Can You Get First Place With SEO?
In a way, this is a trick question... or at least, the answer may not be what you would expect from an SEO company. The simple answer is "yes," but since you are asking it, let me focus on the more complex answer that you didn't expect to get.
Getting Found on Google with SEO
Using SEO to get found on Google is imperative to online success. Many small businesses get lost when it comes to what to do to get their business found online. Beyond our actual clients, we work with many small businesses with Google, as well as for other organizations whom we partner with. We have been able to help these businesses, and also learn from them. Many of the companies that we work with have come to us because they are either a new small business, or have recently had problems getting found on Google or search engines in general.
In our experience, as marketing professionals doing this since the early 1990's, your worst enemy usually isn't your competitors; it's often you. I hate pointing the finger at you, because 'you' are reading this (thank you). But there is a certain expectation held by many business owners that can keep them from greatness. It's not wanting to be 1st place on Google which hurt your chances of ranking high on Google. Rather, it's often the obsession over this question which causes the harm.
Prioritize Your SEO Marketing Budget
As a business owner, one of my first thoughts with any new venture would be how to get the website and business ranked on the top of the search engines. That's a necessity for any business. But I would come up with realistic goals. Our company offers many services. We can't rank at the top of Google for each and every marketing service that we offer. We have to dedicate most of our time towards the areas we want to rank the highest, and focus on those keywords to reach our goals. We also have to focus on how those keywords actually work in the real world.
We have worked with some who instead want to come up first place for each and every product or service they offer. Furthermore, they also want each and every variation of their keywords to help get them exposure. If for example, you offer photography, you could do whatever it takes to rank high, but in order to rank high with something like "business photography," you need to figure out what will help get you there; and how important is that term locally, and nationally.
For example, if you offer Google Street View Tours (as we do), do you want someone across the country to pull up your website, or are you focused on getting local customers? For us, we care most about Dover, NH and the surrounding region for this particular service. For some products or services, especially SEO, we would obviously want to be found both locally and nationally. For others, we prioritize based on the time needed to achieve that goal.
As a business owner, you need to prioritize your marketing budget in order to get actual results. Remember, SEO takes time; if you want to rank for 50 terms both locally and nationally, you can't expect anyone to do that for you for a few hundred dollars, as it takes dozens of hours per month in some cases, so your goals need to take your budget and time into consideration.
1st Place Keywords
This is not meant to discourage anyone, but rather to make sure you set realistic goals based on your time and/or budget. Too many times we have met small business owners that want to rank 1st place for each and every keyword in each and every city. This is not only a lofty goal, but can sometimes be a futile one without the right resources. Beyond that, even the most widely recognized national SEO company cannot guarantee placement through search engine optimization or any other means, for that matter.
TLDR: Yes, you can get first place on Google and other search engines by prioritizing, but no company, not even the best SEO company, can guarantee that.