How we went from launching to #1 on Google in 5 months (#1 AND #2 in 8 months)

[Preface: We provide SEO services for our clients, so why are we giving away this playbook for free? The answer is simple – we love startups and small businesses! Our hope is that you find this advice helpful enough that you decide to hire us for your next SEO, web, design, or creative project. If the consequence of posting this is that we help empower startups and small businesses for free, then we can live with that.]

It’s no secret that the importance of Search Engine Optimization is skyrocketing, but what you may not realize is that you don’t need thousands of dollars, a dedicated team, or any development experience to radically improve your rankings. In fact, with zero formal education in SEO, we were able to take from scratch to the very first (local Boulder/Denver) result for “web design companies” in just 5 months, and both the #1 and #2 spots in 8 months. In this blog post, I’ll share the quick, effective, and low-cost tips and tricks I’ve picked up and used myself.

  1. Take Aim

    Your first step is to do some digging on search trends using the keyword planner at It’s free, and it will tell you how often different keywords and phrases are being searched in different regions of the country. If you’re new to Adwords and the keyword planner, I would highly recommend searching “adwords keyword planner” on youtube, you’ll find quite a few how-to videos to get you started.

  2. Who are you and why should I care?

    Once you know what words and phrases you want to rank for, start optimizing your pages for them. You’ll want to set up the title tag and meta description for each page (what shows up in the Google results page) to be keyword rich and provide a compelling reason why visitors should click on your link rather than those surrounding it.

    With your keywords identified for each page, it’s time to re-think some of your content and titles. Make sure your pages are using the keywords and phrases that you want to be listed for, and Google’s search algorithms love to see keywords used in <h#>header</h#> tags and <strong>bold</strong> tags. Ideally, your focused keyword(s) for a page will be consistently used in the following: article heading, page title, page URL, content, and meta description.

    WordPress has several great (and free) SEO plugins, such as SEO by Yoast and SEO Ultimate, that will go a long way to start indexing your pages properly and setting you up with some great tools to make these jobs easier.

  3. Show off!

    Now that you have your SEO fundamentals baked into your site, it’s time to show it off to Google and begin tracking your wins and losses. Create a google analytics account, submit your sitemap so the respective search engines, and start familiarizing yourself with their tools for analyzing your traffic patterns.

  4. Why re-invent the wheel when you can stand on the shoulders of giants?

    Each site is different and there will always be a never ending lists of possible tweaks you can/should make – whether it’s improving your keyword density, decreasing your load time, or integrating your social media channels. To generate a simple check-list of sorts, I highly recommend following the instructions from Yoast and SEO Ultimate on how best to utilize their tools, and then running your site through an SEO evaluation service such as The free version will go a long way to point out things that you’re doing wrong and possible areas for improvement. Walk down that list and start making their revisions one by one.

  5. Strap a jetpack-wearing cheetah onto your campaign

    Everything I’ve mentioned should take you less than a day to do and do well, but you’ll want to give it a good couple of weeks to allow the search engines to crawl your site and for everything to take effect. Once you’re ready to move on, you can look at paying for some help. One particularly great service we’ve used is called The HOTH. What they do is simple – trick search engines into thinking your site has gone viral. They write blog posts and share them back and fourth between their own network of hundreds of blogging and social media sites(none of which ever hits the public’s eyes), but as far as the Google algorithm is concerned – you have one popular website.

    **NOTE: Recent SEO studies have indicated that ‘link farms’, such as The HOTH, are being cracked down on by Google. I’m sure The HOTH is doing whatever they can to stay ahead of the curve, but please make sure to do your own research before committing to anything!

  6. Convert traffic into customers.

    You can get the whole world to your site, but unless viewers like what they see and feel compelled to purchase, it’s about as useful as a pen without ink. Here are 2 tools we highly recommend to evaluate how people are using your site:

    • Hoverlytics. It’s a great plugin for WordPress sites that shows specific analytics for each individual button/link on your site. If nobody cares about a link then you’ll want to rethink it’s appearance/location or consider dropping it entirely. If your google analytics account tells you that your ‘Services’ page is the 2nd most popular on your site, but hoverlytics shows few people are clicking on it from your homepage, it may be too difficult for people to find and you may want to consider repositioning it.
    • YouEye. They’ve built an eye-tracking tool to give you a chance to watch testers run through your site/platform and track just how “user friendly” it truly is. If you can’t figure out where people are dropping off or getting stuck in a signing up for your application or evaluating your product/service, spend the money to get some fresh eyes and objective evaluations.
  7. Quit making excuses – get sh!t done

    Feeling intimidated by the tech knowledge required for these steps? Overwhelmed by the time required? Already making excuses to yourself about why you can’t take these steps? Stop it, stop it right now. Put your headphones on with this song, grab a cup of coffee, and set your status to ‘do not disturb’.

    A few hours is all it takes to get up and running, and it ain’t rocket surgery. Succeeding with your Search Engine Optimization is no different than succeeding in any other facet of your business or personal life – you have to show up if you want to play at all, and the fortune favors those who bust their ass day in and day out. If you consider failure as an option or tend to watch cat videos over teaching yourself new skills, then you may as well start packing up your office and keeping an eye out for ‘now-hiring’ signs at McDonalds.

The true masters of SEO/SEM, social media marketing, and UI/UX love showing off their knowledge and sharing advice. If you get stuck, then get clarity by asking yourself “why are we here,” then slapping on your MacGyver hat and finding a way to start getting sh!t done. 

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  • Johnf274

    Very efficiently written post. It will be valuable to anyone who usess it, as well as myself. Keep doing what you are doing i will definitely read more posts.

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