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Why SEO success isn’t promised

Content publishers want their site’s pages to rank on the first page of search results for sound reasons:

  • Many people click on a result from the first page – An article featured in Moz said that about 70% of organic clicks come from the first page of search engine result pages (SERPs)
  • Most people click on a top three (3) result
  • Featured snippets are only selected from a first-page result

Increasing search visibility should be the aspiration for any SEO campaign, and hopefully, a campaign can yield improved SEO site health, increased site traffic from the organic channel, and better rankings for target keywords. But, are those results guaranteed? Should they be guaranteed? In this article, I’ll try to answer those questions.

There isn’t a formula for SEO

If you’re looking for a formula to get all of your target pages with target keywords to the top of search results shortly after they’re published, you’ll be looking forever. It doesn’t exist. Things like a specific increase in organic search traffic, page-one rankings, or top position rankings aren’t promised by even the best SEO agencies and most reputable SEO professionals.

If there are SEO opportunities on a website, SEOs can help identify those opportunities and provide recommendations and next steps. Having said that, they should never guarantee that the result of the recommendation or tactic will get a page to rank on the first page of search results, let alone the top position, or top positions. No professional SEO can guarantee this delivery and if they do, they are likely gaining those results with unethical tactics that will eventually be detrimental to the website. SEO takes time. It is a collection of activities that go toward improving the website experience, which will, in turn, improve your organic search presence.

First page promises from SEOs should be a red flag. There is no one formula for SEO success because that means something different to each unique brand. Even Google cautions about SEOs that promise these kinds of results.

Reasons results are not guaranteed

There are sound reasons why SEO results are not guaranteed. This list isn’t exhaustive, but I’ll share below some main reasons SEO results can’t be promised.

Search algorithms change

You knew this one was going to be here. Because search algorithms change, page-one or position-one results can’t be guaranteed. Google updates its algorithms regularly. Some updates have a minimal impact to search results, some updates have a large impact to search results. Because Google is the search leader (at the time of writing this article), following Google’s webmaster guidelines will help your website maintain its place in search, even when algorithms change.

Each query is unique and produces unique search results

Some queries will generate a featured snippet. Some queries will generate a rich card. Some queries will only show you 10 links on the SERP. Every query is different and unique and so are the results. And, these results might change over time because what helps searchers today, might be obsolete tomorrow. Professional SEOs should put their clients in the best position possible to rank for featured snippets, to show up as a rich card, and to rank at the top of the SERPs. However, doing everything you can to get there, and guaranteeing you’ll get there, are two different things.

Guarantees have a bad track record

I’ve partnered with clients who unfortunately hired the wrong SEO in the past and their marketing suffered as a result. They were promised a top spot in search, at a low cost, and results in a short amount of time. What could be the result of working with an SEO using unethical tactics? Your website could get a manual penalty, you may lose rankings and traffic, your online reputation could tank, and more. Per Google, “No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.” As I mentioned above, SEOs making promises are likely gaining those results with unethical tactics that will eventually be detrimental to the website. Do your research and ask about strategies, tactics, and methods that will be used for your SEO campaign.

Wrap up

Like building a great business, SEO also takes time. Many tasks, small and large, are rolled out over time to deliver hard-earned results. Your primary goal should be to focus on the users and meet their needs with a website that offers authentic, useful products or services, that deliver a best-in-class experience. Make great products and services and make a great website that promotes those offerings. If you’re able to optimize that website with stellar SEO, that should help too.

If an SEO agency is guaranteeing first-page real estate, it’s all smoke and mirrors. If they deliver on a guarantee, you can almost guarantee that they’ve used unethical means to make that happen, like winning out in low-competition keywords that have no meaningful connection to your brand – and as a result, won’t generate the right kind of business.

Our SEO approach focuses on long-term, meaningful SEO improvements, that deliver improved organic search performance. Drop us a line to set up an SEO consultation.

Josh Gellock

Josh is the principal SEO consultant at Expander Digital, an SEO studio he founded in 2014. He's been in the SEO space since 2011 and helps businesses manage their SEO through projects, consultations, and campaigns. When he’s not meeting with clients, you can find Josh spending time with his children or on a bike.

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