The gender gap in SEO publishing
Updated: Feb 9
Last year I produced the Gender Gap in SEO Publishing report. It looked at which publications were making the most of female talent and which were still being dominated by males.
It caused a bit of a stir.
I’ve gathered new data, refreshed my sources, and pulled together a fresh report based on 2022. Have the publications that fell behind before upped their game, or are women still fighting for their voices to be heard?
As with many roles, males have dominated the SEO scene since it started. They get more recognition, better-paying jobs, and take the biggest slots of speaker lineups. This report won’t change all of that, but it can certainly play a part, looking into the area where a lot of these big SEO names make their mark - publications.
There are women trying to make a difference, but they need publications to play their part too in order for the tables to finally turn.
There’s a huge lack of diversity in SEO
Browsing SEO publications every week in order to write the #SEOwomen Twitter threads, I found there were the same male faces everywhere I looked. The same names were getting the same coverage, giving them an unfair advantage when it came to exposure, career progression and pay.
This isn’t just an SEO issue - it’s a problem across almost every industry, but SEO is where I work, and where I’ve experienced the issue first-hand.
But why does it matter? Well, featuring in SEO publications can really drive your career. It puts you in front of the right people, gives you credibility and can build a strong network. This, in turn, gives you even more opportunities.
The lack of representation in these publications is one of the reasons women are at a disadvantage in the SEO industry. They’re naturally seen as being less credible because their voices simply aren’t out there.
70% of SEO articles are written by men
On the 2022 version of this report, women were responsible for 39% of SEO articles published. In 2022, that figure was down to 30%.
In practice, this means that for every seven articles written by men, publications only featured three written by women.
It’s very disappointing to see those numbers getting worse. When you work with such incredible female talent every day, you can see how much it deserves to be seen. But still, year after year, it’s male voices that are chosen to be heard.
However, it’s not all bad news: the pool of female SEO writers has actually grown. In 2021, 31% of SEO writers were female. In the past 12 months, that figure has grown to 43%. Today, 197 women are active SEO writers.
How each SEO publication performs in gender equality
Ahrefs have remained in last position for diversity, with only 11% of their content written by female authors. The new data shows no change; they're still at 89% of pieces written by men. However, Ahrefs have made improvements to their pitching process, making it more open and transparent to try and remove gender bias. It hasn’t fully fixed the issue, but at least it’s a sign they’re putting things into practice.
Moz come out on top in terms of representation, with 71% of published articles written by women.
Compared to last year, OnCrawl have also increased their female contributions from 34% to 52%. SEJ have dropped down the rankings slightly, while SEL have gone up a little. Wix have contributed with a very strong inclusivity effort, showcasing 52% of female-written content.
Something that may skew the data is the prolificity of some male writers. Roger Montti, Barry Schwartz and Matt G. Southern, from SEJ and SEL, are excellent writers and jointly make up an incredible 23% of all SEO content published in 2022.
“We have been very intentional about contributor diversity, so it's amazing that we can contribute to a more equitable publishing landscape within our industry. It's an endeavour that requires vigilance, and the bulk of the work remains ahead. We actively support, seek out, and uplift all the contributors to the SEO Hub, and this is particularly important to engage with authors from communities that are historically less visible.”
George Nguyen, Director of SEO editorial at Wix
Are women worse writers?
On average, SEO articles written by women achieve 27% less organic traffic than those written by men. But is this because they’re worse writers? The type of content they’re assigned to write, or the sort their editors accept, can make a massive difference to its performance.
Female-inclusive publications, such as Moz, get around x4.7 times the amount of traffic than their male counterparts. In the least inclusive publication, Ahrefs, men get x1.4 times more organic traffic than women.
Every time we talk about gender gaps, there's something to address: should publications be choosing the best writers or should they be choosing women? That is a false dichotomy that ignores the unconscious biases we deal with in a patriarchal society.
The data shows that we, as an industry, might be missing out on some brilliant minds. There already are gender quotas in SEO publishing, but they are unconscious, and they skew towards men.
“The search marketing industry is wonderfully diverse, but cis-gendered, white men are consistently the ones celebrated as the "experts", and the same names tend to appear again and again in publications, at conferences, and as respected references. Moz is not immune to that homogeneity, and over the last several years we have made it a priority to not only reflect the diversity of the industry in our blog authorship, but also to use our platform to elevate voices who may not have had the chance to share their expertise elsewhere. The Women in Tech SEO community has been a huge partner in this effort, and I'm proud of the work we've done to get more women recognized on the Moz Blog, but I also acknowledge that there is more work to be done.”
Morgan McMurray, Sr. Content Marketing Manager at Moz
The authors showing us how it should be done
Striving for equality is not only the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do for your business.
Women are some of the biggest traffic drivers. In 2022, the women who wrote the best-performing content on search are Julia McCoy, Kelly Lyons (author at Semrush), Kaitie Frank (author at SEJ), Amelia Willson and Rebecca Liew.
The industry is full of prolific female writers who are doing an incredible job and getting their content out there. I'd like to take a moment to recognise these women and the work that they do.
In 2022, the most published female writers in the industry have been Miranda Miller (formerly at SEJ), Heather Campbell (marketing director at SEJ), Kelly Lyons, Miriam Ellis (Local Search Marketer at Moz) and Kayle Larkin (author at SEJ).
These women are paving the way for others looking to make their mark on the industry. So follow them on social media, and if you meet them at an event, buy them a drink.
"As a Hispanic woman in the tech industry, I have seen firsthand the challenges faced by underrepresented groups in their pursuit of opportunities. Despite their hard work and impressive skills and experience, these individuals are often overlooked and undervalued. At Semrush, we recognize the importance of diversity and strive to give visibility to all members of our community, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or any other factor. By celebrating each other's achievements and supporting one another's growth, we can build a stronger and more inclusive community. Together, we can break down barriers and create a level playing field for everyone. This is our mission and our commitment to making a positive impact in the tech industry."
Nicole Ponce, Communications & Influencer Marketing Team Lead at Semrush
A reminder of how to address the gender gap in SEO publishing
It’s up to the publishers to address the gender gap. As the data shows, there is female talent out there, and readers keen to absorb their content. Here’s how you can help it shine.
1. Widen your pool of female writers.
Reach out to the SEO community and invite active content creators to contribute to your platform.
It might seem obvious, but having a wider pool of female writers correlates with more equitable output. Publications that had at least 50% of articles written by women had a pool of writers with an average of 53% women, while publications at the bottom of the barrel had 31% of women in their author pool on average.
2. Connect with more female SEOs
The talent is abundant on social media. Search for them, connect with them, and start conversations.
3. Follow people who promote women’s voices
The Women in Tech SEO community and my own #SEOWomen Twitter threads are both fantastic resources for female talent.
4. Make your pitching process transparent
Show people how to get their content in your publication, and make inclusion a key part of your editorial plan. Your readers are less brand loyal than ever, and increasingly go to brands that match their values.
“When thinking of company interactions with the Women in Tech SEO community; the top 3 listed in your piece are the most engaged. Moz have active members in our community that share opportunities with us before they are public. OCcrawl always sponsor our initiatives and invite our members to speak in their podcast. Wix find writers within our community and they always amplify their pieces, mostly through Crystal Carter, their head of SEO Communications. The companies at the top of this list are the ones that engage with diverse communities and share opportunities directly with them. It truly makes a difference.”
Areej AbuAli, Founder of Women in Tech SEO
Closing the gap as a woman
And what can you do as a woman? The best thing you can do for equality in SEO is put yourself forward and lift other women up with you.
Look at the templates, how-tos, dashboards and strategies you’ve built over the last year and pitch them to your favourite publications. Connect with other women in the industry, grow your own community, and shout loud and proud about the successes you achieve.
These are two women showing how it can be done:
Abby Reimer, SEO Manager at Uproer - “Writing for SEO publications grew my confidence in my abilities and motivated me to keep testing and sharing what I learn. That confidence is my best defence against the dreaded imposter syndrome”
Aleyda Solís, International SEO Consultant - “Especially when I was starting to consolidate my SEO career as an independent consultant at an international level, writing at publications helped me to get exposure I didn’t have. It enabled me to establish authority, attract clients and speak at conferences.”
SEO shouldn’t be a gendered subject. Search engines, after all, don’t give a damn about gender. So why does our industry?
This is an issue we can solve together. By publishing more female writers, by sharing more female content, and by removing the barriers that make women feel like their content isn’t worth writing, we can make the industry a more equal place.
The publications I've chosen to analyse are: Semrush, Ahrefs, Wix, Moz, SEL, SEL, SEW and OnCrawl.
I've crawled all their sites using ScreamingFrog and extracted the publish date and author name in every article. I've determined the gender of the authors by using OpenAI and manually reviewing the results. The team at Semrush have kindly provided the traffic data.
I've analysed every article published in 2022, except for sponsored content or articles without an author.