A 2020 study by North Star Inbound has revealed a whopping 68.4% of SEOS are male. The study looked at 652 Search Engine Optimisation Specialists, world-wide, further showing only 29.3% of the surveyed SEOS were female, 0.2% identified as non-binary and 2.1% preferring not to say.
In Australia, the ratios were even wider, with 83.3% of SEOS identifying as male and only 16.7% of SEOS identifying as women. When you look at that in 2018, 51% of the Australian population was female, you could assume maybe it’s not an area women tend to gravitate towards — until you look at our SEO team structure at Localsearch.
Localsearch has defied the odds with 66% of our SEO team identifying as female. Aside from that, in our marketing team, 5 out 7 of our team are female, with 3 of us using SEO in our roles. Even our leadership team is 40% female, with the national average sitting at 31.5%.
Seeing these results made us think, why does Localsearch defy the average, in a good way? We did our own research of women in SEO and technology to see why the national averages are so low (even lower in other countries), as well as to help us provide tips on how to start a career in SEO in 2020.
What does an SEO specialist do?
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the practice of optimising a website to influence its visibility in organic search results to improve the volume of traffic.
Someone who does SEO may be known as an:
- SEO Specialist (SEOS).
- SEO Manager.
- Head of SEO.
- SEO Assistant.
- SEO Content Specialist.
- Technical SEO Specialist.
- SEO Strategist.
- Freelance SEO Specialist.
What doing SEO involves:
SEO involves many different areas of work, so someone can specialise in one particular area—like writing for content—or be an all-rounder. This means what you do as an SEO depends on what skills you bring to the table and the agency structure.
Some of what you may do while optimising websites includes:
- Website auditing for SEO best practices.
- Keyword research.
- Content creation.
- Image optimisation.
- Schema implementation.
- Analysing data.
- Upskilling on upcoming trends.
- Link building.
- Optimising external listings, like on localsearch.com.au.
“Working in SEO, at least in a diverse position, means knowing how to do little bit of all areas of website creation, including design, development, content and the technology behind it,” said Localsearch Head of SEO Fulfilment, Caylee Pharoah.
“You also have to be good with people to be able to advise people why their website is or isn’t doing as well as it should. It can be tricky.”
Why is SEO such a male-dominated industry?
The technology industry is known for being a male-orientated industry. In Australia, only 28% of those working in tech are women, so it’s not only SEO seeing a shortfall of women. But why?
According to 2018 census data, Australian women dominate child carer, reception, education aid, registered nurse, accounting and related fields. On the other hand, men took out anywhere from 92.5% to 99.3% of roles in carpentry, mechanics, truck driving, construction management and similar roles. Again, why?
Research actually shows rates of women in the workplace have drastically improved in the last 40 years. From 1978 to 2015, the rate of women over the age of 15 in paid employment has risen 71%. Of course, the role of child rearing takes a large percentage of ladies out of the workforce. However, this still doesn’t explain the lack of representation in technology fields.
The answer seems to be people sticking to what they know. A study in the American Sociological Review revealed hiring managers are more likely to hire someone culturally similar to themselves. So, with an already dominated male industry, it may unfortunately be a case for gender-bias in many businesses — but again, not at Localsearch.
To further enforce this point, women are shown to be 45% more likely to leave a role within a year than men, with their key reasons being:
- Macho culture.
- Lack of effective sponsors.
To fix this issue, it may be a case of diversifying hiring processes to ensure the best fit for both the role and company, not what an individual wants.
Why does Localsearch have a large number of female SEOS?
While I obviously don’t speak for the company as a whole or our leadership team, I can write from my own experiences. In my opinion, Localsearch has always focused on hiring people whose skills and personality fit with the role and culture.
Diversity has always been a natural part of the hiring process, as it ensures a wide representation of backgrounds. When working with such a wide audience like Australian business owners, it helps us ensure our services work for everyone.
Localsearch is also big on upskilling and cross-training. Promoting from within is quite common, and with a heavy upskilling and cross-skilling culture, it opens up many doors for those willing to put in the work. While this isn’t in direct relation with our 66% female SEO team, it may show where there are opportunities here not frequently seen in other businesses.
How to encourage more women to work in SEO.
With technology becoming a part of our everyday lives, tech-related skills and roles are becoming more in demand than ever before. While it’s been a good 10 or so years since I’ve been in school, I’ve heard the number of classes involving coding, design and other tech-skills are increasing, preparing more people of all backgrounds for the new ‘real world’.
1. Ensure your work culture is not uncomfortable for women.
However, we need to be proactive in ensuring we’re encouraging women into technology and digital marketing fields, including SEO. It’s up to businesses to ensure they’re creating environments removed of toxic cultures women have been vocal about making them leave jobs over. While you can’t ensure everything about your business makes everyone comfortable, making small efforts, like ensuring you have female mentors available and in leadership can make all the difference.
2. Be loud and proud about your female roles in tech.
Business transparency has been very prominent in 2020. At Localsearch, we’re quite vocal about the causes we support and celebrating people, and this article is one of the many examples of this.
We encourage other businesses to openly celebrate their people, making seeing women in tech-roles the norm. Even if it’s team shots to show off you equally recognise your employees and don’t stand for gender-stigma in your business culture.
3. Encourage your female leadership to mentor other women.
As a woman entering a male-dominated industry, you’d be forgiven for feeling intimated, even if you don’t need to be. If you’re a woman in business or are a business with a strong female workforce, become part of a mentor program.
Giving women a guiding hand into the corporate world, let alone tech-related fields, can help us encourage more ladies to enter the workforce and build strong careers. There are many Facebook Groups and organisations you can join if you need a hand with connections, or try contacting your local university to see if they have a program running.
How to Start a Career in SEO
5 Top Tips for Starting a Career in SEO
1. Take a free online SEO short course.
While there is plenty of information online to learn SEO best practices and basics, taking a free (or paid) SEO short course is highly recommended. Courses will generally run through:
- Setting up a new website for SEO.
- Optimising an existing website for SEO.
- How to do keyword research.
- Off-page SEO, including link building.
And more. Some digital marketing courses include SEO classes, but this may not be relevant unless you’re currently studying.
University and college are common courses for many degrees. However, with digital marketing courses, like SEO, the norm is starting to become on-the-job training over formal education. This is due to the fast-changing nature of SEO and other digital marketing fields, which tertiary schools find challenging to keep up with.
The Australian Government has even begun to recognise how fast-paced the nature of modern industries, like SEO, are becoming and how difficult it is to receive formal training in them. As a result, and due to COVID-19, more options for students and practical experience will soon be the norm.
2. Build your own dummy website following SEO best practices.
They say the best way to learn a new skill is to invest your own time and/or money. To ensure your new-found knowledge in SEO sticks, build your own website from scratch. You can test elements like how site speed impacts search engine results, keyword density, content creation and more.
Once you’ve built a website receiving a steady increase in organic traffic, you’ll be able to use it as part of your portfolio for applying for SEO jobs.
3. Learn how to interpret SEO analytics.
Your next step, once you have a website, will be to monitor its progress. There are many indicators your SEO is working, many of which you can see in free tool, Google Analytics or Google Search Console, including:
- The number of organic users to your website.
- Week-on-week growth of new users on your website.
- Number of snippets achieved on search engine results.
Other platforms you can use for keyword tracking and reporting and optimisation include:
And more. These are all platforms you should still get familiar with as they’re common use in agencies or SEO teams.
4. Optimise said website for SEO using external best practices.
Unfortunately, SEO isn’t a learn-and-be-done industry. Search engines are always updating their algorithms to ensure the best results for their users, so websites must always be kept up to date.
You’ll want to constantly be learning about new best practices and monitoring your website for fluctuations.
5. Find a mentor and/or entry-level position.
If you’re at university or college, your school may already have a mentorship, traineeship or internship program you can join already. However, if you’re taking a more free-style approach to doing SEO as a career, you’ll need to do your own hunting.
A good place to start when looking for a mentor is LinkedIn. Find some vocal voices on SEO you resonate with and approach them to see if they’d be interested in mentoring you. They may be new to mentoring, so even if you ask them how they got their start, the key skills they think you’ll need the most and their top advice will help guide you.
Localsearch often has entry-level digital marketing roles, including in our SEO team. Keep an eye on business.localsearch.com.au/careers for future openings.