This is a guest post by SEOBitch

So all the buzz about SMX Advanced was about how dark it was. But there was another thing extremely noticeable to me too, and that is how seriously under-represented women were at the conference. Someone pointed out a few weeks before we all made our second annual pilgrimage to Seattle that there were hardly any women listed on the panels on the SMX agenda. Now, we all know how things change and like half the speakers end up not being added until the week before. So I kinda filed it away with the things that make you go hmmmmm and promptly forgot about it. Forgot about it, that is, until the conference was underway and it was like stepping back in time. Where were the chicks?

It seems that Danny Sullivan believes there are no women capable of speaking on Advanced SEO. Looking at the schedule, there are about five women panelists (not including the moderators, which were mostly SMX/SearchEngineLand/Sphinn peeps anyway) and most of the female speakers who were asked to speak presented about advanced advertising not advanced SEO.

So where the hell were the women? Is this 1970 when women stayed home with the kids while they lovingly sent their husbands off to work? Should we go put on our aprons and dust the countertops with flour for bread making? Because Danny must not think women are capable of breadwinning in the SEO world since none of the top SEO women I know were asked to speak.

Even the audience was skewed way more to the male side (although granted, some of them do look asleep). Heck, SEOMoz accounted for most of the hot chicks in attendance. At previous conferences in the SEO conference circuit it has felt much more gender even, while at SMX Advanced they were far and few between, if you didn’t count the booth babe types loitering around the expo hall with their botox and silicone. Heck, even Matt Cutts was surrounded solely by men.

Then you have Gray Wolf who was criticizing BlogHer for the fact you have to be a chick to speak, going so far as to call it sexual discrimination. Well, it is any surprise when you have supposed industry leading conferences like SMX which is really more like Search Male Experts than Search Marketing Experts? What SMX did is far worse than a conference that has openly called itself a conference for women. I am not a “girls rule, boys drool” female by any stretch of the imagination. But when Danny Sullivan is making it rather clear through his choice of speakers that when it comes to SEO that males are far superior to females, why shouldn’t there be a BlogHer to counter balance that just a bit?

To be fair, sure, maybe there was a whole crew of women who were asked to speak at Seattle but for whatever reason couldn’t make it. And I am not asking anyone to pick a girl based upon the fact she has boobs instead of a dick, base it on skill level. But I heard from many who weren’t even asked to speak in the first place, women who I consider to be top SEOs in the industry and the same women that many males consistently talk about as being the best of the best. I am not going to call any names out because a quick Google/Yahoo/Live search will show who people feel are the top females in the industry but let’s just say I was rather surprised.

Will the next Advanced Search Male Expo be as skewed towards being an Old Boy’s Club with the girls on the outside looking in? Only Danny Sullivan’s glass ceiling knows that. But it is a sad state of internet marketing when one of the most respected and recognized people in the industry obviously feels that women just aren’t cutting it in the world of SEO.

By seobitch

Seobitch is a pen name for a well known female expert in the SEO industry that most of you likely already follow. She has more than a dozen years experience and is a very respected expert in the field. Seobitch can be controversial but writes about issues that most people are afraid to talk about due to their employers, clients or friends. She also loves to tackle industry issues from a different point of view than what you normally see the "complainers" of the industry complaining about. She is also open to suggestions for future topics you would like to see the SEObitch tackle.

69 thoughts on “SMX is an Old Boy’s Club”
  1. Edit ShoeMoney – I moved Dannys comment to the top because its most relevant

    I do believe there are women capable of speaking on advanced SEO, as well as
    any type of SEO, and I’ve long involved them on panels. Long involved them,
    and this post explains that in much more depth:

    SEM No Longer A Boys Club?

    In terms of women being asked to speak, Vanessa Fox actually organized 1/6th
    of the entire conference, the Developer Day portion. We actually talked
    quite a bit about the difficulties she had getting women speakers to step
    forward for some of her panels.

    Rae Hoffman was going to be on a panel but had to step out at the last
    minute due to a personal issue. No fault to Rae — just saying there’s
    another woman who was asked to be involved.

    Mona Elesseily was on the Ad Copy panel, and I was glad to have her as a
    huge, recognized leader in her field. Lauren Vaccarello was on the Closing
    The Loop panel; Michelle Goldberg delivered an oustanding presentation on
    the Funding SEM Businesses panel; Maile Ohye was on the Search Friendly
    Design panel; Cindy Krum who always rocks at presentations was on
    International SEO; Christine Churchill who is a vet and always welcome to
    have participating was on What You Should Be Measuring; Laura Lippay another
    search marketing vet was on Analytics Every SEO Needs To Know; Natala
    Menezes a long time search rep was on Amazing New PPC Tactics; Addie Conner
    was also on that panel.

    I get the impression you saw Michael’s post about BlogHer and decided to
    translate it a bit about SMX. I didn’t agree with his post. I see value in
    having BlogHer, and I also feel that we need to do even more outreach to
    involve women. Unlike in the tech field, the search marketing space has much
    more representation of women — and it’s been fortunate that over the years,
    we’ve had plenty who have naturally gotten on panels (again, look at my
    post, and you’ll understand that I do know the representation very well and
    have been watching for years).

    I’d have liked to have seen even more women at SMX Advanced. I joked that
    not having any on the end of the day Give It Up session was bull and that
    we’d work to do a better job there. That was an all-pitch panel, and we just
    didn’t get the pitches. In that case, we have to do a better job reaching
    out and finding the qualified women who should be on that panel — as well
    as any panel — for whatever reason.

    In terms of the women you say were not asked, drop me a line privately and
    give me names. Because I didn’t hear from them, and I’d very much like to.
    Keep in mind that the best way to be in a show is to pitch. We can’t read
    minds about who is silently wondering if they can speak. That’s why we ask
    and ask again for people to pitch us both session ideas and to speak with
    actual sessions are posted. Trust me, there are probably qualified men who
    might be fuming as well they weren’t asked to speak simply because we didn’t
    know they wanted to. That’s something we’ll work on improving all around.

  2. I think its hard to blame sullivan because in SEO i don’t see any woman that comes close to the leading male experts. It’s sad but maybe their time will come…

  3. By the Way the “” look like our CS class , we had only 1 girl in the class and she was the best , always first in class

  4. looking at SMX day (1)

    (1) cancel for family medical (yes I know that person personally)
    (4) women speakers

    looking at smx day (2)
    (3) women speakers

    Danny himself mentioned the lack of women on give it up, and apologized before session began, so kinda hard to put any additional fault there.

    Also considering that the entire development track was programmed by a woman difficult to say there is a real glass ceiling.

  5. Shoe that is being a bit antagonist. I guess we will let Danny boy explain himself.

  6. Honestly, I am networking with so many SEOs, and out of all the female ones, most of them are not that interested in tech aspects, but more into the psychology of marketing and such. Of course there are exceptions such as Jill, but overall men are more passionate about the cut and dry tech aspects.

  7. Where are the women of search? — Women of Search — A guide featuring women in the search engine industry says:

    […] asks: Where are the women of search in his […]

  8. Plus you can’t play both cards Shoe. Using hot women, like Durazo, to promote isn’t exactly doing much for the advancement of women. I bet traffic when up a little since you put those pics on your blog. 😀

  9. I think this is the most absurd thing I’ve ever read on here, what a load of Jibba Jabba. Seems to me most of these SEO’s have too much time on there hands to even be talking about how sexist this is or that is.. who cares! Its all about he Rank.

  10. Were there any black people who came to SMX Advance? There are not that minorities in SEO. Women are included in this minority as well. Even at pubcon last year there we maybe 15 and 1(almost positive) was on the pannel and that was Wil Reynolds from Seer Interactive and DK from purposeinc. (J/K my brother from another mother).

  11. added:
    if you go back and read blogher’s response you’ll see that blogher admits to having a gender exclusion in place

    not only that but the majority of the commenters want it to remain women only!!!!

    So if you are going to point the finger of guilt somewhere I don’t think the group who is trying for a sense of balance is the place I would start.

  12. hehe i just saw that it was an ads for , shoe you should have made the logo on Monica T-shirt much bigger ! We were distracted by something else 😛

  13. This is stupid — maybe this time around, it just happended to be more men then woman. This type of stuff pisses me off. I agree with the sheep avatar guy — this post could easily be copied by every “black” then “gay” then “irish” person in seo because there wasnt any of their minority. It just works out that shoemoney let the feminist get the first moan about the event.

  14. @seobitch: I wasn’t at SMX, so take this for what it’s worth, but I think your criticism is a little harsh. There could be many reasons for not having more women panelists at the show which only the organizers really know about. Contrast that to blogher, which is pretty explicit about which is the preferred gender and which gender “need not apply”. That being said, it might ease some tension if the organizers of SMX were to explain some of the reasons why there were so few female speakers.

  15. Controversial content at its best…even as an SEO chick (maybe not an expert, but definitely way beyond a beginner), I have to wonder if you’re that offended by it, or just wanted to do a controversial post! (It’s okay, you can tell me!)

    Personally, I’d like to hear Danny respond to this – maybe not many women stepped up to be in on it – who knows. If, however, there is some sexism going on, we need to do what we can to cut that shit OUT.

    BlogHer sounds good to me!

  16. SEO Bitch, what’s the deal – Danny always has asked for open requests for panelist submissions on Twitter. Did you submit a request to be on the panel? If you didn’t submit a request to speak, then it sounds more like a personal marketing problem. Not trying to be antagonistic here, there are a ton of women SEO’s so how is he suppose to pick the ones to be on the panel? Danny has asked Sugarrae several times but she says she doesn’t like doing them anymore. Tell him you want to do it and give him an idea what you want to talk about, I’m sure you or any other woman who did this wouldn’t have any problem gettting on a panel.

  17. How is it that someone’s point of view is automatically considered sexist when sometimes the point really is women just don’t cut it when it comes to certain thinks. Think of it like this. Would you consider someone discriminating against SE if they preferred to find out information by only typing in the name of the webpage and not using a SE? So what? Danny thinks that women can’t cut it. Maybe he is right. I am semi new to SEO and I can’t think of one single major woman player in the arena. Now I don’t attend the conferences but I am on almost every SEO forum, all the top blogs, and activily look for other point of views. So you tell me SEOBitch, is it because women can’t cut it or is it because there aren’t any good women?

  18. I don’t know of any female SEO experts that I would want to listen to. Most of the advice that you get from someone like Rebeca Kelly is pretty piss-poor anyways. They seem more like writers trained in SEO. I don’t know, just me personally. The creme rises to the top. If there were females that actually knew a lot about SEO, they’d be invited to ask. I’ve just never ran into many that had anything interesting to say.

  19. I cant see what the fuss is about? if there are not many female SEO experts does it matter? No one is preventing women from becoming SEO experts so there isnt a problem – this is a non issue!

  20. Exactly – men and women are different, and have different interests. Its always been like this and always will. For example at a car show it will be mostly men, not becuase it sexist, just becuase men tend to be more interested in cars than women.

  21. Yeah…she’s a good example. She seems to be up on the technology, knows the industry, and all that. But I don’t really find anything she says very useful. She reminds me more of a reporter, not an expert…kind of like Danny Sullivan. That’s the problem with a lot of people in marketing. They don’t talk about anything that is useful for marketing or for getting results in SEO.

    I listed to her on the shoemoney show and just thought she was kind of bland. Never got much value out of her comments.

  22. She seems to be up on the latest gagets and news, but I wouldnt’ really call her an expert. I consider someone like her a reporter more than an expert. I’ve never heard her talk specifically about anything she does as far as SEO, PPC, or marketing. She’s like a danny sullivan…has some contacts, some knowledge, runs some sites, but what specific information does she have?

  23. The blogher policy of only allowing speakers of a single sex would be considered against the law in the UK and she could be prosecuted. I wonder how she would feel if she were not allowed to speak at SMX purely becasue of her gender? Amzing how some poeple get away with so blatently sexist.

  24. I think its best don’t under estimate woman, sometimes they may surprise you.

    Surprise you? Heck, we might hurt you!

    (ork ork)

  25. “It seems that Danny Sullivan believes there are no women capable of speaking on Advanced SEO. ”

    Come on dude, that is a crazy statement. How do you know who submitted, or who was asked, or who couldn’t make it? To make a blanket statement with nothing other than anecdotal evidence is silliness. And as graywolf points out, it seems that a woman was in charge of programming – so perhaps she is the one who thinks no women are capable of speaking?

  26. Wow, I realized that I mistakenly read the post thinking it was the opinion of Shoemoney. My apologies; however, what do you have to say about all this?

  27. End Thread/Post… Great points. Odd some people just rant about anything, relative, true, whatever. I really like shoe’s site as it seems to be gender nuetral. I have not seen much on women in MMA via shoe’s site, but have seen some involvement from women on

  28. WTF is this about women not being able to cut it? I run an SEO blog that’s not famous – it’s mostly for beginners, all white hat, no secrets. My primary job is putting my company’s clients on the first page of Google for top tier keywords, and I do that every day. I know other women who do the same. Perhaps we don’t brag as much as the boys – we just get the results.

  29. White hat for beginners=Rehashed garbage..kind of like SEO 101 on WMR. Anyone with a clue about basic SEO can put anyone on the first page of Google for moderately competitive phrases. It’s doing it faster, more efficiently, and in more competitve markets that people want to hear about. They don’t want to hear someone paraphrasing matt cutts blog “Use good title tags, aim for a good keyword density, use keywords in your anchor text, get links from trusted sites, bla, blah, blah..”.

  30. In the end it should about the topic and who is the best available to speak. If you start looking for others to talk about something just to fill some quota, the whole thing goes down. Then it eventually becomes, we don’t have enough older black women over 50 talking about CSS and Javascript on a panel. WTF.

    And how about applying to speak? I see open calls for applications. Maybe not too many women want to stand up in front of a room full of tech guys and speak about a particular topic. There are all different sides to it. If someone has documentation that Danny turned down 90% of qualified women apps while taking less than qualified guys, you’d have something worth talking about.

  31. At first we thought this was Shoe writing this..were surprised he cared so much about the topic (which would have been cool).. either way… glad to hear you ranting about this – it’s something that needs to be addressed!

  32. Thanks for taking the time to reply Danny. The guest post had a lot of red flags that it wasn’t well researched. It’s nice to see you balanced it with the facts.

  33. Couldn’t agree with you more. I also think the psychology aspect will become more and more important.

  34. In the interest of retiring this particular argument about SMX Advanced, here are some facts from the database:

    15% of all speaking pitches received for SMX Advanced were from women
    of those, 40% were accepted on sessions.

    Of the other 85% – pitches from men – 50% were accepted.

    I can’t speak to private discussions between session coordinators and people, if women asked and were rejected. But pitches via our very public speaking pitch form at SMX, those are the facts.

    You could suggest that given the numbers, *all* the pitches by women should have been accepted, but that would be pandering, and doesn’t help anyone. I hope we continue to put forth speakers of all genders, ethnicities, etc. based on what they have to contribute, and not based on whether or not they fit any given profile.

  35. A controversial reply to a controversial post? Addressing one extreme by going to the other extreme doesn’t help anything.

  36. @Hustle – you mean the women wearing the extremely tight fitting fighters t-shirts, pushing their chests out?

    They fall into the booth babe – eye candy category

    PS what ever happened to Pam Cakes

  37. Agreed, it’s all perspective, speakers spoke who cares what race, color, sex – slow news day I guess

  38. It’s hard to take this serious. If “SEOBITCH” is trying to show support for SEO Women, she has done them a great disservice. Attacking someone and making statements of a “good old boys network” and “a glass ceiling” doesn’t do anything but diminish your credibility. If you want to be taken seriously, try making a rational argument.

  39. Let me rephrase that, Dave – I get clients on the first page of Google for most of their top tier keyword phrases within a month.

    And my blog is not rehashed garbage. What are you doing for others?

  40. LOL Shoe knows I don’t always agree with things he does, etc, but I love the fact this type of article is on here. Kudos to SEObitch, (whoever you are) for having the balls to write this. You should know Sullivan will always spin things to defend things. He’s the all-time spinmeister in the industry. The fact is that from what I hear, women were certainly not present for some reason. Maybe they are finally seeing the light? I think so. As far as a woman not knowing what a man does? That’s just pathetic. I would partner with women in this industry far quicker than I would MOST men in it. Period. Matter of fact; I agree more frequently with what women say in this industry than I do most any guy in this industry.

    Kudos to shoemoney for allowing this type of article that isn’t the standard “kiss ass” of the SMX folks. You have just showed me some things. I’m actually thinking people might be making choices…..smx or ses?….. hmm. I’d take SES.

  41. I don’t do anything for others. If you’re so good at SEO, then you should realize you’d make more doing the stuff for yourself then putzing around with clients. There’s a handful of good SEO’s that probably can charge enough to where they would make more doing SEO. The rest are just hacks.

  42. most ppl will hide such info , they dont want competition 🙂

    we have to dig to find out how …

  43. BORING! How about you find out the # of female applicants / # male applicants for speaker spots. Jobs go to the best people. Enough Gender Divide BS! Aren’t we in the new millennium?

    Reward TALENT – Forget GENDER.

    Rants like this don’t HELP the problem.

  44. I agree. I spoke at SMX and I would like to be considered a speaker, and a good one at that, not a FEMALE speaker. I agree with Michael Gray that Blogher preventing male speakers is the wrong approach, but SMX doesn’t prevent women from speaking. SMX along with the other conferences gets the most appropriate people to speak on the panels regardless of gender. The last thing I would want is for search conferences to start having a token female on all panels for the sake of having one, it would downgrade the quality of the conference and be condescending to the women in the conference.

  45. One of the things I love about the Internet is that race, sex and religion become less of an issue. For example, take a look at the majority of the comments on here – do you know the race, religion or sex of the posters? I don’t, and don’t care becuase it doesn’t matter!

  46. I have worked with and for many men and women. I can easily say that women are by far easier to work with and for than men. I am a guy. I hate all the macho crap. I find women much easier to listen to speaking also.

  47. The women were all back at the office running their business realizing that makinig money is more important than massaging their EGO within the industry. SMX is a great show but I did not pitch to speak as I am tired of talking to myself and just cannot afford the time to give out free advice to other SEM’s. I loved SMX for the networking and enjoyed speaking but zero ROI on business devleopment which is why I have never pitched to go back.

    The show is excellent for industry professionals and I reccomend it to anyone new to the industry or on a learning curve but its not a show I can justify spending any money on now I am in a more advanced place with my own business. Thankfully. Danny and Chris keep up the good work and never mind ovaries, algorithims its hard to keep up.

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