Blog Optimization - Computer

Blog Optimization Checklist

Optimizing content seems like a tedious task that’s not worth taking the time to understand. We get the pain points of blog production and are more than happy to edit and optimize our client’s blogs on a month to month basis, but we all know knowledge is power. Taking the time to break down and understand the most important aspects of blog content optimization can make sure you are getting the most out of your content, and don’t need to wait on an agency to take care of these optimization tasks for you. We have broken down the most important aspects of content optimization so you can get a better grasp of the items found in the checklist found at the bottom of this article.

Blog Optimization - Computer

Audience and Keyword Targeting

Understanding the audience for whom will be reading your article is important to understand the tone and approach you have for content. Are you writing for local real estate investors? You could use some real estate jargon to connect. Are you writing for people with broken sprinkler systems? Make sure you relate to the issue(s) at hand and connect with the pain points your readers may be facing. Having a grasp of your audience lets you connect and put yourself in their shoes as to what information they would like to consume. 

Once you understand your target audience, you can look for a target keyword. There are a few free search volume tools you can utilize to gather search volume for particular keywords. These include, but are not limited to, Google Trends, Answer the Public, and Google Search Console. There is a lot of data out there, so much of these data points are best guesses unless you are in the Google system itself. If you are looking for absolute data, stick to the Search Console side of the tools above.

blog optimization - googleYou may lean toward going after the keywords with the highest search volume as they will bring the most traffic, but you should take some time to build out the keyword into high relevance for the topic. An example of this would be an SEO company located here in Denver. Maybe you have found the keyword “SEO” has 18,100 searches per month and start salivating at ALL THAT TRAFFIC you’re missing out on. When we unpack that keyword the picture becomes a little more clear. Someone searching “SEO”, even geolocated to Denver, may not be searching for any type of service at all. So while your blog may be about marketing your SEO services, many of these visitors are looking for some basic information on what SEO is. When we add Denver onto the front end, in the form of “Denver SEO” we are a little closer to understanding that user’s intent. They are looking for someone in Denver who can help them with optimizing their website. Let’s drill down one more time to the keyword we would target (potentially) for this blog: Denver SEO company. This is the ultimate intent based keyword. The searcher is exploring solutions for service providers to help rank their business on Google in the Denver area. So while this keyword may only be searched 70 times per month, the conversion rate is going to blow the keyword above (with 18,100 searches per month) out of the water.

Write Naturally

This one seems counter intuitive as you are “writing to optimize”. The tactics behind content optimization have transitioned over time to a point where all the quirky little tricks people were able to use in the past are no longer relevant. Google’s algorithm has gotten much better at trying to mimic a user’s experience when interacting with a blog versus how a crawler sees the page. As this transition has taken place, there has been more and more weight placed on readability and overall user experience than ever before. While an SEO company in the early 2000s may have told you to use your target keyword 76 times in the copy and make sure there are white versions of the keyword hidden in the margins all over the pages, this will end up getting you laughed off the internet in today’s time. This is why we implore our clients to write content naturally so the flow happens without intention. If writers focus all their time on hitting optimization points, the reader is not going to engage with the article at all, and it will turn into a dusty old document on your website.

Technical Aspects of Blog Optimization

Once you have worked through writing your article naturally, there are a few technical areas to help ranking and readability within the blog. There are a few ways to break up text on the page, and no user wants to scroll through 12 paragraphs of information without a break. Implementing subheadings and images on the blog will help keep the text from feeling canned and boring. Subheadings are also an area to include your target keyword or secondary keywords you established prior. Along with implementing an image, make sure you add what is called “alternative text” or “alt text” for short to the image(s) in the database with the target keyword included. Alt text is an alt attribute added to the html used to display images which tells Google what can be found in the image. Since Google is unable to read images, the more indications you can give it, the better favor your domain will be seen in with Google. Make sure you have a relevant and optimized meta title and meta description to fit your article. Once all of this is taken care of, be sure to link to both external sites and pages within your own site that supports and defends the points you are making in the article. If the SEO company mentioned above is writing about search engine optimization, they should certainly link to that specific service page as well as any other blogs that may support the idea.

Once you have worked through the above optimization tasks, you are ready to publish! There are a few minor items that were not specifically discussed in this article, so feel free to Download the Blog Optimization Checklist (Coming Soon) to keep for your records.

  • Understand Your Audience
  • Assign ONE target keyword
  • Create a title or headline using the target keyword
  • Consider any secondary keywords you would like to use
  • Gather facts (stats, news, information)
  • Use subheadings
  • Add an image
  • Add alt text to the image with the target keyword included
  • Make sure your images are the right size (for page speed)
  • Write a meta description using the target keyword
  • Use the primary keyword in the first paragraph
  • Use the primary keyword in the article where it is natural
  • Use the secondary keywords where natural
  • Add internal links to valuable and relevant pages on your website
  • Add links to high quality and relevant third party websites
  • Make sure the outbound links open a new tab/window
  • End with a call to action
  • Implement any social sharing functionality to the various platforms
  • Perform a final edit and publish

Content for SEO

Content for SEO

Creating content for SEO can seem daunting for a business owner. Lack of time, experience, and no clear direction can prevent business owners from even starting. There is no one type of content for SEO that stands out as the “most valuable.” The most important thing to remember when producing content for your website is that it needs to be beneficial to whoever is viewing it. We will review the different types of content and what role they can play for your SEO. 

Types of Content

The wide variety of options for producing content can quickly get overwhelming.. Instead, here are a few of the most beneficial types of digital content.

    • Blog –  Another word for a weblog. It can be summarized as simply as a journal on your website.
    • Comprehensive Guide – A relevant guide to a service you are providing or something related.
    • E-Book – An electronic version of a book. 
    • Infographic – A visual image such as a chart or diagram used to represent information or data.
    • Picture – In its simplest form, just make sure it represents your brand, message, or can engage your viewers. 

 

  • Podcasts – A digital audio file made available. 
  • Videos – This could be a representation of your work, a webinar, interview, etc.

 

As you can see, there are numerous types of content that can be described as “Digital Content.” Depending on the message you’re trying to send, some types might be more manageable and desirable for your viewer than others. For instance, if you are in video productions, it would make much more sense for you to have videos of your work up on your website then an infographic on the history of video production. 

What does Content do for your SEO?

Since day one, Google’s co founders set their mission to “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” With this being at the forefront of Google’s mission, it’s important that your content should be easily accessible for your viewers and make sense. What are the best practices for accomplishing this? Google lays it out very simply

  • Useful and Informative: If you have a website that offers massage services, you should have a comprehensive guide with your hours of operation, location and share some upcoming specials.

 

  • More valuable and useful than other sites: If you provide security systems, it would be important to talk about your approach and differentiators compared to your competition. 
  • Credible: It would be valuable to show positive testimonies from happy customers on your site to give your business and website credibility. 
  • High Quality: Your website should boast unique and specific content. Not so general that it wouldn’t relate to your audience in any way.
  • Engaging: When people know that you understand their problems, they’ll trust that you have the solutions, and will stay on your website to find them.

 

Google loves big sites. The more content you have surrounding a specific topic or industry will show Google that you have a nice hub of information its searchers will find valuable. In addition, your website should always have a blog. If you’re managing your blog correctly, it should be the part of your website that gets new content most often. That does more than keep your customers coming back – although their repeat visits are a crucial component to strengthening your SEO. It shows off your expertise in your industry. Google analytics show that frequent updates directly correspond to higher SEO rankings.

SEO Content

Content is King

The coined phrase originally said by Bill Gates in 1996 still applies to today’s online landscape. At the end of the day, by creating engaging, useful content that resonates with your target market, you will position yourself as the expert, increase your brand awareness, and boost your rankings


How Link Building Helps SEO

To understand how link building helps SEO you have to look back to how SEO has changed over the past 30 years. In the beginning, there was little regulation and it was an “anything goes” mentality. Originally, search engines indexed web pages based on content only. Keyword stuffing was the most common and effective method for ranking a website. Google, asked, “can we index and retrieve sites faster than other search engines and improve the results”. Links emerged as the primary factor in determining rankings. 

Link Building Best Practices

What is PageRank

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin came out with the pagerank prototype in 1996, and served as the core of what distinguished Google from the other search engines. PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine how authoritative a website is. Although there are frequent updates to the algorithm, the core hasn’t changed much. The more links that point back to your website the more “important/authoritative” your website will look to Google. 

Google still uses a form of the PageRank algorithm today, however, they are less transparent about it. In essence, PageRank is an exponential scale of 1-10, 1 being easier to achieve and each number you progress is incrementally more difficult to achieve. The PageRank algorithm is determined by the number and quality of links point to a page, that pages value is determined by the quantity and quality of and so forth. The flow of link value from one link to another to another was once commonly referred to as “LinkJuice”. This video does a great job of a simple explanation of how PageRank works: 

Inbound Links

The most beneficial type of link to obtain is an inbound link. Each link is a vote of confidence for your website and directly affects your search engine results placement. In April of 2012, Google launched the Penguin update which was “a new effort to reward high-quality websites and diminish the search engine results page (SERP) presence of websites that engaged in manipulative link schemes and keyword stuffing.” In other words, higher quality links became much more impactful, and the spammy links used in link hubs and other manipulative tactics lost their savor.  A lot of SEO companies that participated in “Black Hat” SEO saw a large diminishing of returns on their investment once the update was introduced. We have found the most impactful types of inbound links can be broken down into two different categories: 

  1. High-Quality Niche Directories – Posting your business into directories related to your industry.
  2. Guest Posts – Content posted on another website that links back to your website.

To further understand the rule of thumb for getting links, think about this: If you were a General Contractor, would it make more sense for you to get a link from Better Homes and Gardens, or a random blogger in a different country? Not only will Better Homes and Gardens be a more authoritative link, but there would be no question about its relevance to your business.

Internal Linking

In the majority of websites, the homepage will receive the most inbound links. This usually means the homepage has the highest PageRank or the highest authority.  The further another page gets from the homepage on your site, the more its PageRank will decrease. This causes pages that are far from the home page to be more difficult to rank well. Since in most cases not all pages will get inbound links, your internal linking should do two services for your website. 

First, they need to help your visitors/users navigate your site with ease from page to page. For instance, if someone is on your “services” page, there should be a link to your “contact us” page or a separate page that goes more into depth about any given service. We aim to make every core page accessible within 3 clicks, regardless of your starting point.  Secondly, your links should help search engines crawl your entire site with the fewest amount of jumps between pages as possible. This will help pass on your PageRank. By interlinking the pages on your site well, you will create an easy to navigate structure for your clients and the search engines.

In conclusion, when executed with the overall strategy in mind, link building is extremely important to your SEO goals. So, if you’re looking to help your online visibility, start with links.


Technical SEO

How Important is Technical SEO?

Technical SEO is one of the areas of Search Engine Optimization that can seem like smoke and mirrors to a client who is unfamiliar with these strategies. The first step in our proposal process is to audit and explore technical errors found on a website. These items are indicators to Google and other crawlers that your website is clean and efficient. Many items such as dead pages, broken links, and improper header structure can have negative impacts on rankings if not addressed properly. Here is a deeper breakdown of some of the technical aspects that can have a drastic impact on search engine rankings.

Redirecting Old or Dead Pages

Old and dead pages on your site are often unmonitored areas for technical errors to fall through the cracks. Maybe in the past, you offered a service you have since removed. If you don’t have the proper redirect in place users and robots will hit the wrong page, forcing Google to not index the proper page or leave the page out altogether. On the same hand, if you have links being sent to a page you have since removed, you will not gain the value from that link unless you create a redirect to make sure the value is passed properly. Cleaning up items like this can seem trivial, especially since there isn’t much direct impact on your users. Removing that triviality, we have seen excellent results for clients in redirecting pages to proper live pages within their domains.

Technical SEO

External and Internal Linking

Links are similar to the roads you utilize to move around your city. They connect each domain with the internal pages within the site as well as external domains separate from the client’s site. Each link can be loosely described as a vote for a certain domain. The more links from other websites pointing to your site, the better you will look in the eyes of Google from a basic perspective. In a more granular perspective, it is important for those links to go to the right place. As with the example above for old or dead pages, the same follows for links. There is not much control we have on the way other sites link to our client’s sites, but one thing we can control is where those links (and the value they possess) end up. Our tools are able to explore the incoming links and make sure they are being directed to the proper pages. This becomes a heavily impactful tactic once your domain has run through a few redesigns or structure changes. Left unchecked, you can leave a lot of SEO value on the table if these errors are not cleaned up.

HTML Structure

Semantic HTML structure is a technical aspect of web design that often goes unattended. Novice developers implement changes to header structure related to the look and feel rather than the hierarchy HTML structure should follow. The top header on your page should be an H1 tag (and be the only H1 found on the page). This is like the introductory copy found at the beginning of a paper. It should clearly describe what can be found on the page, establish the importance, and do so in a clean and elegant manner. After implementing your H1 tags, the rest of the headers should cascade down in order of importance. Here is an idea of optimal header structure for a landscaping company in Denver:

  • H1 – Denver Landscaping
  • H2 – Landscaping Services
  • H3 – Weekly Mowing Packages
  • H3 – Retaining Walls
  • H3 – Water Features
  • H2 – Other Services

As you can see, the most important aspect is the “Denver Landscaping” header, and then the overall services, with a further breakdown of individual services beneath. Then the last header is similar in value to the Landscaping Services header. Look at HTML markup like making sure your address at your home is displayed in all the typical places so your postman knows where to look to confirm your address. A postman should not have to look in a different place for each house he attempts to deliver a package. Having the address on your mailbox, the front of your house, and potentially your driveway, are all indicators to make sure your mail is delivered to the right place. This is the same way Google works. We want to make sure the right page comes up in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) when a certain keyword is searched. Optimizing the HTML structure ensures this is set up properly.

As you can see, technical aspects can have a massive impact on SEO results. Each of these items may individually seem like small beans compared to overall copy and site design, but piled together, these items can help SEO efforts considerably.


Dispensary SEO

SEO for the Cannabis Industry

Dispensary SEODispensary SEO

Dispensaries are littered throughout Denver, Colorado, and beyond with no slowing in sight. Here at Firestarter, we understand the struggle of the huge companies having unmatched resources to your marketing efforts. You feel you will never show up when someone searches for you and you are going to have to pound the pavement to drum up some foot traffic, or close your doors. SEO practices have been around for years, and the process itself is not overly complicated. What you need to realize potential success is a team of marketing gurus who have the knowledge and resources to help focus your time and take certain pieces of the puzzle off of your plate. We have positioned ourselves as marketing partners with our clients instead of using typical smoke and mirror tactics that will leave you frustrated in 6 months and exploring new options for your Dispensary SEO.

How is Marijuana Marketing Different?

Marijuana SEO StrategySEO for the cannabis industry starts where most other campaigns start, with targeting and keyword research. There are a few nuances to the industry that set dispensary SEO efforts apart from the rest of the pack.

  • Limited or no options for paid ads
  • Legal issues constantly changing
  • Complications with securing funding
  • Various intent behind similar keywords

Lack of Paid Ad Potential

Many businesses have the opportunity to run paid ads in place of or on top of organic search efforts. This allows more real estate to be covered by your business listing and could potentially lead to you being listed in 4/20 (heh) spots on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Businesses in the cannabis industry do not have this opportunity so it can limit the potential clicks you could receive. On the other hand, no one else is running ads so it is not like you are being pushed out by folks with more money, paid advertisements simply are not an option in most regards for the Marijuana Industry.

Legal Issues Constantly Changing

Cannabis SEO Strategy

Being in an industry that is so volatile adds a whole layer of stress to your business building efforts. Constant changes to state laws and regulations as well as changes coming at the national level keeps cannabis industry businesses on their toes at best, or closing doors at worst. Having a team on your side who constantly monitors changes to the process can help put you at ease and keep your business in good favor with wandering eyes.

Complications with Securing Funding

Jumping into a business where your dollars cannot be backed by the FDIC is a risk in and of itself, but this also runs hand in hand with complications in securing funding from investors. While more and more marijuana investment options are popping up, these are still risky ventures since the cash is not backed by any government entity. This complicates your ability to secure funding for marketing efforts and beyond and typically requires a bootstrap method to push to success. With more and more giant companies entering the space, it is more and more important to have some realized funding available for your marketing efforts.

Various Intent Behind Certain Keywords

The keyword discovery is a little more daunting than most as well since Google doesn’t want to give us much information related to cannabis all the way around. Understanding the intent your searchers may have behind a query is one of the biggest hurdles a cannabis company can overcome. Are you a grower in the Denver area? Your keywords will be similar to a dispensary, with some minor tweaks. While a dispensary may target the keyword “Buy Marijuana Denver” your keyword would be something along the lines of “Buy Wholesale Marijuana Denver”. These aren’t huge changes, but can have a drastic effect on your conversion rate when you look at your traffic. 

Cannabis SEO Results

We have worked with a number of clients in the cannabis industry and they have seen great success. This has allowed us to have an accurate depiction of the tactics that work, and the tactics that don’t. Once your content is optimized on the core pages of your website, the strategy shifts heavily to link building. Positioning yourself within a team of industry experts who not only know your business, but know other movers and shakers in the space can lead to accelerated results and extreme levels of efficiency. We are not going to have to pull and vet new potential link opportunities for you since we already have a wealth of resources built up in relation to Denver Cannabis SEO and on a national level.


Which SEO Plugin is Best for Wordpress?

Choosing the Right WordPress SEO Plugin

There are many options related to implementing SEO on a WordPress site. Here at Firestarter we unequivocally suggest Yoast SEO as many of the features are easy to understand and keeps you out of the weeds when you are looking to an implement an SEO campaign.

Initial Installation

When you look to set up your plugins in WordPress, some can be pretty complicated to setup. You may have to have an API integration detected, change your .htaccess files, or manually input most of the data for full functionality. Yoast SEO offers a simple installation without all of these complications. You can load into the WordPress backend, go to your plugins, add the new plugin, and activate. That is quite literally it. Now, once you look to implement, things get to be a little more hands on, but Yoast makes it easy and understandable for the average user, and serves as a powerhouse tool for SEO providers like us.

Implementation

Our SEO project management team lives within the Yoast dashboard when we are looking to implement campaign strategies. One of the most time consuming processes in an SEO implementation is changing the meta titles. Your meta titles are among the first factors Google sees when it goes to crawl the HTML on your page. On a Google search results page, your titles display in the manner shown here:

SEO WordPress PluginAnd on your physical pages (Firestarter’s home page shown as an example), your meta title shows up here:

SEO TitlesOnce you get down into the code, it is one of the first items on the page (found on row 10):

SEO Titles CodeWhen considering Google as a robot that crawls through the code on your site, these items at the top of the code set the stage for what the robots are going to be looking for as they spread throughout your site and report back. Without title optimization, you are making Google’s job much harder to pick out what you should be ranking for. Many folks who haven’t done SEO in the past have titles like “Home – FirestarterSEO”. In a way, you are looking to rank for the keyword “Home” when someone is searching for you. Having something like “Denver SEO Company” instead points Google in the right direction from the start to understand the types of words it should be looking for as ranking indicators.

To execute these changes, Yoast has implemented what they call a “Bulk Editor” where you can have an alphabetical list of every page on your site with the current meta information and a field to add something new. Having the ability to implement the ever important titles in this manner allows an implementer to jump in and quickly change the titles, top to bottom. This saves us a large headache and allows results to start populating quickly.

Relevant SEO Integrations

Most SEO companies have a pretty extensive list of the data sources they are looking to collect from. Some of the core options include Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Rank Trackers and more. Attempting to unify these items can be daunting, but Yoast makes it easy. They have links to request the needed information and easy to follow instructions to connect most of your tools to the system for seamless tracking. Connecting all of these different avenues ensures nothing falls through the cracks and all of your SEO bases are covered.

Continued Suggestions & Support

Yoast also does an excellent job of alerting you for potential opportunities in your SEO efforts. From suggested keywords to interlinking your pages, Yoast has you covered. We have also had a few implementations where things were thrown off as they tried to communicate with outdated systems in the backend, or previous SEO plugins. Yoast has always been massively supportive when we have had errors, no matter how small. This kind of hands on, timely support has led to us being fully committed to using this software, and even writing a blog about it!

 

If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to contact us whenever you’d like. We are always interested in discussing new strategies and potential time savers as they relate to SEO and beyond!


What are the Differences in Pricing for SEO?

The decision to invest in SEO can be monumental for your company and its success. You’ve researched a variety of companies, and have finally narrowed it down to the company you think will be the best fit for your SEO campaign. In their proposal, though, there are a range of options for you to choose from. The question quickly becomes, “What is the difference between the various price points for SEO?”

At Firestarter SEO, we get this question all the time. As we educate our clients on their different options, most of the time we can confidently say that they will see quality results within a good range of pricing options, but the main factors they need to consider are: their budget, their level of patience, and how aggressive they want to be. From a more tangible and specific standpoint, though, what are the real differences in a low-cost versus higher-cost package?

Time for Success

One of the biggest differences in a low-cost option versus a higher-end package is the time it will take to get results. For example, the difference between a $1000/month option versus a $2000/month option could be between 3-6 months, depending on a number of factors. Companies that are limited in their budget generally will need to wait longer for impactful results.

Quality & Quantity of Content

A staple of an SEO campaign is content creation. This can come in a variety of forms, such as blogs, white papers, infographics, and more. High-end content production – such as a comprehensive guide – is reserved for higher-budget campaigns. These digital assets are extremely rich in content, and can be used as a sales tool, informational piece, or distributed on social media platforms for higher visibility. Low-budget campaigns focus on more simple content pieces, like basic blogs. Over time, these blogs will create a network of content designed to boost main pages up in the rankings. For Firestarter’s clients, smaller budgets will provide blogs, and as budgets continue to increase the quantity of content produced each month follows suit. For premium campaigns, we begin introducing the digital assets mentioned above.

Quality and Quantity of Links

The single most crucial difference in deliverables for different budgets comes down to link building. The lowest-cost options we provide strip away everything else and simply focus on links. There is a wide variety of link types, but these lower options focus on the most basic links: local listings, directories, and guest posts. On the other end of the spectrum, we have the budget to chase after high-end links. These are inevitably more expensive and time-consuming. Think of it this way: how much does it cost Forbes to pay their writers as compared to a small, local site? Links work the same way – premium, impactful sites simply cost more (in time and money) to acquire links from than small, local websites.

For Firestarter, higher budget campaigns afford us the flexibility of acquiring high quality links, and more of them.

Ongoing vs. 1-time Optimization

At the beginning of any campaign, a website usually requires a minor overhaul and optimization. This ranges from improving the page speed to fixing titles and even revamping content on each page. One difference in the pricing options is how often this optimization is done. Since low-cost options have limited resources, the site optimization is done once upon the start of the campaign. This is geared towards shoring up the foundation for the campaign and making sure each page on the site has a set target keyword and has been optimized for it.

For premium packages, optimization is constantly monitored and adjusted, and issues are resolved as soon as they come up. Regular site crawls keep us informed of any error that can pop up on a site, and we can immediately address them.

Development Hours

An important element to SEO is ensuring websites are large, up to date, and fast. This means that ongoing development can play a role in your campaign’s performance. Higher budget campaigns include ongoing development built into the budget. These hours can go towards building new pages on your website, improving the layout and design, and much more. In the long run, this can provide solid savings for your company. Since low-cost options strip away everything but the core services needed to succeed, development hours are usually not included.

SEO services can range from $250/month up to $5,000/month and beyond, so it’s important to understand the differences in what you receive for those prices. The core differences fall into the time it takes to see results, quantity and quality of links, and the quantity and quality of content produced. Other factors are the ongoing optimization and number of development hours. Regardless of the variations, each option is designed to maximize results for our clients.


Why Does SEO Take So Long?

SEO Takes Time

SEO can be one of the most important and impactful investments a company can make. Traditionally, it ranks among the top ROI producers across all platforms. 

There’s a reason why it continues to be an integral part of most marketing plans, but among the smorgasbord of arrows in a company’s marketing quiver, SEO can be unique in one key category: timing.

Unfortunately, most of the time SEO takes a while to produce direct and measurable results. In fact, our recent guide on how long SEO takes discusses the factors that cause the process to take at least 4-6 months, sometimes even up to 12 months, to generate results. Most other marketing efforts produce relatively quick returns. PPC, for example, can start yielding results almost instantly. Direct mailers or other forms of ads often find fast returns as well.

This begs the question: Why does SEO take so long?

Many Factors to Fix

When we educate companies on the variety of factors that go into SEO, they begin to understand why it can take so long. No matter the stage of your business or your website, there are bound to be a number of things that could use some TLC, especially in the eyes of Google. These include better keyword targeting on your titles and content, restructuring the format of your pages, and expanding your link profile, to name just a few. Another element many newer companies don’t consider is the age of their domain. If you have a brand new site, it simply takes a while for Google to start trusting you.

When a company comes on board with us, we develop a game plan. After auditing the site, we get a much clearer picture of how long it will take to fix the errors, and move on to the optimization of the individual pages themselves. The scope of this effort varies from website to website.

Competition

A major factor in why SEO can take so long revolves around what your competition is doing. In most cases, your company’s competitors are actively working on SEO as well. While the extent of their efforts will differ for each company, this means that achieving first page rankings is going to be a moving target. Think back to those classic high school math problems: A blue car is 5 miles ahead of your car and is traveling at a rate of 60 MPH. How far down the road will you catch the blue car if you are traveling 70 MPH?

We need to determine two things: First, how fast is your competition “driving?” Second, how long will it take us to catch up based on the budget you’re allocating to SEO? Unfortunately for us, SEO isn’t as “straight-lined” as this math problem. Algorithm changes could take place, your competitors may “accelerate” their SEO efforts, or maybe you produce a tremendous piece of content that helps you accelerate yours. The point is, no matter which way you look at it, the fact that your competitors are likely doing SEO means it will take some time to catch up.

Process of Accumulation

One of the classic analogies explaining how SEO works is that of getting in shape. If I’m 50 lbs overweight and need to make some changes, how much of an impact will going to the gym for one incredibly challenging workout have? Little to none. On the other hand, if I can set a goal to go to the gym 4-5 times per week, make some simple diet changes, and take it one step at a time, we’ll start seeing results. I won’t lose 50 pounds in 1, 2, or even 10 weeks. However, over the course of a few months, a complete transformation will take place, and it has nothing to do with 1 or 2 huge workouts. It has everything to do with regular, sustainable efforts over the course of a long period of time.

We are often asked by companies across the nation to do a one-time optimization project for them. While we are happy to do so, our conversations always come with educating and advising the client that a one-time optimization will give them a nice little boost, but it usually isn’t enough to get them to where they want to be.

The reason is exactly what we stated above. SEO is truly a process of accumulation. Search engines want to see regular content updates, link acquisition, and on-site optimization. That is how you build their trust and get rewarded with better visibility. This is why monthly SEO services are so crucial to your success.  Having an intentional and targeted approach to ensure you are not only doing these things but doing them well will put your company in good faith with Google.  Once you have a good foundation built up, it is far easier to see results from a new page addition than it would be in the infancy of a website.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

At the end of the day, success in SEO is a slow climb. It takes consistent effort, gradually building up and accumulating momentum over a series of months.  However, when you’ve finally built it up and made it to the top the results are more than worthwhile. Your online visibility will have a lasting impact on your business, generating quality leads and growth for months and possibly years to come.


How Long Does SEO Take to Work

One of the most common questions we receive as we interact with prospects and clients is simply this: How long will it take for SEO to work?

Most people we speak with believe SEO can work, but they have an understandable skepticism of whether it actually will. We’ve spoken with many people who have been burned by other SEO companies. They walk away after a year not knowing what was actually done for them and feeling like it was all a scam. If this describes you, we certainly understand your skepticism when yet another SEO company tells you that SEO is a long-term play and you’ll have to be patient before you see results.

However, a little education goes a long way, and once we create a clear strategy and explain the factors that determine how long it will take to get results, we find that business owners get on board. There are many factors to consider before giving someone an estimate on how long it will take for the campaign to get traction. While there is no specific number that applies to all companies, Google themselves say to give an SEO company 4-12 months to produce results.  At Firestarter SEO, we usually see campaigns get their first real success between 4-6 months.

Most clients’ data closely follow what you see in this graph. Movement is usually fairly slow for the first 3 months or so. Inevitably there are small wins here and there, but things don’t really start happening until between months 4-6. Once the momentum starts building, it continues to accelerate each month after. This absolutely varies based on a number of factors, which we’ll dive into now.

Keyword Strategy

One of the biggest factors in any SEO campaign is the keyword strategy implemented. Many companies have unrealistic ranking expectations due to a lack of experience with keyword targeting. For example, a small landscaping company may think they want to target and rank for “Landscaping.” Once we explain that the competition on such a broad keyword is enormous and that a better, more targeted keyword may be “Landscaping Company in Denver” they reset their expectations. There are a few key things that go into choosing target keywords, so check out our guide here. What we want is to choose keywords that will increase our clients’ bottom lines and do so in a reasonable time period.

Starting Rankings

Once the keywords have been identified, a major factor that helps us understand how long a campaign will take to start getting results is where the client’s starting point is. If our client is sitting on the second page for a variety of our target keywords, the timeline is bumped up. Conversely, if they have zero rankings at all, it’s going to be a longer push. It is significantly easier to move someone from the second page to the first than if we’re starting from scratch.

Competition

The hard reality is that in most cases, your competition is also doing SEO. Depending on the industry, though, we find that only a select few companies are putting enough focus on their SEO strategy to make it truly effective.  These instances produce an opportunity to leapfrog competitors who aren’t doing anything for their online visibility. On the other hand, some spaces are full of companies actively working on SEO. In these cases, it’s crucial to have a clear strategy and work smarter than your competitors and their SEO firms. Ultimately, a good SEO company should be able to quickly identify what the competition looks like and how active they are with their own SEO.

Link Profile

Part of assessing the timeline for SEO is looking at your link profile, along with your competition’s. A quick scan of your links allows us to see exactly how established you are and what you’re up against.. Here’s an example of what we run:

 

Metric CLIENT COMP 1 COMP 2 COMP 3
Domain Authority 25 35 34 27
Total External Links 1.3k 6.8k 7.8k 4.1k
Total Links 13.5k 161k 219k 3.9k
Total Linking Root Domains 221 681 554 158

 

Let’s break it down into more understandable terms. The first thing we look at is the Domain Authority. DA is a Moz-specific metric and not an exact reflection of Google’s algorithm. However, it gives us a general idea of how authoritative your site is on a scale of 1-100, and where you are compared to the competition. In the case above, our client is established (Domain Authority of 25), but we can see that they are behind the curve compared to their top three opponents, who all post higher DA scores.

Next, we look at the link breakdown. While Total Links and Total External Links are important, we often pay more attention to the Total Linking Root Domains—in other words, how many unique websites are pointing to your site. This metric gives us a much better gauge of how difficult it would be to overtake your competitors. With the numbers above, it’s clear that link acquisition will play a major role in this client’s SEO strategy since they are well behind their top two competitors. It will probably take a longer, consistent effort to catch up since we likely won’t be able to acquire 400 links in just a couple of months.

Content

The next area we want to consider in a timeframe estimation is the content on the site. We often inherit content that is extremely basic and thin. Our job when a client comes on board is to optimize this content. This means adding relevant, valuable content for your customers. In the process of enriching the site content, we also have opportunities to optimize it for that page’s target keyword. Contrary to what many people believe, this does not mean keyword stuffing at every opportunity we get. Usually, the keyword or a variation of it is only used 2-3 times in the text of any given page. Most importantly, we want the structure optimized with proper titles, headings, bullet points, pictures, etc.

Crawl Errors 

A very influential component of how fast SEO can work falls down to the crawl errors we find. Using tools like Moz or Agency Analytics, we are able to identify items on a client’s website that could cause search engines to diminish their trust in the site. These span a very wide range, from 404 errors all the way to missing alt text on images. When auditing a site, we want to know how many errors are found, and what type. There are critical errors (like 404’s), and some that have minimal impact (like a missing meta description). The answers from that audit will give us a good idea of what the scope of the project looks like.

Site Speed

Website speed has grown more and more important over time. With Google’s emphasis on mobile-first search, its importance has increased even more. We need to ensure that your site is mobile friendly and fast on a mobile device. Using tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights, we can quickly see a site’s performance and what needs to be done. Page speed can be tricky to fix, though. Sometimes it can be a simple plugin, and other times it may require much more extensive work like re-coding areas of the site, upgrading hosting, etc.

Site Size

At Firestarter SEO, we often have companies primed and ready to roll, but in our initial audit we find a glaring problem – their site is extremely small. What we mean by this is that they have a home page, a services page, maybe an “About Us” page, and a contact page. The issue arises when we learn they have 20 key offerings for their business, and all of them are found on the services page. Ideally, each page should have its own target keyword. At most, you should target 2 keywords per page. This means if the site size were to stay the same (4 pages), you’d be limited to targeting 4-8 keywords, and the rest of your services would be underserved. To combat this, we often need to build out the website. By creating unique service pages for each core service, we bolster our ability to target the right keywords on a given page and to target many more words overall.

Site Age

One last factor we take into consideration in determining how long SEO takes to work is the age or longevity of the site. Google likes established sites who have survived the test of time. Think of it this way – let’s say you were looking to build your dream home. This is what you’ve worked towards your whole life. If all things were equal, and you had to choose between a custom home builder who has been around for 30 years, versus a custom home builder who just started a couple of months ago, who would you trust to build your dream home? Chances are you’ll go with the company who has been established. Google treats your site the same way. Most brand new sites take a while to establish trust with the search engines.

Putting it All Together

While there are certainly other factors at play in projecting the length of an SEO campaign’s success, at the end of the day there is no exact science. Google could release a major algorithm change a few months in, which would push back the entire project. The key to success is consistency and fine-tuning all of the elements we mentioned above.

SEO is truly a process of accumulation that relies on consistent effort. It requires patience and the ability to put in the work, and if you give up after a month or two, you’ll never see results. We always position SEO as a long-term play. When done right, it can produce truly remarkable results and a phenomenal ROI for nearly any business or industry.

 

 


What Does an SEO Company Do?

You’ve no doubt heard a lot about the importance of SEO and an effective online presence to the success of a business. SEO, or search engine optimization, increases your visibility to Google and other search engines, which in turn increases the likelihood that internet searches will lead potential new customers to you.

For most business owners, the wisest move is to turn to the experts in the field by hiring an SEO company to optimize their website. A good SEO company has knowledge and experience that will allow you to quickly improve your page ranking

But what will an SEO company actually do for you? If you hire them, what does your money get you? And what can you expect for your company’s website?

On Your Website

The first facet of a good SEO overhaul takes place on your company’s website. Your SEO team should analyze several factors, including you in the process as they make changes.

Keyword Optimization

Keywords are topics and phrases that summarize your content. One way to think of keywords is as the phrase a person might type into a search engine. Working together with you, an SEO company will define several keywords for your site. The company will then carefully embed those words or phrases throughout your site, both in the content visitors to the site can read and in the code. A good SEO company will be able to do this without changing the message or content quality of your site.

Crawl Analysis

On a regular basis, an SEO company will analyze how search engines are crawling your website. Things like good site architecture contribute to how search engines view your site, so your SEO company will help you get organized and stay that way if necessary. Your team will also help make sure that the crawl is picking up the areas of your site you most want visible and placing them front and center. If this isn’t happening as it should, an SEO company will help make the necessary modifications to your site to correct the problem.

Content Creation

Your website will get more attention from search engines if you’re producing content on a regular basis, and your SEO company understands that. Maintaining a blog or newsletter on top of all your other responsibilities is a time consuming proposition. An SEO company will develop regular content to post on your site, featuring your keywords.

Off Your Website

On the wider web, there are plenty of important things that can help strengthen your company’s SEO. It’s not enough to have a robust page—it also has to be well connected.

Link Building

A huge part of SEO is link building—developing a network of links from other websites that lead back to yours. If your site is an island, search engines won’t want to send people there. But if it is part of a strong chain, you come across as authoritative and legitimate. An SEO company will work to exchange links between your site and others, as well as making sure the content your site is publishing is strong enough to merit linking by others in your industry.

Reporting

Your SEO company should be keeping you abreast of exactly what impact their actions are having on your company and what their plan is going forward. When making a choice of who to hire, make sure you ask about reporting. You want to receive a regular overview that tells you exactly what your money is gaining your company. You also want an opportunity to make your voice heard and ask any questions you may have. Communication is key.

Bringing in an SEO company can make all the difference to the success of your website. Position yourself to be seen online by turning to the experts today.