“Guaranteed First Page Ranking!”
If you’re looking for a digital marketing agency to handle your SEO, you’ve probably come upon a few that make this claim. You might have even seen the question, “Can you guarantee first page rankings?” in lists of questions to ask prospective SEO consultants. When buying a refrigerator, a guarantee is good to have. When a digital marketing agency guarantees first page rankings, it’s a sign that you should steer clear.
No One Can Guarantee First Page Rankings
…but don’t take our word for it. Here’s what Google says:
"No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google. Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a 'special relationship' with Google, or advertise a 'priority submit' to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is through our Add URL page or by submitting a Sitemap and you can do this yourself at no cost whatsoever."
We’ll be honest with you: SEO is about 75 percent knowledge and expertise, and 25 percent guesstimating -- and anyone who tells you otherwise isn’t being straight with you. Google is transparent about some aspects of what they’re looking for when ranking sites, but frustratingly opaque in others. Whenever there’s an algorithm update, SEOs spend weeks puzzling over clues to determine the changes that were made.
No one has insight into what launches a site to the top of the SERPs; we know the best practices that websites need to follow and we know some pro tips to give you a competitive edge, but there’s still some (educated) guessing involved. It’s like hiring a trainer to help your child excel in a sport — the trainer will improve their chances of getting a scholarship, but can they guarantee it? Nope!
To make a long story short, you can’t guarantee something you have no control over. SEO agencies don’t make the rules; Google does.
What Scammy SEO Companies Have in Common
So what’s the deal with SEO companies that promise first page rankings? Are they lying? Well, they might get you on the first page of Google results, but there’s some fine print involved:
- They’re getting your site to rank for obscure keywords. If you’re on the first page of Google for a long-tail keyword that only 10 people search a month, you’re not going to get a big return on your investment.
- They’re really advertising Google Ads. This isn’t the same as SEO. It will get on the first page of Google results, but you’re paying for that spot—and as soon as you stop paying, you won’t be on top anymore.
- They’re doing hyper-aggressive black or gray hat SEO. This might give you a temporary boost, but then your rankings will tumble. In fact, Google can even de-index your site so it doesn’t show up at all. These companies may outsource their SEO, use artificial link building schemes, or automated SEO programs.
- They’re artificially increasing your traffic. This could be by using spyware, scum ware, or fake search engines.
There’s a reason we often use the term organic search in SEO — it’s because you get the best results when you rise to the top of the SERPs naturally by doing all the right things. Read on to find out what that means.
What Can Help You Rank Higher With Google
First, hire an SEO company that doesn’t make promises they can’t keep. A qualified SEO firm will promise deliverables like:
Finding the right keywords means striking the right balance between too broad and too narrow. When you hire an SEO agency, they’ll do in-depth research to identify the terms people are using to find your business, as well as the terms they’re using to find your competitors.
Producing a steady flow of new content is important, but you should never create content just for the sake of creating content. It should be well-written and useful. Some SEO firms churn out low-quality content, often outsourcing their writing to the lowest bidder. In-house professional writers with experience writing and editing are great to help keep quality content coming. We can also work with you to edit and optimize blog posts you’ve written.
Site Optimization & Technical SEO
SEO isn’t just about keywords and links. Google is putting an increasing weight on the user experience offered by your site. How quickly does it load? Does it load with errors? Is it easy to use on mobile? An SEO agency may also recommend rebuilding your website on an SEO-friendly platform or auditing the pages on your site to remove duplicates or redirect pages that are no longer live.
Link building requires outreach; an SEO agency can’t promise you a certain number of links each month, but they can promise you the outreach work and placement in directories or other websites where your link simply needs to be submitted. Many types of links, such as from guest posts, require more editorial discretion and usually can’t be guaranteed.
Google Business Profile
If you have a small business, Google Business Profile (GBP) (formerly Google My Business) is critical for getting you at the top of local rankings. An agency can help you set up your profile and optimize it for best results. If you don’t have time to actively run your GBP profile, your agency can do it for you by sharing updates, adding photos, and replying to reviews.
What Good SEO Agencies have in Common
Your SEO agency you use should be open and transparent about what they’re doing every month to improve your rankings and what results you’re getting.
When you have a question from your SEO consultant, you should expect to get a reply back within a reasonable timeframe (for example, same-day response or within 1 business day.)
Finally, your SEO consultant should also be willing to provide you training if you don’t have the budget for ongoing services. You should be able to pick up exactly where they left off, without them leaving you in the dark.
Kaitlin Smith is an account manager at Main Street ROI, a digital marketing agency with team members across the United States and clients around the world.