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

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

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.


Firestarter SEO featured on Clutch!

Even before Denver started to show signs of a maturing tech scene, Firestarter was founded with the intention of helping local businesses improve their bottom line. We recognized early on that Search Engine Marketing would play a central role in modern marketing. Firestarter is a team of experienced individuals with knowledge in all the core aspects of an SEO strategy, including link-building, content creation, and keyword research. We are driven by the opportunities, which we hope will continue to grow, to help local businesses thrive in a highly competitive marketplace. That said, not every business is familiar enough with the SEO landscape to identify a provider who can meet their objectives, and within their specific budget. In order to increase the chances that a prospective buyer will trust and have confidence in us, we are excited to announce our inclusion on Clutch, a ratings and reviews site for solutions and services providers.

In addition to creating a profile on the site, which showcases a company’s services, history, and other relevant information at a quick glance, Clutch conducts direct interviews with a firm’s clients. Their questionnaire is highly comprehensive and includes details that a short testimonial or a more technical case study would not capture. This might include how a company has confronted any problems that arose unexpectedly during a project or communicates on a regular basis with the client. These reviews, plus an assigned ranking, determine how these companies are listed and compare to one another in Clutch’s directory—summarized by a Leaders Matrix.


Why You Should Consider Voice Search in Your SEO

When you search for something online from your mobile device, are you taking the time to type it in, or are you using your voice? If you’re relying on voice recognition features to speed up the process, you’re not alone. By 2020, 30% of searches will take place without screen, as more people turn to smart speaker devices such as Google Home and Amazon Echo.

Since voice recognition has become increasingly more accurate, data shows more than half of teens between 13-18 and 41% of adults are using voice search at least once a day. That means, if you want to have a shot at getting the traffic from those queries, you need to factor voice search into your overall SEO strategy. How?

Focus on Natural Language

Many voice searches are geared toward local businesses, because customers are looking for something in their area while they’re out. Most of the time, people will phrase their searches in the form of questions, like, “where is the best donut in Denver?” or in short phrases, like, “donuts near me.” If you want to come up in searches like this, you’d use natural language throughout your content to boost your chances of appearing in the appropriate voice search results.

In addition to optimizing for traditional search, you’ll want to use words and phrases people are likely to speak when searching for you, so getting natural language throughout your site may not be the easiest undertaking depending on your niche.

Once of the ways you can get around this is to add FAQs or Q&A pages that focus on content written with a conversational tone. This way, you’ll be more likely to write content that matches with the way your users speak – and that’s what you need before you can get anywhere with voice search.

Optimize for Mobile Devices

If you’ve been online for any length of time, you’re likely aware of the fact that Google has considered mobile-friendliness a ranking factor since 2014. If you’re not already optimized for mobile, do it right now! Voice searches can come from computers, of course, but the majority of them are coming from mobile devices, so if you’re not rocking a mobile-friendly design, you’re not going to be able to capitalize on those voice queries as easily.

Need help? Opt for a responsive theme or design template, since this will automatically adjust your content for computers, tablets, and smartphones. If changing over would require a lot of resources you don’t have right now and you’re using a content management system like WordPress, you can install a plugin to create a mobile version of your site for you.

Keep Using Best Practices

Keyword phrases are what people are known to type, so of course you don’t want to ignore those in the process. Even if you’re not too focused on getting to the top of voice search queries, you can’t ignore all the other aspects of SEO that matter.

Use microdata and Schema markup so that Google, Bing, and other search engines can start to determine what your content actually means. Structured data markup can help with everything from your address and phone number, to hours of operation, pricing, and directions to your store or office. That’s what people will be searching for, so make it easier for them to find!

Keep Intent at the Forefront

Long tail keywords are more important when it comes to voice search optimization because those searches will use natural language. But, not just any long tail keyword phrases will work. To rank and keep users happy, intent is the most important factor. If you were someone searching for your business, products, or services, what are the questions you’d most likely ask? How would you naturally speak them?

Look at your website’s analytics data to see if you can figure out more about what your users are looking for. Google Search Console has reports that show you the queries people are using to find your site, so you can see the kind of natural language that’s used. If you see a certain phrase or group of phrases are bringing you a decent amount of traffic, check to make sure those words and phrases are appropriately sprinkled throughout your site’s content.

If you don’t get the insights you’re looking for there, or you want to go a bit further, turn to tools like Story Base, Question Samurai, and Answer the Public. They are all great at helping you generate lists of natural language phrases to include in your content.

Go Beyond Google

Sure, Google’s the biggest game in town, but it’s far from the only platform you need to consider when you optimize for voice search. Think about Windows and Cortana, Alexa and Amazon, Siri and Apple, and Samsung’s new Bixby. Your content needs to be able to appeal to all personal assistant platforms. As more people turn to personal assistant devices for use at home and in the office, we’ll move further from using our desktops and smartphones to search.

Voice Search Isn’t New – But It’s Growing

There’s no need to completely re-do your SEO strategy unless of course you’re finding your traffic plummeting and the competition taking more than their fair share. Voice search optimization alone doesn’t mean you need to start from scratch, but making some adjustments now will ensure you’re ready to go and ahead of the game as the trend continues to grow. At this time, analytics data won’t tell you if you’re getting traffic from a standard query or a voice query, and there’s no guarantee it ever will, but ignoring it means you’re missing out on a lot of potential traffic.


The Ultimate List of Reasons Why You Need Denver SEO Services

free-seo-tool-resized-600You’ve heard of SEO. Maybe you’re even convinced that it will work for your business. But despite your knowledge, you’re probably as to why it’s so powerful.

That’s why we’re here today.

I want to show you the reasons you need to buy.

An investment in strong Denver SEO services can change your business and your life. As you rise through the ranks on search engines, you’ll see many benefits start to accumulate.

  • Increased search traffic
  • Higher conversions
  • More revenue for your business

And if you need any more reasons that that, then keep reading!

SEO is an Investment, Not a Cost

As a business owner, you must constantly make investment decisions. And if you’re like me, you want to find something that will pay off in the long run.

That’s exactly what SEO does.

In fact, it not only pays off, but solid SEO is an investment with a high return. Don’t consider it just another fee you have to pay. Look at it for what it truly is: an investment you can’t pass up.

SEO Builds and Strengthens Your Brand

When you rank well in search engines, it increases your brand strength. People begin to recognize your business and click through to your website.

It’s a unique opportunity to connect with new people.

We live in an age where people want to connect with the businesses they purchase from. That’s why it’s more important than ever to support your marketing efforts with strong branding. And SEO can help make that happen.

SEO Understands User Intent

Every time a user searches for something on Google, they have an intent. It generally falls into one of four categories:

  • Navigational
  • Informational
  • Transactional
  • Commercial

It’s important to invest in SEO because it provides insight into this intent. That means that you can develop landing pages, blog posts and web pages that convert. Trust me, both the search engine and the user will thank you for it.

SEO Pricing is Variable and Affordable

Not all SEO services are created equal. It depends on your current needs and budget. But the great thing is that you can find a service level that works for you, regardless.

Our monthly SEO services come in three packages. You’ll be able to find exactly the right type of service that fits your needs.

Are you willing to invest in Denver SEO services that will take your business to the next level? If so, contact us today! We’d love to discuss your options and set you up with exactly the right services you need.


A "Customer-First" Approach to SEO Keywords

When we develop a keyword strategy for any of our clients, we take a customer-first approach. Before we can dive deep into your SEO services package, we must first conduct keyword research to determine the relevant keywords we should be helping you rank for. These are ultimately the list of words and phrases your customers will be typing into the search engine to find you. We use research criteria based on your niche, target market, competition, and keyword search volume.

This is a part of the process many people get lost in, simply because there are mounds of data to wade through. But at the end of the day, we have to remember one thing: the customer always comes first.

If you focus solely on the keywords you think are relevant to your business, your SEO strategy is setup for failure from the beginning. The customer-first approach is the only way you’re going to see a real ROI on your SEO services.

Who Are Your Customers?

Think about who your customers really are. Take the time to develop buyer personas, also known as customer avatars, for each segment of your target market. These will give you a clearer picture of who your ideal customers are – to make it easier to conduct keyword research and develop website copy, content marketing assets, and so forth. Buyer personas can be as simple or as complex as you want them to be, based on your products or services. Get started by asking questions like:

  • Am I targeting an audience of both males and females? All females? All males?
  • How old is my ideal customer? What’s an acceptable age range?
  • Where do my customers live? Does this affect how they use my product/service?
  • Where do my customers work? Job title? Years of experience? Are they ready to leave their job and transition to a new field?
  • Is my customer single, married, divorced, partnered?
  • How much money does my customer earn in a year?
  • What language(s) does my customer speak? Are they interested in learning a new language?
  • What are their hobbies and interests?
  • How familiar are they with technology? Do they love it? Hate it?
  • What’s their education level? Are they interested in returning to school?
  • What are their religious beliefs? Objections?
  • What are their common problems and challenges?
  • What motivates them to buy the products/services I offer?
  • What concerns do they have about buying the products and services I offer?
  • What are their favorite websites and blogs?
  • Where do they spend most of their time on social media?

What Are They Looking For?

Once you have a clear idea of who your prospect is, put yourself in their shoes. With their pain points and challenges in mind, take it a step further and brainstorm the kinds of questions they’ll ask when they’re looking for what you offer. This helps you find the keywords that offer solutions, which brings more qualified leads, which increases the chance of making the sale.

Brainstorming this list of questions helps you come up with ideas for content that can help you rank for the various keywords – while also addressing the common questions and objections your prospects may have. Plus, you can search and see what kind of content is out there from your competition, to find ways to make yours more thorough and complete.

Why Are They Searching?

User Intent makes all the difference in the success your website. If you’re ranking for a vague keyword like red shoes that’s one thing, but if you’re ranking for red shoe store in Colorado then you’ve got user intent – the reason behind their searching.

User intent generally falls into one of three categories:

  • Transactional: A person wants to make a purchase. Where to buy red shoes
  • Navigational: A person is looking for a specific resource, site, or page. Red shoe store in Colorado
  • Informational: A person wants more information about a subject, or answers to their questions. Red shoe

The ideal keyword strategy will have a mix of these keywords, as you’ll have people who are looking to buy at the same time as you’ll have people who want more information about the products or services you offer. When we pull your keyword list, we’ll let you know which keywords fall into which category of user intent, so you can craft content that matches.

When you know what they intend to do with the search you know how to tailor your content and messaging on your website. If you speak to their initial intent, you have a great chance of converting them to a paying customer. But, if you rank for a transactional keyword and send your users to informational content, you’re disregarding intent – which leads to unhappy searchers.

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:

  • Social media updates.
  • Weekly blog posts.
  • Guest blog posts on industry sites.
  • Link building activities.

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

If they come to you from social media – it’s important to know which post they’re coming from. If they’re coming from an offer you posted on your page, then they may be ready to buy. But if they’re coming to a blog post, they may just want more information.

Conclusion

Everything you do on your website and as part of your SEO and online marketing strategy must consider your customer first. They are who you want to connect with, and who you want to keep happy. If you take any action without considering how it will impact them, you could be making a huge mistake that affects your profit margin. That’s why part of our customer first approach means focusing on who your business’s customers are.

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.


The SEO Buying Guide: What You Need to Know

You know your website needs SEO. Your competitors, friends and telemarketers tell you about its importance. So, you head to Google and type in SEO Denver Colorado.

It brings up far more results than you expected. And each seem to have its own pricing and services structure. Now you’re even more confused than when you started.

It’s okay. Trust me, you’re not the only one that feels this way.

That’s why I’m creating this guide.

I believe that you should feel informed when making your buying decision. We try to explain things pretty well throughout the site. And this is just one more branch of that educational tree. And, as always, feel free to reach out directly if you have any questions.

Let’s learn about these SEO services and what they mean for your company.

Keyword Research

Keyword research serves as the foundation of a solid SEO strategy. It requires tons of research, deep insight into your company’s goals, and an intuitive understanding of the customer’s experience.

You’ll find Google’s Keyword Planner at the core of the keyword research. But there’s several paid tools that give an even deeper analysis. SEO companies often pay a monthly fee to access these professional tools.

As a small business owner, it’s not feasible for you to pay for these tools. And that’s one reason why you hire people like us.

Monthly Strategy Meetings

Unfortunately, there’s plenty of “SEO professionals” that don’t act like professional at all. They try to scam unassuming business owners. And it’s a shame.

A good SEO company will put you first. That’s certainly what we’re trying to do here at FirestarterSEO. It’s why we write guides like these.

We also show our appreciation through monthly strategy meetings. A monthly service should show monthly progress. And we want you to hold us accountable for that.

In these meetings, we discuss current positions and your overall account. If we have time, we’ll also go into creative brainstorming for ways to improve your rankings and website in the months to come.

Content

Haven’t you heard? Content is king.

Google loves content, because it shows a freshly updated site (an important factor in their ranking algorithm). We give you fresh content in a couple of ways:

  • Rewriting portions of your website pages
  • Creating industry related blog posts
  • Developing keyword-focused landing pages

When it comes to content, you can’t do too much. The bigger your investment, the better.

Content Optimization

It’s not just enough to create content, though. You’ve got to make sure that the high-quality content gets optimized.

A good SEO company will make sure that happens. So, as you compare different services, don’t forget to ask about content development and optimization.

Optimized content on web pages, blog posts and landing pages include:

  • Carefully crafted title tags
  • Keyword-rich meta descriptions
  • Strategic H1, H2 and H3 headings
  • Optimized alt text on image
  • URLs featuring keywords
  • Keywords included 3-5 times in the body

Each piece of content requires this level of optimization. It gets tedious, I’m not gonna lie. But we’re happy to do it for you, because of the impact it makes on your rankings.

Additional On-Site SEO

The SEO doesn’t stop at that. There’s even more that you’ve got to consider. Things like:

  • Internal links to help search engines and humans navigate your site.
  • 301 redirects for any and all URL adjustments.
  • Submitting a sitemap so Google can crawl your site.

In the midst of everything else, it’s easy to neglect these aspects. But a good SEO company won’t. When you’re looking around, keep an eye out for these additional services.

Off-Site SEO: Link Building

You also need to invest in off-site SEO. These things strengthen the foundation you’ve built on your website. It includes doing things like:

  • Anchor-text research
  • Posting content to social media
  • Getting listed in directories
  • Creating press releases
  • Content marketing

Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on link-building. It’s the secret key that helps your rankings soar. Don’t settle for a company that doesn’t provide these services too.

Reporting

And finally, reporting.

An ethical company will want you to hold them accountable for their results. And because of that, they’ll provide you with ample reports to do analysis. Make sure that you SEO company offers reports about:

  • Keyword Ranking
  • Link Analysis
  • Traffic Analysis
  • Crawl Diagnosis

If they don’t, they’re not the company you want.

If you’re tired of feeling overwhelmed when you search Google for things like SEO Denver Colorado, then stop the search. Contact us today to get started with a monthly SEO package.

 


The Anatomy of a Perfectly Optimized Title Tag

In the search engine optimization world, rankings are everything. Everyone wants to be number one. They want to be on top. Well, it turns out the elements used by SEO experts to optimize websites are also ranked. When it comes time to rank a website, Google and other search engines leverage certain SEO elements more than others. So what element takes the number one spot? Title tags. Sure enough, title tags are the single most important on-page SEO element.

So read closely my friends, as you are about to learn the anatomy of a perfectly optimized title.

Length of Title Tag

  • Be sure the length of your title tag is 70 characters or less. Any longer than 70 characters and your title will be cut off in all Google results. This leaves your potential customers hanging high and dry, with incomplete information. Also, remember that spaces and punctuation count as characters, too. A comma utilizes 2 characters, while dashes and line breaks use 3 characters.
  • If you need a quick and easy way to check your title length, copy it into excel and use the formula =len(x). This will count the characters for you. Quick, easy and extremely valuable.

Organization of the Title Tag

  • The title should consist of three distinct phases, which need to be organized in a particular way.
  • The first section is where you need to put your keyword. This is the word you are trying to optimize your site for. It should always come first. No questions.
  • The second section should contain a unique or descriptive phrase that helps build upon the first section. This might be a secondary keyword or just a phrase you feel your audience needs to see in order to better understand the page content.
  • The final section of the title needs to be your brand name. This is key. This portion of the title gives your website more legitimacy and builds your brand.

Keyword Usage Within the Title

Seeing as the title is the most important on-page SEO element, you definitely want to use your keyword within it. However, there is such a thing as overusing and abusing your keyword. We refer to this as keyword stuffing. So how do you effectively use your keyword without overusing it?

  • Never repeat your keyword in a title more than twice. When you do decide to repeat it, do not do it sequentially, one right after the other. This looks spammy. Instead, put the word once at the beginning of the first section and once at the end of the second section.
  • Use the keyword in a truly informative and descriptive way. Don’t just throw it into the title because you need to use it. Take the time to really create a meaningful title. It will pay off.

So there you have it, the anatomy of a perfectly optimized title. If you take the time to follow these steps, you are bound to have success in title writing. It is not hard to do, but it does take some time and effort. So go ahead, put these steps to the test. You won’t be sorry!

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Google's Recent Patent Filing

Google is keeping SEO folks on their toes and turning some hairs grey, as news circulates around the industry of a potential Google patent filing. The patent document specifies how Google intends on making rank changes to its search engine results pages (SERPs). Instead of allowing the algorithm to use its ranking factors to decide how documents (or pages) are ranked, Google will randomly initiate a “transition” period between when a rank change happens.

Here’s an example of how it might work:
Let’s say you build links to a site in hopes that it will improve rankings. Google will notice that there has been “rank modifying” techniques implemented and instead of making the actual algorithmic change, Google will arbitrarily change the rank of the page during its “transition” period. Google will then observe what you do in response (like undoing any “rank modifying” techniques). After an “unknown amount of time” Google will let the algorithm make the organic change based on its actual ranking factors. It’s kind of a way to throw spammers off the trail, really.

Here is Google’s description within its patent:
When a spammer tries to positively influence a document’s rank through rank-modifying spamming, the spammer may be perplexed by the rank assigned by a rank transition function consistent with the principles of the invention, such as the ones described above. For example, the initial response to the spammer’s changes may cause the document’s rank to be negatively influenced rather than positively influenced. Unexpected results are bound to elicit a response from a spammer, particularly if their client is upset with the results. In response to negative results, the spammer may remove the changes and, thereby render the long-term impact on the document’s rank zero. Alternatively or additionally, it may take an unknown (possibly variable) amount of time to see positive (or expected) results in response to the spammer’s changes. In response to delayed results, the spammer may perform additional changes in an attempt to positively (or more positively) influence the document’s rank. In either event, these further spammer-initiated changes may assist in identifying signs of rank-modifying spamming.”

One of the most challenging aspects of SEO is staying on top of testing techniques and knowing exactly the impact of things like this. The “transition” ranking is just another curveball in an industry full of interesting twists and turns. Part of my job as an SEO professional is to stay on top of them. Knowledge is power.

While some industry people view Google as a powerful enemy always trying to foil their best-laid plans, other SEO professionals believe that Google is just trying to encourage websites to produce more quality content. Although this does add complications to the work I do, I do not believe Google is ‘out to get us.’ In fact, the whole idea behind the patent is to identify and prevent spam. Google’s not attempting to attack SEO companies, or at least, not the GOOD ones. The people who should really be worried are the spammers. My hope is that the patent will lead to a lot less black hat SEO and a lot more authentic content marketing and high-quality SEO.

On a side note, I’ve got to hand it to Google! From a business perspective, it makes sense to apply these types of updates into their algorithm – in many ways it forces internet marketers to use Adwords and other marketing avenues.