this industry when the male to female ratio was much, much more stark than it is now). I never felt I was at a disadvantage being female. I never felt I was treated differently or treated without the same respect as my male counterparts. I don’t buy into the whole women are at a disadvantage in tech pity party.

I’m not saying gender bias doesn’t exist in the industry (and in every industry). I’m merely saying that either I have subconsciously refused to ever let it affect me (and people have reacted in kind) or that I scare people. Take your pick.

3. What would you consider your greatest success so far?

The answer is vastly different depending on if you’re asking me about personal success or professional success.

In my personal life my answer would be my children – and being able to have a visible platform to spread awareness about pediatric stroke and the many, many things my son thought me in his lifetime. Ensuring his memory lives on and that my other kids grow up to be awesome is the most important success story I want to have.

In my professional life, it would be hard to pinpoint that down to one thing. But it’s not like I think I’m Midas or anything, LOL. I’ve had a lot of failures in my career as an entrepreneur. It’s more that it’s hard to label anything the “biggest” success because every success (and failure) I’ve ever had is responsible for where I am today – whether they were “big” or “small”.

I guess if I were forced to choose one thing? It would be my nonconformity. I’ve gotten where I am in business without ever doing what other people “expected me to” or “thought I should do” and simply doing things the way I wanted to do them.

4. Where do you see the industry of SEO in 5 years?

I honestly have no idea. Not dead, that’s for sure. But considering how much the industry has involved since I entered it in 1998 – even if just the last three years alone, it’s anyone’s guess. I do think the role of SEO will continue to evolve though.

Pre 2000, SEO specialists focused on keywords and technical factors. A few years later, we had to diversify into links. Next up, we had to learn all the different types of links and begin to understand the concept of a link portfolio. Then we had to learn to add blogging – sorry – “content marketing” to the list as a promotional method to build those all important links. A few years later enter canonical issues, personalization, schema markup, social as it relates to SEO, mobile SEO, BS penalties and on and on.

It’s impossible for me to even attempt predict the next five years. But, I’d love to see Google get a formidable competitor and I’d also love to see the industry focus less on talking the talk and more on walking the walk.

5. What would you say is the song that best describes your working habits? Why?

Wow. Hard question. I listen to a ton of different music when I work – within very different genres depending on the task at hand. But what song best describes my working habits? No idea. Is there a song called “chaos”?

I can tell you which song describes me both business wise and personally combined – Southern Comfort Zone by Brad Paisley. I’m not “southern born” (I’m a Jersey girl actually) but I have “southern roots” and what many would consider southern values. I’m a self proclaimed white collar redneck meaning I have a “white collar” career, but at heart I’m a pretty simple chick – usually in boots and jeans – who never forgets who I am and where I’m from. I’m most comfortable around a bon fire with my family back home in Florida (where I lived for over a decade), but I love all of the experiences I get to have and travel I get to do in my career. I think that’s why the song resonates with me so much.

“Not everybody drives a truck, not everybody drinks sweet tea, not everybody owns a gun and wears a ball cap, boots and jeans” … “but I’ve since become a drifter and I just can’t wait to pack, cause I know the road I leave on, it will always bring me back”.

Dana Lookadoo Up Close & Personal with the Women in SEO   Part II

Dana Lookadoo

Yo! Yo! SEO | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn

1. How did you get your start in SEO?

I was teaching Web design at Cal State University Monterey Bay and had started doing Web development for clients in 1999. An agency in Carmel, CA hired me on a 3-month contract to stand in as their lead webmaster who was out on leave. Doorway pages and white text on white backgrounds were standard practice. That was my first “taste” of SEO, which I didn’t know had a name. In 2000, I co-founded a web development and hosting agency, and we incorporated some basic SEO into our projects.

I put most of my efforts into SEO in late 2003 and have not looked back. I wish I could say this was out of foresight; however, the change in career focus resulted after my business partner tried to commit suicide. Our agency had been very successful during the dot com bust, and we were self-funded. He was super smart but young, and I trusted him with the finances – big mistake. Heck, I was so busy racing bicycles on the weekends to notice the signs. I’m not sure if the success was too much, but since I co-signed on everything, I lost pretty much everything as Pandora’s box opened up. Without having my team of programmers and designers, SEO was something I could do on my own as I started over on my own.

2. What has been the biggest challenge as a woman in a predominantly-male industry like SEO?

I can’t join the Bald SEO’s Club! Ha!

I think being a woman is actually an advantage. We have more words in our daily vocabulary than our male counterparts, so that makes us better communicators. Women who are technical, know how to write, understand marketing and psychology stand out among a male-dominated field. I don’t think I’d have the opportunities to be where I am today if I were a guy!

3. What would you consider your greatest success so far?

I wrote a 100-page guide for (former) Sun Microsystems in 2005 titled, Traveling the Internet. I was authoring the guide while getting my SEO feet planted. It was distributed by Maria Shriver, California’s First Lady at the time, to over 1,200 women at the Governor’s dinner that same year.

The experience showed me the importance (and need) of training and empowering people to help them understand technology. Since then, I’ve taken a training approach to online marketing. I work with clients to teach them search engine optimization principles and best practices – to empower them!

4. Where do you see the industry of SEO in 5 years?

SEO will be the foundation of an integrated marketing approach that also encompasses usability, conversion, and audience engagement. Heck, that’s what good SEO is today!

If we consider where search engines are going and what they will be like in 5 years, then we can get a little bit of a better idea of what SEOs and online marketers need to consider. It’s all about user behaviour and answering their questions and needs. Some say Google is moving toward artificial intelligence (AI), and if you consider voice search and search via multiple forms of input (desktop, tablet, phone, Xbox, cars, etc.), then you can see what’s next. Providing information people need via multiple devices (think responsive design and usability) and understanding how to engage with them is going to be the key to optimizing one’s marketing efforts.

5. What would you say is the song that best describes your working habits? Why?

Overcomer by Mandisa is my theme song. It’s a fairly new song, but it covers what I went through when moving into SEO full-time after losing a business and starting over. As a business owner, athlete, and a single woman at the time, there was a lot to overcome. The song addresses some of what I deal with today. I not only had to overcome the financial losses, but I deal with health issues that were aggravated by stress during that time and years that followed. I’m now happily married but the competitive and entrepreneurial drive still encompasses me.

Given our industry is moving so fast, finding a balance in it all still requires massive determination, a fighting spirit, and a lot of faith. It has all made me stronger, and I’m a wiser business owner as a result. So every now and then I get up, dance, and sing that “I’m an overcomer!”

This wraps up our two-week series with the leading women in SEO. I hope you enjoyed reading their insightful answers as much as I did. As always, if you have any further questions or comments, don’t be afraid to reach out to them personally. They’re nice, I promise!

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About the Author

Carrie is a Marketing Assistant at Powered by Search. With a case of the travel bug, she loves to explore new places and meet new faces. She particularly loves those who share a passion for bubble tea. Connect with her on Twitter and Google+.
  • http://yoyoseo.com DanaLookadoo

    Thank you, Carrie, for the interview and the opportunity to share a bit of a personal story. Who would guess that being in SEO could be so personal. ;-)

    I’m honored to be listed with such fantastic women in part 2, along with some great ladies in part 1. There are many more incredibly women in SEO in the industry, so I look forward to part 3!

    • Carrie Yan

      My thoughts exactly, Dana! I wanted to get to know some of the incredible ladies of this industry from a more personal level and I am beyond grateful for everyone’s honest responses :)

  • Rebecca Murtagh

    Congrats Carrie and all. What a fabulous way to highlight the women beyond the roles they have in our industry. Especially nice to see Dana highlighted (Congratulations Dana!)… I cant help but take this opportunity to ask everyone to send her positive thoughts and prayers as she recovers from a tragic accident. Her husband has posted an update on her condition via her Twitter account @Lookadoo.
    Hopefully she will be back doing what she does the way only she can, very soon!

    • Carrie Yan

      Thanks for sharing with us, Rebecca! I’ll definitely keep Dana in my prayers :)