How Is Search Engine Optimization Done?

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a tool you can and should be using to gain visibility for your website. When used correctly, SEO will increase site rankings on search engines. Because search engines are the primary way people find information they’re looking for on the internet, these increased rankings will increase traffic to your site and boost your visibility. It is fair to say, therefore, that good SEO is vital to a successful online presence and cannot be ignored.

But if you are new to SEO, the task may seem extremely daunting. How can you best position your site to be ranked highly by a computer algorithm? It is a complicated process, to be sure, but there are a few things you can do that will make a difference.


Keywords might more accurately be referred to as key phrases, since effective ones usually consist of a string of words. What those words ought to be is a complicated puzzle. You must consider the product you’re trying to market and the people to whom you wish to sell. What phrases might they enter into a search engine if they were looking for your product or service?

An important facet of choosing keywords is that you want a phrase for which you’re able to rank highly. If you own a small independent bookstore, simply using the word “bookstore” is unlikely to work—your ranking will never compete with that of the big chains. A phrase like “used bookstore in [Your City]” is much more likely to get traction and get you noticed.

Once you’ve got your keywords selected, you want to give them a presence on your site. Embed them in both the front end content and in the back end, in the title and meta description of your page. Be careful not to simply stuff in keywords at the expense of coherent writing, though. Not only does this make your page look sloppy to viewers, but search engines can also tell when a creator has done something like this and will penalize you for it.

Link Building

Because the structure of the internet is a web, connectivity between your site and other related sites is highly important to your SEO. We call the process of establishing this connectivity link building. Google has stated that link building is one of the most important factors when establishing site rank.

You can get started establishing links for your page by including a lot of links on your site to external relevant sources. As you do this, it’s important to select sites with high authority to link to. You can use tools like Ahrefs to measure the authority rank of any site on the internet and weed out the lower ranking ones. You also want to make sure the sites you link to are highly relevant to your own site’s interests. If you are a bookstore, it doesn’t help you very much to link to a website offering plumbing services.

The second step to link building is establishing backlinks—links from other sites to yours. The best way to do this is by creating great content and marketing it well. If you get it in front of the right people, they are likely to include links to it on their own site.

Call in the Experts

When it comes to a successful SEO campaign, keywords and link building are just the beginning. You’ll also want to conduct a review of your site to make sure it’s structured to be crawled by search engines, and if it isn’t in good shape, you’ll want to overhaul it. You’ll also need to ensure that a mobile optimized version of your site is available, since that’s something Google favors. And there are numerous small tweaks that can be made to any site to increase its search ranking.

To take full advantage of your SEO opportunity, consult with a team of experts. We can’t wait to put our experience to work for you!



SEO Project Management 101: Intent & Approach


The relationship between SEO and project management is riddled with small, repeating tasks, which simply need to be monitored, and top-level strategy revisions on the fly.  When conducting SEO project management it is important to understand the intent behind these tasks and approach prioritization with a systemized process.


seo project management


SEO is a “process of accumulation” where SEO companies are expected to do 4 things:

  • Build Links
  • Improve Current Content
  • Add New Content
  • Fix Technical Errors

While some of these things do have a definite end, many of them fall into monthly, iterative tasks that need to be monitored for accuracy and optimization.  With this iterative approach in mind, it is only natural to look to the processes web developers utilize. It has become common practice for web development teams to utilize Agile & Scrum Methodologies.  These practices call for short “sprints” in 2-4 week periods depending on internal processes and execution.  This translates to SEO project management if you view months as sprints. We have even tested out using half month sprints internally, with the first half of the month as the planning and reach out phase and the second half of the month being devoted to buttoning up the outstanding tasks such as link building and content optimization.  We here at Firestarter SEO have found breaking these projects/tasks/sprints down into small pieces allows us to be much more intentional and focused rather than scrambling to tie up loose ends as the end of the month comes around.


Client Communication

Many times we hear clients who have previous SEO experience say they “felt like there was not much communication” or that there was “no real substance to the strategy”. With so much of the SEO world being some sort of mysterious cloud sitting over a business owner, this is an important gap to bridge.  Monthly SEO packages can have a massive impact on the traffic and leads a business is able to acquire.  Communicating what we are doing as an SEO firm is one of the most important and most difficult tasks we try to accomplish.


The other day I had someone on the phone discussing current happenings and strategy items.  We were specifically talking about improving his site speed. One of his first questions when I brought up minification of CSS was “What is CSS?”  Where do I even start? There are entire university courses related to CSS with everything from functionality to best practices. As a previous developer myself, my mind went to the moon with possibilities in the discussion.  I attempted to break it down to something understandable and the client immediately said “Thanks for clarifying, this makes much more sense.” That is where it really clicked to me. The most important thing we can do in regards to client communication is break down complex tasks and explain them efficiently and with ease of understanding.  It is important for anyone to understand where their money is going. This is especially important in the business world. We are collectively looking constantly at items like cost-per-acquisition, bottom line, and so on. Much of the style of communication falls down to the same way we have found success in our internal communication.

Internal Communication

Clear and deliberate communication is the staple of internal SEO project management.  Instead of someone saying “Can you please go in and clean up the technical errors on this site”, we make it a point to set up successful execution by saying something more along the lines of “This client has 74 technical errors currently.  10 of them are crawl errors which need to be remedied immediately. There are 7 redirect errors which are redirecting to dead pages. The ten crawl errors can be fixed by doing ________________ and the 7 redirect errors need to be changed to go to live pages.  Let me know if you have any questions or need clarification. Please have this task completed by the end of the week and let me know if you see any reason that will not happen.”


As you can see, the difference in the two is astronomical and sets the project up for success from inception.  The main focus is to align expectations related to the task at hand. Instead of giving general direction and allowing free reign for fixes, we clearly delineate what we are looking for, how to fix it, and when it should be done.  Setting clear expectations from the start and refusing to assume a task will be completed to our liking has pushed our services to another level.


Imagine the alternative for a second: Your assignee has a different idea in mind for solving a problem, so he enacts his thought process and solution, which is where the branch from the project manager’s expectations take place.  Before any work has commenced, we are already on the wrong foot and will end up with results different from expectations. The project manager would then have to go and basically explain exactly as exemplified above to remedy the situation, taking more time from their day and wasting the employee’s time.  Clear and deliberate communication in SEO project management is where expectations can be set and the possibility of assumptions can be mitigated greatly.


This is certainly not the ideal position to be in and much of the situation could have been avoided with clear and concise communication.


SEO Project Management: The Juice is Worth The Squeeze

Collectively, we know there is no catch-all to success for SEO.  Much of what we do as an SEO company is behind the scenes, technical, mundane, tedious, so on and so forth.  It is up to your project manager or client relations specialist to understand complex topics and have the ability to break these tasks down into something bite size and understandable for a client.  It is equally important to for a project manager to have the ability to clearly articulate desires and expectations of a successful outcome. With a good combination of highly efficient processes and clear and deliberate communication, internally as well as with the client, you are laying the foundation for a successful and productive SEO campaign.


Check out one of our monthly SEO packages to see how we can help you!


How Can I Target Multiple Cities With the Same Website?

Local SEO

Part of building the best, most useful website is making sure it reaches your entire customer base. SEO is a wonderful tool to help you do that, particularly local SEO keywords that target your customer base. If yours is a small business operating within a region that spans multiple cities, it may have occurred to you that potential customers are conducting web searches for services in their city specifically. Thus, including a city name in an SEO keyword is often a good idea.

But this raises an issue. You don’t want to alienate members of one city by focusing on another. You want all your site’s content to reach everyone. How can you optimize your site for the multiple cities within your region?

Create Individual Location Pages

When you claim a location with Google My Business, it’s essential to create a landing page for that location to link back to. You should also make sure the location landing page links to the Google My Business location page. Ensure that your landing pages are exceptional by including tags in various places throughout – this will increase their visibility to search engines.

These pages should not be carbon copies of each other, with nothing but the name of the city changed. Google catches on to that, and it might even end up harming your SEO. Instead, try to come up with ways to differentiate the pages that specifically focus on the city in question. There are a number of ways to do that:

  • Cultural touchstones. Reference something everyone in town knows about, like a local sports team or a popular museum. It doesn’t need to be relevant to the product you’re selling. It’s just a good way of letting the city’s residents know that you really did create this page with them in mind; that it’s not just a copy/paste job.
  • City history. Go back to the founding of the town. Even a casual reference to this can let page readers know you really are writing for them.
  • Common problems. What issues do residents of the city face? Is it cold there? Is it hard to grow plants? Is there something your company can do to help?
  • Find the way you relate. No matter what else there is to say about the town, there’s a reason your business serves them so successfully. Even if that reason isn’t unique to them, you can build on it and use it to explore things that are. For example, Firestarter SEO helps companies build a successful online presence. We might choose to use a city landing page to congratulate residents on the number of successful small businesses in their town before moving on to what we can offer.

Linking to Your Landing Pages

Your landing pages should not stand alone. Integrating them with the rest of your website is absolutely crucial. You can do this by mutually linking your page with other local and relevant sites, which will generate more traffic for both your site and theirs, and by ensuring that your site contains internal links that take visitors to the landing pages.

Your landing pages should also be developed with informative and concise anchor text. Anchor texts lets both search engines and users with an overview of what to expect from the page. Therefore, it’s important to include the target keyword you want to rank and the location you’re trying to target in the anchor text.

Additional Tips for Local SEO Targeting

If your business does not have a brick and mortar location, it’s worth considering registering an address in a city or town you wish to rank for so that Google and other search engines will spot your business name in association with that location. This might be a good strategy if you live adjacent to a large city. However, use caution. If you register multiple addresses, Google could decide you’re misrepresenting your business and penalize your SEO.

Another handy little trick is geotargeting every piece of content you post. When you upload a photo to your homepage, tag it with the name of the city as well as a description of what it shows. When you geotag each piece of content, your city name is suddenly layered much more densely throughout your website.

Targeting multiple cities on your website is an important and delicate part of your SEO strategy. If you’re giving local SEO a try and want the benefit of years of experience at your back, contact Firestarter SEO today.

How to Get Your Website in the Google Answers Box

Google is constantly changing the way their search engine results display in an effort to provide a better user experience for their users. More and more queries are providing Solutions directly within the search results page rather than taking you to another website. Known in the industry as “ranking zero” or “position zero”, when your website comes up in the featured Snippets or the answers box for a query, you are liable to see a dramatic increase in your traffic. So, even though there are lots of websites competing for that spot, if you know what you’re doing, you can land your website there.

Three different types of content are presented in the Google Answers Box:




This list result is further down the page because four ads are presented at the top before the actual results start.

When your website lands in the answer box, people are going directly to your content and that content serves as a teaser to what else they can find on your website. Users become invested in your content and brand before they even have the chance to know who you are. Google has a patent on the answer box so it’s likely won’t see it anywhere else for an extended period of time. Because what land you there is algorithmic, it is possible, though somewhat difficult depending on the keyword phrase, to get your website in that spot.

Here are a few different strategies to help you, but before we get started, let’s take a closer look at why the Answer Box has become such as competitive space.

Why is the Google Featured Snippet So Competitive?

When you’re the first result on a page without an answer box, you’ll get a click-through rate of anywhere between 25% to 30%, on average. But, when you’re number one on a page with an answer box – and you’re not the answer in the box – that won’t bump you down the page too much – but it will dramatically affect your click-through rate – dropping it to anywhere between 15% to 20%.

Let’s transfer that to dollars with a hypothetical. Let’s say you have a 1% conversion rate at $100 per sale, based on that low end 25% click-through rate. If that query gets 2,000 searches a month – that means you’re getting 500 clicks. And of that 500 clicks, 5 people will make a $100 purchase, giving you $500 a month.

But when the answer box comes in, and you’re not in it, you’re now only getting 300 clicks per month, which is costing you $200 a month – if your conversion rate stays the same. That’s almost half the revenue difference – and that’s on a relatively small scale. Imagine what it could do to someone with millions of clicks and hundreds of thousands of conversions?

Start with a Strong SEO Foundation

Most of the time, the site where you see the answer in the answer box is the number one result, but not always. One thing we know though, it’s always ranked within the top five for whatever the query may be. As such, your site needs to be there, too, and if you want to knock the others down, you’ll at least 1,000, if not more high quality referring domains. This means creating content that’s worthy of others linking to it. But, beyond that, you’ll also need to have a high level of engagement on the specific page you’re trying to get ranked in the Answer Box.

You’ll also need high value content that’s fewer than 2,000 words in length. The more relevant your information, the more value it offers, and the more updated your website is, the better. But, if it fails at basic optimization tasks such as being optimized for mobile devices, none of the rest of your SEO work will matter. More than half of all web traffic comes from mobile devices – so if you haven’t already, make sure you’re using the Mobile-Friendly tool to see if your website is mobile friendly. Even if it is, Google can still provide some suggestions to help you improve the user experience. When your website helps Google provide a quality user experience for the searchers, Google will thank you with an improved ranking.

Go After Low-Hanging Fruit: Find Questions Without Answer Boxes

The search engine results page will only have one answer box, so if you already see one for a query you’d like to get your results in, you’ll have a much harder fight – especially if you’re not already ranking in the top five for that phrase – getting into that answer box than if you were trying to rank for a question that doesn’t have an answer box at all yet. Though it’s a bit harder to find pages without answer boxes, you can still use a variety of keyword research tools to help you find them.

If you’re up for the challenge of trying to knock a current result out of place – you’ll have to start with a bit of competitive audit, to make sure you know exactly what you’re up against. You’ll need to see how many backlinks the current answer has in place, how many referring domains, and most importantly, how well the content answers the question. Then, you’ll have to make sure your content is better, you have more backlinks and more referring domains. You’ll see the process won’t happen overnight, and you’ll have to closely monitor ranking changes because you don’t know how many other websites are also making an effort to knock an answer out of place to try to get their own site there.

Edit Your Old Content with the Answer Box in Mind

Whether you’re going back to refresh some old content, or writing new content, always keep the answer box in mind. Nothing that’s valuable, well written, or informative will ever detract from content you write specifically for the Answer Box. Most people who are going to your website are doing so to find the answer to a question, whether they’re given the answer directly in the search results page or not. If they’re not directly searching for an answer to a question, they’re at least searching for a solution to one of their pain points.

Start with that answer or solution and work backward. Creating content that way ensures the overall content doesn’t suffer and increases your chances of landing in the Google Answer Box from the beginning.

Find Entities to Structure Your Content

Entities can be considered a type of keyword. While Google has a rather complex definition of what an entity is, it’s basically people and places. Like in the screenshot above, actor and comedian Jim Carrey is considered an entity. When you create content around an entity, but you use related keywords with it, you’re creating the ideal situation for Google.

Google is able to learn more about how the keywords you’re using relate to what you’re saying, thanks to topic modeling. This helps them figure out what’s most relevant to the user based on their search query, allowing the best results to rank higher, while pushing the low-quality results further away from users.

Improve Your Answer Score

Though we’ll never know exactly how the Google algorithm works, we know it looks for what it calls “Answer Elements.” It scores yours, and all other content, based on those. If the best answer to the question is in a paragraph, that’s the paragraph that will make it to the answer box. If you can provide more detail than the paragraph, you’re providing Google with more answer elements, thus improving your answer score.

Depending on the nature of the question and it’s natural answer, you’ll see answers that feature step-by-step directions, images, and tables of data. Google considers all elements of an answer, so the more you have, the better. If you include data, statistics, or graphs at the end of your answer, you’re making improvements to your Google Answer Score. When you take the time to answer questions that supplement larger questions, you’re making even more improvements.

Though it seems like it could be overwhelming to choose one of these tactics to focus on, the best way to get your site in the featured snippet is to work on all of them. Yes, you can do them one at a time, but it will slow down the speed of your overall progress. Create a plan of attack that starts small, focusing on the most popular unanswered questions your content can answer, and then work up from there.

Always Greener: A Case Study of Success in a Competitive Market


Firestarter SEO serves a growing landscaping company in the Denver area.  This client provides landscaping design and sprinkler installation and repair to both residential and commercial properties.  One of the foremost challenges lay in their competitive landscape. There is no shortage of sprinkler or landscaping companies in Denver.  This kind of market saturation typically indicates a longer period of time before results are really seen, depending on the starting point of the campaign.

Fortunately, while the competition certainly had a head start, it was clear that their strategies had not heavily involved SEO.  Keyword targeting on their site was decent, but not stellar. Their link landscapes were also very mediocre, as evidenced by the table below.  Bottom line: there was a significant opportunity.

Beyond those first page rankings, there were a quality number of keywords ranked on the 2nd – 5th pages.  These did have search volume, and represented our opportunity keywords for this campaign.  When the client initially reached out to us, there were several first page rankings.  However, further research showed that very few of these top-ranked keywords actually had any search volume.  At Firestarter SEO, these are often what we call “junk keywords,” as it feels great seeing yourself at the top of that search, but the absence of any search volume means it won’t really benefit your business by targeting it.

  • Page 1: 27 (3 of which had any search volume)
  • Page 2: 10 (5 with search volume)
  • Pages 3-5: 6 (3 with search volume)

Their search traffic wasn’t ideal – with 103 organic visitors in the first month of the campaign and 0 conversions.  Ultimately, the goal was to increase traffic and conversions in order to help scale their business.

The Strategy

The start of the strategy was very clear from the beginning: we needed to implement a better keyword strategy.  As evidenced by the lack of search volume for keywords they had targeted, we needed to identify search terms that were relevant, had quality intent, and search volume.  This would lay the entire foundation for the strategy moving forward.

From a technical standpoint, the site was fairly sound, with a small number of errors needing correction.  Their link landscape, however, was non-existent. There were no external links, and very few internal links throughout the site.  Link acquisition, therefore, would be an immediate priority for our campaign.

Finally, in order to expedite results and increase the effectiveness of the campaign, we began a PPC campaign after a couple months of service.  Doing so allowed us to maximize visibility for our target keywords, and also generate quick results for the client.

SEO process of accumulation

The client saw an initial bump in results after implementing basic SEO elements with the new keyword strategy.  In the 3rd month of the campaign, they received 74 Organic calls and 29 calls from PPC.  A key benefit of running both SEO and PPC was the maximized exposure.  From a sheer numbers perspective, if a client is running PPC for a keyword and shows up at the top of the SERP, and also ranks on the first page for the same keyword, their exposure and credibility skyrockets.  As Boostability explains, this is a powerful combination.

Links remained a significant element in our strategy.  As a local SEO campaign, directories played a big role.  We also utilized guest posts for relevant sites as well. The ongoing application of links, on-site optimization, and content continued driving rankings, increasing traffic, and boosting quality leads on a monthly basis.

Final results/successes

Our client’s campaign has been one of ongoing, consistent growth.  SEO & PPC have become a cornerstone of their marketing strategy due to the tremendous success of the campaign.  At the time of writing, there were 17 keywords with 1st-page rankings, and 23 with 2nd-page rankings. Organic Traffic for the previous month sat at 1,096 – a 964% increase from the first month of service.  All of this leads to the crowning statistic of the campaign: 206 conversions in one month, with 190 phone calls.

Thanks to SEO & PPC, they have been able to grow significantly, and scale their business in a way they never thought possible.

A Customer-First Approach to SEO Keywords

keywordWe’ve been talking a lot about search engine optimization packages. Hopefully, you’re beginning to understand the major benefits of a sound strategy and implementation.

Today, I want to talk about SEO keywords.

Keyword research comes very early on in any SEO services package. At this point, we’re looking for a list of keywords that your customers type into the search engine. We’ll use research criteria based on your niche, target market, competition and keyword search volume.

Many professionals get hung up at this part in the process. After all, it’s pretty easy to lose yourself in all the heaps of data. But at the end of the day, we always keep one thing in mind:

The customer comes first.

You can’t overlook the customer when it comes to SEO. They’re the whole reason you’re investing in this service. It’s very important to look for a service provider that takes this customer-first approach to keywords. It’s the only way for true success.

Here are a few questions we’re always asking while doing keyword research.

Who are your customers?

You’ve got to know the target customer before you can truly serve them. Things like keyword research only succeed when it’s founded on a deep understanding for the customer’s challenges, pains and desires.

If you don’t have things like buyer personas, invest in them. They’ll help guide you on the search for the perfect keywords.

What are they looking for?

Now that you know the prospect, put yourself in their shoes. You know their pains and challenges. Take it a step further by brainstorming what kind of questions they’ll ask when looking for the product or service you offer.

Finding keywords that offer solutions will bring more qualified leads. Traffic is great, but qualified traffic is profitable.

Where are they coming from?

Keywords aren’t confined to the initial on-site SEO optimization. You’ll use them throughout your monthly SEO strategy in a variety of ways, including:

Knowing where they come from will help you prepare to monitor these keywords in a variety of ways.

Why are they searching?

Searcher intent is a very powerful thing in SEO. It’s one thing to rank for a vague keyword like red shoes. But if you could rank for red shoe store in Colorado, you’ve got searcher intent. There’s a reason behind their searching. And that’s a powerful thing to know.

It shows you how to tailor the message and content on your site. If you can speak to their initial intent, you have a greater probability of conversion.

Do you understand your customer on this kind of level? Could you benefit from a deeper SEO strategy? If so, contact us today! We’d love to discuss how we can turn your website into a revenue machine.

4 Benefits of SEO Content

In this day and age, SEO content is crucial, and it’s no longer enough to just exist and hope customers will see you. In fact, a storefront can only get you so far, especially if you’re not a well-established franchise or big brand. And, if you don’t have a storefront and you purely exist online, it’s also not enough to just have a website and hope customers will visit. There are 644 million active websites, so unless you do something about your online presence, you may not be found as quickly as you thought.

Having your finger on the pulse of how the online world works is vital. You need to hire an experienced web designer and developer who’s proficient in SEO optimization, and you need to ensure you have SEO content that’s continually updated and recognized by search engines such as Google. By becoming knowledgeable about SEO content, and SEO optimization, you may just notice a significant increase in website traffic that translates to sales and repeat business. Here are some of the many benefits of SEO content below.

1. It helps your web page to rank higher

When you are continually adding fresh SEO content to your web page, Google falls in love. The more updated a website is, with daily or weekly content, the more likely it is you are going to get repeat traffic, and a higher Google ranking. Google analytics suggest that old websites that haven’t seen a touch of editing in many months will slowly work their way down the list.

The goal of SEO content is to continually move you forward until you feature on the first page. After all, who actually clicks to page two of Google? If you’re not on page one, you’re almost invisible to your customer base. In fact, page 1 results on Google receive 92 percent of all traffic from an average search, and traffic drops off by a dramatic 95 percent for page 2.

2. It provides a platform to educate your customers

The part of your website that houses SEO content is normally called a blog or a journal. It’s the place where you actively try to use keywords that will bring more traffic, but the material also has to be relevant to your website, business, products, and services. Therefore, such a place gives you a platform on which to educate your customers on what you do, who you are, the benefits of your products and services, and more. It goes above and beyond what is available in your website tabs that generally consists of the products, services, about, and contact.

3. It encourages your customers to stay longer

The more SEO content your website has, the longer potential customers can be encouraged to stay on your site. For example, let’s say you own a motorcycle store, and you’ve heavily promoted the keywords “Suzuki GSXR600 in Denver” throughout.

Once your customer arrives at your website, intending to check out the Suzuki GSXR600s you have in stock in Denver, they will also notice that you can provide them with the pros and cons of that product, the maintenance they require, and general information surrounding that bike.

They may read that content, learn more about you as a business, and ultimately decide that bike is for them. This can translate to a sale, all because you chose to write a bit more about your products and services.

4. It’s affordable

SEO content is an affordable form of advertising and marketing for your business. Not only is it affordable in that you can see a significant improvement in your site traffic for minimal money, but that you can track results. In traditional forms of advertising such as magazine and newspaper adverts, it’s impossible to find out who has seen your ad, and whether it translated into a sale. The publication’s sales representative can give you approximate readership statistics and subscription rates, but they can’t tell you who has seen your ad, and who acted on it. It can become costly.

With SEO content and SEO optimization in general, you can find out what’s working and what isn’t and can alter your advertising and marketing budget and plan to suit. Most SEO optimization providers will provide you with up-to-date reports that show your keyword traffic, rankings, link building analysis, on-page analysis, and crawl diagnostics all built into the price of the service.

SEO content and SEO optimization are changing the way we do business, and the results can be substantial. Consider utilizing the services of an SEO expert and significantly improve your online presence.

Link Building: Quality vs. Quantity - (UPDATED)

High Quality DirectoriesThere are countless SEO companies out there are vying for your business. Many of them offer a variety of monthly packages designed to make you feel as though you’re getting something of value. If I told you I could get you 200 links to your website for just $199 per month, you’re probably thinking that’s a great deal. It is, for the SEO company…at least until they go under for such shady business practices.

Years ago, Google learned how easy it was for people to game the system, getting links in sheer volume to rise above the rest in the results. That’s why investing in any bulk link package seemed like a good idea, and that’s why many less reputable SEO companies could get away with it.

For at least the past five years, Google and other search engines have shifted the focus away from volume to quality. They’d rather your website have 5 links from quality, reputable websites than hundreds of links from random, poor quality websites.

If you see an SEO company advertising X amount of links for $X, guaranteed, you can safely bet they’re using at least some gray hat techniques. There are some directory and bookmark links that can bring a lot of value to your website. However, for $200/month, you are probably not getting these as part of your package. Some of the top directories, such as the Yahoo! and Best of the Web cost between $69.95 to $299 per year. And since that eats up a large portion of your monthly budget, you’re not getting listed in those directories.

What are You Getting?

If you opt to participate in a scenario like this, you’re paying for one of two things. Either you’re paying for an “SEO company” to use submission software to automatically submit your site to hundreds of directories with little to no manual work required. Or, you’re paying for the company to outsource the work to other countries where they can pay pennies on the dollar to get the work done manually.

Why Is This Kind of Link Building Bad for Your Site?

Your site is most likely being submitted to directories that have little to no relevance to your site or have very low quality. This happens because no one is assigned to facilitate the submissions when software is doing it, and if people are doing it, quality is the last thing they are worried about, they just need to meet their quota. In fact, several of these directories could be some part of the 500+ penalized by Google or even worse, part of the 90+ banned by Google (see the full list here). I can tell you right now, link juice from a penalized site is never a good thing.

What Do You Do?

Instead of wasting your money on low quality mass submission links, think about increasing your digital marketing budget and investing in high-quality work. Your return on investment will be much more rewarding, and you will receive high-quality links that will not get you penalized or banned by search engines. For example, with a larger budget, you can receive high-quality links built through legitimate processes such as:

  • Writing quality content on your website that people find interesting and useful and link to on their own sites as references
  • Guest posting on blogs and websites related to your products or services
  • Manually submitting to high-quality directory links from relevant websites
  • Infographics – these are hot with audiences because they are easy to share. There are also a number of directories you can include your infographics in to make it easier for people to find and share them on their own websites.
  • Commenting on articles and posts you enjoy and have insights on
  • Manually submitting to high quality social bookmarking sitesSEO Link Building Tatics

Search Engine Journal offers an updated list of quality web directories to help you get started. Local businesses can also benefit from using other directories, such as Google My Business, Yahoo Local, and Yelp to help build a solid backlink profile.

What if I see Bad Links in My Backlink Profile?

An important part of SEO today is making sure your link profile looks good. Though not common, it’s possible for others to launch negative SEO attacks against you, by building a bunch of spammy backlinks to your website. This can also happen as a result of a hack.

If you see bad backlinks in your profile, don’t panic. You can, and should, take action as soon as possible – especially if you’ve seen a decline in your traffic and think you’ve been penalized.

Start by asking the webmasters at these web addresses to remove the link to your website, if you can find a method of contacting them. Do so politely, and make sure they know you don’t think it’s their fault. Do what you can to show them where the link is on their site, and don’t spam them with an insane number of emails.

Some of them may surprise you and honor your request. But, if there are some whom you never hear from, and there likely will be, don’t give up hope. You can use the Google Disavow Tool (inside the Google Search Console) to tell Google there are links to your website you want them to ignore when they crawl and index your website.

How Can I Find Quality Link Building Opportunities?

This is one of the main things that we help with as part of our SEO strategy for your business. Our experts take a look at your existing link profile, and the link profiles of your main competitors. One of the ways you can outrank them in the search engines is to have more quality links than they do. So yes, quantity matters, but not nearly as much as quality. Our analysis will determine where your competition’s links are coming from so that we can go out and try to earn links from those same places – plus other ones like it – that your competition hasn’t found yet. And we won’t just reach out and ask for a link. We make sure you’ve got a killer piece of content to link to that their audience will enjoy, so they get something of value in return. We handle this for you, so you can focus on other areas of your business – like nurturing your leads and converting them into paying customers.

Save yourself time, money and a huge headache by thinking twice before buying cheap SEO services. Don’t be fooled by all those SEO companies claiming to rank you #1 on Google with directory and social bookmarking links for only $199 per month. It truly can’t be done. We’d love to hear what you have to say about this idea of quality vs. quantity in link building. Leave a comment below or contact us privately.

How Long Before I See Results From My SEO Campaign

One of the most common questions we get here at Firestarter SEO is, “How long does SEO take to start working?” Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer, as it depends heavily on the strategy, and the level of competition you’re up against. However, you should start seeing results within a couple of months, but don’t be surprised if it takes a bit longer. It is worth noting though, that the progress you see in the early stages should pale in comparison to the results you see at the end of the first year. What matters is consistent effort and remaining agile enough to adjust the strategy according to the results you’re seeing.

Let’s look at the variables that go into how quickly you’ll see results in your campaign.


Keywords are the words and phrases you use to drive targeted traffic to your website. These are the words and phrases your audience is using to find your website. Some will have more websites competing for them than others, meaning it will be harder to get a ranking spot on the first page.

Google is Constantly making changes to their algorithm to ensure searchers are served with quality results. In the early days of SEO, all you had to do was have your keyword in a few areas and throughout the content, and you were golden. This is not the case anymore. Keywords must be naturally woven into the text on the page, and using them too much can be considered keyword stuffing – a practice that Google and other search engines frown upon.

Your Domain Name

Your SEO, at the basic level, revolves around your domain name. If your domain has keywords in it, it can help speed up the process, but it’s not a magic bullet. Even domain names that are keyword rich can rank badly.

  • How long ago did you buy your domain? If it’s brand new, it could take longer to see results, simply because the search engines rely on trust. They have to have time to see that you know what you’re talking about, and you are a viable source of information for searchers. They consider domain age when determining how legitimate your business, website, and information is.
  • Has your domain name been penalized? If you purchased your domain from a third party because you wanted to avoid the domain age issue of a new domain, or simply couldn’t find a brand new domain that fit your brand, it’s important to look at its past history. There’s always a chance it was abused and discarded. It could have been used with black hat SEO or in other malicious activity. If this is the case, it likely has been flagged by the search engines. This isn’t to say you can’t reverse the damage, however, it will take longer before you start to see results.
  • Did someone outside your geographical location previously own the domain? It’s not uncommon for a domain name to be sold when a business closes. Let’s say you bought the .org version of your domain because it was the only option available, but you now see the .com is available. Sure, you can make the switch, but that .com domain has a long history with the previous business, which operated in a different area than you do. It doesn’t mean you can’t rank it, it just means it could take a bit longer because the search engines have to recognize that you are the new owner and you have a different address.

Business and Location for Local SEO

Every local business should claim their business listing with Google, and as many other directories as possible. Many of the directories offer listings for free and can help strengthen your online presence. For best results, make sure your listings are consistent in terms of the way your name, address, and phone number are listed.

What your business provides will play a role in your rankings simply because of the competition in your area. If you have a niche business that serves a limited clientele, you’ll see results faster as long as clients are searching specifically for your services. But if you’re in a more competitive field, there are more businesses gunning for those top ranking spots, making them harder to get. Often, businesses are spending money to ensure they stay on the top.

Website Content

Your website content should always be written for humans first, and search engines second. It needs to provide substance and value. Google wants to know they’re pointing their customers in the right direction to get the best possible information for all search queries, so content is a critical piece of the puzzle. Of course, getting content right can be a nightmare for many businesses, especially if they’re not fond of writing, or unfamiliar with the best ways to write for the web. It can be an especially daunting task if there’s no budget to hire a writing team. It’s a major reason why many businesses give up when they don’t see the results they’re hoping for in the early stages of their SEO campaigns.

Past Website Penalties

If your website has been hit by a Google penalty in the past, say Penguin, it doesn’t mean your rankings will suffer forever, but it means you’ll have your work cut out for you. The Penguin algorithm update came in 2012, and was Google’s answer to website spam. They became aware of webmasters manipulating their rankings through purchasing links or participating in link networks specifically designed to improve ranking. It was also aimed at improving content quality by penalizing keyword stuffing.

It’s possible to use the Google Disavow Tool to tell Google about links that you don’t want it to count against you. It’s a way for webmasters to get rid of low-quality links and recover from the penalty.

But that’s not the only thing that counts when attempting to recover. Beyond removing unnatural links, it’s important to focus on building natural links and reducing any keyword stuffing by re-writing content.

That of course, is an old penalty, so it’s just an example of what can be done to recover. If you notice your rankings plummet suddenly, that’s a good indication you’ve been penalized for some reason or another. Our SEO team can look at what’s going on when they conduct an audit and give more direction about a recovery strategy.


Backlinks, or links to your site from other sites, are an important part of SEO. Each backlink counts as a vote of trust and the more you have, the more Google learns that you are a trustworthy source of information. But, not just any backlink will do – hence why spam is such an issue.

To be a quality backlink it must:

  • Come from a relevant source: Search engines want everything to be relevant and useful to their users. They consider the relevancy of a link on multiple levels, from the relevance of the overall linking website, the relevance of the page the link is on, and the relevance of the content that directly surrounds the link.
  • Come from a trusted source: Search engines use websites they know are quality and difficult to get links from, such as the BBC and the Huffington Post, to determine trustworthiness. The fewer the number of links away a site is from one of those core seed sites, the higher the TrustRank and the higher the quality of a link from that site is.
  • Send traffic to your website: Links were originally intended to add value to a page because they direct visitors to more information relevant to the topic of the page, long before they were ever considered in any ranking algorithm. Website visitors still click these links, so having a link high up on a page will still bring value because regardless of rank it will send traffic to your site.
  • Use natural anchor text: The quality of a link improves if the anchor text of the link is similar to, or the same as a phrase you’re trying to rank for. But, if you have too many links coming to your site using the same anchor text, it starts to look unnatural and spammy, which can decrease your rankings. That’s why it’s better to use natural anchor text within the content, rather than focusing on a money phrase. Variations in anchor text are the key.
  • The more authority, the better: If there’s a backlink to your website on a page that links to other high-quality sites in the same niche as yours, it tells the search engines your site should be included in the high authority bracket. It doesn’t mean that if the other links are low quality your site will be classified as such, too, but the search engines may not include those in their ranking calculation.
  • Come from sources other than your existing backlinks: Having multiple backlinks to your site from the same site doesn’t do you much good. The more unique domains you have in your backlink profile, the better.
  • Not be reciprocal: Because link exchanges were highly abused in the past, reciprocal link value has been reduced. This means if you’re getting a high-quality backlink, it should come from a website you’re not already linking to from your own site.
  • Not be one of many other backlinks on the page: Trust and authority on a page get split between all the links on a page, so the fewer links there are on that page, the higher the quality of the link.
  • Not be paid for: Paying for links is against Google’s terms of service, and though they do often improve rankings, they can’t be considered high quality because of the risk associated with them. If Google notices what they think are paid links, your site will be penalized, and you’ll lose ranking.
  • Not be easy to earn: The easier it is to get a backlink, the less valuable it is. If you can get the link within a couple of minutes or clicks, you’ve had thousands of people do it before you, and still, thousands more will come after you to do it, too.

How an SEO Campaign Works

An SEO campaign generally begins with an audit to determine your baseline ranking, backlinks, and traffic. This helps in creating a strategy to improve rankings. The exact course of action will depend on your competition, your budget, and your current rank. A plan for the next several months will be developed and acted on accordingly. If things aren’t working out as expected, adjustments will be made.

The most important thing to remember is no one can ever guarantee a #1 rank in Google. If you’re dealing with an SEO agency that’s made that promise to you, it’s an indication they’re using blackhat SEO techniques to manipulate the rankings.

Are you ready to get started with your own SEO campaign? Get in touch today!

Paid vs. Organic Traffic: Which is Better for SEO?

When it comes to ranking a website, businesses must choose how to focus their efforts on building traffic, using either pay per click (PPC) campaigns for paid traffic or SEO to build organic traffic or a combination of the two.

The right answer for your business depends on a number of factors such as your available budget, target audience behavior, and your marketing goals. Generally speaking, the answer is not choosing between the two, but creating a strategy that makes use of both. In our experience, clients who run both SEO and PPC find greater, more accelerated results.

After all, 87% of internet users rely on search engines to help them find local products and services. And most of those people will never look beyond page one of the results, so if you want people to discover you, you need to be ranking high in the search engines one way or the other. The results on page one receive 92% of all search traffic on Google, with traffic dropping by 95% on the second page. And 33% of clicks from organic search results go to the listing in the number one spot on Google.

Why Choose SEO?

If you don’t have any kind of budget for search marketing, you’ll need to rely on SEO. But that doesn’t mean SEO is completely free. Even if you decide to keep it in-house rather than hiring an agency to assist you, there’s still time spent, and possibly writers to pay to craft your content.

The downside is it takes time to get indexed for various phrases, and even after you’re indexed, you’ll have to keep working on it to make sure you can work your way up the rankings so you can start seeing traffic. And, depending on what your competition is doing, you may find yourself in a long hard fought battle to work your way up. If you don’t want to wait months before you start seeing results, then PPC is your friend.

Another consideration is Google is constantly making changes to their ranking algorithm to ensure they deliver quality results to their searchers. If you’re focusing on creating quality content that’s useful to your site visitors, and building links naturally, rather than trying to game the system to rank higher faster, then those changes shouldn’t affect you much. But if you’ve been up to no good with your SEO efforts, then one small change in the algorithm could spell doom for your ranking.

Getting a steady stream of organic traffic to your website will take more time and effort today than it did just a few years ago. But it’s definitely worth it.

  • ¾ of users never go past the first page of search results.
  • 70-80% of users ignore paid ads in favor of the organic search results.
  • Companies with blogs have 434% more indexed pages, and companies with more indexed pages get more leads.
  • Inbound leads cost 61% less than outbound leads. SEO is a great source of inbound leads.
  • SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate compared to a 1.7% close rate on outbound leads.

Why Choose PPC?

PPC ads are shown above the organic search results, and because you’re paying to be there, it can be a good way to jump start traffic to a brand new website, if you have a budget to allocate to it.

Using PPC means you’re bidding for the chance to show up for any relevant queries, and you may or may not always win. Certain phrases will have much higher competition than others, which means you must be willing to pay more per click than everyone else to have the best chance of being displayed. Even though you’re only charged when someone clicks on your ad, it could add up fast if you’re in a highly competitive market. If you find that the cost per click is really high because of your industry and competition, you’ll want to lean heavier on SEO.

When executed properly, you can get a lot of targeted traffic to your landing pages much faster than you would relying solely on organic search. However, there’s a lot of room for error and making mistakes can be costly.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is setting up your AdWords account without proper conversion tracking in place. One study showed only 29% of accounts have effective conversion tracking. Without it, you won’t be able to figure out which keywords are converting and which ones aren’t. Your PPC budget should primarily be focused solely on the keywords you know are earning conversions, since these are the ones your audience is finding you with. If you can’t figure it out, you’ve got wasted ad spend that could be reallocated to the money phrases you know are working.

Let’s take a second do some math. Logic indicates if you have a 10% wasted ad spend, you’d have a 10% increase in cost per conversion, right? Well, unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Instead, for every 10% in wasted ad spending, you’re looking at a 44% to 72% increase in cost per conversion, with the increasing going up for every 10% of wasted ad spend.

If your cost per conversion is $10, and your wasted ad spend is at 30%, but increases to 40%, your cost per conversion will now be anywhere from $14.40 to $17.20. And if you decide to start bidding on new keywords to bring in more traffic… but it doesn’t work out as well as you’d hoped and your wasted ad spend jumps to 76%, your cost per conversion jumps to anywhere from $53.79 to $120.20! Why such a big difference? Simple. The more you’re spending on keywords that don’t convert, the less you’re spending on the ones that do, which drives your cost per conversion up… and you’ll see this trend regardless of industry.

If the content on your website isn’t well written and designed to motivate your visitors to convert, you’ve paid for the traffic, but you may not be able to make the sales to justify the paying for the traffic.

What are Your Goals?

PPC and SEO will drive different kinds of traffic to your website, so the way you choose to lean needs to be based on what your traffic goals are. If you’re mostly interested in short term conversions and testing, or product sales then PPC is the way to go. Half of the people that arrive at a retailer’s website from a paid ad are more likely to buy than visitors who arrive from an organic link. But, if you’re more interested in building a lot of traffic over time, and establishing credibility and trust with your audience? Then that’s where a solid SEO strategy needs to be your primary focus.

You Need Both for a Well Rounded Marketing Strategy

In the short-term, PPC is a good option. The minute your ads start running, you’ll start seeing results. But, when the money stops, so do those results. PPC can be costly over the long term, and that’s where SEO comes in to provide the real value. You can get traffic using both, of course, but rarely ever will you be able to sustain PPC efforts in the long run without SEO. You’ll never be able to achieve high rankings overnight, and depending on the niche and competition, may struggle to reach those higher spots, but investing time and resources into an SEO strategy (with or without PPC) is the real winner.

Both PPC and SEO have value and their place in online marketing. The comparison is not cut and dry, so it’s important to focus on the one that matches your goals and the reasons behind your campaign.

Not sure what your goals are? We’re here and ready to help you craft a strategy to bring your vision to life.