The Women Who Made SEO Great

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I remember it like it was yesterday.

The year was 2000 and I was invited to speak at the Dallas Search Engine Strategies (SES) conference. Back then, search conferences wasn’t the huge, three-day monstrosities they are today. In fact, imagine a really big room with a bunch of roundtables. Yeah, that was the conference.

I was speaking with Jill Whalen on writing for search engines – and boy, was I nervous! I have a clear memory of saying a silent prayer before we started our session. I was that stressed out! :)

Back then, I didn’t know many women in SEO (and the ones I did know about were faithful subscribers/commentators in I-Search, the main discussion list for our industry.) I remember meeting Barbara Coll during SES Dallas. I also met Shari Thurow. But it seemed like the majority of the SEO crowd back then were men.

My, how times have changed.

Today, women rock the SEO world. When I go to conferences, the gender ratio is 50/50 – and many more women are leading companies and hold some pretty nice power positions. It’s a wonderful thing to see.

This post (and there will be a follow-up, too) features the women who made SEO great. These smart females were in the trenches back at the beginning and deserve to be celebrated. They have unselfishly led discussion lists, built resources, and helped set best practices. I am proud to call many of them my close friends.

Get to know these women and definitely follow them on Twitter. They have a lot to share and teach you.

Thank you, ladies. You inspire me every day.


Kim Krause Berg– Kim began designing websites in 1995 and within a year launched her own SEO/Usability consulting business. Her impressive client list includes Geico, USC Information Technology Program, and the Discovery Channel – Travel. Kim is a frequent contributor to Search Engine Land, creating articles from successful marketing and web design to why blending usability and SEO really matters. Follow Kim at @kim_cre8pc.

Christine Churchill  – Hands down, Christine is one of the nicest folks in SEO. As president of KeyRelevance, Christine has well over a decade of experience in the online marketing world. She has marketed cruise lines and hotels, steel foundries, schools, ecommerce sites – the list goes on!  A well-known industry speaker, Christine has appeared at Search Marketing Expo, Search Marketing Expo, and is a regular contributor to industry publications including. Follow Christine at @ChrisChurchill.

Barbara Coll – An early advocate of web marketing, Barbara started WebMama in 1996 because she “didn’t think people understood the value of search generated visitor traffic.” From there, she quickly became a recognized leading expert in Search Engine Marketing. As the founding President and Chairperson of the Board of the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO), Barbara has helped to increase awareness and promote the value of search engine marketing worldwide. Follow Barbara at @webmama.

Debra Mastaler – With a diverse background – including 15 years’ marketing Anheuser-Busch and operating an organic food and clothing directory – Debra transitioned to being the link goddess we know and love today. As President of Alliance-Link, Debra trains Fortune 500 companies and top SEO firms on link building best practices. Among her many accolades, Debra was featured among Search Marketing Standard Magazine’s 2011 “Women of Internet Marketing” and voted one of Level 343’s Top SEO Women of 2011. Debra is also a featured guest speaker at SES conferences and SMX expo’s. She blogs at her own site, Link Spiel. Follow Debra at @debramastaler.

Susan O’Neil – As CEO and Founder of Website Publicity (later acquired by Paragon Digital Marketing,) Susan established a digital marketing agency in 1998, long before the internet marketing explosion. She also co-authored Maximize Website Traffic, one of the first books on SEO ever published. Follow Susan at @suejon.

Jessie Stricchiola – One of the founding board members of the esteemed Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, SEMPO, Jessie has been “toying around” with search engines since 1997. The Principal at Alchemist Media – which is consistently ranked by B2B Magazine as one of the Top 100 Search Marketing Companies – Jessie pioneered the charge against PPC click fraud and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, and NPR.  She co-authored the book, The Art of SEO, and serves as a litigation consultant on internet related issues. Follow Jessie @ltstricchi (protected account).

Laura Thieme – A 20-year veteran of SEO, PPC, and website/keyword conversions, Laura is the CEO and owner of Bizresearch, which she started in 1997. She is a frequent speaker at SMX conferences, and has been featured in the New York Times, Internet Retailer, TechNewsWorld and Search Engine Watch. A renowned Google Analytics guru, Laura was called as an expert witness in a case involving trademark and meta tags. Follow Laura @bizwatchlaura.

Shari Thurow – Shari was the first person who made people think about “search engine friendly websites,” and has been designing sites since 1995.  Today, she’s a frequent speaker at industry conferences and a regular contributor to Search Engine Land. Shari has been featured in many publications, including the New York Times, USA Today, Wired, and PC World. Her search usability site, Omni Marketing Interactive, offers fantastic resources. Shari is the author of Search Engine Visibility and co-author of Where Search Meets Web Usability. Follow Shari at @sharithurow.

Dana Todd  Dana has over 20 years experience in digital marketing and is appreciated for her intelligent, no-nonsense speaking style. She’s also a past chairwoman for SEMPO after serving on their board. Dana has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and The Street. She’s currently CEO of Balodana. Follow Dana at @danatodd.

Amanda Watlington –  Amanda is one super-smart woman. Her impressive resume includes working with 3m, Sharp Electronics, Mercedes Benz and Washington Mutual. She’s also a prolific writer, and has authored scads of articles and two books including Business Blogs: A Practical Guide (co-authored with Bill Ives.) Her site, Searching for Profit, says it all – she’s helping companies build long-term profitable relationships with their clients. Follow Amanda at @amandaw.

Jill Whalen – Jill and I started our SEO conference journey together and we were business partners for quite a few years (who remembers the RankWrite newsletter?) Jill was the CEO of High Rankings and started her SEO journey 1995. Today, she’s on a new journey and is owner of the site What Did You Do With Jill?

There were so many smart SEO pioneers, we even came up with a part two — enjoy!

Ladies, you have my sincere gratitude for building the SEO industry, blazing the proverbial trail, and guiding the rest of us! You rock! :)

Photo thanks to Brett Jordan

17 replies
  1. Heather Georgoudiou says:

    Always love reading about trailblazers. It’s so inspiring to see who has been in SEO from the beginning. I was unfamiliar with a lot of the women on this list, but I will be watching more closely now.

  2. Michelle says:

    Inspirational! Thank you for sharing this historic list with us. It’s fun thinking about the nineties and remembering the state of the web back then :)

  3. Jim Banks says:

    That is absolutely the who’s who of the early 2000’s.

    But come on ladies, we’re all growing older, so let’s reflect that in the pictures!!

    I had the pleasure with speaking with many of these lovely ladies at various search shows back in the day and had many a great social evening/dinner and hope to do more of it in the future.

  4. Heather says:

    You’re right, Jill – damn, we still look good. :) I know that many of these pics were taken within the last couple years or so….

    And you’re welcome!

  5. David Temple says:

    What an awesome group of women. I’ve learned a lot from and have total respect and admiration for these ‘original gangstas’. That SES in Dallas was only the third one with a handful of exhibitors and topics like doorway pages and search engine submission. Who would have foreseen the growth of the industry thanks in large part to these women. I tip my hat to you ladies and hope to continue to see your contributions in the future.

    • Laura says:

      Hi Christine! So glad you enjoyed the walk down memory lane :) Heather enjoyed writing the post – it was fun to have a cyber-reunion with her friends and colleagues and to honor you all :)

    • Heather says:

      Christine, you’re VERY welcome. Thank you for everything you’ve done for SEO (including putting your life on hold so you could spread the search engine word in Sweden NYC, San Jose, Vegas and everywhere in between.) YOU rock!

  6. Anna Farthing says:

    Awesome list, Heather! I am familiar with several of those wonderful women, and their marvelous works. SEO would not be where it is today without them. Thanks for featuring them and for writing posts like this. :)


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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  4. […] knowledge and her no-nonsense advice. Debra is a trailblazing woman (in fact, she was one of the first women in SEO) who knows how to set smart, sustainable link marketing campaigns. If you have a chance to see her […]

  5. […] least, there were very few that I knew (by the way, Heather Lloyd-Martin wrote a great series: The Women Who Made SEO Great, that’s well worth the read if you don’t know the women mentioned). I’m not […]

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