A topic often debated in SEO forums is that of what exactly an SEO should guarantee. To quote Google "Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a "special relationship" with Google or advertise a "priority submit" to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is through our Add URL page or by submitting a Sitemap and you can do this yourself at no cost whatsoever."
Beware Ranking Guarantees
Google also suggest you should be wary of an SEO who "guarantees ranking, but only on obscure, long keyword phrases that you would get anyway". This one is used all the time.
When they say an SEO, we mean someone who works in an SEO agency or a freelancer who is working on optimising your website to get more visibility in the search results. Unfortunately, there are all too many of these people who are trying to pull the wool over your eyes, or bamboozle you with jargon.
Here's something to try if you are concerned.
If you want to check how much competition a search phrase really has, ignore the number quoted when you carry out a simple search; instead, put the search term in quotes like this "my search term". You could also add the intitle operator to find pages that use the phrase in their title, often considered a more accurate measure of exactly how many pages are chasing a phrase, like this - intitle:"my search term".
For example, I recently saw an SEO demonstrating their ability by shouting about ranking number one in Google for the search phrase professional SEO advice. They claimed there are over 2 million competing pages. In fact, even on an open search, there are only 340,000 pages. If you narrow the search down using quotes, that drops to 1,120 pages, and if you add the intitle: operator, it drops to 55 pages.
It wouldn't be much of a claim to shout about being number one in Google for a search phrase with only 55 competing pages. It actually gets worse; the phrase has virtually no search volume, so it's not worth ranking for anyway.
What SEO Agencies Should Provide
But I digress. If an SEO can't guarantee rankings what can they guarantee? Here's a list for starters.
- Remove technical barriers stopping pages from being indexed - this could include things like checking the way a page has been set up and how it works on mobile
- Ensure pages are well formed and use key SEO elements correctly - does it have unique page titles and meta descriptions, for example
- Carry out keyword research to create an understanding of your market - what are people actually searching for?
- Install analytics software and help you interpret the results - transparency is important, not just sending a monthly report and leaving you to it
- Provide a link building strategy for your site - check this one as it's all too easy to buy links from any old website. Make sure the plan makes sense and won't compromise your website.
- Work with you to get the most from your site - a team effort always works best
- Work on reducing bounce rates - this can involve design, development and content production, so make sure they have the capabilities
- Work on increasing enquiries - that could be increasing traffic or increasing conversions, or most likely, both
- Write relevant content - again a team approach works best as you are the subject matter expert
- Be realistic about what can be achieved and when - you need to trust them so you don't want any unrealistic predictions
There are many things an SEO company can guarantee, even if they can't guarantee rankings. Make sure you ask the right questions and treat the hiring of an SEO just like any other professional service. If in doubt, walk away. If it sounds too good to be true, it will be.
However, no credible SEO would agree to take your money if they didn't believe they could move the dial and improve your current situation, we certainly wouldn't. To help you choose a great search partner watch this Google video on how to hire an SEO, it's brilliant.