Members of the Pole Position Marketing pit crew answer your web marketing questions from their unique perspectives, with a “bonus lap” by a guest industry pro. See previous questions or go to our contact page to ask your own or inquire about our services.
Today’s Question: Can You Guarantee Search Engine Rankings?
Stoney deGeyter’s Answer from an SEO Perspective:
The job of the SEO is to give your site the best possible opportunity to earn rankings. But even still, I would say the web marketer has only about 50% of the ability to influence rankings. The other 50% fall on the business itself.
Assume with me for a second that the web marketing team has an unlimited budget to work with (read: unlimited hours to optimize and market the site), and they have 100% control of all website content and functionality. With that, you might think that they then have 100% of the ability to influence rankings.
Unfortunately, how the business is run plays a big role as well. If products are frequently out of stock, support requests unreturned or the right product knowledge isn’t being conveyed to the marketing team, then, ultimately, the business will suffer in performance. And that means search engine rankings too!
It’s not in Google’s best interest to drive their searchers to crappy businesses. Of course, nobody believes they run a crappy shop, but what do your past customers think? If you have even a 10% dissatisfaction rate, you could be looking at trouble.
On a final note, even if the SEO has 100% control over every aspect of the business, how it’s run and it’s marketing, we still would not be able to guarantee rankings. Why? Because Google simply never gives us that opportunity.
Deb Briggs’ Answer From a Content Marketing Perspective:
Can you guarantee search engine rankings?
Well, in a word, no. As Stoney said, that’s Google’s job. But that’s not to say that you can’t help Google see that your site contains quality, authoritative content.
We often initially help clients with a content review of their site. While most know who their target audience is, they haven’t actually defined their buyer personas. What is your typical customer’s job title? In what industry? What is the usual age range? What level of education have they received? What challenges do they want to overcome with your product or service?
Answering these questions can help paint a picture of the type of content you should be creating to meet the needs of your target audience. For example, we have a client that sells heavy equipment through distributors across the country. The answer to the typical education level for these distributors is high school to college, but few have Master’s or Doctorate degrees. This customer generally enters their role with little experience and needs to learn about the product they help install—fast. That tells us that this client should be creating content that is more educational in nature. From informative blog posts to how-to installation videos, creating these types of resources will be beneficial to customers and will reinforce that this website is an authority in the field, something Google likes to see when ranking web pages.
Can you guarantee search engine rankings? No. But you can create useful, authority-building content that will resonate with your target audience and help lead them through the conversion process.
Annalisa Hilliard’s Answer From a Link Building & Local SEO Perspective:
There are over 200 ranking factors that Google uses to determine what sites to rank in search results. While some of those factors have been in place since inception, others have changed or been added. As Google’s algorithm advances over time, it’s less likely to be manipulated by automated or spammy tactics. Many years ago, getting value from a link used to be as easy as commenting on a blog post and dropping a link to the site for which you wanted to give a ranking boost. In October of 2005, Google released a series of algorithm updates to target low-quality links, link networks and schemes. Ever since, there have been continual updates to penalize websites trying to rank via manipulative tactics.
If someone is telling you they guarantee to get your site ranked, I’d question their tactics. There are strategies that might make your site jump in the search results, but such results will likely be short lived and could potentially tank your site’s search performance in the long run. Proceed with caution. Better yet, ask for clarification. If what they intend to do sounds questionable, it probably is.
Always take the user into consideration when optimizing your website to gain favor in search rankings. The content value and usability of the site are going to impact engagement metrics such as the average time spent by users on the site, number of pages viewed per visitor and bounce rate.
Additionally, Google has outlined what they consider to be best practices. You can find these guidelines in the Page Quality Rating Guideline section of their General Guidelines manual. Understanding their suggestions and using them as a guide in your optimization implementation, can help your site reside in Google’s good favor.
Finally, setting tangible goals and realistic expectations about your site rankings is important to your success. A specific ranking can’t be guaranteed. However, there are many opportunities to optimize your site in ways that will benefit users as well as follow Google’s guidelines. Be committed to doing things that will add value to your audience and over time you will see positive gains.
BONUS LAP: The 2 Biggest Reasons You Should Not Seek ‘Guaranteed Results’ From Your SEO
Rebecca Murtagh, author of Million Dollar Websites: Build a Better Website Using Best Practices of the Web Elite in E-Business, Design, SEO, Usability, Social, Mobile and Conversion offers two compelling reasons you should never seek SEO services that promise results or believe those who claim to guarantee rankings.
Reason 1: Google Warns Against Guaranteed Search Engine Optimization Claims
Unsuspecting website owners and webmasters with good intentions often fall prey to this marketing scheme, not realizing that even Google warns against SEO guarantees:
“Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or “bad neighborhoods” on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.” -Google.com
As tempting as it may be, one must resist the allure of guarantees in search rank, especially from the telemarketer that catches you on the phone and makes big promises. The biggest shake-up in recent history occurred when Google began scrutinizing referral links. This algorithm change forced thousands of SEO firms who had abused link-building schemes to try to trick search engines in their quest to improve website quality scores to drastically alter, or close their businesses.
Reason 2: Search Is No Longer Static
Geolocation, personalized search results and other advanced elements in search engine algorithms have eliminated static SRPs (search engine results pages). Two people can conduct the exact keyword query and view totally different results, depending on their search history, where they are located and whether or not they are logged into a Google account. In addition, Google’s algorithm has become quite advanced and will present content from a website page if it matches a query better than the meta description written for the website.
If results are no longer static, how could any SEO firm guarantee (or prove) results?
The best path to achieving visibility in search is to hire a reputable SEO expert. It is imperative that you do your homework. There may be thousands of companies claiming to perform SEO, yet there is an exclusive segment of the industry of ethical firms and independent consultants that you can entrust to help you achieve results in search. Whether you choose to perform SEO in-house or outsource, those who want to really understand SEO will find a goldmine of information here in Rebecca’s book.