The Hard Truth – We Are Women in SEO

Singular Purpose

Singular Purpose

Our extraordinary Top SEO Women list has been one of the most visited posts in the history of Top SEO Women, with over 2700 unique views. From a marketing standpoint, it’s great publicity for the nominees, wouldn’t you think? I thought so, which is one of the main reasons I started this thing in the first place – to give my fellow SEO women more publicity. Therefore, I must admit my surprise and sadness when a few women asked to be removed from the list.

Believe it or not, I meant the TSW award as a compliment. I still mean it as a compliment. Yet, it’s much more than that…

Not to Go Bra Burnin’, But…

Do you realize, those of you who get all irate about this little award of ours, that women in the U.S. have only had the right to vote for 80 years or so? Do you realize that – internationally – there are still places where women have no rights at all? Do you realize that, in general, women are still paid less than men, even when doing the same jobs?

-And I’m wondering, is me mentioning this going to get negative feedback about being sexist, feminist and so on? These are facts, people; they aren’t opinions. They’re historically and statistically provable.

Not my opinions but facts

Not my opinions but facts

What’s Acceptable?

Let me get this straight. People’s Sexiest Man and Woman of the Year is acceptable, but Level 343′s Top SEO Women of the Year isn’t. So, we can discuss how “hot” a person is, dissect their physical features, what they wear and wonder how much plastic surgery they’ve had or where they work out, but talking about how good a person is at their job is too much?

Or – wait, maybe those of you who are complaining about the Top SEO Women award have the same problem with People. So then, you’ve complained to Enterprising Women Magazine about their Enterprising Women of the Year Award, yes? –And, I should expect to see your reprimanding comments at the end of the CNN Money article, 50 Most Powerful Women In Business, right? I wonder how many women turned down the Enterprising Women of the Year nominations because it had “women” in the title…

I also noticed that there weren’t any negative comments about Dell’s Women’s Entrepreneur Network, or on the article How Women Entrepreneurs Differ from Men. Perhaps something along the lines of AskMen’s Top 99 Women is more appropriate?

It’s How You Play the Game

We’re still learning and growing, building on the original Top SEO Women idea. For instance, one reader mentioned not being able to vote because he didn’t know anything about the women other than the bio we gave. He had a good point, and our think tank is working on the best way to work that in future TSW years.

Why? We’re sharing some new faces that might be missed. We’re working to help women with their marketing efforts. Because the Top SEO Women award isn’t about who wins or loses. It’s not about calling people out and making them feel uncomfortable, but to rejoice in seeing so many given recognition by our very own industry.

When I first started this business, I remember that there were very few women; at least, there were very few that I knew (by the way, Heather Lloyd-Martin wrote a great series: The Women Who Made SEO Great, that’s well worth the read if you don’t know the women mentioned). I’m not saying we’re dinosaurs, but there are so many new guns out there! It’s fantastic, and I want to help celebrate the fact.

Nice thought, but...

Nice thought, but…

Personally, I’d like to see the quality of recognition go a little higher than The Seduction of SEO. It was a nice thought, but it took me saying, “Hey, why aren’t you giving them links to their site?” Let’s face it; as advanced as the world of SEO is, and as many women are in the industry, we still don’t highlight their accomplishments (with the exception of an elite few). If you think we do, take a gander at:

While you’re looking around at the articles, just take a moment to compare the men to women ratio. How many of the people listed are the same as those listed on other links? What’s really the number of women mentioned, when all the articles are combined? What – five? This is equal recognition, is it? Enough said…

High School Popularity Contest?

One of the comments we heard was that some of the women didn’t want to be involved in what they believed was similar to a high school popularity contest. Sure, any poll that allows voting for “the top person” can be viewed as a popularity contest. Yes, you’ll see contenders for the title pimping for votes on Twitter, etc. But we are marketers people! We pimp for votes on a daily basis for all sorts of reasons; products, blog posts, content, etc. It’s this type of “hiding away” that has made it so difficult in the past for women to be seen as viable contenders in the marketplace. We’re all adults now.

If You’re Feeling Threatened…

We received a comment on our last TSW article:

“So if you have boobies and do SEO you get an award? You know half the women on your list don’t do SEO?  They might write about it, but at the end of the day drop code in front of them and they won’t know wtf they are looking at.”

Thanks so much for that lovely, supportive comment that speaks so highly about women. Is the Top SEO Women of the Year award so threatening to you that you need to be insulting?

And women – is it such a horrible thing to you to be a woman that you believe we need to pretend there is no gender? Is being a woman something to despise? I’m proud of who, and what, I am – a woman entrepreneur in a field that requires a high degree of critical thinking.

Although I am sorry that some women didn’t feel comfortable with their nominations, I won’t apologize for starting Level 343′s Top SEO Women of the Year, Honoring Women Wednesday, or anything else that supports other women in business. Our intent was not to destroy, embarrass, humiliate or start another war of the sexes. We started TSW because we are excited – no, thrilled – that women are jumping into this field because they know they can do the job.

Break Free

As women, we at Level343 are proud to finally say we are not the only ones screaming ‘give us justice’. We love and support One Billion Rising – Let’s break the rules; break the chain.

About Gabriella Sannino

International SEO consultant is my title...but who cares about those? What I love is, writing about marketing, social, SEO, relevance, ruffling feathers and starting revolutions. What you read on this blog, will hopefully inspire you to continue the conversation. When I'm not multitasking around Level343 I sneak away and go sailing. I'm crazy about pistachios, and of course Nutella.


  1. I think when someone doesn’t want to be included they should be able to have a say in the matter. I wish that were true, they don’t, only if the site owner will listen. People have written negative things about me and I’m stuck with it. It’s a choice I made to muster the courage to do what I’ve done in a public manner, with people who I hoped to count on as friends lending me a hand here and there. I got mixed results.

    There are those who’ve gone before me in other industries. There will be those who follow in my footsteps in SEO. I chose to stand up and not shy away from harsh criticism, to deal with it on the face and not cower behind “responding is beneath me” when I know people will be coming behind me and I want to lend them a hand. I would never dare ask someone who might be thinking about a transition to do so publicly like I have done.

    I have been vilified online and threatened with violence at conferences. I went anyway. I could never ask someone to go through all that, even if it will get easier and easier as generations move on and youthful attitudes carry the day. There is still sex discrimination among the youth, make no mistake about it. There is violence and shameful acts that I’ve been privy to and the next generation is not entirely free of it.

    To stand and be counted, not only because of your gender, to be proud of that recognition entails more than basking in the pride of the moment. It comes with it a deep responsibility to do right by others, and to lend a hand for those who want to follow. That is the stuff of leadership. Not the crappy paper kind, where pay exceeds 400x the floor employee salary and pensions get robbed to pay it. I’m speaking of profound leadership skills that requires courage to accept broadside attack from haters in order to make way for those who want to follow.

    You do not have to do this. You can ask to be removed for whatever reason. If you want your profile to be removed and the website owner does it, just know that it is not your choice. Facebook keeps your intellectual property too, just like Google, Twitter and all the rest. Old Facebook email you can’t even edit if you wanted to. I could easily have decided to disappear into the ether, to become a country mouse-frau. Colleagues of mine suggested I do exactly that. Are you better off without me? I persist, regardless of opinion so that I might make way for others to feel encouraged whatever they do.

  2. Being properly made fun of, by the way, is totally okay. It’s when it’s improper that I take issue. The thing about it is that I am the only one who gets to decide if something about me is improper. I’m grateful to friends who want to look after my feelings. I have no friends with the right experience to advise me, even among LGBT friends. Hate should be dealt with ‘head-on’ in my world. Period.

  3. Disa, I can’t even begin to tell you what it means having you pitch in. Look I’m not blinded by the injustices I see all around me. I can’t say I’ve known what you’ve gone through or what you’re going through. We each have our stories to tell. What I can say is, I’ve always admired and respected your courage to face the shit storm that ensues when we decide to let the world inside our most precious self. You, are formidable Disa. I’m looking forward to meeting you soon.

  4. Head-on is the only way to go, IMO, Disa, in ANY situation. And as I’m sure you know, tough situations are the ones that show who the true friends are.

  5. Thank you Doc. I am lucky enough to have lived through the situation that helped me sort it. I get to select where and when I participate in a much wiser way than was possible before. Thank you to you, and all allies who do us right, men and women, all who struggle to be counted.

  6. Thank you Gabriella. I really look forward to that!


  1. [...] Our extraordinary Top SEO Women list has been one of the most visited posts in the history of Top SEO Women, with over 2700 unique views. From a marketing standpoint, it’s great publicity for…  [...]

  2. [...] Our extraordinary Top SEO Women list has been one of the most visited posts in the history of Top SEO Women, with over 2700 unique views. From a marketing standpoint, it's great publicity for the n…  [...]

  3. [...] Gabriella Sannino takes on dissenters with “The Hard Truth – We Are Women in SEO” at Level 343. [...]

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