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

WomeninSEO Up Close & Personal with the Women in SEO   Part I

The world of SEO, much like many other tech-related fields, is a male-heavy industry. Even at our own office, there is a stark difference between the number of males to females. It’s interesting, because several related industries such as social media, PR, and online marketing are packed with women.

With that said, I went on a little search and decided to reach out to some influential women in the SEO realm in hopes of understanding their career paths, how they wound up in SEO, and just to know them a little better.

So enjoy this two-week feature where the leading ladies of SEO talk about their personal experiences.

In no particular order, this week I had the opportunity to talk to:

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Julie Joyce

Link Fish Media | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn

1. How did you get your start in SEO?

 It was such a convoluted path. I kind of fell into it. I had been a social worker and wanted to go back to school and learn to program so I could work on developing assistive technology for people with various disabilities, and basically at that point, once I learned to program, I decided to just get a job. I’d already been through college twice (once for Anthropology and English degrees, once more for Social Work) so I felt like I should stop schooling and start properly earning some money. I loved programming and worked on the test team some, but I also did some technical writing there so once a vacancy appeared on the very tiny SEO team (2 people) I was asked to do it since I could write and was technical. After a couple of weeks of training, the other person left so I became the head of SEO and had to completely bust my arse to learn everything on the job. After a few years of that, I left to work for a company my husband worked for that was based in London (although I worked from home in NC and just traveled there every few months.) He had actually worked on the agency SEO team with me. At this London-based agency, he handled the link building and ended up starting a company that I eventually joined and became the Director of Operations for, which we’re still loving today. Usually, haha.

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

I haven’t really had a huge amount of problems honestly, at least not many that I can trace to being female. However, I’m also Southern and the Southern accent can lead certain ill-informed people to think that we’re all a bunch of uneducated hicks. I’ve had people assume that I could not possibly be the owner of a company, but again, maybe it’s because of the skull sweatshirt I was wearing. My biggest challenge is that I find it extremely difficult to be rude, which means that there are times when I don’t state my case as I should. I’m honestly terrified of appearing rude, and that’s a trait that does tend to be one that plagues women more than men. We don’t want to be seen as bitches so sometimes we aren’t as forceful as we should be. We certainly have some amazing female role models that I do try and learn from, women that scare the life out of me in a very good way, as I would seriously love to be like Rae Hoffman and not give a crap if someone doesn’t like what I have to say. Debra Mastaler is also a master of this, as is Jill Whalen. They all three have the ability to say what they want to say, say it well and not like they’re just being bratty and petulant, and say it in a way that can turn people around. I’m definitely not saying they aren’t nice as they are, but they definitely impress the heck out of me with how they don’t really take any crap from anyone, ever.

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

Owning my own company and being able to keep the doors open for so many years, and employing local people and not outsourcing everything to make a quick profit.

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

I imagine it will be harder for incompetent SEOs to survive, and I hope that happens. If you were a horrible surgeon you wouldn’t be allowed to keep operating, and if you’re a terrible SEO, you shouldn’t stay in the industry and fleece clients. I’m sure we’ll all still be fussing about our specific niches, complaining about Google, etc. I also think that the specialized SEOs who don’t know about anything other than their own niche will need to learn more about the overall process and learn more about how their little part fits in with everything else. Some clients won’t want to have 5 different companies working on their accounts. They’ll want one.

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

I love the chance to sneak in a Clash reference so I’d like to go with Career Opportunities but I’m not unemployed or disaffected. I’ll go with “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby” by The Smiths. No matter how well I do, I want to do better, and I am much more guilt-ridden over any success that I have than I am entitled about it. I think I’ve earned it but I think that I have to keep earning it. I don’t see it as something I can just sit back and capitalize on, listing all my years of experience and accomplishments in order to detract from the fact that I haven’t kept up.


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Jennifer Horowitz

EcomBuffet | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn

 

1. How did you get your start in SEO?

After starting my career in Social Work, I found I was ready for a new challenge. Marketing and the psychology behind it has always fascinated me.  Becoming Director of Marketing for EcomBuffet was a natural next step for me.  EcomBuffet started as a web design and copywriting firm and we quickly realized that clients needed our help getting found once we built them great sites, so we quickly moved into SEO.  We were in the SEO world very early on and have never looked back. The challenge of the constant change is exciting.  I also love that no two clients are ever the same and it takes creativity and strategy to get results.  I am trained in marketing, copywriting and web design. SEO seemed like the perfect way to marry my technical and creative skills.

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

I honestly haven’t personally encountered many challenges.  I hear stories that get me pretty riled up from various colleagues but personally I have just proceeded to do my thing and make things happen without issues.  Being a female in a predominantly male business is always going to have some inherent challenges, I have just been either incredibly lucky or just oblivious to the challenges as I just go about making things happen.  While it’s true the industry is predominantly male, I have been lucky enough to personally get to know so many of the strong dedicated women that are so active in making our voices heard and in making a difference for our clients and the industry.

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

My greatest success personally was leaving my social work job and creating EcomBuffet with my partner. Doing business our way and growing our company has been challenging and rewarding and it has allowed so many great experiences and opportunities.  For EcomBuffet, I would say our greatest success is not any particular results for a client (but those have been great LOL), it’s more the intangible things – making a difference in the community (we support local charities) and helping small businesses grow.  I know that is the typical “earthy crunchy, love the planet and the people” answer but it’s true.  I think of some awards we’ve been given by local charities for our support and I consider that a huge success.  I also think the relationships I’ve built and the reputation I’ve built as someone that provides reliable information in a way that is easy to consume is a major win as well.

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

My first response is “alive and well”   Rumors of SEO’s demise have been circling for years and it’s laughable.  SEO is not dead, it’s simply evolving, as with most businesses. The trend towards things going more social and towards better natural language processing will continue.  I think how people use and interact with search engines will be so different and it will be the job of SEOs to figure out how to present high quality, relevant information in a way that the engines will eat up.  Of course it is obvious that the mobile trend will only increase as will voice search, which makes natural language processing even more important.  People will start to be more conversational and ask questions more, rather than typical queries that we see now, which are strings of keywords. Getting to the bottom of what questions and problems your site visitors have and presenting your content in a way that answers the questions is going to be crucial.  So much of this is already in play right now and will continue to become more important.  Some form of structured data to feed info to the engines is a part of the future.  I see more Google verticals in the future as well as they continue their R&D and acquisition of companies.  I think image search and facial recognition will be a big part of the future. I could spend all day sharing different visions I have but the truth is, I don’t really know where it will be other than alive and well and so interesting.

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

I had trouble with this one and turned to my friends in social media for help on the answer.  I got some great suggestions but honestly I think the one that fits the best right now is Work B**ch by Britney Spears.  I love the message – if you want something make it happen.  Do the work.  That describes my attitude towards my work.  I could answer this question with a different song every day though.  I listen to music while I work and feel connected to and inspired by so many different songs at different points.


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Ann Smarty

MyGuestBlog.com | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn

1. How did you get your start in SEO?

I was looking for a part-time job while still in high school. I was going to be PhD of English Philology (in Ukraine), so I was looking for any job that could improve my English speaking skills. I found a neat opportunity to be in customer service for an American ecommerce site with offices in Ukraine. I thought “Talking to clients? In English? Heck yeah!”

In a couple of months I did so much that they had to promote to in-house SEO assistant. My boss told me to start a blog and become a well-known SEO – that’s what I did. I didn’t have to look for a job ever since!

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

Honestly I think it’s easier for women than men. We get more attention; personal branding is easier and you get more support from fellow women marketers (I always thought girls are better friends).

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

MyBlogGuest.com. I think it’s both a useful tool (that actually *helps* people) and a great community. Building both has been a great undertaking.

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

I hope it will evolve to the point when “SEO” is no longer associated with spammy emails. We need to grow up and learn to target higher aims than links and clicks. I think we are moving in that direction.

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

Wow that’s a hard question. I think there are quite a few songs that have “Day and night” in the name, right? That’s pretty much all I can say about my working routine. I. work. all. the. time.


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Kim Krause Berg

Internet Marketing Ninjas & Cre8asiteforums | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn

1. How did you get your start in SEO?

1995 – While employed by a magazine publisher I was the webmaster for the online versions of their high tech magazines, plus I had go get them into search engines.

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

Lack of flexibility to travel.  I was a single mom of young kids.  The men who spoke at conferences had wives at home taking care of home and kids.  Not being out there speaking and networking made it harder to build my consulting business.

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

Being recognized as the “Usability Expert to the SEO Industry”. Also, when Internet Marketing Ninjas acquired my forums, Cre8asiteforums.com

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

The battle for natural conversations and content will continue because no matter how hard some companies try to out-wit search engines, people recognize and feel genuine content.  They respond well to it.  Organic SEO will become more interested in the Human Factors side of conversions and marketing, which is the work I’ve been doing.

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

SEAL – “Crazy”.  “Your never gonna survive unless you get a little crazy.”   I work all the time and when not working, I’m researching my field.  I’ve learned to laugh often and not take myself too seriously.


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Annie Cushing

Annielytics | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn

1. How did you get your start in SEO?

I took a Dreamweaver class back in 2003, and a woman in the class was talking about how she did SEO. I was fascinated and started learning everything I could about it. I’m still fascinated by it and learning everything I can.

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

I was told by a male supervisor, after doing well at a speaking engagement, that I should take a year off conferences and spend that time with my family. That was my only experience with overt sexism in the industry. Not too bad considering how long I’ve been at this.

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

Mastering Excel, after my lack of Excel skills almost cost me passing a very expensive certification course. And then turning and helping my fellow marketers after spending untold hours learning everything I could during workouts.

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

I see SEO getting swallowed up by other disciplines and fully integrated into the marketing landscape.

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

She Works Hard for the Money. I don’t work hard because I’m a martyr or workaholic; I work hard because I absolutely love what I do and am happiest when I’m learning new things.

Leah Baade Up Close & Personal with the Women in SEO   Part I

Leah Baade

Freelance SEO Copywriter | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn

1. How did you get your start in SEO?

I started with a BFA in creative writing. Although it’s not exactly poetry, I decided to study copywriting as a means to make a living writing. I read everything I could get my hands on, from the oldies like Joe Sugarman and Dan Kennedy to newer guys like Michel Fortin. I was writing a lot of sales letters and autoresponder series when more than a few of my clients started requesting web content. I knew there was more to it than just seeking conversions, so I started learning about SEO. I completed a Master Certificate in Internet Marketing from the University of San Francisco; that was a great introduction to the fundamentals. From there it was all reading and talking with people in the industry, and I also spent a great deal of time looking at pages that were working well. I’ve subscribed to hundreds of blogs in my reader and have my stand-bys that I read every day. I did a stint as a linkbuilder; that was a fast education about industry practices, and I learned so much about the differences between good SEO and the companies that exist purely to take people’s money. Many of our clients had dealt with the latter and we were dealing with the aftermath of shoddy and damaging linkbuilding and SEO practices. That was by far one of my biggest learning experiences.

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

I don’t think it’s really any different than being in any other industry. As long as you’re constantly learning and gaining solid experience, you’re going to find good clients who are happy to work with you. In all of my experiences in the SEO field, I don’t think I can say that my gender has really played a role – good or bad.

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

I’d say that one of the things I’m happiest with is the many connections I’ve made through networking and connecting online. Building my social and professional network has not only let to some amazing work and learning opportunities, but also some pretty incredible friendships, and even mentorships, that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible.

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

SEO is getting more topical and contextual than ever. It’s come a long way from the keyword density and loaded anchor text that we saw just a couple of years ago. Content needs to be better than ever, thanks to factors like Google’s natural language recognition; just take a look at Google’s Hummingbird update, for example.

Content aside, I think we’ll be looking at a lot more demand for the versatility of websites: mobile-friendly, across a range of devices (whatever devices we happen to be using in 5 years…) is already mandatory. And, of course, the ways in which users are interacting with the sites and content will also play a large role. The future of the industry is going to demand a lot more not only from SEOs but also web developers, content creators and community managers.

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

“Mr. Roboto” by Styx. “I’ve got a secret, I’ve been hiding under my skin; My heart is human, my blood is boiling; My brain IBM…I am the modern man; Who hides behind a mask; So no one else can see; My true identity…” Don’t SEOs wear a mask at least part of the time? Lol. I don’t think there’s a better song out there for this industry.

Click here to read Part II!

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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+.
  • Nameeta Kashyap

    I loved this blog post. I have bookmarked this and I am looking forward for the other parts to come. Carrie thank you for bringing this together. SEO is mostly dominated by male to see such good female counter parts in it is very inspiring.

    • Carrie Yan

      Thanks, Nameeta. I’m so glad that you enjoyed it :) It was really fun for me to read their answers as well. Definitely stay tuned for next week’s batch of inspiring women!

  • michael

    I really love this post, Great!

  • eVisionDigital

    Great post! I have seen or met some of these ladies at various SEO conferences, and I gotta tell ‘ya, they’re awesome.

    • Carrie Yan

      They sure are awesome! :) Glad you enjoyed the post.

  • Spook SEO

    Hi Carrie,

    This is really a great interview. I like what Julie said that in 5 years, only great SEO will survive the industry. Those who are not competent will surely fall and Google is really doing a lot of upgrades to clean everything that messes digital marketing.

    • Carrie Yan

      Thanks!

  • Brian Zeng

    Hello Yan,

    This is an interesting post, i’ve never thought of a post like this.

    Yeah, in the part I, i see some familiar faces like Annie Cushing,Ann Smarty. You know, they are everywhere in the SEO community, and that means they are doing really well, have great recognition.

    I have curated your post of part 1 and 2, will there be a part 3 on the way?

    • Carrie Yan

      Hey Brian, glad you enjoyed the posts. Unfortunately, I’m not working on a part 3 at the moment. But be sure to continue checking out our blog for other awesome posts! :)