In the SEO world, we see them as the enemy to beat.
And yet, they seem really appealing to newcomers: after all, why should you go with someone who does not guarantee anything over someone who does?
Well, when it comes to SEO, there are a number of very valid reasons to stay away from guaranteed results.
We’re going to dive deep into what guaranteed SEO results are, why some companies offer them and how they make them work (which is exactly why you shouldn’t go after them), and also what to do instead.
What Are Guaranteed SEO Services?
Guaranteed SEO services are SEO services offered by companies who promise something specific, like first page rankings, a particular number of clicks, impressions or organic sessions, or sometimes even conversions, like sales or form subscriptions.
They will usually offer a money-back guarantee, such as a refund if they do not hit the target that was agreed upon.
This does not seem like such a bad move from the client’s perspective: they either get what they want, or don’t spend anything.
Only positive outcomes, right?
Well, no - it’s much more complicated than that. And as usual with SEO, most of it can seem counter-intuitive at first.
Why You Should Avoid Any Guarantee When It Comes to SEO
It all boils down to one thing: risk.
Let’s think for a second about why people offer these guaranteed services: because they see it as a UPS (Unique Selling Proposition) - something to nudge you into buying from them.
They then have to deliver on that promise.
And how do they do that?
Usually, by going for shady, black-hat tactics.
That (and much more) can compromise your online business.
What Is Black Hat SEO and Why Is It Bad?
The “black-hat” term comes from the cybersecurity world, where it designates malicious hackers. Black-hat hackers are opposed to white-hat hackers, fighting for good.
Black-hat SEO is constantly evolving, but can be defined as the collection of tactics designed to manipulate search engines.
These tactics can include:
Abusing Public Blog Networks (PBNs)
The issue is: Google (and other search engines) try to minimize the manipulation they can be subjected to. Google’s best interest is to provide you with the best possible results, not manipulated ones.
By using these black hat tactics, you are going up against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines - a set of rules for webmasters to follow - the law of SEO, if you will.
That leaves your business open to huge risk - like disappearing from search altogether.
Search Engines themselves warn against guarantees
In its “Do you need an SEO” article, Google actually warns against guaranteed SEO results:
And they make a very valid point: what actually are these people guaranteeing?
Let’s imagine you own a store selling coffee and coffee-related products.
Can someone realistically get your money by guaranteeing top 3 rankings for “organic ground coffee”?
What they will actually do is guarantee results for things that you do not care about in the slightest, like “organic ground coffee from South Africa”.
South African coffee may be good, but with only 200 ha cultivated right now, it’s probably not the hottest keyword for your business.
And sometimes it’s even worse, with people purposely trying to rank for keywords with a spelling mistake.
Search Engines are by nature volatile - no one can guarantee anything
Another reason why you should stay away from these so-called SEOs is a very hard truth that every decent SEO acknowledges: we do not exactly know how the algorithm works.
And this is fine - it doesn’t mean that we don’t know at all - it means we don’t know enough to actually guarantee anything.
On top of that, search engines are volatile beasts by design: the algorithms change all the time, search results change all the time and rankings change … you guessed it, all the time.
Google admittedly updates its algorithm thousands of times per year, and big core updates shake up the SEO landscape a few times per year.
No one can predict how this or that website will behave.
SEO isn’t a science. It’s not magic either, but it’s more of an experimental endeavor: we succeed through trial and error.
This is very, very far from guaranteed.
Guaranteed search engines rankings distract you from your real SEO goals
Because of all of this (and more that we didn’t touch on, like people tricking you into believing that Google Ads results are search results), guaranteed SEO results lead you to adopt a very narrow-minded approach of SEO.
You’re not thinking about the big picture: you’re thinking about ranking for this keyword, very short-term. Or you’re thinking about the number of clicks or organic sessions, without wondering whether these are actually worth anything to your business.
As we’ll see in the second part of this article, SEO is about adopting a long-term, customer-centric approach - building your business with value, brand awareness, and trustworthiness.
Guaranteed results usually take you very far away from all of this.
So what you should do instead?
I’m glad you asked.
How to Choose a Reliable SEO Partner (Agency, Freelancer, Employee)
Let’s look at what you can do and what to look for in a reliable SEO.