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I am a Woman in SEO: How I Create My Own Seat at the Table

Being a woman in the SEO industry isn't always easy. But I've found a way to stand up, stand out, and create my own seat at the table.

Friday Focus

Feminism is a touchy subject.

Having voiced my opinions about women in the SEO industry a few times, I had seen opposition and support of the idea that this is a topic worth bringing the forefront.

Many have said that it’s a non-issue, but the posts I’ve seen in women-run SEO groups would beg to differ.

In actuality, many women in SEO are still undervalued, misrepresented, and often unacknowledged compared to their male SEO counterparts.

For example, when Serpstat published their roundup of the “Best Women in SEO”, the responses were less than stellar:

Comment on SerpStat article

This flies in the face of countless other posts that cover the “best SEOs” where the list is 80%+ men, despite there being many women worth highlighting in our industry.

This is not to say that women haven’t made giant leaps ahead in our industry.

We have female CEOs (like Sarah Bird from Moz) and technical SEO pros (like Kristina Azarenko) that are doing great work, sharing their expertise, and gaining notoriety.

But there’s still this question of women and men in SEO are really on equal footing.

While I could go into the gender pay gap, glass ceiling, sexism in employment, etc., that’s not what this post is about.

My purpose here is to tell my story as well as share some tips for how other women in SEO can create their own seat at the table.

My Experience as a Woman in SEO

My experience as a woman in SEO has been, overall, a positive one.

When I came on the scene, it wasn’t like people were sliding into my DMs threatening, “You don’t belong here, wench!”

But my experience hasn’t been completely devoid of sexism either.

At my first SEO gig (in-house SEO manager), I was routinely the only woman to be present at meetings and I was very often talked over, disregarded, or otherwise told that my ideas “just won’t work”.

I remember one time talking about the value of growing our clients’ email lists and crafting email marketing campaigns.

I was told that this was something “mommy bloggers do”, but the same idea (when presented by my male coworkers) was heralded as a good idea.

These microaggressions add up over time and make it difficult to get recognized for our good ideas, be considered for promotions, or invited to career-changing networking opportunities.

Little by little, these things can certainly limit our career potential.

Post in Sisters in SEO Facebook group

I believe I have things easy as a woman in the SEO content space because writing has, more or less, been a “female” domain.

But I have heard from my female cohort that being a female technical SEO specialist can be much more difficult, as people constantly question your expertise.

The solution, it seems, is to be louder, unapologetic, and have a thick skin – as the risk of being called “bossy” or worse.

And while many women can adopt this “Don’t mess with me” attitude, many others would prefer to stay in the background.

Very early, I decided to try and strike a balance – where I could stay true to myself (caring, feminine, creative) while also standing up to the bullies.

I decided I needed to create my own seat at the table.

Find Your ‘People’

Where would I be without my sisters in SEO who are always there when I need to vent, want to talk strategy, swap skill sets, and more?

I love that I have “my people” to go to who support me with no questions asked.

Many male-dominated spaces can be aggressive, particularly if you even bring up the topic of women in SEO.

You’ll hear statements like:

  • “Why does this matter?”
  • “Women are already equal!”
  • “It’s about experience, not gender.”
  • All of these statements ignore the very real disparities that women experience.

But if you seek out people who support you – whether that be other women in SEO or men who can lend a listening ear – you’ll be better prepared to weather the bullies.

Network Your @ss Off

As with most industries, SEO has an “It’s not what you know but who you know culture.”

To get featured in major publications, get considered for roundup posts, form business partnerships, and get invited to speaking events, you need to network with the right people.

Unfortunately, very rarely will people hand you these opportunities on a silver platter.

Instead, you should constantly be looking for ways to connect with people in SEO, grow authentic relationships, and earn a name for yourself.

You could be the best technical SEO pro ever, regardless of gender, but if no one knows you exist, you’re unlikely to get the recognition you deserve.

Connect with people on LinkedIn, submit guest posts, and attend networking events to put yourself out there.

Know When (& When Not) to Ruffle Feathers

I am a strong advocate for equal rights, but not at the expense of my own health and well-being.

You need to know when to speak up and stick your neck out, as well as when to disengage and give yourself a break.

Again, this is why I like having a community that has my back because they can always come to my defense if I am being dragged across the coals.

Further, they offer me practical advice when it comes to dealing with sexist clients, charging what I’m worth, and landing new opportunities.

You don’t have to fight every battle on your own and some days are harder than others.

Ultimately, what matters is that you reach your version of success.

Do Your Best Work

Sometimes you just gotta let your work speak for itself.

While it is true that it’s often difficult fighting to get noticed as a woman in SEO, you certainly won’t stand out if you stay on the sidelines.

Focus on providing the best value you can to your clients. Get them awesome results. Publish those case studies. Rake in those testimonials.

Inevitably, word will spread that you know what you’re doing – either from existing clients to prospective clients or from one SEO pro to the next.

We can all hope that the playing field will become more equal over time and you want to be one of the ones saying, “Look – I put in the work!”

If anything, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’re a total boss.

Charge What You’re Worth

One of the most common struggles I see women in SEO experiencing is not charging/getting paid what they are worth.

Sometimes this means not knowing how to negotiate their salary in fear of being considered “too demanding”, or it might mean setting their agency rates too low / not knowing how to attract high-paying clients.

As Beyonce once said, “Your best revenge is your paper” – and getting paid what you’re worth gives you more freedom to do what you love and have influence in the world.

I highly recommend working with a financial advisor or mentor that can help you navigate these often difficult money-related conversations, set competitive prices, and learn how to communicate your value to potential clients.

Confidence plays a major role in you asking for what you’re worth and getting paid what you deserve.

Know Your Talking Points

It never hurts to have some talking points in your arsenal for when misogyny rears its head.

If you’re used to encountering leads that say “I won’t work with a woman” (this has happened to me) or “This is kind of a boy’s club” (that too), then it might be helpful to know what to say next time these phrases come around.

You’ll feel more confident being able to school people on why feminism in SEO matters, why your work is just as good (if not better) than your male counterparts’, how you can help clients achieve X results, etc.

Know what to say so you don’t get bulldozed over by the haters.

For me, this sometimes means name dropping some of the amazing clients I have worked with in the past and the sweet results I have generated through my content.

So, when one prospect scoffed at my prices saying “You’re not even a household name”, I could shrug it off knowing that my real clients know the value in working with me.

Use Your Voice

If you’re bold enough to make yourself heard and talk about your experience as a woman in SEO, know that there are countless ways to do so.

Guest posting (like this), sharing your story on YouTube, posting inspiring social media posts, and speaking at events are all great ways to get your voice heard.

On a smaller level, share your expertise in Facebook groups, talk strategy, attend virtual summits, and network with other SEO pros to get noticed.

Work on sticking up for yourself and being confident in what you bring to the table.

Not every person is outspoken or has the desire to stand up on a soapbox, but for those of us that feel empowered to share our stories, doing so can make a world of difference.

Resources for Women in SEO:

Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita
All screenshots taken by author, April 2020

Category Friday Focus

Jessica Foster is the founder and lead SEO Content Writer at Keys&Copy – a premier content agency that serves SEO ...

I am a Woman in SEO: How I Create My Own Seat at the Table

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