Some companies offer an SEO guarantee for their work. But, like all guarantees, you almost certainly need to read the small print. Guarantees are all well and good but with things like SEO we’re all dealing with factors that are well outside our control. Google is well known for re-writing the rules and does this in a number of small ways several hundred times a month and in bigger ways a few times a year.
The problem with this rule re-writing is that it’s usually done by computer. The search engines all use complex programs (called algorithms) to decide what to place where.
Naturally, because their business depends on it, these formulae are top secret – at least as closely guarded as the recipe for your favourite cola.
Also because of the number of different factors involved there are occasionally unexpected side effects. If you can imagine cooking a burger but instead of having essentially one variable (heat) you have in excess of 200 different variables that will all affect the outcome then you’re getting close to the scale of the problem.
Add in a few trillion pages to the mix and expect accurate results in the blink of an eye and that will bring the enormity of the task into something approaching focus.
The job of the search engines is to give you accurate (or at least accurate enough) results in less time than it takes you to type in your search.
Guaranteeing where your site will appear in all this is a major feat. I doubt even the most senior Google programmers would want to offer that kind of guarantee – and they have the “house” advantage that they actually work for the company.
They definitely wouldn’t want to extend that guarantee for any length of time. Algorithms change. Old sites fade away or aren’t renewed or have their content changed. Other sites change their promotional methods or their content. New sites appear. People’s focus changes so the words they use to search may also change.
All those factors and more need to be taken into account by anyone offering you anything approaching an SEO guarantee.
For me, the only guaranteed thing is change. Whether that’s for better or worse is often in the eye of the beholder. So if your site rises up the ranks, the latest algorithm change was great. If your site sinks like a stone then the latest change was the worst one ever.
So, back to the small print.
Often you’ll find the guarantee applies to one keyword phrase out of, say, five that you first discussed. This is to put the odds in favour of the company offering the guarantee.
The next weasel clause is a guarantee of page one. That sounds absolutely fantastic. If you’re in a competitive industry with oodles of searches a month, it actually is fantastic.
But if there are only a handful of searches per month then position 9 or 10 on page one may as well be position one million. Most people don’t scroll past the first few results and the tail off by the time you reach the end of the first page is extremely high. Page two: you can forget it.
So be very careful to read the small print.
And while you’re at it, check which version of Google you’re being promised? Your country version or the site?
Those questions are just for starters. You’ll find more cropping up when you take the time to read that incredibly small print!
That’s why you need an SEO consultant.