SEO: No Guarantees

This world is full of guarantees. Guarantees that what you buy will make you feel better, look younger, be richer, get happier. It is famously said, though, that there are no real guarantees in life except death and taxes.

For many years, there has been a subset of SEO vendors that make what I believe are unethical guarantees. For the most part, these types of companies are selling cheap services based on simple SEO checklists and promising things like No. 1 rankings.

Google search results for ranking guarantees, crossed out.

I’ve said in the past that cheap SEO is a near-death experience. Unfortunately, though, many cheap SEO companies are aggressive in their marketing. They prey on the misinformed.

The allure of cheap SEO with guaranteed rankings creates false expectations. This, in turn, creates a major headache for quality SEO vendors who now lose clients to cheap SEO companies because they won’t guarantee No. 1 rankings.

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.

–Google, Do You Need an SEO?

There are no guarantees in SEO. SEO takes place in an environment where search engines constantly change their rules and algorithms and where competitors continually adapt. It takes skill, effort, and time to compete well.

Unless an SEO professional truly owns and controls Google Search and also controls your competitors, then they should not promise No. 1 rankings.

If they do make promises — when they have zero control over the results — they are preying on the naive. Do you seriously think there is a spam method or secret that Google does not know about?

Quality SEOs

What quality SEOs can guarantee is their best effort backed by years of experience and education. They can demonstrate achievement backed by a strong reputation, and show past results including references.

Those results may include No. 1 rankings for their clients. But they cannot promise rankings. That is unethical.

Besides, the cheaper you want it the cheaper you get it. An SEO guarantee is a sign of desperation.

Unfortunately, though, there are ways that unethical SEO companies can make good on their promises, with few the wiser.

Perhaps they’ll get you on Page 1 for branded terms like “company name + product” (not that hard if you’re the only one with that company name). Or they may achieve Page 1 results for keywords that don’t have a lot of competition (in other words, things that people aren’t really searching for anyway).

These strategies don’t drive real improvement for the business, but they may satisfy the guarantee.

Weighing SEO Vendors

So where does that leave a business that is weighing the option of a cheap SEO firm with guaranteed rankings versus a reputable SEO firm with higher fees and no guarantee?

Sometimes the best value may seem unaffordable. But you get what you pay for. Understand that good SEO can drive revenue. But you have to invest in it.

Channel share data from BrightEdge Research.
Channel share in 2019 per BrightEdge Research

On the other hand, buying cheap SEO can actually harm your site. And then you’ve not only wasted money but also your opportunity to rank if you get a Google penalty.

While SEOs can provide clients with valuable services, some unethical SEOs have given the industry a black eye by using overly aggressive marketing efforts and attempting to manipulate search engine results in unfair ways. Practices that violate our guidelines may result in a negative adjustment of your site’s presence in Google, or even the removal of your site from our index.

–Google, Do You Need an SEO?

In many cases, businesses are making a leap of faith with SEO. They are trusting that a competent SEO can help them outperform their competition better than an unreputable SEO. (And remember, the competition may also have competent SEOs and a big budget).

Yes, it would be great to have an “easy button” you could push for rankings, but that is not how SEO works. There are too many variables outside of our control.

You can certainly pay less for empty guarantees and poor advice. But where would that leave you?

If you need SEO services to help you invest in your business’s future, contact us for a free quote and consultation.

FAQ: Are SEO guarantees really trustworthy?

SEO guarantees often sound enticing, promising top rankings on search engines in a specified timeframe. Care should be taken when making promises about Google search engine algorithms as these changes often. This makes it nearly impossible for anyone to guarantee specific rankings.

One of the fundamental reasons why SEO guarantees can be dubious is the lack of control over external factors. SEO professionals can optimize your website, create high-quality content, and implement effective strategies, but they can’t control the actions of competitors, changes in search engine algorithms, or shifts in user behavior. Consequently, any guarantees made are often based on assumptions rather than certainties.

Furthermore, the ethical considerations surrounding SEO guarantees cannot be ignored. Some unscrupulous SEO providers may resort to black-hat tactics, which violate search engine guidelines and can result in severe penalties for your website. Therefore, it’s crucial to choose an SEO agency or professional with a proven track record of ethical practices.

So, how can you navigate the complex landscape of SEO without falling for unreliable guarantees? Here are some tips:

  1. Set Realistic Expectations: Understand that SEO is a long-term strategy, and while results can be substantial, they may take time.
  2. Focus on Metrics: Instead of relying solely on rankings, track other essential metrics like organic traffic, conversion rates, and ROI.
  3. Research Your SEO Provider: Look for reputable agencies or professionals with a history of transparent and ethical practices.
  4. Ask for Case Studies: Request examples of past successes to gauge the potential of the SEO services you’re considering.
  5. Stay Informed: Keep yourself updated on SEO trends and changes in search engine algorithms.

While SEO guarantees may sound appealing, they should be approached with skepticism. The trustworthiness of these promises often hinges on factors beyond anyone’s control, and ethical concerns can arise. To navigate the world of SEO effectively, focus on long-term strategies, informed decision-making, and partnering with reputable professionals who prioritize ethical practices.

Step-by-Step Procedure: Navigating the Trustworthiness of SEO Guarantees

  1. Understand the complexities of SEO and its role in digital marketing.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the concept of SEO guarantees.
  3. Recognize the inherent challenges in guaranteeing specific SEO results.
  4. Be aware of the uncontrollable external factors that influence SEO outcomes.
  5. Consider the ethical implications of SEO guarantees.
  6. Approach SEO guarantees with caution, keeping in mind the potential risks.
  7. Set realistic expectations for your SEO campaigns.
  8. Shift your focus from rankings to important metrics like organic traffic and conversions.
  9. Research and vet your potential SEO provider or agency.
  10. Request case studies and examples of past successes from SEO providers.
  11. Stay updated on SEO industry trends and algorithm changes.
  12. Be wary of providers making extravagant promises.
  13. Prioritize ethical SEO practices.
  14. Avoid SEO providers that employ black-hat tactics.
  15. Assess the long-term potential of SEO rather than seeking quick fixes.
  16. Monitor the performance of your SEO campaigns regularly.
  17. Adjust your strategies based on data and results.
  18. Establish an impactful presence online through high-quality websites and content.
  19. Form long-term relationships with reputable SEO service providers.
  20. Continuously educate yourself about SEO to make informed decisions.

This article was updated on December 19, 2023.  

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

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12 Replies to “SEO: No Guarantees”

SEO has no guarantees. One google update can mess it all up. You have to be really considerate.

Great content. Nothing is a guarantee with SEO

SEO is a salient aspect of digital marketing, and it needs diligent searching and researches. If you know the correct tricks to hit the right spot then you could be an expert in ranking your website. It is similar to fetching water from the ground i.e.

Nice content here Bruce.

There’s nothing better than growing your search engine visibility gradually with natural link.

Cheap SEO can really harm a site

Absolutely right! Its raises a big red flag if a SEO company guarantees No.1 spot.

Today you can find a lot of kind seo with tons empty promises client buy it after we need to fix it. SEO game…

Now SEO is not about to get top rank or rank on number one. It’s about to explain to Google why your website deserve better ranking.

Guarantee… well I’ll guarantee an increase in quality traffic. “Rankings” can’t be guaranteed as they don’t even exist. If more people knew this, this wouldn’t be an issue.

Agree. I like to provide my clients with “improvement stats” like traffic behaviors, form fills, and phone calls. They always end up doing better, but in many markets there’s only one slot left on page 1 after ads and maps… at least Google helps by never changing algorithms. ;)

In SEO there are no guarantees, for that “when the going gets tough, the tough start playing!”. Greetings from Italy, Master Bruce.

“ buying cheap SEO can actually harm your site.”
I see it all the time :-(

Paula Allen

Andy: Yep, good point. Many clients formerly had negative experiences with other SEO firms and now need real help.


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