Top SEO Thought Leaders 2021-2022

seo thought leaders
SEO is, by its nature, a self-promotional industry, and as such, it’s difficult to get an objective picture of the most accomplished individuals in the space. To solve this problem, our analysts applied their own set of criteria, researching the search engine optimizers who have earned notable awards, keynoted conferences, and published frequently-cited articles and books.

Below are the results of our research: 7 SEO thought leaders who are significantly influencing the SEO field today.

The top SEO thought leaders of 2021-2022 are:

  • Evan Bailyn
  • Seth Besmertnik
  • Gael Breton
  • Annie Cushing
  • Rand Fishkin
  • Marie Haynes
  • Aleyda Solis

Although these thought leaders specialize in distinct SEO practices, they’ve all come up with concepts that have made their way into modern SEO thinking. The chart below shows each SEO thought leader’s key areas of expertise.

SEO Thought Leaders and Fields of Expertise

Thought Leader SEO Content Marketing CRO SEM Analytics
Evan Bailyn ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Seth Besmertnik ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Gael Breton ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Annie Cushing ✔️ ✔️
Rand Fishkin ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Marie Haynes ✔️ ✔️
Aleyda Solis ✔️ ✔️

In determining who the top thought leaders are in the space, we also looked up media citations on Google to compare the various individuals’ influence on the SEO industry. Here are the results:

In the next section, we go into greater detail about each SEO thought leader, highlighting their specialty knowledge, published works, and media recognition. 

Evan Bailyn

Evan BailynAbout: Early SEO pioneer that helped develop the field of thought leadership-based SEO. Founder of the largest SEO company in the U.S., First Page Sage.

Specialties: Evan specializes in thought leadership-based SEO, conversion rate optimization, and analytics. His firm works with midsize and enterprise companies, including NBC, Verizon, and USA Today. He publishes an annual report on the Google algorithm ranking factors.

Accomplishments: Evan built and sold 5 companies before the age of 29, including one of the highest-traffic entertainment sites online. He’s also an award-winning SEO keynote speaker, named the Top New Speaker of the Year at Vistage, the largest active speakers bureau in the U.S.

Media Appearances: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, ABC, Fox News 

Published Work: 

  • SEO Made Easy (2013) 
  • Outsmarting Google (2011)* 
  • Outsmarting Social Media (2012)

*International Bestseller

Contact Info: First Page Sage, LinkedIn

Seth Besmertnik

Seth BesmertnikAbout: Online marketing entrepreneur and CEO of Conductor, Inc.

Specialties: Seth produces organic marketing technology for marketing teams. His tech services the retail, healthcare, travel, technology, and financial industries, with clients including Forever 21, GoDaddy, GoPro, and Roku. Seth hosts Conductor’s annual C3 digital marketing conference in Manhattan.

Accomplishments: At the 2019 MarTech Awards, Conductor won “Best SEO Tool.” Seth also personally won the “Marketing Technology CEO” award. 

Media Appearances: Forbes, Yahoo Finance, The New York Times, and CNBC

Contact Info: Conductor.com, LinkedIn 

Gael Breton

Gael BretonAbout: Co-founder and chief editor of the online SEO platform Authority Hacker

Specialties: Gael specializes in an array of topics from SEO, funnels, blogging, affiliate marketing, and website building. He and his fellow co-founder, Mark Webster, host the Authority Hacker Podcast.

Accomplishments: Gael was featured on PageOptimizer Pro’s list of “The Most Influential SEOs of 2020.” His podcast was also listed as number 1 in “The 20 Best SEO Podcasts for 2021.” He was a keynote speaker at the Chiang Mai SEO Conference in 2019.

Media Appearances: SEMrush, Supermetrics, and Asana

Contact Info: Authority Hacker, LinkedIn 

Annie Cushing

Anna CushingAbout: Founder and senior web marketing analyst for SEO consulting company Annielytics

Specialties: Annie specializes in providing analytics-based resources and consulting services to marketing professionals and organizations. She focuses on analytics audits, site audits, and onsite training. 

Accomplishments: Annie has spoken at numerous industry conferences, including Search Marketing Expo, SEMpdx, Conversion Hotel in 2017, and Pubcon Florida in 2020. 

Media Appearances: Authority Labs, Search Engine Roundtable, Search Engine Land, Moz, and Marketing Land

Published Work: 

  • Making Data Sexy (2019)

Contact Info: Annielytics, LinkedIn

Rand Fishkin

Rand Fishkin

About: Co-founder of Moz, speaker, and best-selling author

Specialties: Rand specializes in high-quality marketing research and audience intelligence. He operates SparkToro from Seattle and manages a blog about product marketing, data, and psychology.

Accomplishments: In 2009, BusinessWeek named Rand one of the “30 Best Tech Entrepreneurs Under 30.” In 2015, the Puget Sound Business Journal also featured Rand in their “40 Under 40” award program. He’s presented at conferences for Advertising Week, Digital Summit, Inbound, and Brighton SEO.

Media Appearances: Forbes, Seattle Times, The New York Times, and Newsweek

Published Work: 

  • Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Guide to the Startup World (2018)
  • Inbound Marketing and SEO: Insights from the Moz Blog (2013) 
  • The Art of SEO (2012)

Contact Info: SparkToro, LinkedIn

Marie Haynes

Marie HaynesAbout: SEO expert and owner of Marie Haynes Consulting

Specialties: Marie specializes in website quality, backlink audits, and manual action removals. Marie publishes weekly SEO newsletters and maintains a blog that covers link building, on-page optimization, and Google algorithms.

Accomplishments: In 2020, Marie Haynes Consulting won $25K in the 6-month competition, “Wix SEO Battle.” She was also a top-rated speaker at the 2019 SearchLove Conference.

Media Appearances: Forbes, Search Engine Journal, Inc. Magazine, HuffPost, and Entrepreneur 

Published Work: 

  • Unnatural Links – A Guide to Recovery (2014)
  • Dr. Marie Haynes’ Google’s Quality Raters’ Guidelines Book (2011)

Contact Info: Marie Haynes Consulting, LinkedIn

Aleyda Solis

Aleyda SolisAbout: International SEO consultant, speaker, and founder of boutique SEO consultancy Orainti 

Specialties: Aleyda specializes in international SEO, mobile optimization, technical SEO strategy, auditing, and training. She provides personalized support to all of her clients through a data-driven, results-oriented approach to SEO. Her clients include Under Armour, Zillow, and Kipling.

Accomplishments: Aleyda has attended over 100 digital marketing conferences in 20 countries. In 2018, she was named one of the “59 Female Marketing and Growth Experts You Should be Following” on Hubspot. She has also received awards for:

    • Forbes’ “Top 10 Online Marketing Experts to Follow” in 2015
    • Entrepreneur’s “50 Online Marketing Influencers to Follow” in 2016
    • European Search Awards’ “Personality of the Year” in 2018

Media Appearances: Forbes, HuffPost, Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal, and Moz

Published Work: 

  • SEO – Las Claves Esenciales (2017)

Contact Info: AledyaSolis.com, LinkedIn

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