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The SEO Blog with Rhiannon

Why SEO Guarantees Are A Red Flag

SEO Fundamentals
Author: Rhiannon Carnohan

Ever heard of an SEO guarantee? Guaranteed SEO services, first page SEO guarantees, guaranteed Google rankings – whatever you want to call them, they’re more of a red flag than keeping your tomato sauce in the fridge (which, in case you didn’t know, is a huge red flag).

And they lead to all sorts of unethical behaviours in the SEO game, from buying spammy backlinks (yuck) to hiding keyword-filled text on your site (double yuck). Not only is this the epitome of shady marketing practices, but it also has a pretty good chance of disadvantaging your SEO in the long run.

So, what do SEO guarantees look like, why should you avoid them and how do you keep an eye out for them when you’re outsourcing your SEO?

Let’s start with the basics.

Why SEO Guarantees Are A Red Flag

What are SEO guaranteed SEO services?

SEO-guaranteed services are where SEO agencies and professionals guarantee results through their SEO services. This often sounds like:

“First page SEO guarantee or your money back!”

“Our special relationship with Google guarantees top rankings!”

“Guaranteed no. 1 ranking on Google!”

To the average consumer, these sound like fair, justified and reasonable claims for an SEO agency to be making. After all, if you’re paying them thousands of dollars every month to work on your SEO, you would hope to see those results reflected in Google Search!

But that’s the thing with SEO. No one can guarantee results without using shady tactics.

Sure, an agency could guarantee you first-page ranking, but they will rank you on the first page for a keyword with no competition that isn’t relevant to your audience.

This doesn’t help grow your business. This doesn’t bring in new leads. This doesn’t sell your products.

Because your website (and therefore, your business) isn’t solving the problem of the searcher.

It would be like a hairdresser ranking in the top spot on Google for the search, “Where to buy horse saddles”. A hairdresser’s promises of the perfect balayage and exceptional salon service doesn’t answer the searcher’s query. It has nothing to do with horse saddles, so the user will feel dissatisfied with their search.

A hairdresser won’t solve a horse lover’s problem.

So no matter how gratifying it might feel to have a guaranteed Google ranking, it’s not worth your while if it’s not relevant to your business.

Why should you avoid Google ranking guarantees?

Relevance aside, there are so many reasons to steer clear of guaranteed SEO services.

1. Google hates SEO guarantees

Google’s mission is to make the world’s information accessible, which is why Google ranks content in the first place. It wants to make it as easy as possible for you to find the information you need, without having to sift through every website from every business owner from every country in the world.

But Google also wants the world to understand that no SEO professional has special access or insight into their search engine. No SEO professional can have an (ethical) leg up on the rest of us. We all have to work with the same algorithm, play by the same rules and live in the same world of search engines.

No one individual or agency gets special treatment. So when these SEO professionals promise they do get special treatment, Google isn’t about it.

It’s a no from Google.

2. SEO professionals can’t control Google’s algorithms

Whether you’re a multimillion-dollar agency or a freelance SEO consultant, no one can control Google’s algorithms.

We can only influence the algorithms through our range of tactics designed to boost your ranking, but we can’t hack the system and give our clients the top spots for their target keywords.

If only we could though, right? My job would be so much easier!

(I’m kidding…)

(Kind of 😉)

So, no matter what an SEO professional says in their marketing ploys to get you to work with them, their “SEO guaranteed services” are a sham. You can’t guarantee what you can’t control, and they absolutely cannot control Google’s algorithms.

3. SEO guarantees don’t guarantee results for your business

No matter what the SEO experts say, they can’t guarantee relevant search rankings and they can’t guarantee results for your business.

Put yourself in the searcher’s shoes for a minute, and cast your mind back to our hairdresser example.

If you’re in the market for a new horse saddle and you stumble across a hairdresser’s website, are you going to click through?

No, because they were looking for a horse saddle! They’re not in the hairdresser-finding mood. They’re in the horse-saddle-buying mood. So not only are we talking to them in the wrong place, we’re talking to them at the wrong time.

And that is one surefire way to annoy your potential customers.

Sometimes though, these sneaky SEO agencies can even get you ranking for a keyword that is somewhat relevant to your business, but the search volume is so low (e.g. under 10 searches per month) that no one is actually going to find your site regardless of your ranking.

SEO agencies can kind of guarantee SEO rankings (but only in a very bad, shady, unethical way), but they can’t guarantee it’s going to get results for your business.

And if you’re spending the money on an SEO professional, you need it to get results for your business.

What should you look out for when outsourcing your SEO?

We already know we need to steer clear of these shady SEO agencies, but how do we know the good from the bad? Here’s what you need to look out for when outsourcing your SEO.

1. Transparency

When you’re talking to SEO agencies and professionals, ask them questions. Ask them lots of questions. The ethical ones will be totally transparent with you, and that’s a sign you’re working with the right people. If you want a few questions to take into your meetings, I recommend asking:

  • What tactics do you use to improve SEO?
  • Can you guarantee my website's first-page ranking?
  • Can you guarantee I’ll get more leads/sales in my business?

They should be open about what tactics they use. They should feel comfortable discussing their approach to SEO with you. And they should absolutely not promise to get your website on the first page of Google or generate more leads/sales for your business.

2. Customisation

Here’s another question to bring into your initial consultation with an SEO professional: “Do you customise your SEO strategies for each business?”

And if they say “yes”, follow it up with a, “How have you customised strategies for two unique businesses in the past?”

Many of the shady, black hat agencies will use the same SEO strategies for every Tom, Dick and Harry to walk through their doors, but good SEO requires a unique approach for every business and their goals.

Customisation is GOOD. Make sure it’s a given with whoever you’re talking to.

3. Reporting

I was going to talk about the experience here, but I’ve met a lot of agencies who have impressive experience and still don’t manage their clients’ SEO effectively.

What’s more important than experience is reporting.

Any SEO professional will understand the importance of reporting, and they won’t be afraid to share their findings with you. Any agency that denies you a report is best left in the dust because you don’t know whether your money is actually getting results for your business.

seo expert rhiannon carnohan
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Rhiannon Carnohan

Rhiannon is an SEO expert, passionate small biz supporter and full-time van lifer. When she's not exploring a new town on her van travels around Australia (or surfing, hiking or sampling local wine), you’ll find her in her office-on-wheels, helping small businesses supercharge their success through the power of SEO. 

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