Guaranteed results for SEO is Bullshit.
Anyone who’s been around SEO for a while realizes that there’s a dark side. The industry has a lot of snake oil salesman and quite a few snakes. I get reminded about this weekly if not daily with email messages soliciting me to “improve your SEO Guaranteed”. Occasionally I pass a billboard on I-95 in Philadelphia where one SEO company is touting guaranteed results on Google, Yahoo, and Bing. This particular billboard features the owner with his arms crossed smiling out at all of the commuters. I happen to know that this particular agency used to engage in the darkest of black hat practices and had the majority of its client hit by the original Penguin penalty.
SEO is Hard Work, and very valuable!
SEO is actually a lot of hard work and I’m going to tell you the straight up truth: its not guaranteed. This makes SEO very difficult to pitch to upper management or to a business owner. But bear with me there’s some very good news! Google, Yahoo, Bing, Yandex and the others are still looking for the most relevant results for searchers. It is certainly in your best interest to be on the first page of search results. Study after study shows that if you were one of the top results, especially number 1, that you can get the lion’s share of click throughs on search engine results pages. If you are looking to grow your business online, then SEO is a mandatory component. This is actually a much more involved topic and I have an infographic on how to grow your business online. You can view the infographic and detailed articles for more information.
Back to SEO and why guaranteed results are BS. Maybe 5 years ago an SEO agency could “guarantee” your results, because there were many different ways to game the system. One of them being through non-relevant back-links. These agencies built spam back-links like crazy on websites that simply were not relevant for your business. When Google tries to determine what pages to show in search engine results here are some of the things that they consider. First let’s say that you’re looking for the search phrase: “best Thai restaurant West Chester”. Oversimplified, Google is looking for web pages that have those exact words or phrases that match the search phrase intent very closely. If they only find one page, then that pages becomes the number one result. If they find a hundred thousand pages then they weigh the pages in terms of how relevant they think it is to your intent. Let’s say they narrow that list down to ten thousand pages which all seem equally appropriate. Then Google takes a look at who is talking about those pages. That used to just be by looking at back-links, or other websites pointing to the pages under consideration. If you had lots of backlinks your page was stronger because of “link juice” and Google deemed your page high authority. Hence why 5 years ago an SEO could guarantee results. They just built tons of spam backlinks to your site to increase its authority.
Penguin and Social Media Combine to Destroy Guaranteed SEO Results
However, social media has completely disrupted this on one hand and the penguin algorithm has destroyed it on the other hand. The penguin algorithm has been much talked about. Here’s a link to some articles about Penguin and Panda. In short, Google explicitly went after spam links and penalized sites that were employing this practice. The other major disruption is social media signals. Social media signals serve a couple of different purposes for Search Engine Results. First it shows that people are literally talking about your content. To read more about #SocialSEO <– click here. Secondly if people are sharing content from your website then you do start to accumulate some appropriate back-links related to your content. Many SEOs’, including the one on the billboard, scoffed at me in 2012 when I was talking about “Get Social or Die“. Now they’re all offering some type of Social (most without understanding it btw…). My final word on guaranteed SEO results?
If you are dealing with an SEO Firm that is touting guaranteed results? Turn and run away.
Credible SEOs layout a Metrics Driven Plan to Measure Results
SEO is about making continuous progress toward your goals. It takes dedicated and consistent work. Not a one off project. You can and should measure your work and see results over time. Over time literally means it may take 6 weeks to 6 months before you are seeing results. (I know, that is painful, but, worth it) If you have the budget using tools like Conductor can help immensely. I use Conductor because it allows me to visualize and track website performance on multiple levels. I particularly like the Keyword Visibility tools and the Keyword Pipeline pictured below. I often say that PPC is like hunting and SEO is like farming. PPC and advertising can show immediate results. Good SEO appropriately takes time and is worth it when you hit the hyper traffic positions 1,2, and 3 of the first page of Search Engine Results. If you want to learn more about advanced SEO techniques there is a SlideShare right below the Keyword Pipeline graphic.