Reasons Why Ranking Guarantees are Bogus
Want an SEO Guarantee? Then spend your money on Google AdWords or Bing Advertising. I know this sounds harsh. Bear with me. In this post I’ll explain: 1) why Google frowns on it 2) why guarantees are unethical and 3) what businesses should really ask when hiring an SEO agency.
Search Engine Algorithmic Factors Are Secret
Google’s algorithm is a closely guarded secret. There are 200+ factors used in ranking indexed content. Some hold more weight than others. Google may share some information — like quality guidelines and how to treat technical things like rel=canonical for duplicate content. Even so, they are purposely silent on many algorithm components. Plus, they are continually tweaking the formula; 500-600 changes happen every year.
Search engines expressly frown on SEO guarantees. Here’s what Google published on this subject:
While SEOs can provide clients with valuable services, some unethical SEOs have given the industry a black eye through their overly aggressive marketing efforts and their attempts to manipulate search engine results in unfair ways. Practices that violate our guidelines may result in a negative adjustment of your site’s presence in Google, or even the removal of your site from our index.
Why an SEO Guarantee is Unethical
Proper search engine optimization has a lot of moving parts. It affects what you see on a webpage or blog post (optimized content), it’s the framework and meta data behind it. If Google’s algorithm is secret and is continually changing, how can you guarantee something that is mostly out of your control?! Even if you follow the quality guidelines to the letter, SEO rankings (by their very nature) fluctuate.
Here are some typical SEO guarantee claims along with why we believe these are slimy marketing tactics you should avoid.
“Our proprietary software gets you on Page 1 of Google.”
First, if there was a software out there that got you to ranked #1, Google would have squashed it or bought it. It defies the natural framework of search engines; they exist to help human searchers find what they want. Software programs that shortcut the algorithmic selection process don’t work.
“We guarantee to optimize your website for up to 100 different keyword phrases.”
You can optimize a website for any set of keywords. However if the keywords have no value (e.g., few monthly searches) and a weak relationship to a how your customer buys, what’s the point? Optimization should be based upon analysis and trend research (that’s repeatable). Armed with this information, website’s architecture can be mapped out according to your customer’s natural buying process. Otherwise, optimization is a buzzword that’s meaningless.
“Get 100 links for $100/month.”
Link building is an advanced SEO technique. You want links into your website that drive business and generate revenue. Getting crap links are easy, via link farming and other unethical practices. Getting quality links from industry leaders takes time, expertise and persistence. First, you must start with quality content that’s worth pointing to. Then, you build real relationships with other companies’ Webmasters.
Choosing an Ethical SEO Agency
When is the best time to hire an SEO agency? Google recommends the “sooner the better” especially during a website redesign or new site launch. This allows your SEO agency to build search engine-friendly architecture from the ground up.
We wrote a three-part post on how to interview an SEO company. It outlines seven questions to ask to figure out if they are competent and if they wear a White Hat or Grey Hat. An ethical agency does not offer SEO guarantees. They do offer benchmarks and use tools like Moz and Raven for reporting. They do use repeatable processes. They do follow quality guidelines that protect your online reputation with search engines.
Any other SEO guarantee you’d like to add to our list to debunk?