Our Story: The Wild West of Search Engine Marketing

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

With few online marketing companies in the industry, and only a handful of rules, SEO pioneers found that it was relatively easy to get a site to the top of search engine results. “Black Hat” (non-ethical) SEO practices were common, and “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,” and getting to the top of the list required both in-depth technological expertise and ethical SEO practices. The “White Hat” search engine marketing specialists 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 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. Not only did these experiences build a versatile skill set, they also shared a common quality: a relentless drive for results in a constantly changing environment. Bev soon realized that the SEO 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 an Online Marketing Company

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 online marketing, and the demand for SEO would skyrocket in the coming decade. In 2006, Bev founded Top of the List. It was the first company of its kind in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area.

Staking a Claim in Ethical SEO

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 company grew, Bev found that her three founding principles were truly anchors in a world of rapidly changing technologies:

  • Knowledge: From the beginning, Bev and her staff of search engine marketing specialists have been in the vanguard of SEO development – attending conferences, reading books, and researching on an ongoing basis.
  • Customer focus: As more SEO businesses 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 practitioners were purely technical, Bev found that a combination of “soft skills” and marketing expertise were essential so that the finished product reflected the customer’s vision and style, while still maintaining a rock-solid technical foundation.
  • Timing: Keeping up with a changing marketplace, the company has added Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising, Local Search Optimization (LSO), and Social Media consulting to its list of services.

A New Sheriff in Town

Today, Top Of The List is Grand Rapids, Michigan’s longest established SEO firm in the field. The online marketing company 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.