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Women In SEO Share Tips On Closing The Wage Gap

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Women In SEO Share Tips On Closing The Wage Gap


We’re back this Women’s Day with even more tips and advice from women in the SEO industry on how to know your worth – and command it.

This piece was originally published in 2021. Now, another year into a global pandemic and amid ongoing socioeconomic unrest the world over, our experts have more to share.

And their insights have never been more important.

COVID has worsened global inequality across the board and in America, this has translated to a deepening wage gap – especially for Black, Native American, and Latinx women.

SEO is constantly evolving according to data, consumer behavior, and algorithm trends.

But when it comes to women being treated as equals, the industry is much less evolved.

SEO is still a male-dominated industry where men outnumber women 2-to-1, according to a study conducted in 2020.

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That survey found that:

  • Women are far less likely to be technical SEO professionals.
  • Women are twice as likely to freelance (see: unstable employment) as their male counterparts.
  • Men are more likely to charge monthly retainers; women are more likely to get paid by the hour or project.
  • Men’s retainers are 28.6% higher than women’s.
  • Men’s project rates were on average 66.7% higher than women’s.
  • Median hourly rates for men were 16.8% higher than for women.

And while the sample sizes for various aspects of this research were small, it is also worth noting that the study failed to account for the impact of combined gender and racial bias for Black, Indigenous, and other women of color in SEO (which the study coordinator acknowledges and regrets).

Had that been factored in, we would most likely see even more extreme differences in pay and opportunity for those women.

Despite this, many women continue to be attracted to careers and entrepreneurship in SEO and Digital Marketing.

Our world is fun, challenging, and ever-changing.

And as more women become involved in and grow in the industry, the uphill battle those women face is realized by more and more people.

It can be intimidating to ask for the rates we see in industry benchmarks and to prove our value to the companies or agencies who employ us.

In this column co-authored by Stephanie Gifford, SEO Marketing Manager at Adigma.io, we’ve asked women to share their best advice for peers and things they wish they’d known earlier in their careers.

Check out these tips for knowing your value as digital marketing and SEO professionals, getting paid fairly, and defending the title you’ve earned.

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Please note that the job titles listed below reflect those of each contributor when they first submitted.

Knowing Your Value As An SEO Professional

Miracle Inameti-Archibong, Organic Performance Lead At Moneysupermaket Group:

“One of the reasons why women fail to ask for their worth is the feeling that they are not good enough. Work on that imposter syndrome.

Keep track of your accomplishments both big and small throughout the year. Don’t wait until it’s time for your review.

Don’t forget to value your soft skills as much as your hard skills it all impacts the work you do and it’s so unique to you, you deserve to be paid for it.”


Sara Taher, SEO Manager At PDFTron Systems Inc.: Sara Taher

“Being woman wearing a hijab led to my being underestimated in so many situations.

But then I realized, I need to be confident first inside to radiate it from the outside…

Confidence isn’t the same as competence; I know I’m good at my job… and all I need to do is to raise my confidence level to be as high as my experience as an SEO professional…

I’ve been working on that since last year, it’s not an easy journey but I’m getting there hopefully soon!”

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Robyn Johnson, Chief Executive Officer Of Marketplace Blueprint: Robyn Johnson

“If I know that I am good at what I do, and believe that I provide a product that will make a difference to a client, I am doing them a disservice if I don’t assertively make that offer.

I found earlier on that I didn’t want to ‘pressure’ people, and then those same customers would go purchase with someone who had slick marketing or a more aggressive sales process even when they had less experience and expertise.

Consider who your customers might go with if you don’t communicate your offer and the value you bring to the table.

You aren’t tooting your own horn to gloat or be prideful; you need to accurately highlight your skills and your value so that your customers or potential employers can determine if your offering will really get the results they need.”

See also  9 Local SEO Tips From Top Experts

Julia McCoy, Coach & Strategist At The Content Hacker: Women In SEO Share Tips On Closing The Wage Gap

“Give yourself an annual task of re-assessing your rates.

Every year, without fail, audit what you charge and increase as needed. You should be charging more as your experience, skills, and credibility/tenure grows.

Don’t let imposter syndrome stop you from claiming your rightful place in the market. Back it up by boldly talking about the work you’ve done, and goals you’ve smashed for clients!”


Chelsea Alves, Sr. Content Marketing Specialist At Rio SEO: Women In SEO Share Tips On Closing The Wage Gap

“As a woman, knowing your professional value not only builds confidence but extends to the work you produce. This in turn leads to higher quality work, increased satisfaction with your job, and likelihood for promotion.

Stagnation can be a career killer. Instead, we must strive to push past our comfort zones.

To do this, I encourage women to continue to enhance your skills, broaden your networks, and ask for mentorship when needed to truly leave your mark in the SEO world.”


Navah Hopkins, President At Navah Hopkins LLC: Navah Hopkins

“On general value: Use data! Before you set rates or go into a salary negotiation, look up what others are charging/being paid.

Don’t be afraid to have different rates for different projects and always make sure you’re accounting for overhead (taxes, utilities, software, etc.).

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Here’s to all the amazing power women knowing their value and being paid appropriately for our brilliance!”


Jenise Uehara Henrikson, CEO Of Alpha Brand Media, Home Of Search Engine Journal: Women In SEO Share Tips On Closing The Wage Gap

“When in doubt… go for it. Apply for that job, ask for that raise, ask for more $$$ in your proposal.

In the workplace, women in general tend to hang back and ask for less. A recent LinkedIn study showed that women apply to 20% fewer jobs than men.

Another famous study found women feel they need to meet 100% of the job criteria before they will apply… while men usually apply after meeting ~60%.

Women are twice as likely as men to report a total lack of comfort when asking for a raise. We need to ask for more. And when we don’t get it? Instead of giving up, learn to take a different approach, dust yourself off, and try again.

It’s taken me a long time to evolve my reaction to rejection: that it is not a verdict on me and my worth and I should just stop. Rather, I’m learning from failure, so that I can try again, fail better, and eventually… succeed.”


Ivy Boyter, SEO & Content Manager At GYBO Digital Marketing: Ivy Boyter

“As someone with HR experience from years ago, your title won’t matter as much as the meat you can put into your resume… the data and results that matter to who is looking to hire someone.

Show what you bring to the table by including valuable measurements in your descriptions instead of the day-to-day activities.

In general, though, titles can help you research what pay ranges you may expect.

There are plenty of websites that will help you discover pay ranges based on position, years of experience, where you live, etc. And I agree with PP… negotiate high (read “Never Split the Difference” if you want to learn serious negotiation skills ).

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Finally, if you can’t get the $$, benefits like vacation/PTO are sometimes negotiable for the right candidate.”


Negotiating Rates And Raises: Practical Tips From Women In SEO

Rue Walker, Owner Of Walker Web Consultation:Rue Walker

“I work with small businesses who often have tight budgets.

I always want to respect the investment in my services, so I prepare monthly reports that detail exactly what I have provided and show clear results.

Then, when I ask for a raise, I have a record of success.

I will also offer to work for three months at a lower rate of pay with the option to negotiate a raise to my preferred pay scale once I have shown results.”


Motoko Hunt, President – Search Marketing Consultant At AJPR LLC:Motoko Hunt

“Show your value in terms of business data, not just because you’ve been there for X number of years or you put X number of hours but because your work grew (contributed to growing) business X% or increased the revenue by $X.

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Also, always keep paper/digital records of communications, projects, etc.; whatever proves what you did/said.”


Shelly Fagin, Director, Growth Marketing At Credit Karma: Women In SEO Share Tips On Closing The Wage Gap

“Never be afraid to negotiate if the offer isn’t right for you. I do believe women tend to negotiate less out of fear of being seen as aggressive or demanding.

On the flip side, if someone isn’t willing to give you what you deserve don’t be afraid to walk away.

If the company or client really understands your value, they’ll work with you. If they don’t, you probably dodged a bullet.”


Anna Crowe, SEO Strategist At Hello Anna Branding: Anna Crowe

“Stop giving away your number.

I’ve worked both in-house and in freelance life.

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Over the past four years, after talking to my friends about their salaries and rates, I realized how underpaid I was. I would get to the negotiation and lowball myself.

I was following the motto’s of “Hustle hard” and “Slay your day.” But, in reality, following advice from an Instagram quote doesn’t pay your bills.

I realized it’s all about how you finesse the numbers.

First, I came up with my line in the sand of what I needed to make to survive. Then add a little extra ($10,000-$15,000 per year).

When you’re asked for a number, ‘What is your budget?’ or ‘What are your salary requirements?’ Flip the script. Ask your client or potential boss what their budget or salary range is.

You might be surprised with the number you get back.

The first time I did this, I was going to quote $3,000 per month.

By the end of the conversation, I had more than tripled my money. It’s like poker, don’t show your cards. I had undercut my company, my self-worth, and my time. I was just happy to win a client.

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Now, I understand my bottom line. And, I’m comfortable saying no, whether it be to clients or a project.”


Robyn Johnson, Chief Executive Officer Of Marketplace Blueprint:

Robyn Johnson

“Don’t base your prices on what you are ‘worth.’ I know that sounds counterintuitive but what if you have self-worth issues? That made me tend to underprice my services.

Instead of focusing on ‘What I am worth?’ I now ask myself, ‘How much value will I bring to this client?’

Focusing on the value I bring to the customer allows me to separate my service fees from how I might be feeling about myself on any given day.”


Bibi Raven, Founder Of Bibibuzz: Bibi Raven

“I think a lot of women have the notion that negotiation has to be confrontational, so they try to avoid going into it full-heartedly.

They also don’t like putting themselves in the spotlight and feel that talking about their accomplishments is a bad thing.

What I’ve learnt works best is this:

Assess your own worth, and then double that (as you’re probably aiming too low, and the negotiation result might end up lower).

Determine your BATNA: Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. This is one of the pillars of the Harvard Method. It means that prior to a negotiation, you determine when you will walk away from the table.

It’s a great safeguard against agreeing to something you’re not comfortable with.

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Don’t take it personally. Separate what you do for work and business from your personal worth. Rejection in a negotiation does not say anything about who you are.

Of course, the other party might mean it personally, but you don’t have to play along. Water off a duck’s back.

Be as laidback as possible. The weird thing is, when the other party notices you’re relaxed, they often tend to agree with you. If you don’t know what I mean, watch the movie “Office Space.”

Use “okay, and…” when the other party offers something you don’t want but it’s not quite at BATNA level, create an opening for yourself.

Don’t say no right away, but create an opening by countering with a demand that will make theirs acceptable.

For instance, when they say: we want you to start working full-time, then you say: Hey cool, but I’d like three months paid leave with that.

If you have this idea stuck in your head that you’re simply not that kind of person to ask for things, pretend you’re someone else that you admire and channel them.”


Why Titles Still Matter In SEO

Libby Stonehawk, Co-owner Of Stonehawk Digital: Libby Stonehawk

“I seriously undersold myself at the start by calling myself ‘junior’ in my job title and charged way too little, working myself to a plump while over-delivering.

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I soon realized that many so-called experts (usually male) knew about as much as me but would mystify clients with SEO jargon so they would not ask any questions!

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When my husband started to freelance with me under the name Stonehawk Digital, during client pitches a lot of the more technical questions were directed to my husband even though I had the formal training.

If I could go back I’d say leave out the ‘junior’ designation, charge more, and connect with other women in tech earlier for advice and support.”


Navah Hopkins, President At Navah Hopkins LLC:

Navah Hopkins

“Never allow yourself to be called ‘associate’ or ‘junior’ anything. You’re a strategist, consultant, or specialist at entry-level.

If you’re a rockstar individual contributor with no desire to manage people, get a ‘senior’ or ‘team lead’ added to whatever function you perform.

‘Director’ and above tends to be faster to secure at smaller companies, and typically demands you have just as much business strategy at your back as digital marketing.

For agency owners: you’re a CEO unless you’ve handed control to someone else. We all tend to think of CEOs as the boss. President can work, too!”


Rachel Libby, Marketing Director at Buy Box Experts: Rachel Libby

“I learned early on that if I wanted to quickly progress and grow in my career, I had to be hungry for opportunities and proactively seek out paths that took me where I wanted to be.

Those experiences weren’t going to fall in my lap simply by paying my dues and sticking to routine. I had to chase each opportunity, take risks, and pursue the things that ultimately gave me the growth I desired.

I’ve been lucky enough to cross paths with colleagues that saw my talent, ultimately helping me realize my full potential and what I was capable of achieving. That encouragement has always been helpful to me when the road inevitably gets tough.

Ultimately, my advice is to really think about where you’d like to be in 10 years. What are you doing? How much money are you making? What does your work/life balance look like? What makes you happy?

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Then create a plan that gets you there little by little with small, doable, daily goals. Be flexible with your dreams and patient with yourself and your journey.

Lastly, surround yourself with a supportive network that believes in you and sees your potential. That encouragement will get you through the growing pains that always inevitably come.”


Top Takeaways For Women In SEO

Know Your Value:

  • Keep track of your success with measurable data.
  • Have confidence and work on combating imposter syndrome.
  • Communicate and accurately highlight your skills.
  • Review and re-evaluate professional rates and pricing annually.
  • Continue to hone your skills and build connections.

How To Negotiate More Successfully:

  • Show your growth in experience in skills through data.
  • Keep records of results of successful projects and results.
  • Don’t be afraid to push back and negotiate more for the right price or walk away if it isn’t right for you.
  • Know your bottom line and ask the right questions.
  • Focus on the value you bring to clients.

Why Titles Still Matter In SEO:

  • Don’t undercut yourself by accepting titles with ‘associate’ or ‘junior’ in it, titles can always be tweaked to not feel like it’s selling yourself short.
  • At entry-level, focus on ‘strategist’, ‘specialist’, or ‘consultant.’
  • ‘Director’ and above can be more easily attained in smaller companies but requires equal parts technical expertise and business and marketing strategy.
  • Envision your ideal career path and take incremental steps to get there.

At the end of the day, we are all in this together.

We need to remember that the value we bring to the companies and clients we work for and with, is different than our value as individuals.

Keeping track of our successes and the results will push us all forward to better advancement and futures to show the value we bring to the table.

It can be challenging to find and link up with other women in the industry, so we would like to provide some additional resources to connect with more women in SEO.

These are among the solid and supportive communities we use to connect with women in SEO:

More Resources:


Featured Image: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

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SEO

How Should You Optimize Your Content?

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How Should You Optimize Your Content?

People turn to Google for just about everything these days.

Whether it’s to buy something, learn about something in-depth, get a quick answer, or simply pass the time, Google is the primary stream of information for the vast majority of people living with an internet connection.

To be precise, Google makes up 92.19% of the search engine market share.

The constant quest of SEO professionals is to get their content matched up with the search queries it answers.

But how has this task changed over time?

While there can be books written on this subject, the general consensus is that search queries are becoming longer, more specific, and conversational.

In many cases, a portion of this shift can likely be attributed to the rise of voice search.

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A lot of what we are seeing is a growing importance on optimizing for questions and semantically related keywords.

So what exactly does this all mean?

And what are the best strategies when you’re down in the trenches of SEO?

Let’s discuss.

Questions & Semantic Search

Since the Google Hummingbird Update in 2013, Google has been on a steady path toward providing more personalized and useful search results.

You know when you enter a super vague query into Google and it somehow understands exactly what you’re getting at? Like when you are speaking to a close friend or family member?

This is semantic search.

A big aspect of Google’s semantic search capability is to pinpoint concepts and entities presented in question-based queries.

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When someone enters a question into Google – whether it be by text or voice – the semantic search capabilities work to understand the user’s intent with four key factors:

  • The user context.
  • Natural language processing (NLP).
  • Query stream context.
  • Entity identification.

What Types of Questions Does Google Answer?

Thanks to semantic search, Google has taken many steps toward a near-flawless ability to answer a plethora of questions. This is largely due to the developments in artificial intelligence, voice search, schema, NLP, etc.

Google generally answers three types of questions – as opposed to just providing links to the sites with the answers.

  • Direct answers
  • Short answers
  • Long answers

These answers are commonly placed in the Featured Snippet – also known as the “Google Answer Box” or “Position Zero.”

Let’s breakdown the specifics of each.

Direct Answer

Direct answer questions typically start with Who, What, Where, When, Best, Top, and sometimes Why.

These types of questions normally result in quick answers and are oftentimes linked to voice queries.

For example, if you enter a query like [When was Apple founded?], Google will use Hummingbird and semantic search to recognize the user intent to provide a direct answer. This answer would be April 1, 1976.

When was Apple Founded

Based on what Google’s algorithms decide is the most reliable source of information, the search engine will pull the answer from the content and display it in the Featured Snippet.

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Short Answer

Short answer questions generally start with words like Why and Can. But, given the context, they can also apply to What, Where, Who, etc.

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These types of questions can generally be answered in a paragraph, of which is shown on the Featured Snippet.

Let’s ask Google [Why does the sun follow a circular path?]

Why does the sun follow a circular path?

Again, Google’s algorithms will decide which content has the most credible answer here (based on numerous factors), and provide the answer in the Featured Snippet accordingly.

Let’s do another one.

Here’s a query for “Can fish feel pain?”

Can fish feel pain?

As you can see, Google has provided a 4-5-line answer – drawing from the content it sees as the most credible.

Long Answer

The long answer queries typically get more into the weeds of procedures and processes.

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Most commonly, these long answers are matched up with How and Why queries.

Google only has so much space to work with in the Featured Snippet; it can’t list out an entire procedure from A to Z. Instead, it has to abbreviate with an outline.

For example, let’s search for [How to build a treehouse].

How to build a treehouse?

The intent of this question is to get a better understanding of what all factors into the process of building a treehouse. The intent is more or less surface level.

As a result, Google’s algorithms serve up the step-by-step process involved in this project. To get more in-depth, the user needs to click on the link.

Other common examples of long answer snippets relate to how-to guides, recipes, workout routines, etc.

Which Types of Answers Do You Provide?

Everyone wants to get their content proudly placed in the Featured Snippet (or somewhere prominent on Page 1).

Given how much real estate this answer box takes up on Google searches, the potential benefits of taking the spotlight here are huge!

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In order to get placed in the Google Answer Box, you first need to have a strong idea of which type of answer your particular piece of content provides, and which keywords attribute to it.

For instance, this online tire store recently published an article around the keyword “best tire brands” – optimized for the question, “what are the best tire brands?”

Best tire brands

If we look at the Featured Snippet for this query, we see a list of tire brands outlined in the content under H2 tags.

In addition to drawing traffic, the content provides avenues for the user to actually purchase the products.

With each piece of content you create, you should be asking, “what types of questions does this content answer?”

This should be an integral part of how you formulate the outline, as well as how it will funnel into the bigger picture (like generating conversions).

How to Pinpoint Trending Questions & Keywords

In the process of figuring out which type of answer(s) is ideal for your content, you need to identify the trending questions being asked and the search volumes behind them.

One tool you could use is the Ahrefs Questions feature in the keyword explorer.

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By entering in your focus keyword, you can get a big list of related questions to be factored into how you create the content.

In this hypothetical scenario, let’s say you are creating a piece of content for a CRM software.

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Let’s look at the questions related to the keyword “CRM Software.”

CRM Software

Given what we found here, there are all kinds of questions to frame a piece of content around.

Now, a long, comprehensive piece of content could potentially work to answer all three major question types. However, for our purposes, we are going to focus on one.

Let’s say we want to create a piece of content that answers the short answer question [What does CRM software do].

What does CRM software do?

Now that we have the question, let’s look into the keywords that funnel into this answer.

What does CRM software do?

Think about it from a user’s standpoint who is at the beginning of the buyer’s journey.

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If someone wants to simply learn more about CRM software and what it does, what informational keywords and phrases would factor into the search?

Based on the keyword research above, this would likely involve terms and phrases like:

  • What is CRM
  • Customer relationship management
  • CRM meaning
  • CRM definition
  • CRM examples
  • Customer relationship
  • Relationship management

These are just a handful of the informational keywords and phrases that would ideally work to answer the overarching question.

Now, if there is transactional intent within this content, you are wise to include the following terms/phrases:

  • Best CRM
  • Best CRM tools
  • Best CRM for small business
  • CRM solutions
  • CRM pricing

When it comes to optimizing for questions and keywords, you need to have an idea of the users’ knowledge prior to looking at the content, what answers they want, and what they should do after consuming the content.

Ultimately, this forms the basis for how you conduct SEO research.

Ranking for Direct Answer Questions

Getting ranked for direct answer questions can be tough.

As with most SEO tactics, there are no laws, just theories.

Based on what we’ve found, getting ranked highly for direct answer questions involves the following common threads:

Get to the Point

Answer the question as early as possible within the content. If you can, try to do this in the first paragraph.

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List the Question Right out of the Gate

This helps Google tag your content appropriately.

Elaborate

After you answer the question bluntly, elaborate on it in the subsequent paragraphs. This helps to show Google that you are answering the question comprehensively.

Go the Extra Mile

This would commonly involve answering typical follow-up questions.

For instance, if you answered the question, “What is a lunar eclipse?” you could also include answers to questions like, “How often do lunar eclipses happen?” or “What is the difference between a lunar eclipse and a solar eclipse?”

You want to show Google that you know the answer in as much detail as possible so you are seen as an expert source of information.

Ranking for Short Answer Questions

Getting ranked for short answer questions has a lot of similarities to the process of getting ranked for direct answer questions.

Much of what we’ve observed comes down to the formatting of the content.

Here are a couple of the biggest patterns we’ve noticed:

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Make the Language Super Easy to Read

Don’t produce a wall of text; break it up into paragraphs no more than 3-4 lines long. Also, try not to use an extensive amount of business jargon.

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Keep in mind, a lot of short answer questions are from people at the beginning of the customer journey – they are simply looking for more information, not to be overwhelmed.

Integrate Questions into Your Header Tags

This should ideally look like a Q&A format.

For instance, the question, “What does a CRM software do?” could be an H2 tag near the beginning of the post which the subsequent content would then answer.

Ranking for Long Answer Questions

Ranking for long answer questions normally requires quite a few factors based on the depth of the content.

On a side note: If a topic could be better answered with a more visual piece of content, Google will probably serve a video. For example, if you search Google for [How to wash pillows] you are going to be met with a video.

How to wash pillows?

So, if you answer these types of long answer questions, you are smart to focus on a video strategy.

Back to getting ranked highly on long answer queries, we have found several patterns in how content ranks.

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Keep the Main Title Focused on the Question

You want your content to appear to be the most relevant to Google.

If you are working to answer the question of “how to create a content plan,” your content should (in some capacity) reflect this in the title.

How to create a content plan?

Provide a Step-By-Step Format

Headings in content created for these types of queries often times have certain steps outlined.

Here’s what comes up for the question, [how to do SEO audit].

How to do SEO audit?

If you look at the content written by Ahrefs, you’ll notice the header tags in the piece correspond directly with the steps listed in the Featured Snippet.

Use Images

Images make your content more user-friendly and engaging – two things that Google loves!

We’ve found that the best-performing content uses imagery to supplement the points being made and provide a more complete answer.

Link out to Reputable Sites

Google wants to reward sites that provide the most credible information, based on the search query.

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What makes credible information?

Credible sources.

For example, if you are writing a post on “how to buy a used car,” linking out to reputable auto websites like Consumer Reports, Edmonds, Cars.com, etc. would (ideally) add credibility to your piece.

Wrapping Up

It’s important to note that every situation is a little bit different and the process of optimizing content is not always apples-to-apples.

However, it’s clear that the SEO landscape has been shifting towards long-tail keywords and questions for some time now.

If you want to get your content ranked well (and stand a chance at getting placed in the featured snippet), you need to factor these into your content strategy.

Hopefully, this post has given you a good idea of where to start.

More Resources:

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Image Credits

Featured Image: Created by author, August 2019
In-Post Image: SEMrush

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