If you’re starting a new company, you know that online business is the cornerstone for many new companies. Creating a great website, making waves on social media, and ranking in Google searches is how your company goes from obscurity to the stratosphere. But you also know that you have no idea how to make that happen. You might have heard of SEO – search engine optimization – but you’re not entirely sure how that relates to your website.
You can find articles that claim to tell you how to do it all yourself for free, but they’re calling Google animal names (Panda? Penguin? What is even happening?) and you’re a little lost.
But on one of the sites you see an ad for an SEO company that promises to do all the work for you and guarantees you a spot on the first page of Google search results. All you need to do is pay them, and your business will take off before you know it. Is that guarantee something you can trust?
The answer is, no. Let’s talk about why.
Search Engines Specifically Warn Against Guaranteed SEO Results
Google has said specifically, for years now, that absolutely no one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google. Google doesn’t have a priority submission system and does not have special relationships with any companies. Their ranking algorithms are specifically kept secretive to avoid people gaming the system, and to make sure that the top rankings are as organic as possible.
Rankings Are By Definition Unstable
Ten years ago, there were very simple formulas (relatively) that a company could use to figure out how to get a page to the top of the search results. Keyword stuffing and link building were the norm.
Now, as computers and GPS have gotten more sophisticated, your search results page is influenced by your location, the device you’re using, what you searched for earlier today, and what you searched for last month. Two people searching the same query might see dramatically different results. No company can make hard guarantees in that environment.
Overall, Search Engine Rankings Are Not a Useful Metric
The ranking of your page overall doesn’t tell a company whether they’ll hit their sales goals, or whether their new product will be a success, or even whether people are staying on their page long enough to read their content. Even page views do not necessarily convert into sales.
Raising your rankings is a means to an end, getting more eyes on your page, but without the content and product to back up the ranking, even the #1 ranked company is going to fail.
Companies Which Guarantee Rankings are Promising Something They Can’t Deliver
What a company should promise you when they offer to optimize your website for SEO is increased page view, increased conversions, and longer time spent on pages, reading and viewing content. These are all things they can control, by researching keywords, making sure they’re used in particular ways, and generating good, interesting content that engages readers.
Rankings, however, are outside of their control, because they don’t control either the search algorithms, or the other websites on the Internet. Any time a company promises you something that is outside of its physical control, you should be very cautious.
Should You Trust Any Guarantees From an SEO Company?
So we agree that no SEO firm worth its experience will offer a guarantee to put a company at a particular ranking on Google’s pages of results. Are there any guarantees that you should trust from an SEO company?
First, realize that some experts refuse to use the word “guarantee” anymore, because of its negative history within the SEO marketing community. But some companies do still offer certain guarantees. You might hear:
- If you follow our advice, your site traffic will increase. This is probably a safe guarantee, but realize that if the company offers any piece of advice that you choose not to take, the statement is basically void. If a company is offering you this, you should talk more about what they mean by site traffic. How will it be measured, what will be the baseline, and how long will the increase last?
- You will be satisfied with our work. This is more promising because a company that makes this sort of guarantee is usually accustomed to creating more in-depth promises, and working until customers are satisfied. Ask for references from other satisfied customers, or to see a before and after portfolio to judge for yourself before signing the contract.
- The work we do will not cause you to be penalized by search engines. This is actually a big promise, so big that you should walk away from any company that can’t make it. There are very specific tactics that used to work to increase Google rankings, but using them now will cause sites to be flagged as spammy or low quality, and cause your ranking to drop. If a company doesn’t seem to know what these tactics are, you should pass on them and look for another SEO firm.
Like choosing any other freelance company or contractor, SEO experts should be experts at what they’re doing. In general, you get what you pay for, and if a company is promising something that seems far too good to be true, it probably is. Like any contract, you should be very clear what you’re agreeing to before you make a payment or work begins.
With SEO, it’s worth paying a little extra attention. Recovering from major search engine penalties can take more time and effort than you want to put in.