SEO is a male dominated field. As I think back on the thousands of SEO blog posts and articles I’ve read over the years, the vast majority of them were written by men. That being said, last week when I asked myself to name the top women in SEO (without searching), only four names came to mind immediately. When I thought a little more about the rise of content-driven SEO and how many thought leaders in social media and content marketing are starting to become influencers in the hard-core SEO communities I follow, a fifth person cam to mind pretty quickly.
I know there are MANY more super-talented women in SEO, but in terms of top women SEO experts these are the names that came to mind instantly. I have very specific reasons why I remember them and how they continue to stay on my radar. Your list may be different than mine and probably is.
These women don’t have top-of-mind awareness with me because they are women. It’s because they are awesome at what they do. And they continue to create great content and remain relevant in one of the toughest spaces in online marketing: search engine optimization.
Why does my opinion matter? I am a battle scarred SEO professional and I’ve been at this for over ten years. I am not your typical SEO enthusiast or agency SEO specialist. I create and manage the execution for every client engagement and I’ve done hundreds of them. It’s consultants like me that get results at the metro and regional level where you can find some of the best SEO services. I am a true “SEO grunt” and its content consumers like me that are the hardest to impress in terms of SEO-related content. Let’s face-it: our industry has A LOT of what I call “Paris Hilton” SEO-experts that are “famous for being famous”, not necessarily because they are true thought leaders or create any actionable SEO strategies that blue-collar SEO types like myself can apply on main street.
My point is that this is not another self-serving “SEO expert” vanity listicle. I have a very personal opinion of each one of these professionals, each of whom had to earn my trust and respect over a long period of time, as have many of their male peers in the SEO industry. Here we go:
Sugar Rae Hoffman
This is one of the best minds in SEO period. A seriously talented, ever feisty veteran SEO expert. Sugar Rae is the epitome of what we are in search – tenacious, confident, scrappy, creative and ultra-competitive.
Good SEOs get you ranked. Great SEO’s comeback after getting their asses kicked. Legends stay on top for years on end. 99% of the self-proclaimed SEO ‘influencers’ are talking heads that that probably couldn’t rank their way out of a wet paper bag. Sugar Rae is a true SEO talent and I would pretty much pit her up against any other top SEO out there.
Even more things to like about her: she is inspired by the tragic yet heroic life of her special needs son CJ. As soon as I read this story I felt that I understood where the fire and passion was coming from. Hell hath no fury like a mom motivated by her family.
On a personal note, just when I though there wasn’t more to like about Sugar Rae I watched this video. She has found one of the greatest secret’s in life that I realized long ago: when you worry about what other people think about you, you give them power over you and your life, which leads to anxiety, materialism and bad decisions. Spend more time caring about the people you love and less time caring about what strangers think about you – it will change your life. Thanks Sugar Rae for sharing
my our secret. Also, I couldn’t do this write-up without mentioning that like me she has strong Florida roots and is a Tampa Bay Bucs fan!
Ann is THE authority on blogging as it relates to search engine optimization. She has been a recognized authority in SEO long before the word ‘authority’ became an SEO buzz word. Her great content is all over the Internet and is published on the virtually every major SEO industry website.
In my mind, Ann achieved legendary status when she created the guest blog match-making community MyBlogGuest for blog writers and publishers. While the website was created for absolutely legitimate reasons, some members started to use the site for volume link building – and in the end I think Google used this site as a scape goat to send a broader message to discourage guest blog posting in general. In any case, this was a brilliant idea and the website quite frankly became a victim of its own success. How many of us can say we’ve gone head-to-head with one of the most powerful companyies in history (yeah I mean Google).
On a more personal note, what I love about Ann is that she is an SEO that is an entrepreneur at heart – exactly how I would describe myself. It’s that hard-driving entrepreneurial spirit and competitive fire that motivates her to create the best content and find and create new ways to generate and distribute great content. Did Ann quit when Google went after MyBlogGuest? Hell no! That which doesn’t kill us makes us better at SEO. She went and created MyBlogU.com which in Ann’s own words:
“….lets you crowdsource your epic content (from idea to implementation) and get cited for your expertise and digital assets. MyBlogU also provides a powerful knowledge base of actionable tips to help you succeed online.”
From an SEO standpoint, Kristi is the best content marketer on the planet. Period. In fact, Kristi inspired me to write this post last week after reading an awesome, well-written and researched post on negative SEO tracking tools. Kristi has the unique ability to analyze a website and its audience, and create killer content that stands out above other content on a website. I have seen this time and time again where her contributing posts have been the best content on a website.
She does this for her clients and partner websites as well as her own website. I can’t think of an expert in our industry with a better handle on content-driven SEO than Kristi Hines. Its names like Ann Smarty and Kristi Hines that will be top names in SEO indefinitely because of their unique ability to create and distribute great content for themselves and their clients. To me, Kristi really leads by example – the way she builds authority for her own personal brand is exactly the way the rest of us and our clients should do it.
I’ve really just only started following Marie this year. It takes a lot to win my attention in an industry where every SEO on the planet is try to rise above he noise by marketing and distributing their own content. We are all trying to establish our personal brands, achieve authority and build an audience all the time.
When it comes to understanding and explaining Google penalties, at this point in time I have to proclaim Marie as one of our industry’s leading authorities. In fact, she is the author of Unnatural Links – The Complete Guide to Recovery.
She has a really interesting background as a veterinary doctor (so yes, technically its ‘Dr. Marie’). It you think about it, Marie’s experience as a doctor make her perfectly suited to rescue websites. Just like she does as a vet, Marie studies and researches, diagnoses problems and then prescribes recovery solutions.
I find her path to SEO very intriguing as well. It started with her husband entering real-estate, then followed by learning and applying SEO to her own family businesses. This led to developing various successful veterinary websites and in turn building a successful Internet marketing practice. Now she has emerged as a leading expert on Google penalties and recoveries.
I think this is how all great SEO professionals start – learning from the ground up, their own way. Once that fire is lit, it doesn’t burn out. So to me, good SEOs are in some ways a product of our own ultra-competitive, obsessive personalities. I think this is the one common attribute that binds all SEO veterans together.
This maybe not the first name many industry-focused SEO’s would have on the tip-of-the-tongue, but if you don’t already know her, Ann is a social media superstar (uh, she’s cited in Forbes as the most influential woman in Social Media) . The catch phrase “Content Is King” was a joke our link-driven industry for YEARS – but now it’s for real. Content-driven SEO is the only sustainable way forward, so suddenly thought leaders in the social media and small business marketing arenas are becoming major influencers in SEO. I myself completed a top-ranked marketing training program to become a Duct Tape Marketing Certified Consultant this year – a substantial investment in time and money that has already paid itself back. But why would an SEO focused web designer invest time and money into learning a small business marketing system? I answer that very question here.
I was introduced to Ann’s work by way of Duct Tape Marketing. Think about that for a minute. I found my way to Ann by consuming another industry expert’s content (John Jantsch). In other words, she pulled me into to her content distribution channel though her own content marketing. It’s today’s leaders in content marketing that we SEO’s are looking to for guidance on content marketing, which in now a central part of our SEO efforts. This is ironic because just a few years ago, many SEOs scoffed at content marketing and social media in general. In the era of content-driven SEO, the bright lights of SEO are shining down on Ann Handley and other content marketing pros since this is where the game is and will continue to be. Ann is the author of popular books such as Content Rules and Everybody Writes ….this post in fact is my attempt to start writing “ridiculously good content” as encouraged in her latest book, so thanks to Ann for the inspiration, advice and guidance!
Other Top SEO Expert Women?
Who is your top pick? I we created a poll below, but also hope to get more comments and suggestions on other women thought leaders in search engine optimization, and any of the ‘hidden gem’ experts that may not have the audience yet, but have lots of great ideas.