Search engine optimization, or SEO, isn’t a one and done process. It’s constantly changing. If you want your small businesses to be competitive, you need to keep pace with SEO best practices. Those key words, original content and authority outbound links might have been spot on last month (or last year). However, your competition isn’t sitting still and you can’t either.

This is especially true if you’re in an industry, and have a website, with new and improved processes or gadgets. For example, if you operate an ecommerce fulfillment services company and you can’t remember the last time your SEO got an overhaul, you’re probably already out of date.

And if you’ve never tackled SEO at all, hiring ongoing SEO services is the best thing you can do to be and stay visible. For newbies to SEO, there’s a reason Googling “dog grooming services Houston” brings up certain results—SEO. Studies have shown that most people don’t look beyond the first page of Google search results, and almost nobody looks past page one. Google’s algorithm, which is mimicked in all search engines, is always looking to match queries with the best results.

So how does Google define “best results?”

Hopefully, you have a spreadsheet of your SEO words and phrases to quickly assess. A highly-ranked website features these phrases organically placed in 100% original content. Regularly updated blogs and back links are also great tools. Spend a few minutes browsing your SEO phrases and blogs to see if it’s stale, and utilize Google’s Keyword Finder to see updated related key phrases in real-time.

Keywords have largely been replaced by “long-tail key phrases.” It’s impossible for almost anyone, especially small businesses, to compete with a key word like “shoes” or “books.” However, a long-tail phrase like “independent bookstore Medford, Oregon” is a lot easier (and better reflects what people actually type into Google).

New products, words and phrases are constantly trending, and if they’re not featured in your content, you’re not showing up in some searches at all. If your blogs are boasting outdated information, what is that saying to your readers and Google?

What Can You Lose?

It takes a lot of work, time and sometimes money to get your SEO rankings up. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that you’ll stay there—or even get there. If an SEO company promises you’ll be ranked first for key phrases, run. Some SEO companies practice “black hat tricks” that initially shoot your site up the rankings, but Google is fantastic at catching these unethical practices. You might get penalized, or even removed from searches entirely.

Google demands commitment for prime positioning, and you have to play by their rules. If you slip, you’ll lose visibility and customers. However, Google isn’t wholly transparent with what they want in SEO. That’s why a quality SEO company is critical for SEO success. It’s an investment, but one that can do wonders for your rankings.