I once had a site owner ask me what goes into developing a professional SEO firm? It was a first for me hearing such an odd question. But then I started thinking about how I built my own business so I figured I would share my story… Back in 2007 I was doomed. Thinking it was a smart move to leave my six-figure career as a media analyst, I needed something to sink my teeth into while changing diapers. Two of my three kids weren’t yet in school so the stay-at-home Dad thing was exactly what I needed.
For nearly eight years I had been flying all over the U.S. visiting clients spending on average about $40k a month in TV and radio advertising. It was a beast of a job. 15 hour days, clients had 24/7 access to me. The money was fab but the growth was limited. Thank goodness too–the credit and real estate meltdown came in 2008. So leaving the industry was actually perfect timing. Back then if you had told I would be a professional SEO type I would have rolled my eyes in disbelief.
Why Not Professional SEO?
By 2008 I started noticing a few things on some sites I was watching in terms of rankings. They were dominating the first page of Google one day, then the next they would hit page 3 or 4. Hmmm…I thought. What’s the deal? Why the change in rankings? So I started tracking about a dozen sites watching their on page SEO elements along with backlinks.
Remember, back then you could go out and buy a gazillion backlinks and rank extremely well. But then there were other sites I noticed didn’t have any backlinks but were first page-worthy. What gives? Why would the big G give professional SEO clients first page ranks to some but not other sites? Seriously, it kind of scared me because I was thinking of opening a professional SEO firm. Only, how could I ever dare pretend to be in the business if I couldn’t pinpoint what it took to get you ranked.
So what did I do? Nothing smart. Instead, I dabbled in building a spreadsheet of top ranking site with tons of backlinks and then others with very few. That took a month. Next, I evaluated the on page SEO elements. Talk about a boring process. But when my spreadsheet was done, I noticed trends. They weren’t “Oooooooohhhhhhhh,” types. But it was enough to move to my next step of testing my hypothesis…
- Professional SEO requires relevancy for keywords
- Keywords need exact search counts
- On page stuff is most important
- Video was becoming useful to ranking
My Battle-Tested Professional SEO Experiment
So I built a few sites. Believe me, they were pretty awful and lacked professional SEO. But it wasn’t the pretty factor I was going trying to produce. Instead, these sites were designed for specific target keywords.
The goal was to see if I could get these sites ranked with zero backlinks. I know, tall order considering everyone was ranking well spamming the bananas out of their site. Now I know what you’re thinking. Sure, this is just a little too convenient now that Google Penguin devastated millions of sites with spam backlinks.
But honestly, the gut feeling I had about spam backlinks was they were total crap. How could a professional SEO firm do work while spamming dumb link wheels with bogus content? Nope, not me. Plus you need content for each backlink so why would a profession SEO firm waste time writing it for spam backlinks instead of on your site right?
It worked. Not always without major tweaks to adding content. However, I was able to develop a formula that was genuine and honest based on using Google standards to get sites ranked. So next, I dared to snag my first few clients. Actually, one of my first clients was an ice cream shop near my home on the coast of Maine.
They had just installed a huge mini golf course in a major tourist area. So I pitched them on building a site using my methods of Google relevancy and professional SEO. But they had no money! So the deal was free ice cream for my kids all summer and basketball hoop and stand:-). A few months later I had them on the first page of Google for highly competitive keywords.
But What About Social Media?
Don’t get me going. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I don’t do social media. Well, what I mean is my professional SEO formula isn’t based on joining a wagonload of social networks hoping they’ll increase rankings and traffic. They don’t. What they do provide is a community feel around your brand.
But don’t forget the dirty little secret about industrial-strength professional SEO.
You need content to post on your social networks. Guess what? Much of it needs to be about you and your company. If you can’t even add original content on your site how can you do it to your social networks? Usually what happens is your lame Twitter or Facebook account will look stale with few followers or likes.
Listen, professioal SEO is about relevancy meeting Google standards. Everything else is just window dressing. It’s pretty and exciting and trendy. But when you start looking at social ROI, it’s pitiful. Most professional SEO gurus keep this kind of data to themselves. But you need to know the truth.
These days my professional SEO firm works with a handful of clients. If you have interest in learning how industrial-strength rankings and conversions can help you increase business, read more about professional SEO.