If you operate a business that also has a website to support business lead generation or sales, then you’ve probably also faced the challenges of getting ranked in Google for what you offer. Most Google users don’t go beyond page 1 in search results, so there’s a clear relationship between getting new business from Google search and your business’s ability to be found on page 1.
As a small business owner it can sometimes be a challenge to find a digital marketing company you can trust and there are many ways you can find industry connections. For example, you could be referred to a company by word of mouth, and that’s often a great way to get connected to a quality provider. Many business owners may use Google to find a local provider, and some may use independent industry ratings to select their provider.
If you were looking for plumbing services in Google, there is probably no direct relationship between the rank position of the plumber’s website versus the plumber’s ability to provide quality plumbing services. After all, the plumber at the top of Google search probably paid an SEO provider to help them get there. On the other hand, SEO providers know all about getting ranked, so you might agree that their rank position in Google search is probably a very good indicator of how good they are at their job?
The Search Engine Optimisation industry is quite unique when compared to other industries in Google search, because it’s an industry that is comprised of people who actively work on Google ranking as part of their business model and product delivery, day in and day out. That makes it one of the most competitive industries to achieve Google page 1 rank, and arguably the best place to find the best providers.
If you are looking for independent industry ratings for SEO providers, then it’s likely you will come across a company called “Top SEOs”. This company provides country-level rankings for SEO service providers. Their ranking system includes a company profile, client base, annual turnover data, pricing levels and so on, plus an indicator on how each company is trending in those results. SEO agencies are rated on a monthly basis, so results are kept current. The purpose of this article is to compare the industry rating company “Top SEOs” with Google search results.
Top SEOs advertise their top 10 rankings very clearly as: “Best, top 10 search engine optimization companies in New Zealand” – screen shot attached. Here’s the current rating list: http://www.topseos.com/nz/best-seo-companies-in-new-zealand
We tested against 8 commercially relevant keyword phrases: ‘seo services’, ‘seo experts’, ‘seo agency nz’, ‘seo’, ‘seo company nz’, ‘seo Auckland’, ‘seo consultant’ and ‘search engine optimisation’. These are some of the phrases that a Google user might use to search for these types of service provider. The ranking test was performed using the Advanced Web Ranking cloud application. This is an application that searches systematically using incognito mode to ensure the rank positions are represented without a local or user bias. For more info on AWR visit: https://www.advancedwebranking.com/ . We are not affiliated with AWR in any way, so this can be regarded as a fairly trustworthy view of Google rank.
*To score their overall relative position we’ve given each website points out of 100. For 1st position rank on all words they get 100 points, and for every rank position they drop per word, they lose points. A website that didn’t rank in the top 50 for any of the keywords gets 0 points as the baseline. This way there is an easy to rank % score at the end of each row. This isn’t exactly indicative as some sites may have gotten ranked at 51st position and still get 0% score, but for the scale of 1st-50th rank against 100-0% it works fine. A site that ranks #1 in Google organic search for all of the keyword phrases in the list would get a 100% score, but that scenario is unlikely.
Let’s check out how the Top SEOs Top 10 list for November 2015 fared when compared to current Google search results for November 2015:
I thought it would be interesting to compare the ratings from Top SEOs for November 2015 with how well those sites ranked in Google search for industry-related keywords. Presumably, there is a correlation between their sites’ rating and their ability to be found by organic search in Google, since they are top rated and skilled providers in the industry.
Here are the 10 websites in the Top 10 rating list from Top SEOs:
- VJG Interactive http://www.vjginteractive.com/
- SureFire Search http://www.surefiresearch.com/
- Online Advantage http://www.onlineadvantage.co.nz/
- Alkemi New Zealand Ltd http://www.alkemi.co.nz/
- Search Masters http://www.searchmasters.co.nz/
- Apex Internet Ltd http://www.apexinternet.co.nz/
- Zeevo http://www.zeevo.co.nz/
- Eternity http://www.eternity.co.nz/
- First Rate Limited http://www.firstrate.co.nz/
- Search Media http://searchmedia.co.nz/
The first observation from this list that strikes us as being unusual is that the #1 Top SEOs rated agency for Search Engine Optimisation in New Zealand doesn’t operate in New Zealand. Their website claims offices in the USA, UK, Canada and Australia.
The poor performance in this test seems puzzling. After all, these sites are the top 10 rated in New Zealand and are all experts in the field of Search Engine Optimisation so presumably know how to optimise their own website. With the exception of SureFire Search (scoring 29%) and Search Masters (scoring 44%), the results suggest they either haven’t optimised their own sites or weren’t able to get organic rank for other reasons. Considering these companies are in the business of SEO I also presume they would see that getting organic rank is an important part of their overall marketing strategy, so they are probably disappointed with these results.
The results also show that there must be other websites occupying these rank positions in Google search, so it led me to doing a ranking test on an extended selection of SEO agencies. I had a quick check of Google search results, plus added some of the agencies listed in the Google Partners directory to extract some of the top names in the industry.
Here’s how the extended list went:
From this second table you can see that there are several websites that hold strong ranking positions from the poole of sites I tested against. There are also some big names in the industry who are not ranking in the top 50 for any of the tested keyword phrases. Only one website from the list (ours: http://www.seoservices.net.nz ) ranks in the top 50 for all of the keyword phrases.
Combining the two ranking tables into a single graph and sorting based on the Score* value we discover that the highest performing Top SEOs top 10 rated website (Search Masters – rated #5) lands in 9th place, and their next site (SureFire Search – rated #2) lands in 16th place.
The possible conclusion that we can draw from this is that the Top SEOs rated websites are not particularly strong at gaining Google rank themselves, so their rating at Top SEOs is related to something else. Without delving into full site analyses for each of the Top SEOs rated sites we can’t report much more than that, but it did have us wondering how Top SEOs rates the agencies in the first place, so we decided to investigate how their rating system viewed the websites that Google ranked in the top 5.
This is what Top SEOs reports as their ranking methodology:
“At topseos.com we evaluate and rank online marketing companies in order to identify the best companies offering a variety of services and software solutions. We have created our proprietary methodology for identifying the best online marketing companies and ranking them based on their merits and competitive advantages. This method takes into consideration the changing nature of online marketing as a whole.
Our first step in ensuring a thorough evaluation is performed is to begin with a thorough analysis of a vendor’s services or software offerings. During our analysis our research team spends time gathering information about each vendor including information about their clients, the average size of their campaigns, and the professionals involved in producing services or improving upon their existing offerings. We also spend time analyzing reports, client feedback, and other metrics critical to the success of campaigns for the services we evaluate or the tools and software we are introduced to.
We have crafted our evaluation process in order to take into consideration the specific factors which make each service or software category which we evaluate different from others. During our evaluation process our research team identifies the key strengths, weaknesses, and competitive advantages of each vendor particular to an area of service or software. This is done in order to benchmark that particular vendor within that particular area. Our evaluation process for search engine optimization companies is different from our evaluation process for pay per click management companies. Each process has a different approach and each vendor is benchmarked different in their different core services. A company capable of producing exceptional SEO campaigns is not automatically assumed to be the best pay per click management or reputation management company.
Awards & Recognition
We also take into consideration a variety of industry awards, accomplishments, and achievements which are distributed through conference events and competitions. Due to our activity within the online marketing industry and our partnerships with conference organizers and training resources we remain aware of the latest developments and achievements of top performing online marketing companies and software vendors in the industry. The vendors we recommend are often those providers offering whitepapers, case studies, and training sessions among other assets to the online marketing industry as a whole.
We believe the activity of a vendor within the industry outside of the services and software they produce is also a common indicator of a leader compared to that of a follower. We spend time investigating how involved an online marketing agency or software vendor is at conference events, in publications, and in ensuring the growth of expansion of the online marketing industry as a whole. The more active the vendor is within their particular niche in addition to the industry as a whole, the more likely they are to establish their brand as a leader and innovator within the industry.
Many businesses express a legitimate concern about selecting online marketing companies. As a result, we take into consideration numerous warning factors during our research to ensure the vendors we are recommending are the vendors which take seriously their role as a leading vendor of the services and software which we evaluate. Many of the warning signs which we take into consideration include a pattern of laying off sections of their workforce, decreased advertising spending, and a decrease in the rate of acquiring new clients. Many of these warning signs are used in order to identify problematic elements or providers in order to ensure our list of recommended vendors contains those with a long-term dedication to the industry.”
Quoted from Top SEOs http://www.topseos.com/evaluation-methods/
Checking how Google’s top 10 were reported in Top SEOs, here’s what we discovered:
- SEO Services http://www.seoservices.net.nz was not rated on Top SEOs at all.
- Pure SEO http://www.pureseo.co.nz was not rated for Search Engine Optimisation but does hold ratings for Link Building
- Emagic http://www.emagic.co.nz was not rated for Search Engine Optimisation but does hold ratings for being an SEO reseller
- Aplus SEO http://www.aplus.net.nz was not rated on Top SEOs at all.
- Just SEO http://www.justseo.co.nz was not rated on Top SEOs at all.
- Clickthrough Web Design http://www.clickthroughwebdesign.co.nz appears in the Top SEOs database but was not rated on Top SEOs at all.
- Writeahead http://www.writeahead.co.nz was not rated on Top SEOs at all.
- Results First http://www.resultsfirst.co.nz held a #1 rating for Search Engine Optimisation in September 2015 but is primarily listed with Top SEOs as a Web Design Company.
- Search Masters http://www.searchmasters.co.nz are listed twice. Once as a company with <10 employees doing under $250,000 p.a. in trade and also as a company of 26+ employees doing $5-10million p.a. in trade and their website shows they have 2 employees: http://www.searchmasters.co.nz/about/
- First Digital http://www.firstdigital.co.nz was not rated on Top SEOs at all.
From this check we see that 8 out of 10 of Google’s top ranked sites don’t have ratings on Top SEOs for performing Search Engine Optimisation, plus the one Top SEOs rated site for November 2015 has a double listing with conflicting company information. Also, the listing for Results First as a Top SEOs website design company seems unusual. On investigation, the company has done website design but examples in their portfolio are not from New Zealand businesses and appear to be Australian, so a New Zealand rating as a Website Design company here seems odd too.
Now we have to wonder how one goes about getting rated by Top SEOs for Search Engine Optimisation as it doesn’t seem to be related to ability to perform Search Engine Optimisation on one’s own website, so we decided to apply for a rating.
Here’s what we discovered:
You have to pay to get rated.
Here’s an article we discovered on a highly reputable SEO related website Searchengineland.com: http://searchengineland.com/topseos-banned-google-205622. This article was written as a response to the removal of the Top SEOs website from Google search in 2014.
TopSEOs: “We Have Not Been Banned By Google”
It appears that Google has de-indexed two of the company’s domains.
By Matt McGee on October 10, 2014 at 4:47 pm
Despite Google apparently dropping two of its domains this week, TopSEOs denies that it has been banned and says it’s in contact with Google to discuss the situation.
On Wednesday, Mark Jackson at Vizion Interactive posted that TopSEOs had been deindexed in Google’s search results. Sure enough, Google searches that day for site:topseos.com returned no results, and the domain still appears to be gone from Google’s index.
After this happened, the company moved its website to a new domain, topseosglobal.com, which I saw was being indexed by Google on Thursday. But sometime in the past 24 hours or so, Google de-indexed that domain, as well.
After that, TopSEOs began using a third domain, topseos-global.com. As of about 11:00 am PT today, that domain was showing close to 700 URLs in Google’s index.
TopSEOs: We’re Not Banned
In an email exchange today, TopSEOs CEO Jeev Trika gave us this statement saying that the company hasn’t been banned:
We have not been “banned” by Google and we are now in direct contact with them regarding this matter.
We’ve also contacted Google twice since Wednesday, but both times the company declined to comment on why TopSEOs’ domains no longer appear in Google’s search results. That’s not unusual; Google rarely comments on individual cases such as this.
Trika declined to answer our questions about whether or not TopSEOs received any kind of penalty notice in Google Webmaster Tools. But he did give us an explanation on the domain/website switches this week:
We are being targeted by someone reporting to Google with ulterior motives and therefore are required to change the domain name until Google gets a chance to review the facts.
TopSEOs, which claims to review SEO agencies and issues monthly ratings that are often used as marketing collateral by highly-rated companies, has had issues raised about its operations for years.
Postscript, Monday, November 10: As several readers have pointed out to us, the topseos.com domain is once again appearing in Google’s search index.
by Matt McGee
We really have to wonder what relevance we can assign to any ratings issued by Top SEOs. The evidence above tells us that Top SEOs’ top rated Search Engine Optimisation experts in New Zealand don’t or can’t demonstrate their ability in relation to their own website, plus the questionable nature of some of the information in the ratings doesn’t instill confidence in the data. It’s also worth noting that Google doesn’t make a habit of removing websites from search results without good cause and ‘good cause’ tends to be in relation to issues around safety or legality.
Our advice? If you’re operating a small business and need to hire an SEO expert, forget Tops SEOs ratings and check Google search for companies that can rank themselves first. If they can do that then they probably have a good shot of helping you get there too.