SEO Services Firm

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In the late 90s and early 2000’s, it was a lot easier to choose an experienced SEO Services firm because there were not that many of them. Of course, like any industry, there were some amateurs and bad apples in the mix. The term ‘black hat seo’ stemmed from early SEO days where some individuals and businesses were looking to cheat the system, rather than figure out best practices for success.

But, even back then, many businesses had a hard time justifying if the work was worth the cost or if they had found a good company. SEO is complicated and not in the average business’ wheelhouse so it can be more difficult to understand the complexity of the results.

After all, if a business knew how to do it and had the resources to do it in-house, they wouldn’t be hiring out.

So, when it comes time to look for an SEO services firm, having a basic understanding of what’s involved and knowing the questions to ask during the interview process is key.

Recovering from a bad SEO strategy or unprofessional tricks is time consuming and costly. You can avoid this by ensuring you’re selecting an SEO Services firm that has the experience and methods to achieve success.  

Benefits of Search Engine Optimization

Traffic from organic search engine results is highly targeted. This means, when a user queries a search engine they are looking for something specific (be it an answer, information, a product or service). The goal of the search engines is to deliver the best results for the query. So, the idea is that if a visitor lands on your site from a search engine, it his highly likely they are looking for your product, service or information.

The art and science of having your website appear for related search queries is called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short

A good SEO strategy places your business in a position to receive targeted visitor traffic to your website. A targeted visitor is further down the path to conversion/purchase which makes them a great target market.  

SEO is a long-term marketing strategy. It can take some time to implement; however, the results are usually long-term.

Generally, an SEO firm will recommend a long-term monthly program. A well-run and successful program is ongoing and includes a variety of items including on-page continuous optimization, content strategies, technical elements, link building and more. Analyze. Rinse. Repeat.

How is SEO Achieved?

There are a variety of tactics involved in a good SEO strategy. Often, you will see that a web designer offers ‘SEO’ under their list of services. Usually, this means they are outfitting the site with a tool designed to allow for the integration of Meta tags (strings of code read by the search engines). This is only one factor of SEO and is not a strategy or a tactic, but rather a tool.  

For the average business owner, if they’re told they’re getting ‘SEO’ they believe it, right? What many are not aware of is that there is SEO and then there is SEO. How do you tell SEO from SEO? Ah, now that’s the big question!  

A Successful SEO Plan Generally Includes:

1. Keyword & Market Research – What is the targeted web visitor searching for to find the website? What are other websites providing? Where is there room for improvement and market infiltration?

2. Content /Site Planning – User experience is everything because SEO is designed to get a visitor to a website, but what happens once they are there is equally as important. Determining the required content, order of pages, importance of items and site flow is paramount.

3. Site Navigation – A cleanly navigated website is easier for the visitor and the search engines.

4. Content – Content is king (and queen, and prince/princess/commoner, too). Again, SEO is designed to get a visitor to click on a search result. Content is what keeps and converts the visitor once they arrive on a website.

5. Clean Coding – A well-built, clean-coded website does wonders in helping a website rank.
6. Speed – Search engines factor in site speed and website load when looking at a website. Speed on mobile devices and desktop computers should be looked at.

7. U/X – User-Centered Design/Content – Some businesses design the website they want to see, or the website they like; however, well-performing websites are designed 100% for the visitor.

8. Meta Tags – Title and description tags are integrated on every page to help aid the search engines in what that page is about.

9. Page Titles– A page title is important for the search engines and the web visitor.

10. Technical SEO Items – There are a variety of technical elements that can help or hinder SEO.
11. Analytics Review – It’s important to continue to monitor campaign results, traffic, and user-flow on a website to adjust strategies and get new ideas.

12. Repeat – SEO is not a one-time affair. For long-term success, an ongoing strategy is essential.
13. Plus various other factors – There are a variety of factors that go into how well a website ranks on the search engines. From link-building to alt-tags and everything in between, a professional SEO services firm prioritizes tactics for your success.

One of the first things you will see is that there is a good deal of planning and strategy that goes into an SEO-optimized website before the build even begins. This is because it is important to build a website that is designed for the targeted web visitor. A site plan, content strategy and website that is built with SEO in mind from the ground up has the right foundation for success.

How To Choose an SEO Services Firm

With so many SEO Services firms out there, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the choices. Finding one who can talk the talk and walk the walk is key.

In addition, because SEO is a long game strategy, choosing the wrong firm can set you behind. But even more so, when SEO tactics are not implemented properly, or black hat tricks are used, long lasting damage can often be done to a site that takes a lot of hard work and time to overcome.

By asking these questions, a business is able to better ascertain who is reputable, and who is not.

Top 5 Questions To Ask An SEO Company

1. How Many Years Experience Do You Have (and can you show me examples and case studies of your success stories)?

Perhaps the general philosophies and tactics of SEO can be book-learned; however, actual industry experience is priceless. Through working in the industry, SEO experts can delve beyond best practices and recommendations because they have developed an innate ability to naturally assess a situation and implement a strategy that will work.

By asking this question, you’re looking for an SEO services firm that has been around for years and can provide many examples of top search engine positioning and lead generation results in a variety of industries.

2. Do You Follow Industry Best Standards and Google’s Webmaster Guidelines?

Ideally, we’d like to think this is the easy question that every SEO professional would answer properly; however, there are some out there who have developed proprietary practices designed to trick the search engines. That’s your cue to run away.  Another cue? When they tell you they can rank you in a day or a week and offer ranking guarantees. If a sales pitch sounds fishy, generally, the practices put in place are too.

You should only hire a company that continues to stay up-to-date on recommended best practices and uses white-hat SEO practices.

3. How Is Your Success Measured?

Reputable SEO companies work with you to outline goals, targets and timelines. They send regular reports and updates that measure things such as keyword positioning, website traffic, visitor demographics, time on site, bounce rate and lead conversions.

It is important you know the goals of the SEO firm and that they align with your goals. What kind of traffic increase are you expecting? How many visitors per month are the targeted keywords expected to get?

4. What Keywords Can You Guarantee?
Here’s the trick question! You want to hire an SEO services firm that can look you in the eye and explain that keyword positions cannot be guaranteed. There are many companies out there touting first page positions, guaranteed! But, for what keywords? And, for how long? Organic search engine results are not something that anybody can guarantee so it’s best you work with a company that is upfront about the goals and the strategies to get there.

Generally speaking, the more popular a keyword, the more competitive the keyword which means the more work and time it will take to rank. We’ve worked tirelessly for multiple years to rank a website for a very popular keyword while others can take a week or a month.

5. Am I Under Contract? What Happens if We Part Ways?
Many reputable SEO services firms are confident in their ability to establish long-term client relationships and are happy to not work within locked-in contracts. Some may require contract terms. Regardless of whether you are locked-into a relationship or not, more importantly, you need to understand what happens if you choose to part ways.

There are a variety of reasons a business may cancel or pause their SEO services. Best practices are that the business retains their content, access to their website (if with the same company) and all logins/passwords for accounts.

Trust, Integrity and General Likeability

One of the reasons a business might have difficulty selecting an SEO services firm is because they do not understand the process and therefore, find it more difficult to ascertain what to look for. Business owners regularly have to contract out services that are outside their own scope of work. When a business can build a long-term relationship with an outside vendor, there is a greater opportunity for success.

A successful relationship with an SEO services firm can be highly beneficial to a business. So, it is important you select a firm you can trust and is based on integrity. This firm and their professionals will be working hard on your account so it’s helpful if there is a good working relationship.

Selecting the least expensive company or the company with the slick sales pitch doesn’t necessarily bode well for long-term success.  

Ideally, a company that has been around, achieving successful results, for years is best suited to help your business achieve long-term success. They’ve not only seen, but experienced, search engine algorithm updates. They’ve had experience with competitive keywords, dropped rankings, and cleaning up technical code on a website. They’ve developed an innate understanding of what it takes to achieve results. They stay up-to-date on best practices and up-and-coming trends but have a solid grasp of the foundation and good, sound business.

They can speak client and programmer and act as a bridge for your company between these two, very different languages. They can delve deep into analytics to continue to strategize for best results and then provide you with key indicators in a way you can understand. They can stay up-to-date on the trends but also are not bound by the trends.

Ideally, you’re looking for a company that has a proven track record, satisfied clients and has achieved long-term successful results that go beyond positioning and into ROI and lead generation.

As a business owner, you don’t need to know how to do SEO to hire an SEO services firm. You just need to know the right questions to ask so you can ensure you’re hiring a reputable firm that has your best interests in mind.

About 1st on the List

Located just outside Vancouver, BC, Canada, 1st on the List is a boutique SEO Company that has been offering search engine optimization, pay per click, and SEO web design services since 1997.

To learn more about our services, please call us Toll Free at 1-877-562-7965 or send us an email.

When it comes to SEO, be the tortoise.

You know Aesop’s Fable about the tortoise and the hare, right? Well, let’s recap. The story of the tortoise and the hare has a moral that ‘slow and steady wins the race’. The fable tells the tale of the hare who was often found bragging about how fast he could run. The tortoise, who took a more slow and steady approach, was tired of listening to the hare boast and so challenged him to a race. With all the animals gathered to watch, the hare boasted loud for all to hear. He couldn’t understand how the tortoise could even think he might win.

The hare ran in spurts, often stopping to take a break. He’d look behind and see the tortoise in the distance. At one point he stopped to rest and took a nap.

Meanwhile, the tortoise walked slow and steady. He never stopped. He never rested. He never took a break. He never paused to congratulate himself or to boast to all those who could hear. He just continued on his way, slow and steady

Eventually, the tortoise walked right past the hare, who was snoozing on the road. The animals cheered so loudly they eventually woke up Hare, who then realized the tortoise was in the lead. But, it was too late. By the time he began to run again, the tortoise crossed the finish line.

The moral? “Don’t brag about your lightning pace, for Slow and Steady won the race!”.

So yes, when it comes to SEO, be the tortoise.

Good, long-lasting, SEO that wins (targeted traffic and leads) needs to be based on a solid foundation with a phased approach and process. While there might be tricks and tools out there on the market, there is no lightning-fast approach that will outpace a solid SEO campaign.

There will always be the other guys promising quick results, but generally speaking, they don’t last, if they happen at all.

SEO is built over time. And, when done as part of a long-term, phased strategy, each piece builds upon the next, while helping out the previous phases, too. This layered effect is what eventually helps a website really stick.

A Tried & True SEO Process

Solid SEO is part of an overarching long term process that incorporates research, keywords, content, link-building, technical elements and analytics. It is a continuous process that looks like a circle, rather than a straight line. In other words, once you get to what should be the finish line, once you analyze the results, it is time to start all over again.

SEO professionals who have been doing this for years, who have managed large-scale, competitive SEO campaigns through some of the search engines biggest (and most destructive for some websites) algorithm updates, have a solid, working SEO process that starts with a good foundation. They know innately what works. They have the right instincts when making decisions but they always start by ensuring they have a solid strategy in place.

Think about an SEO process like building a house. The foundation needs to be solid. The framing needs to be accurate. The interior design? Well, that’s where you can add some flare, personality and try new trends.

That’s the same with SEO. You will always need a good strategy, the right keywords, the right content and to understand your target audience. You need a well-built website that has clean code and is easy for the search engines to spider. Once you have the foundation and the framing in place, then you can begin to experiment with some of the new trends, tools and up-and-coming tactics.

But, you can’t start with the trends. You can’t start with the tools that promise to do it for you. If you don’t have a plan and a process, your SEO just won’t stick.

Market Research – Staying up-to-date on what others in the industry are doing (right, wrong and otherwise) while ensuring you have a complete understanding of your current target audience is an important part of the ongoing SEO process.

Technical Audit – How your website is set-up, if it is hosted properly, and its speed can play a big part in SEO success. It’s important to conduct a website and hosting analysis to address key areas in your website’s programming and set up that could be affecting how a search engine finds, spiders, rates and ranks your website. There are over 200 factors in search engine algorithms and technical set-up plays a big role. It is important to regularly evaluate, discover and resolve any potential issues.

Keyword Research – How will a visitor find your website? When potential website visitors head online looking for a product, service or information they enter a search query into a search engine. SEO professionals have the tools and knowledge to uncover the most popular searched queries that match your products, services and information. We look at keyword relevancy, keyword volume and keyword competition to determine the best keyword phrases to optimize for. Keyword research can also uncover new related business avenues and content ideas, too. How people search changes over time so it is important to conduct keyword research on a regular basis.

Site Planning – The structure and flow of navigation, pages, and content is a large part of SEO. The search engine needs to be able to easily navigate to every page on the website; but even more so, the visitor needs to easily find what he or she is looking for. Creating sections, related page within sections and a content hierarchy can help with a website’s ranking and usability.

Content Development – Ongoing regular content updates and development is good for SEO and your website’s visitors. Your market research and keyword research will help guide your content development. Whether you are making ongoing changes and updates to static pages on your website, or you’re focused on an ongoing blog calendar, ensuring your content matches what your targeted visitors are looking for is good SEO practice.

Website Optimization Your website’s ranking is dependent upon how well your website is optimized, both from a front end (on-page) and back-end (code) perspective. On-page optimization involves what the visitor can see and experience. This includes titles, headings, and content to support the target keywords. This also includes user experience, optimized navigation, cross-linking and clear calls-to-action. The back end optimization involves meta tags, image optimization, load times, code optimization, simplifying source code, page caching and so much more.

Link Acquisition – In the old days, SEO companies developed sound practices that involved submitting websites to related directories. This practice is no longer considered a best practice. Now, a more natural link profile is what the search engines are looking for. The search engines see links to a website as a vote of confidence and so, link acquisition helps to improve your website’s authority. Building natural links is key and this is done by having share-worthy content and building relationships with related businesses.

Website Analytics – Being able to collect and analyze your website data is key to improving upon your successes and making edits on what might need fixing. Analytics data can help you understand your target audience while monitoring your key performance indicators (KPI). Most SEO professionals rely on Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools. By delving deep into the data, you can uncover potential issues and address them for the benefit of your website’s performance.

Rinse & Repeat – Once you’ve analyzed your data, you’re ready to start all over again, with your next phase of keywords and content. This is what is known as a phased approach to SEO.

What is a Phased Approach to SEO?

SEO is based on what is known as a maturity model. You cannot do everything at once, but rather you have to focus on your SEO in terms of themes while applying the process above (ensuring you have the strategy, the planning, and the implementation in place)

Crawlability – Your content needs to be able to be found and spidered by search engines, so that the site can be naturally indexed. Whether you’ve launched a new website, new piece of content or had site downtime, this is something that cannot be ignored.

Top Keywords & Content – Ideally, you will set your top keyword goals and then strategize, plan and build your website & content to match. Generally, you might select your top ten most popular keyword phrases. Usually these will be more competitive and general, but will offer big rewards when you succeed.

Imagine you are an oceanfront resort in Victoria called The Shell Oceanfront Resort. Your top keywords would likely be a combination of:

Victoria Resort, Victoria hotel, Victoria accommodations, Place to stay in Victoria, top hotels in Victoria, resorts near Victoria, hotel packages Victoria, The Shell Victoria, The Shell Oceanfront, The Shell Oceanfront Resort Victoria, Vancouver Island Resorts etc.

Secondary Keywords & Content – Your secondary keywords are more targeted and more specific to sections of your website, rather than your website as a whole.

Using our same example of The Shell Oceanfront Resort in Victoria, the secondary keywords might be:

Resort and spa Victoria, Victoria vacation packages, Couples package Victoria resort, Victoria wedding venue, Victoria restaurant, things to do in Victoria, family vacation packages Victoria, top attractions in Victoria etc.

Long Tail Keywords & Content – Long-tail keywords might be the equivalent of low-hanging fruit. Generally, they are not as competitive but they are highly targeted. This means, when combined, they have big potential to really boost your traffic and conversions.

Back to our example – some examples of long-tail keywords for the Shell Oceanfront Resort in Victoria might be – deep sea fishing packages in Victoria, luxury vacation accommodations Victoria, Victoria weather in spring, pet-friendly resorts in Victoria, spring discount for resort in Victoria, where to stay in Victoria BC, discounts on accommodations in Victoria BC, the top things to do in summer in Victoria BC, Victoria BC tourist attractions for families, Victoria BC tourist attractions for couples etc.

Content Promotion – Once you have a content piece in place on your website, it’s time to promote that piece of content. You might do this through social media channels, link-building, your email newsletter etc.

For instance, in our Victoria resort example, you might encourage others in the local tourism industry to link to a blog post on Victoria BC tourist attractions.

Search Engine Optimization is A Continuous Cycle – Not A Get Rich Quick Scheme

Regardless of the number of poorly written spam emails you may receive that tell you they can guarantee instant results, SEO is not a quick marketing tactic. There are no tricks to get ahead. There is no substitution for experience, knowledge and a sound strategy and process.

There is no replacing hard work, experience and industry knowledge. While there are a lot of good tools designed to help SEO professionals do it faster and better, they don’t replace the experienced SEO professional. They do not replace the fact that SEO is continuous. That, once you reach the finish line, you have a whole new race to begin.

SEO is a continuous cycle where once you reach the proverbial finish line, it’s time to start all over again with a different segment of your audience, a different grouping of keywords or back to the basics with your top keywords. The Internet and the Search engines are always changing. There is always new competition. There is no room for a pause or a break.

When you implement a phased approach to your content, your keywords and your overall SEO strategy you will be generating new rankings and results overtime. Each time you begin the process again with a new target, piece of content or keyword in mind, you are building upon what was done before. The great thing is that there are hundreds of factors in the algorithms. So, as you work on your long-tail keywords for instance, that hard work is actually helping your top keywords, too.

There might always be people who believe they can do it better and faster. But, when it comes to SEO, be the tortoise. Slow and steady really does win the race.