Our Story: How Top Of The List Went From Lone Ranger to Pioneering Digital Marketing Agency

The Beginning: The Wild West of Search Engine Marketing

In the mid-1990s, the Internet was new, uncharted territory — and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) was the Wild West.

With few SEO agencies in the industry and only a handful of rules, pioneers in the field found that it was relatively easy to get a website to the top of search engine results. “Black Hat” (non-ethical) SEO practices were common. “White Hat” marketers that valued ethical SEO techniques and quality content faced an uphill battle.

An SEO Showdown

It wasn’t long before search engines realized that no rules meant bad business: if customers couldn’t find what they needed in their search results, they would go somewhere else. The search engines began to thwart the “Black Hats.” Getting to the top of the list required both in-depth technological expertise and ethical SEO practices. The “White Hat” SEO agencies were winning — but becoming one was harder than ever.

New Frontiers

Around that time, Top of the List founder Beverly Mapes was completing a degree in Computer Information Systems. One afternoon as she sat in the computer lab of Grand Valley State University. She gazed spellbound at a satellite photo of the Earth that had been taken just moments before. Instantly, she realized two things. First, that the internet could open up possibilities never before imagined for ordinary people, groups, and businesses. Second, that she was awestruck—and hooked!

In the new millennium, Bev pursued jobs in internet support and sales, software test engineering, and both traditional and internet marketing. These experiences not only helped her build a versatile skill set, but they also shared a common quality: a relentless drive for results in a constantly changing environment. Bev soon realized that the search engine optimization field was a natural match for her talents. Most importantly, she foresaw the changes that would turn SEO into a true marketing science.

Golden Opportunity: Starting a Digital Marketing Agency

Finally, Bev knew that the moment was right. She had armed herself with a triple-threat combination: knowledge (gained from educators, job experience, and gifted mentors), a customer focus, and good timing.

Businesses were just starting to realize the importance of digital marketing (more commonly referred to as online marketing or internet marketing back then). The demands for SEO would skyrocket in the coming decade. Bev founded Top of the List in 2006. It was the first SEO agency in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area.

Staking a Claim in Ethical SEO Services

With a mission to help businesses succeed, Top of the List began offering custom, ethical SEO services to a handful of clients — mostly small business owners like Bev. As the agency grew, Bev found that her three founding principles were truly anchors in a world of rapidly changing technologies:

  • Knowledge: Bev and her staff of digital marketing specialists have been in the vanguard of SEO development from the beginning – attending conferences, reading books, and researching on an ongoing basis.
  • Customer focus: As more demand for SEO services cropped up, Bev quickly realized that Top of the List’s greatest asset was its ability to customize and adapt to customer needs. Whereas some SEO agencies were purely technical, Bev found that a combination of “soft skills” and marketing expertise was essential. Top Of The List would always ensure the finished product reflected the customer’s vision and marketing style, while still maintaining a rock-solid technical SEO foundation for search engines.
  • Timing: The SEO agency has added Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising, Local Search Optimization (LSO), and Social Media consulting to its list of services over the years, transforming into a full-service digital marketing agency. Specific niche strategies within these services, such as schema markup and voice search optimization, have also been added to keep up with a changing marketplace.

A New Sheriff in Town

Today, Top Of The List is Grand Rapids, Michigan’s longest established SEO agency. The digital marketing agency has spent the better part of a decade growing and excelling in a discipline that didn’t even exist 20 years ago. Beverly takes pride in providing custom, ethical SEO services that help her clients become sales leaders.

Now that’s pioneering.