Digital Marketing, SEO and My Life as a 20-Something

Tag: SEO

4 Challenges of Being a Young Woman in SEO

Oh, SEO. I love you so. As a complex field requiring a wide set of skills combined with the challenge of constantly changing search algorithms, being an SEO professional makes my heart sing. What’s terrifying to many makes me roll up my sleeves with a grin on my face.

Unfortunately, being a young woman in SEO comes with a few unique challenges beyond the usual ones Google throws at us. 

From technical expertise being pushed aside to added difficulties in communication and networking, here are some of the challenges I’ve experienced as a 20-something female SEO specialist and the impact they’ve had on my career so far.

Your Technical Skills Are Overlooked

Certainly not unique to SEO, the technical skills involved in the job are often overlooked for content-oriented ones. Believe it or not, I can do so much more than just copywriting and content creation.

When you think of a woman working in a marketing agency, what role do you envision them as? Probably a copywriter, doing social media, working on the accounts team or in an administrative role. 

When you picture someone creating a landing page, digging through code, mapping out site migrations and troubleshooting technical errors, who comes to mind? It’s probably a man, isn’t it?

The amount of technical skills required in an SEO role varies greatly depending on the specific position. That being said, it’s hard to get far in the industry without at least some technical knowledge and/or hands-on web skills. 

Despite what some people think, I am capable of so much more than blogging and writing. I may not be a developer, but it’s actually my combination of skills in both content and technical SEO that makes me so great at what I do (if I do say so myself!).

Content may be king, but if it’s built on a poor technical foundation then it can only go so far. It’s time we recognize the technical skills that women bring to the table so they can be used to their full extent. And it’s definitely time we stop mansplaining basic technical concepts to them because it’s just a waste of everybody’s time. 

Finally, let’s be real. Technical skills = $$$. When technical skills are overlooked in female SEO specialists, that means they make less money and may have fewer opportunities for promotions and future opportunities.

Lack of Visible Female Role Models

Try a few informational searches related to SEO or look up any content published by Google’s search team and you’ll realize what a male-dominated industry this is. Similar to the visibility of women in other STEM and male-dominated industries, it’s not surprising that SEO isn’t a career many women initially see for themselves because they don’t see themselves reflected in it.

There’s no doubt that there are many incredible female SEO professionals doing phenomenal things at all levels in the industry. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to SEO by an amazing female professor and I’m extremely grateful to have recently joined the Women in Tech SEO community. 

We’re out there. We just lack that visibility at many of the highest levels, events and companies. This is not the post to dig into the reasons why, but visibility can go a long way in bringing women into the SEO industry and helping them move up the ladder.

The Uncertainty of SEO Can Come Across as Incompetence

It’s a bit like how a man being assertive is interpreted as confidence, while a woman being assertive is seen as being too aggressive or unlikeable. 

Anybody in SEO knows the standard answer to a question is “It depends!”. Unfortunately, when we look at how language is interpreted in different ways depending on gender, this can really backfire against women. 

Hearing “It depends.” coming from a woman can be seen as incompetence or a lack of confidence in her response. The same response from a man can be interpreted as “Oh, well that’s just SEO!”. 

Communicating complex SEO ideas can be difficult on the best of days. It’s become exponentially more difficult thanks to changes from COVID-19, as the data we used to rely on can no longer be trusted and the future is so uncertain.

I’m not really sure what the answer to this one is other than it sucks. Especially because if we change our communication too much, it can easily be seen as overconfidence and arrogance. Unfortunately (as my father told me many times as a child and in adulthood, too) we can only control ourselves, we can’t control other people. 

Being Young Makes You Stick Out Even More

I’m only just starting to really branch out to get involved in the SEO as well as WordPress communities, but I’ve definitely noticed that I’m typically the youngest in the room. If there are other twenty-somethings in the room, they’re usually male. 

Part of this is probably the path that leads to becoming an SEO professional, it’s not something you really go to school for! I’m a bit of an anomaly in that I had the chance to take a formal course in it during my post-grad. Given that most people develop the skills over time and stumble into the specialization, it makes sense that there’s not a lot of young guns like me. 

That being said, what are we doing to ensure young people are discovering SEO? How are we mentoring them? What are we doing to ensure the SEO industry doesn’t continue to be male-dominated?

It can be hard to speak up when you’re one of the only women and also the same age as the children of many people in the room. It can be uncomfortable, bring out the imposter syndrome and make it more challenging to make connections while networking. 

Getting over the fear has always been worth it, whether it’s giving a talk in the front of a lecture hall or answering an SEO question in a meetup, but it can be a scary step to take when you feel like you’re doing it alone. 

I love being an SEO professional. It’s definitely top-3 in the extensive list of things I can’t help but nerd out about. I am so lucky to have fallen into this field and to have been given some amazing, early-career opportunities that are often hard to come by.

SEO is a challenging, exciting field and I am proud to be a professional within this dynamic industry. Despite that pride, embracing the role of being a female SEO professional has come with its challenges, particularly getting recognition for my technical capabilities. 

Despite the challenges, with communities like Women in Tech SEO providing amazing support and resources, along with other female SEO professionals and allies, I hope that the path for those coming up behind me will be a little bit easier as time goes one. This was a challenging and slightly scary piece to write, but I hope by being honest about experiences I can help bring these challenges out into the open to improve the experience for all SEO and marketing professionals.

Are you a young woman in SEO? What challenges have you faced in your career and how have you overcome them? Leave a comment or send me a tweet @natasha_bd, I’d love to hear!

6 Best Practices for Marketing Your Social Enterprise

This is the second post in a four-part series where I explore marketing and branding in the social enterprise industry. Don’t miss out on part one where I define social enterprise, week three where I feature an awesome social enterprise brand and week four where I wrap it up with some useful marketing resources.

You’re ready to make a change in the world, and you’ve created the social enterprise to do it. Now, how do you spread the word? Keep reading for 6 best practices you can easily implement to effectively market your social enterprise and create a sustainable, long-term business that will change the world.

1. Be a business-first; focus on your product or service

Let’s start with a little math; social enterprise – social = enterprise. Too many social impact businesses rely on pulling on heartstrings to make sales. This can be an effective short-term strategy but is rarely sustainable long-term.

Market yourself as a business first, and then use your social impact story to complement and amplify your marketing message. Do some market research, identify your target market and create a marketing strategy and implementation plan. Then, hold yourself accountable to make it a reality.

It’s important to ground your social business marketing strategy in the core principles of marketing. This means creating a high-quality product or service, identifying your target market, pricing it appropriately (if you have a higher price point than competitors, you need to justify it with more than just your social mission!) and using the best distribution and marketing channels to reach and sell to consumers.

2. Don’t just tell your social impact story. Showcase it!

It’s one thing to tell your story, it’s another thing to truly showcase it to the rest of the world. Combined with the business-first approach to marketing as discussed above, a powerful story can create magnetic marketing that draws in consumers to power your social enterprise for the long term.

How can you showcase your story in an effective way?

Visuals and Videos

In today’s digital and mobile world, visuals are a key part of modern marketing. Showcase both your product as well as the benefit of your social enterprise through pictures, videos and graphics. This will help consumers understand, connect with and hopefully support both your product and the positive change your business creates.

Not a graphic designer? With free, user-friendly tools like Canva you can be!

Numbers

So, you claim to make an impact? Prove it!

Numbers help communicate your story and can also build your trust and credibility, all of which contribute to effective social enterprise marketing and building a sustainable operation.

social enterprise video marketing

The world is on their phones, watching videos. Will they be watching your social enterprise?

3. Be transparent

This is part of telling your story, but in social business marketing this deserves its own point. What is your impact? Do you use volunteers? What organizations do you donate money to, and how much? Who are your suppliers?

Being transparent builds credibility. A spectacular marketing campaign won’t get a response if nobody trusts you. Individuals increasingly demand transparency from socially responsible organizations. If you are transparent from the start you will build trust, and with time, a bigger audience and group of loyal customers.

You also need to be clear on what your model of change is. Consumers want to see that your profits really are creating a meaningful impact. If what you’re doing for the world and how you go about it isn’t clear, don’t expect consumers to open their wallets for you.

4. Utilize digital marketing – strategically

Digital marketing can be a very effective and cost-efficient marketing medium, but it can be easy to fall victim to the belief that a business needs to be present on every online platform.

The key to choosing the best digital marketing platforms is to think about your target audience. Who are they? Where do they spend their time? What type of content and topics are they interested in? Ask yourself these questions, and the platforms you need to be on should become crystal clear.

If there’s one digital marketing platform that you must have, it’s a high-quality website with your own domain. High-quality does not have to equal high-cost, thanks to many easy to use and free or low-cost templates and website builders.

You should also ensure that your website is optimized for SEO to improve its chances of being seen in search engines. While a website does not need to be a large expense, it is your social enterprise’s digital home. If you only have a small budget for marketing, SEO is where you should be spending it.

social enterprise

No matter the cause or budget, every social enterprise needs to have a website. Don’t forget SEO!

5. Build a consistent social enterprise brand

Branding does not have to be an extensive or expensive endeavour. But investing a small amount of time into developing your brand will go a long way.

Beyond the basic branding activities of choosing a name and creating a logo and colour scheme, the best thing to focus on is brand consistency. While your messages need to be tailored for each platform and its audience, you still need consistency, especially as most customers will encounter your messaging across multiple platforms and mediums.

To build a strong brand, keep your colours and logo consistent. Use similar and predictable tone and language. If there’s more than one person creating and managing external communications, you may want to make a style guide to keep everybody on the same page.

As your social business grows, building a strong brand is something you should dedicate more time and money to. Until you reach that point, consistency is the best thing you can do to develop a trustworthy and memorable brand.

6. Don’t be afraid to spend money on marketing

A misconception that seems to carry over from the charitable sector is that social impact organizations need to spend less on overhead costs, including marketing. Some people think that any money not spent directly creating social change is money wasted.

Similar to the saying ‘you need to spend money to make money’, you need to spend money to create change. To create social change, you need to leverage a marketing strategy to let the world know what you’re doing and how they can support your business and social mission.

For social entrepreneurs without a background in marketing, taking on the task of marketing a social business can be overwhelming. Even hiring a marketer or outsourcing it can be daunting if you’re not familiar with what your marketing needs are. Even for experienced marketers, social impact businesses still present a challenge in finding that optimal balance between product and story (often on a limited budget).

But in the end, social enterprise marketing doesn’t have to be as complicated as it may seem. By implementing these 6 best practices and making the most of our social enterprise marketing resources, you’ll be well on your way to running a successful social enterprise marketing campaign that will help generate long-term business, and social change, for years to come.