If you are a small business owner shopping for an SEO expert to optimize your website, no doubt you’ve been tempted by the ominous “Top 10 Guarantee.” While top ten rankings are a worthy goal, shelling out money to an SEO that makes such pie-in-sky claims will leave you frustrated and probably wishing you had spent your cash on something more useful, like snake oil.
Experienced SEO experts know that top ten rankings (or even top twenty for that matter) do not happen over night. There can be a period of tweaking required depending on the requirements of your site, the complexity of its content, and you and your SEO’s willingness to partner over the long run.
Moreover, it takes about three to six months for applied SEO to begin impacting your rankings in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). And even this three to six month window is itself a gray area. No SEO should guarantee when a web page will begin to start seeing improved rankings for specific key phrases. As if this is not enough to try the patience of a monk, new domains (and the pages that inhabit them) must endure Google’s much dreaded “aging delay” which can last up to a year. During that time, Google does not care one iota what you or your SEO do to your site or its code. The Google algorithms simply won’t permit your pages to compete in organic search until they are deemed to have aged like a fine wine, arguably demonstrating an intention or purpose that goes beyond spam, your brother-in-law’s homework assignment, or just a whim on a dull Friday night.
When your pages do get released from Google’s holding pattern and SEO efforts being to pay off, it’s tempting to get complacent about the maintenance of other important online marketing efforts. (Why does fame do this to people?) Anyone who has lived through the last couple of rounds of algo updates over at Google can attest to the monolith’s rather ticklish disposition. “Here one day, gone the next” has happened to the most savvy marketers on the Internet. That’s life in SEO. (That’s also why you should have a well-stocked marketing toolkit working for your site at all times.)
While many of the best things for sale do in fact come with a guarantee, the only thing your SEO should “guarantee” is to work with your firm to uncover key business goals and implement a strategy to help your site move closer to achieving them. Esoteric? Perhaps. But SEO is not an exact science-neither is business in general, despite what the academics and Wallstreet cronies would have you believe. Attempting to quantify and guarantee results is simply a gamble not worth taking.
A top notch SEO consultant will be the behind the scenes partner that works to drive more qualified traffic to your site than what it is currently seeing. And therein lies the catch: qualified traffic. It’s relatively easy to achieve top ten rankings for key phrases that no one is searching on and that none of your competitors is optimizing for either. But that won’t help your bottom line, will it?
SEO is about alerting the search engines to content, content your target market is likely to be searching for when seeking information regarding the products or services you have to offer. There are numerous ways to do this, but a good SEO will work in an ethical fashion with no intent to “trick” the search engines into thinking your pages are something other than what they really are.
Search engines may just be mega computers in a warehouse, but they are programmed to act like humans do on the web. Humans want to see SERPs that relate as closely as possible to the search terms they just typed in. Search engines thus strive to provide relevant results to their audience. In doing so, they can also offer a better ROI for paid advertising, ultimately protecting their revenue streams. An SEO who doesn’t understand these basic economic principles is an SEO that probably doesn’t have your best interests in mind.
Search engine optimization does not have to be an exercise in frustration or budget busting. However, a savvy entrepreneur will ignore whatever sounds too good to be true. Instead, he will seek out an SEO practitioner who will focus on the wins that could bring long term success rather than short term goal scoring.