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“They can call me crazy if I fail, all the chance that I need, is one in a million and they can call me brilliant if I succeed.” ~ Ani Difranco

I was driving into work early this morning, enjoying the stunning colors of a Phoenix sunrise here in Arizona. I was wandering through my morning routine of coffee, breakfast and opening up the office to prepare for the day to come. I am usually the second person to work every morning, but today I had arrived early. I typically get a chance to browse the news on the Internet or to answer questions in the WordPress help forums to kick start my brain into high gear before the office starts to fill up. This morning, however, I was still wrestling with what seemed like a million numbers that had been weaving in and out of my dreams throughout the night.

The One in a Million Mission

Seven months ago, I was tasked by my employers to review the current state of SEO for the Davidson Belluso company website. I have a reputation for being good with numbers so it seemed like a logical choice. The very first place I went to was Alexa, one of the oldest and most trusted commercial web traffic data and analytics firms. I was excited about taking on the guardianship of the company’s SEO strategy and had spent that day and that night reviewing Google Analytics, Social Media Interactions, blog post content on our website as well as our basic on-site and off-site SEO. I was ready to answer my three questions.

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The Three Questions

For those of you who are not privy to the magical three questions, they seem pretty simple when you first learn them. The three questions are; “Where are we?”, “Where are we going?”, and “How do we get there?”. Armed with these questions, I set out to find exactly where we were. As I entered our domain into the Alexa system and pressed the enter key with great anticipation, I was devastated when I saw the results. We were not ranked at all in the top websites in the world and we were not ranked at all in the top websites in the United States.

A Brief History of Alexa

Alexa was originally designed as a search engine in April of 1996 By Brewset Kahle and Bruce Gilliat. The company chose its name in homage to the Library of Alexandria which was one of the largest repositories of knowledge about the ancient world. In 1999, when Amazon.com acquired Alexa.com for $250 million in Amazon stock, Alexa moved away from the search engine model and started providing web traffic and international rankings. Their goal was to become the leading authority on web traffic and website ranking. One of the latest features of Alexa was the ability for website owners to sign up to receive “certified statistics” by placing a simple block of Javascript code on their website.

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Getting Down to Business

Here I sat, a million miles away and right here all at the same time, attempting to figure out how we were not ranked in the Alexa system at all. In an instant, all of the numbers that had been floating around in my head all came together at the same time and I knew exactly where we were. I had to figure out where we were going and how we were going to get there.

Over the next few months, every single employee in our company got behind the SEO and SMO efforts that we had begun to define on that day seven months ago. We knew we wanted to rank on the first page of Google Search for specific keywords revolving around the advertising agency world. Every single person on staff was willing to sit through SEO training that, admittedly, is extremely dry material even to a one in a million geek such as myself. Team members were assigned blog articles. We assigned one member of the team to head up our social media efforts. We instituted a company wide metric tracking system that involved everything from profitability and performance all the way down to SEO engagements. We clearly defined the keywords we wanted to rank for and we set our sights on capturing a portion of the local search market.

Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months and we celebrated the battles we won and examined the battles we lost as we forged on through the SEO wars. Seven months passed and I found myself sitting here, at my computer that fateful morning, and I opened up Alexa. Somehow, through perseverance and dedication, we had managed to rank in Alexa and I was elated beyond belief. Not only did we rank in Alexa, but we were in the top five million websites in the world. Not only were we ranked world-wide, but we were in the top one million websites in the United States. Now, this seemed like a drop in the bucket until I did some research on internetlivestats.com and found that there were currently 1.046 Billion websites in the world as of 2016. Suddenly, I realized that we had become a one in a million company with a one in a million website.

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One in a Million

I could barely contain my excitement as I informed one of the owners that we had broken into the top one million websites in the United States and the top five million world-wide. Now, I need to be clear that we had not reached the end of our journey at all. In fact, you could say that it took us seven months to get to the starting point of our journey. We were excited about the credibility we received from the Alexa ranking as well as the affirmation that we had formulated the correct process for our team. More importantly, we had done this in a completely organic fashion and had not employed any type of paid traffic whatsoever. Suddenly, the hours of voraciously reading everything I could about SEO were paying off for our team.

Lessons Learned

The lessons I took from this exercise were as simple as the goals we laid out to accomplish. Always know where you are. Always wonder where you are going. Always develop a plan to get there. Never be afraid to fail and never fail to learn from your failures.

“If you want to succeed you must take action now and start learning from your failures. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t learn, what it means is that you need to implement what you learn and see what works best for you and your market.” – Garret Peirson – searchenginejournal.com

Bob Cristello

Bob joined Davidson Belluso with 30+ years working experience in web development. Born and raised in Boston, Bob is a U.S. Army veteran. His resume includes being a former Microsoft Developer Days keynote speaker, Head of Internal Development for Rebar International, Team Lead at Sally Mae and the Head of Computer Sciences at the Hyde School. Bob's articles on technology have appeared in Visual Basic Programmers Journal, Byte, InfoWorld and Computer Telephony. His skill set includes database design, complex SQL query design, and an impressive list of CMS software with a focus on WordPress. Bob handles clients Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Social Media Optimization (SMO) and Digital Advertising, holding all six Google Analytics and Adwords certifications. Bob loves spending time with his family, enjoys the performing arts and plays several instruments.