Decades ago, hardly anyone besides a few Stanford academics knew what Google even was. Today, the most profitable companies in the world are competing to earn a spot on the front page of its search results, and many are willing to pay a pretty penny to do so.
But if you're paying for top-notch SEO, how can you be sure that you'll get your money's worth and that your chosen agency will keep its SEO promises? Not only that, but can any agency really provide guaranteed SEO results? Let's shine some light on the situation to separate the snake oil from the proven strategies.
Types of SEO Promises
SEO agencies can offer a wide array of services, meaning that high-quality ones can also deliver a wide array of results. As such, you might hear a variety of SEO promises depending on the company you talk to. These are some of the most common:
- Increased traffic: This is the most obvious one of all, because who doesn't like the sound of more traffic? It's important to note, though, that more traffic doesn't necessarily mean better traffic (more on that later).
- Higher rankings: A goal typical of any SEO agency is to improve their clients' search engine rankings. So, it's not uncommon or unreasonable to hear agencies promise to do so.
- More conversions, leads, and sales: Rankings and traffic don't pay the bills — that's where conversions, leads, and sales come in. Thus, experienced SEO agencies will usually place an emphasis on such metrics.
- #1 position on Google: If an SEO agency is really trying to secure your business, they might even promise to get your site to the number one spot on Google's search engine results page (SERP). As you may have already guessed, this promise is certainly a red flag.
There are more types of promises that prospective SEO agencies can make, but those four are the ones you're most likely to hear. Whether those agencies can actually deliver on their promises, however, is a different story altogether.
Are Guaranteed SEO Results Legit?
SEO promises sure sound nice, but are they too good to be true? In many cases, the unfortunate answer is "yes."
It's clear why when you consider how search engines work to begin with: The search engine itself, whether it be Google, Bing, or another, uses AI-driven algorithms to identify the web pages that are most relevant to a user's query.
While search engines can (and do) communicate how their algorithms work and how to optimize for them, it's ultimately up to them to determine which pages will rank first and which will be sent back to page 20 of the SERPs.
With that in mind, it's not surprising that no SEO agency can truly guarantee both incredible and specific results. So if someone tells you they can make your site achieve the number one SERP position for all its most competitive keywords and hold onto it indefinitely, run the other way.
On the other hand, it's not far-fetched for an SEO agency to guarantee improvements in your site's rankings — provided they know what they're doing, of course. With ample experience and up-to-date search engine knowledge, it's entirely possible for an agency to truthfully promise to improve your rankings and generate more traffic.
When it comes to more conversions, leads, and sales, things get a little more nuanced. Since all three of those rely on users independently choosing to engage with and buy from your brand, it's even more crucial for the SEO agency to back up its claims with experience and proven methods. So while it may not be outrageous for an agency to guarantee such results, it's only the best ones that can actually provide them.
SEO Agencies: How to Tell the Dependable From the Dishonest
Like so many SEO-related questions, the answer to "Can an SEO agency guarantee its results?" is a wholly unsatisfying "it depends." The truth is that while some agencies can keep their promises, others are only making empty promises.
To tell the difference between the two, focus your attention on a few key areas:
- Experience: Any SEO agency worth its salt should have real-world experience, and its individual team members should be experts in their fields.
- Proven results: Experience isn't everything, though — an SEO agency also needs to be able to show you the results its gotten for other clients.
- Current search engine knowledge: To ensure your brand's site meets search engines' latest standards, it's crucial for any legitimate SEO company to be abreast of the most recent algorithm updates.
- A clear strategy: There are multiple ways to approach SEO, so a top-tier SEO agency needs to have a polished strategy it believes in and can thoroughly explain from start to finish.
- An emphasis on relevant traffic and qualified leads: Having lots of traffic rather than relevant traffic is like trying to sell hamburgers at a crowded vegan festival — there might be plenty of people, but none of them are interested in buying. That's why it's so essential for SEO agencies to recognize the importance of relevant traffic and qualified leads above all else.
If an SEO agency has all five of those qualities, chances are it's the real deal. (For more on what to look for, learn the 10 questions to ask prospective SEO companies.)
At the end of the day, not all SEO promises are created equal — some are built on a solid foundation of experience and strategy, and some are nothing more than pipe dreams designed to sell subpar services.
But if you do your due diligence and choose an SEO agency that can back up its claims, those seemingly lofty goals can become your brand's reality.