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January 17, 2012

Google’s First Page… Guaranteed! – A SPN Exclusive Article

A couple of weeks ago, I visited one of the Internet Marketing/Small Business forums that I’m a member of, and noticed a new member had posted a typical newbie question in the SEO forum. The member wanted to know how she could be guaranteed to get her website on the first page of Google. As usual, members came crawling out of the woodwork with advice – including members who didn’t even own a website.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty typical on Internet Marketing/Small Business forums… members who don’t own a website instructing other members how to get on the first page of Google… members who don’t own a business dispensing business advice. So be careful where you get your advice from… but I digress.

Not surprisingly, not a single member responded with the correct answer. And what is the correct answer? The correct answer is there is NO magic bullet that will assure a first page ranking on Google. Never has been, never will be. By the same token, NO reputable SEO company will promise first page rankings.

By the way, this isn’t the first time I’ve written about this topic. In my article How to Choose a Reputable SEO Company ), I wrote the following:

“No SEO company can guarantee you a first page or top 10 ranking. I repeat: NO SEO company can guarantee you a first page or top 10 ranking. Here’s why: There are far too many variables involved in the ranking of a website – not the least of which are the age of the domain, relevancy and quantity of content, number and quality of inbound links, competition, and of course Google’s ever-changing algorithms. That’s why legitimate SEO companies don’t make those kinds of outlandish promises.”

Why Reputable SEO Companies Don’t Promise Guaranteed Search Engine Rankings

In other words, it’s impossible to promise something which you have no control over. But don’t take my word for it… this is what Google itself has to say about the matter:

“Beware of SEO’s that claim to guarantee rankings.” (Source: Google Webmaster Tools)

Wow…that statement is about as succinct as it gets.

In his article, Why Reputable SEO Firms Don’t Promise Guaranteed Search Engine Rankings, prominent SEO expert, Rand Fishkin writes:

“From 1996 through to today, SEO scams have used ‘guaranteed rankings and traffic’ as a slimy catchphrase to lure in gullible buyers with too-good-to-be-true promises. That association has stained the entire industry. SEO’s cannot control the search results the way FedEx can control shipping packages or Coca Cola can guarantee the taste of their beverage. The search engines alone are responsible for, and privy to the rankings’ methodologies.

There are times when I would be willing to gamble a large amount of money on the fact that we could achieve a certain ranking for a given keyword. However, that’s not the same as a guarantee. A guarantee is a promise – a basic contract that necessarily creates an assumption of certainty by the deliverer to the recipient. Anytime you cheat on that logic and make a promise outside your sphere of direct control, you’re walking on shaky ethical and business ground.”

Now think about that for a minute. If one of the most reputable and prominent SEO experts on the planet isn’t willing to guarantee rankings, what does that tell you about the validity of guaranteed search rankings claims?

Are There Any Exceptions?

Yes, there are always exceptions. For example, Dental SEO, The Visible Dentist is one of those companies that guarantees first page rankings. Their guarantee states:

“The dentist does not pay for SEO services until their website is favorably positioned in a major search engine. Major search engines include Google, Yahoo, MSN’s Bing and Ask. Our exclusive promise specifically guarantees that the client’s dental website will have high visibility in one or more of these popular search engines. Further, a minimum of twenty (20) positions on Google’s 1st page results will be attained before payment is required.

This warranty is made without absolute assurances to search engine positioning. The reason positions cannot be absolutely guaranteed is because no one has control of a search engine’s algorithms, nor control over the many websites coming online every day. However, all work on the client’s site will be performed according to specs and to the best of our ability. If desired ranking is not achieved, no payment will be due from the client.”

Personally, I don’t have a problem with that type of promise. The company is basically putting their money where their mouth is. They’re willing to prove their competency and assure results before the client pays a dime. This eliminates any and all risk for the client. If more SEO companies did business that way, the industry as a whole wouldn’t have such a bad reputation.

All that being said, even if no money is required upfront, you still need to do your due diligence and check things out carefully.

SEO Scam Artists

If all SEO companies competently applied their craft and performed the service they were paid to perform, articles like this one wouldn’t be necessary. But as long as there are incompetent SEO scam artists who intentionally take people’s hard-earned money without doing what they promised… I will continue to warn people about the problem.

Unscrupulous SEO companies that promise first page rankings aren’t stupid, but they think you are. In fact, they’re counting on your naivety, gullibility and yes… laziness. Because the truth of the matter is there are millions of people out there who would much rather put their faith and trust in leprechauns, magic pills and guaranteed rankings, than put in the time and hard work necessary to achieve the desired results. That’s the way it is, and that’s the way it’s always been – even before the advent of the Internet.

The Power OF A Strong Guarantee

Like I said, the SEO companies making guaranteed ranking claims aren’t stupid. In addition to counting on your naivety, gullibility and laziness, they’re also pretty astute marketers – well aware of the power of a strong “guarantee.” Like all smart marketers, they read books and articles about ways to boost their sales – like this article by copywriting expert Dean Rieck:

“You can write all the selling copy you want about how you’re the best, offer great quality, and include lots of great content. However, it’s all for nothing if your potential buyers have any doubts.

Doubt creates hesitation. Hesitation kills sales.

The answer? You have to reduce the perceived risk people feel so there is no hesitation to take you up on your offer.

And that’s the key – risk reduction.

With a guarantee, they feel confident that they won’t be stuck with their purchase. And the very act of offering a strong guarantee lets buyers know you really believe the product is worth its asking price.” (Source: How to Boost Your Sales with a Strong Guarantee)

If It’s Too Good To Be True…

In other words, psychologically, a guarantee eliminates the risk in the minds of buyers. A guarantee lowers their guard and makes them much more willing to take a chance on your offer – even when your offer sounds too good to be true. And you know what they say about something that sounds too good to be true…

“Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” – Carol Rees

Conclusion

Over the years, listening to that “little internal voice” has served me well. The times I ignored that little voice is when I’ve gotten into trouble. Listen to your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, walk away.

In a perfect world, we would be able take SEO companies at face value without being suspicious. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world, so be suspicious. Be very suspicious… The money, time and aggravation you save, may be your own!


David Jackson is a marketing consultant and the owner of Free-Marketing-Tips-Blog.com – Powerful, free marketing tips to help grow your business! http://free-marketing-tips-blog.com

25 Responses to “Google’s First Page… Guaranteed! – A SPN Exclusive Article

    Very nice post, I certainly love this website, keep on it

    avatar Diana Samalot says:

    You are so right! Thanks to article like yours, people are better informed and hopefully not fall pray of companies that make such promises. Great article :-)

    avatar Dave Philley says:

    I really have to disagree with you. I do find it difficult to believe that an SEO company could guarantee first page listing on Google for any website. But with my website, the SEO service I use did get my website on the first page, in fact, I am usually high on the first page, often at the number one spot. The service I use is by Axandra, and they take your website, and compare it with the current top 10 sites, on the your chosen keyword phrase, then suggests what you should do to get in the top ten. Their system has worked for my site for the past 5 years, and continues to work. They guarantee a top 10 ranking, which is basically the same as a first page ranking. If you do everything they suggest, including getting links to your site, then you get a top 10 ranking. As I said, there guarantee worked for me, but I cannot say it will work for any website.

    avatar Chris says:

    I’ve just written an ebook called “Working in Fluffy Bunny Slippers” -an entry level book aimed at those considering starting an online business for the first time.

    My 40 page ebook echoes the above along with other important caveats.

    Funny enough, if you Google “fluffy bunny slippers” I’m always on the first or second page -and this particular website is only about 2 months old ;)

    avatar KellyW says:

    David is 100% correct, there are too many variables to guarantee something like this. I have seen SEO companies who do this and in the fine print your top ranking is actually an Adsense ad, it’s not an organic result. So read the fine print.

    I am a webmaster and have been internet marketing off and on over the past 10 years. I use no software to gain rankings, just hard work and keeping up with the latest marketing strategies.
    I simply go by 2 rules. Effective link building with on and offsite SEO will always get you top results in all the major search engines.I have 3 local clients for products and services, I never gave them a guarantee as 2 of them are competitors however I show them results and I always tell them it will take 3-6 months to show the results for their products or services and it has always been on average 2 months.
    If you effectively market your clients you can almost always guarantee a first page ranking, show them the results of past clients and they will jump on board.
    Bottom line is you need to keep up with the latest news and information in SEO and Marketing trends. Check out the SEO company offering you services and look at their portfolio and ask them to show you proven results. Any reputable company will show you they can do the work it takes and make them show you multiple results!

    Dave, thank you for making my case for me. First you said, “the SEO service I use did get my website on the first page.” But in the very next breath you said “their guarantee worked for me, but I cannot say it will work for any website.”

    You’re absolutely right, you CAN’T say it will work for any website. And that’s exactly the point.

    NO ONE can.

    avatar Michael says:

    I have to agree and disagree at the same time. I agree no SEO company should guarantee 1st page results on a national level however for local businesses I think the company can guarantee results if they have any idea what they are doing. Our company guarantees 1st page results on a local level however we tell clients we cannot guarantee on a national level (due to the amount of competitors as well as the variables that you mention).

    Great article, I agree with it completely on a national based keyword (i.e. plumber) but will argue it when it comes to local (i.e. plumber san diego).

    avatar Adrian says:

    You are absolutely correct of course and with Google providing personalized results a website appearing on page 1 to one searcher may be much further down the list to another based on what Google decides is most relevant. This has now been further confused with their inclusion of Google+ results.

    Thanks for the mention Mr. Jackson. Our SEO guarantee forms the core of our services for dentists – and it’s a business model that’s worked very well for our clients.

    Have a great day,

    John Barremore
    Houston, TX

    avatar moonbeam says:

    This is exactly what I tell clients who call. As a matter of fact, on my business site I specifically state there are NO GUARANTEES. Guarantees mean black hat in my book.

    Had a lawyer contact me about my services. His question was “So, how can you guys guarantee you can get first page placement?” I simply told him that statement is nowhere on my site. Lawyers…a slippery bunch they are. Thought he could trip me up. I directed him to my page where clients are clearly shown in real-time where they are positioned on the organics as well as Google maps local listings. In addition, I directed him to my testimonials page where clients have given their permission for anyone to call them.

    I don’t take their money until I’ve done complete research on their business environment and delivered a full report, which includes their website, keywords, competition and other factors.

    Dental SEO only deals with ONE market…dentists. So, I’m not impressed.

    I take payment UP FRONT before I do any work after accepting a client. Not only are there unscrupulous SEO companies, there are also unscrupulous potential clients! Once you have them up there, you can not take them down immediately. Meanwhile, they benefit from your work without paying for it. Anybody who thinks all clients are angels is deluded.

    I’m one of the ones who was called by “the locksmith” who admitted all his locations were fake and needed a bunch of listings put up after Google knocked all his other fake ones down. Told him I wouldn’t do it. He says “others do it. I said “Well, I don’t.”

    I don’t accept all who call. If while doing my research on their business environment I see problematic issues that would prevent desirable placement, I let them know that and I DON’T take their money.

    avatar Michigan SEO says:

    David! I agree completely. I had an experience recently with a commercial real estate property manager who demanded I give him a price for what it would take to get him on the front page of Google for several cities around Michigan. He wanted onsite SEO, search engine marketing, PPC; the works. I explained to him that–while we would be quite willing to take his money for getting his site to rank better in Google and the other search engines–I would NOT be guaranteeing top placement due to many of the variables you cited in your article. After stonewalling him several times on his question and assuring him we would do our best, I was shown the door with a smirk and a, “See you later.” I’m sure he got his guaranteed placement from someone else, but it wasn’t going to be us. We’ve had enough experience with clients over the years to know that is a dangerous road. Thank you for this article!
    Matt

    All this begs the question of how one can even tell if one is on the first page.

    If you’re consistently ranking in, say, one of the top 5 spots, then you’re probably consistently on the first page. However, if you’re near the bottom of the first page, you may or may not be on the first page.

    This is because search is personal and local, i.e., google shows searchers sites they’ve visited before and Google always takes into account where the searcher is physically located. This means locally optimized and locally based business will have a natural ranking advantage in those cases where searchers are in the same location over those cases where searchers are in a different location.

    The bottom line is that a site, really, only has an average position for a given keyword or phase.

    In fact, Google Webmaster’s query report gives exactly this data — you see an AVERAGE ranking for a given keyword, the click through rate for that keyword, and it gives you a range of positions above and below that average position, a sampling from a frequency – position distribution if you will. Bing offers a similar report. Perhaps someday they will offer a true standard deviation metric.

    In short, rankings jump around and Google’s and Bing’s query report tries to give the website owner some idea about how much. It can often be 3 to 6 position above and below the AVERAGE position. If you’re in the bottom half, somedays you could be on the first page and somedays not. And you can never know exactly were you are. Only Google and Bing know that, and they’re not telling you.

    There are ways to simulate an unbiased search (and I’m not sure how well they work — see the link associated with my name or site to a post I wrote), but even if you could simulate an unbiased search, almost nobody is taking the time and effort to search that way.

    The only true & objective metrics now are traffic and conversions. If those are going up each month, then the SEO worker is doing his or her job. And if you’re creating good and appropriate content and doing at least some link building, a site’s rankings are almost certain to gradually go up because the search engines will reward any effort that truly serves a website owner’s customers.

    The last statement bears repeating: “search engines will reward any effort that truly serves a website owner’s customers.”

    Thank you for your valuable feedback everyone. :)

    avatar Dave Philley says:

    David, I think you miss the point. The SEO company I use guarantees a top 10 ranking. If I do not get it, then I get my money back. But if I do get a top 10 ranking, then I get what I paid for. What is wrong with that? If I buy anything, I would like a guarantee that it works, and if it doesn’t, then I am guaranteed I will get my money back. Why cannot this be true for a SEO service? Why cannot a SEO service offer a guarantee?
    In your response to me, you said I made your point, when I said I cannot guarantee a first place ranking. Of course I cannot; I am not an SEO expert. The SEO company I use is the expert, and they have been making guarantees for many years, and from what I have heard, they have many happy customers.
    Please understand Axandra only provides a guide to get the first place ranking, and if you do everything they suggest, then they guarantee you will get the top ranking. But if you do not, then of course, you will not.

    No Dave, it’s you who’s missing the point. If McDonald’s wants to guarantee the taste of their french fries, they can do so because the quality of their food is totally within their control.

    SEO companies CANNOT realistically guarantee search engine placement because that’s something that IS NOT within their control.

    avatar Solavei says:

    Being on the first page of Google is definitively the golden egg. Staying there is the difficult part. Especially for competitive keywords or phrases.

    @ Dave Philley. Be VERY careful with any SEO company that guarantees a top 10 ranking because they are probably using black hat techniques.

    An effective black hat technique can almost guarantee a top 10 ranking for a keyword.

    However, you will get caught.

    Do this — tell your SEO company, “sure, I’ll pay you $$ for a guaranteed top 10 position IF you also guarantee that you are following Google quality guidelines and that I’ll never get penalized for manipulative link building.” My guess is they won’t guarantee this, because the ARE violating those guidelines.

    If you’re not sure if they are violating guidelines, that is the height of foolishness.

    If your business is bringing you, say, 30K+ profit each and every month, why on earth would you risk that by living in denial about what your SEO company is doing? WAKE UP!!

    avatar Solavei says:

    It is hard to get there, and even harder to stay there. Having fresh new content all the time has been the key for the work I have doing lately. If you can do this then it will be a huge help. In 2012 Google loves fresh and unique content, period.

    avatar Solavei says:

    I find its getting harder and harder to stay in the results for a longer period of time now. So many updates all the time are leaving a lot of people frustrated with google

    @Solavei,
    the updates may move you around, up or down, a bit more than usual, but really, if you’re doing correct SEO (and I won’t get into what that means — you can click on my name to learn more), you really shouldn’t even notice these updates. If you’re negatively hit in a noticeable way, that’s like having a heart attack — it is sign something is wrong w/your link profile or on-page SEO (i.e., there’s too much of it).

    avatar Jake Stevens says:

    Sorry to disappoint you David but rankslocal.com had promised me a Google first page listings and not only did they deliver, I actually got over 18,000 of my long term keywords ranked on Google 1st page. Don’t believe me? Click download this report and see for yourself. https://www.dropbox.com/s/6q2axc7ktl7cnv7/rankslocal-sample-report.pdf

    @Jake. For your site, OSE reports 5 linking domains, one of them being harvard.edu and … over 2000!? inbound links, from just 5 domains. If these were manually created, I’d get ready for a big loss in traffic when the next Penguin rolls around. Finally, check out what Matt Cutts has to say about ranking #1 for 5 word phrases like “Dump Body Lake Clarke Shores:” How can I explain to clients that rankings can’t be guaranteed?. Good luck.

    For http://www.advancedfabricators.com/, OSE reports 5 linking domains, one of them being harvard.edu and … over 2000 inbound links. If these were manually created, I’d get ready for a big loss in traffic when the next Penguin rolls around. Finally, check out what Matt Cutts has to say about ranking #1 for 5 word phrases like “Dump Body Lake Clarke Shores:” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6zGjcf6Snw. Good luck.

    avatar kevin says:

    I don’t understand Dave. If the SEO company will issue a written guarantee that you get first place ranking or you will get a full refund of all your money, where is the risk? Do you think they will refuse to refund the money?

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