FAQ About SEO Services

Have you looked around at some of those sleek, custom WordPress sites and wanted one for your own? Many business owners do, and for good reason. WordPress is an infinitely customizable — and useful — website design tool for small business owners. But WordPress is also infinitely complex — a characteristic that makes it challenging for the small business with limited time and budget. That’s where we come in.

Do you guarantee SEO rankings?

No, because there are many factors (including factors outside of our control) that will determine how a website ranks in the major search engines.

No SEO company can guarantee a number #1 position or specific ranking for your site for a given keyword phrase. There are simply too many variables involved in determining placement within each search engine’s results. For example, a search engine changing their ranking algorithms, efforts made by competitors, and new sites being added to the Internet are just a few ever changing variables that can affect your website’s placement.

To some extent, rankings don’t matter anymore with factors at play such as searcher’s geo-location, search history, and preferences.

First, Google keeps their guidelines quite vague and undefined. Additionally, their guidelines are frequently updated.

Though Flagstone’s service offerings do not specifically “violate” these guidelines (and none of our services directly match any of Google’s current examples of violations), that doesn’t mean that Google endorses linkbuilding or otherwise any activity conducted solely for SEO reasons.

In fact, the most accurate way to describe what Google “approves” when it comes to SEO is to quote them:

“The best way to get other sites to create relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can quickly gain popularity in the Internet community. The more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.” (Source)

In other words, the only linkbuilding strategy that Google currently endorses is exposing your site’s content to your target market, and then expecting a percentage of those people to link to your site or content naturally. In reality, unless you’re in a very “vocal” industry, picking up completely organic links like this is not common. And for new businesses / websites, it’s virtually impossible if your only strategy is to publish great content on your website.

So, by definition, anything you initiate that results in another webpage linking to your site, is not endorsed by Google’s guidelines. This includes perfectly legitimate marketing strategies, such as press release distribution, submitting expert content to a popular industry publication, and so on.

The fact is, only an extremely low percentage of websites adhere to these guidelines, as it’s only remotely feasible in certain verticals.

The bottom line is that SEO, by definition, is the act of trying to manipulate your search engine rankings. It stands to reason that the major search engines would probably rather have you pay for their traffic with their various advertising options.

Therefore, SEO in general is not something that Google or any other search engine will particularly endorse, whether conducted through Flagstone or any other service, and regardless of any claims to the contrary.

We do need to make it clear that literally any deliberate link-building, for any website, is technically outside of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This means that unless your only means of acquiring links is to publish content on your website, and hope that others find it somehow, and link to it – you are then attempting to manipulate your rankings yourself.

And once you start taking charge of your own SEO, and actively acquiring backlinks – even from the most legitimate methods or sources – there is risk. Generally speaking, it’s a very low risk, but there is risk nonetheless.

What we have found from years of experience in the SEO space, as well as with extensive testing in the current SEO climate (Post-Penguin, Post-Panda, etc.), is that the best way to insulate a site against manual spam actions, or wild ranking fluctuations, is to take the following steps:

  • Make sure your on-page SEO is solid. Fast load times, engaging content. Onsite SEO is actually a very potent signal in today’s current climate.
  • Know your domain’s history. Even if you’ve bought a “brand new” domain, it may have been used at some point in the past – and that means that it might still have a remnant backlink profile. If it does, and you see some red flags come up – it’s probably best to use another domain.
  • Diversity is key. Even the “best” type of backlink is going to raise flags if it comprises the majority of your overall backlink portfolio. The key is to build a diverse spread of links, with a number of different methods and platforms, and in many different ways. Every site is going to have a few questionable links – it’s inevitable. This includes major authority sites. But what insulates a site is the sheer volume and diversity of link sources across the board. That way, those “bad” links are just a drop in the ocean, from a search engine perspective.
  • Avoid obvious anchor optimization. If you’ve read up on the recent “Penguin” algorithm update, then you probably already know that Google is now reducing exposure for sites that have obviously focused on a specific keyword or keyword theme, as determined by the site’s backlink profile.

Carefully consider your target vertical. Some keywords, and markets in general, are just too competitive to secure any kind of consistent ranking without being very aggressive. While Flagstone can – to some extent – support or partially support an aggressive campaign, the fact is that competing in these markets requires a very different mindset.

In reality, the only way to be totally “white hat” in your SEO efforts is to go to adwords.google.com and buy all your traffic from them because that’s what Google would want you to do. When you embark on the SEO journey, you have to enter into it with the caveat that that it carries risk.

That said, SEO is still the highest ROI in the world of online traffic.

This depends on the site we are given to work with and the requirements to reach the top positions. A 5 page site in a low competition area will obviously take less time than a 300 page site competing for highly competitive terms. Generally speaking however, an average promotion (20 page website with moderate competition) would take approximately 2 weeks for site-optimization, a month or so for link-building and up to 3 months or so to attain rankings. You will undoubtedly see improvements after just the optimization alone however the added weight of the incoming links won’t be applied for a month or so after they are established. There are hundreds of factors that determine where your site will rank in relation to the other sites competing for ranking. We will work within the constraints of your budget to achieve top ranking as quickly as possible. Some of our clients have seen incredible results within the first couple weeks of implementing our recommendations, and for some clients it can take up to a year to achieve top ranking, if ever.

SEOs have many opinions of what works and what does not. They are often just parroting what someone else has told them or what they read in an online forum. What works for us is based upon experience and tried-and-true methodologies we are somewhat secretive about. Read more about how our SEO process works.

One aspect of the SEO industry that is a constant issue for businesses and SEO professionals alike is the prevalence of poor-quality companies that tout things like “1st page in Google guaranteed” services. These companies have a burn-and-churn business model with immediate results but no long-term stability. It’s a problem, and it gives search engine optimization a bad reputation.

SEO companies that only look at rankings do not care about the long-term viability of your business. Flagstone ultimately cares most about the bigger-picture conversion metrics such as sales, revenue, and calls generated from our campaigns.

Some more questions?

There are no secrets.¹ We feature a high level of transparency and share all our knowledge and ranking activities by way of simple and clean reporting that is accessible to all of our clients on demand 24/7.

Flagstone employs a set of highly effective and innovative link building tactics that follow common sense and comply with the best SEO practices as outlined by major search engines.

We’re selective and prefer to research our link opportunities before making contact to ensure our conversations with you are productive. Good results are achieved with the right balance of creativity and hard work. Patience, as they say, is a virtue.

¹ Okay, so as it turns out, we actually do have a few secrets. There are a lot of things Flagstone does that other SEO companies have no idea about it, and we wouldn’t want to give up these strategies that have been hard-won with years of experience. However, these are the sorts of things that are nefarious or would be any risk to your website.

Yes. Flagstone provides monthly reports that go way beyond rankings — we track unique monthly visits from search engines, search engine share, pages indexed, website authority, back link count, competitor data, and most importantly, conversions.

Determine your potential return on investment. Online marketing tactics help bring more traffic and business to your site, raising your revenue. There is always a need for online marketing; however, be sure your provider is presenting you with quantifiable results.
Yes, Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, and Bing Webmaster Tools are included in all of our SEO projects. If you choose a campaign longer than 4 months, you will receive our inbound marketing analytics package.

The first thing we’ll have to do is determine whether you’re under a Panda or Penguin penalty.

Sites that get penalized by Google’s Panda algorithm get hit for one of two reasons: thin content, or duplicate content. This means that your web pages are not very descriptive, informative, or are copies of other pages on your site (or worse, other websites). This kind of penalty is the easier one to recover from, as it’s controlled internally and Google’s updates occur more frequently. We’ll begin recovery by doing thorough keyword research, determining the needed focus for your web pages. We can then generate quality content and make sure each page is properly optimized and hitting all the marks of a good web page according to Google’s standards.

If your site was suddenly hit hard and your rankings dropped dramatically, odds are that it’s related to Google’s Penguin algorithm. This is the most difficult penalty to recover from, and unfortunately, often the most common. Poor quality SEO firms typically add a website to private blog networks, low-quality (or fake) directories, and fake websites in an effort to trick the search engine into thinking your website is popular. This used to work quite well, and even today, some companies see immediate results – but it’s not a long-lived solution. The Penguin algorithm eventually catches up, devalues the sites, and penalizes websites that use these tactics. In an extreme case, you’ll receive a manual action – pretty much the “kiss of death.”

In order to recover from this kind of penalty, we have to go through the process of gathering a list of all the links that point to your site, and begin to get them removed from their hosts. This sometimes works, but often, we’re unable to communicate with the various webmasters, as all of the websites were fake to begin with. The company that charged you to post those links is not very motivated to then remove them for free. So while we work on those removals, we’ll also disavow the links with Google – basically telling the search engine not to count those links when evaluating your site.

Carlton has been consulting in the field of SEO since 2007.

Contact me for a free consultation and website audit.