Dear SEO Industry, We Need to Talk About Elitism and Sexual Harassment

Gisele Navarro
12 min readFeb 17, 2019

A few weeks back, I noticed a series of strange tweets that were popping up with the hashtag #YoastCon, tweets like this one here:

The only thing I knew about YoastCon was that it’s a conference organised by Yoast, which in turn is an SEO plugin for WordPress. The owner is a guy named Joost de Valk and he is well regarded in the SEO community.

The tweets came out of nowhere and they didn’t make sense in the context I had of YoastCon so I followed the hashtag to find out what was going on.

That’s when I learned about the videos from SEOktoberfest where Playmates were invited to make male attendees happy, I read the inappropriate tweets from Joost to a series of women back in 2008 and 2011, and I saw the Christmas greetings post from Marcus Tandler and the slutty Santas.

What happened next was a few weeks of passive aggressive tweets, public fights, news articles, men defending men, women shushing men, and a lot of private messages behind closed doors.

I read the statement from one of the women who received tweets from Joost de Valk where she clarified that the situation was taken out of context and that it wasn’t harassment. I read all the news articles, all the comments, all the tweets from David Cohen, Tom Rayner, Barry Adams, Jenny Halasz, Joost de Valk, Kristine Schachinger, Rand Fishkin, Gianluca Fiorelli, Cyrus Shepard, Anthony Randall, Dan Callis, Zeph Snapp, Carol Forden, Martin MacDonald and many others. I asked people who might have known about all this. I talked to David and Tom. I discussed the situation with my husband.

Then I decided to write this post.

While everyone is fighting, in public or via DM, there’s a big fat elephant in the room that we seemed to have forgotten.

This is not about me and it is not about you either.

This is bigger than us. It’s bigger than the SEO royalty and the SEO trolls. It’s bigger than friendships…