Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Should you be Wary of a "First Page Guarantee"?

Should you be Wary of a "First Page Guarantee"?

"No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on 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."
-Google Webmaster Support Page

In spite of this very direct clarification from Google, many SEOs or internet marketing firms continue to make claims and guarantees regarding their search results.  Examples include First Page Guarantee, On Top Guarantee Search Placement or a Page Rank Guarantee.  One way that many of these firms will "fulfill" that promise is to denote very specific keywords that can be used in the search for which the purchasing company will be on the Google first page.  Matt Cutts, who is in charge of the Webspam team at Google even took to a blog recently to further dispel false promises regarding "First Page Guarantees[1]".   Regarding one website offering a "First Page Guarantee," Matt said, "I would definitely avoid Better Placement. The first thing I see when I visit betterplacement.info are the words 'Guaranteed First Page Placement on Google.' That's a big warning sign."  

If Google itself is advising against patronizing companies making these kinds of promises, why is the practice still so prevalent?  Many small SEOs are likely able to promote local, businesses using specialized key words on a Google first page successfully.  Many SEOs are also likely preying upon small business owners' lack of technical internet expertise.  These small business owners are going to an SEO firm because they don't have many of the internet skills necessary to optimize their small business.  They don't have the internet wherewithal to ask some key questions as they hire a SEO firm for their small business such as[2]:
  • Can you show me examples of your previous work and share some success stories?
  • Do you follow the Google Webmaster Guidelines?
  • What's your experience in my industry?
  • What are your most important SEO techniques?
  • How long have you been in business?
Google recommends asking these types of questions when investigating a potential SEO partnership as one method of deterring fraudulent SEOs.  Other recommendations include avoiding companies who will make "Massive Search Engine Submissions," "Promises of a site index in 24-hours," and companies who offer "Free Trial Services."  SEO is a complex practice and more of an art than a science.  Many small business owners with minimal internet savvy will be as competent at maximizing their online business as a small SEO firm.  It is recommended that small business owners utilize their own research and internet skills to bring themselves up to speed on SEO to either ask the right questions when hiring an SEO firm, or to do their own SEO. 

[1] http://www.seroundtable.com/sketchy-seo-company-google-12786.html

[2] http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=35291


  1. Great post! I definitely agree with your advice for small business owners to familiarize themselves with SEO prior to hiring an outside firm. So many of these firms turn out to be just trying to make a quick buck. I would also recommend that if companies do hire SEO services, to make a very detailed contract and make sure they are protecting themselves from bogus SEO companies.

  2. Valued post. SEO is but one of the many issues that businesses face in marketing, albeit one of the more contemporary issues. Like any business challenge, return to the basics in your critical thinking. Avoid impulse or exterior trappings of any proposal or solicitation. Instead, go to your network to find those whom you trust (and know more than you) and seek their input, from as many TRUSTED sources as possible. Weigh them objectively and emphasize not cost but value. Ask questions until you no longer smell a fish. Try it but don't be afraid to change your mind if the strategy is not getting traction. There's no harm in admitting that you got the wrong map or car to get to your destination. Not surprisingly, this all applies to SEO, too.

  3. Great post! I like how these same concepts apply in many different areas. I have worked from some companies during my undergrad who bought lists frequently from companies promising "Qualified Leads" only to find out that they were merely lists created at random right from phone books and were terrible. I have also found out from my research on social media analytics that this same problem exist where there is an unlimited number of companies all out there looking to make a buck off small business owners in the same way by handling their social media analytics for them. Guarantees like this as you mentioned should be immediately red flagged.