SEO guarantees and what to trust

Guarantee: a promise or assurance, esp. one in writing, that something is of specified quality, content, benefit, etc., or that it will perform satisfactorily for a given length of time. (source: www.dictionary.com)

99% of webmasters will have seen an email from a company saying that they can guarantee top positions in search results for your site.

Guaranteeing is something that happens across not only the search market but pretty much anywhere, with regard to any service. You can get a 12-month guarantee on your new washing machine, you can get guaranteed unlimited bandwidth on your broadband, but can there be any real guarantees on the results of search engine optimisation?

What types of guarantee are there?

I’ve seen my fair share of guarantees recently and here are just a few:

“We guarantee you top 20 positions for 80% of your chosen keywords”

“We guarantee you top positions in Google, Yahoo and MSN in less than 48 hours”

And my personal favourite so far:

“Your primary targeted phrase will appear on the first page of one or more of the major search engines. You will attain a minimum of 3 top 10 rankings on the major search engines across all of your selected keyword phrases. You will attain a minimum of 5 top 20 rankings on the major search engines across all of your targeted keyword phrases.”

The above guarantee is more confusing than assuring.

So when can I expect to see my rankings?

Good question, and surprisingly the answer doesn’t appear in any of these guarantees. So you could be waiting months, or even years for your chosen keywords to appear in the top results. Is this a guarantee worth having?

You’ll also notice that none of the above guarantees offer any mention of how long your site will stay in its top position. What if Google changes its ranking algorithm and your site drops out of its guaranteed position? Again this isn’t touched on.

My site is/was banned in Google. Can you really guarantee my site results?

No, is the simple answer. If a domain is banned from Google, or has been banned in the past, removing that tarnished reputation can take years. You may even be better off starting afresh.

How is it possible to get my site first page positions in less than 48 hours?

In terms of SEO, it’s (near) impossible. This is the sort of guarantee where the fine print is used to deceive the customer. When someone offers first page positions that quickly, the chances are they will run a paid search campaign for you instead, which may place your ad on the first page for your chosen keywords. The search engines will charge per click for this, so you can be sure your fees to the person who gave you this guarantee will easily cover those costs.

This sort of guarantee is nothing more than a deception and should be avoided at all costs. 

Do any of these guarantees mean anything at all?

Once you’ve trawled through the fine print, picked through the legalities and realised what these guarantees actually mean, no, is the answer. You are guaranteed to get some of your search terms in the top results of a main search engine in the next however many years… That’s not a guarantee I would be happy with. How can anyone guarantee something they aren’t in complete control over?

A washing machine manufacturer gives you a 12 month guarantee, but also has no control over whether it breaks down or not; however, they do have control over fixing the problem if a breakdown occurs. You don’t have that sort of control over the SERPs.

For SEO, a guarantee is a sales gimmick, nothing more than an attempt to get you to sign one SEO firm over the next best SEO firm.

OK. So what guarantees should I look for?

Any guarantee of keyword positions should be taken with a pinch of salt. This is controlled by Google’s algorithm and no one else. Sure you can influence these results, but you can’t guarantee them in a set time period.

An SEO guarantee shouldn’t be a gimmick; it should be an achievable goal that will help to improve the rankings of your website. For example, why not agree with; to submit to 20 related directories by a deadline, or supply X pages of targeted content by a deadline? These guarantees can be achieved, and will still help your search results.

Be very careful when looking for SEO. Don’t be deceived by false guarantees or small print. A good SEO firm will be able to show you plenty of proof of their past efforts. They should offer complete transparency and help you learn along the way. It’s not a dark art so should not be treated as top secret.