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SEO Guarantees: A Tale of SEO Woe

I’ve been thinking lately about how our perception of SEO has been skewed by what used to be much easier: getting a Web page into the top 10 of Google search results for a head term (a.k.a “money term”) in a fairly short amount of time. Much has changed and yet many clients still sing the same song. They want to be in the top 10 for “some money keyword”, and no, not 6 months from now…today.

Think about this: many thousands of websites compete for the top spot, or the top ten for head terms only? How realistic is short-term top 10 ranking then? Not very. Even if you do everything right, even if you somehow guess what magical combination of on-page factors and off-page factors will get you to that hallowed position, even if you pray to some ranking God, perhaps sacrificing your youngest to sweeten  the pot, you might not get there: short-term, long-term, any-term. There are no guarantees.

So why does this “top-ten-now-and-nothing-else-will-do” attitude persist? SEO BS is why. Over the years, scores of SEO companies have guaranteed results. You’ve seen the email pitch “Guaranteed Top 10 Positioning”. These SEO companies promise the heavens, but how many succeed? How can anyone guarantee positioning? They can’t. Yet, that’s what clients want and some will prey on ignorance and desperation.

It’s a volume game for the unscrupulous SEOs. Maybe they sign up 500 clients if they blast 1 million in-boxes with their come-on and perhaps they get top 10 ranking for a handful. The remaining, unlucky majority, who don’t get the promised result don’t complain strenuously because they aren’t paying much. Those who do complain likely have little chance of getting their money back. The fine print of guarantees has a funny of way of ensuring this. Yet, the game will keep on playing because as long as there are businesses desperate to compete and looking for a quick route to success, there will be those who form a line to capitalize. Greed, hope and desperation are a con artist’s entree to your wallet. Always have been and always will be.

A cautionary tale

Recently, I read an article about how some grey and black-hat SEOs are scrambling to get bad links removed from websites – mainly from links in comments that they themselves injected (comments spam). It’s funny. Blog comments spam was the black-hat SEOs main method of getting backlinks. There are millions of blogs run by innocents who don’t moderate. Blast enough of them with software and you’ll get backlinks. So, now, after Panda and Penguin, many of these same SEOs who convinced clients that their winning SEO program was safe (pffft) and effective (pffft) are pleading with Website and blog owners to remove their crap comments now that their clients sites are drowning in the backwaters of the search engines results pages as a direct results of comments spam. Seems the backbone of their SEO guarantee has snapped in two.

Summary

Is ranking important? Yes, but not always for the money keywords and it’s definitely not the only sign of a healthy, well wounded Web marketing strategy. Are SEO guarantees still BS? Yes, they are. I’d never guarantee SEO for organic ranking. Sorry. Anyone who guarantees top 5, or top 10 or top whatever, is selling you a bridge. Just ask the folks desperately trying to get their spammy links removed from blog comments.

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