Got a first page SEO guarantee? It's a myth... - On The Map Marketing
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Got a first page SEO guarantee? It’s a myth…

Imagine sitting on the front page of SERPs within only 90 days. All you have to do is hire an SEO agency and leave everything to them.

No sweat, only a budget.

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In this content-overloaded world, with limited time and neck-to-neck competition, who doesn’t want that instant result of an SEO strategy? After all, 68% of online experiences begin with a search.

The phrase “first page SEO” is convincing enough, and you add “guaranteed.” Shut up and take all my money.

Some of us would do anything just to rank #1 on the top page of Google search results as the second page only for people desperately looking for an answer. A meme even says the best place to hide a dead body is page 2 of a Google search.

But just like everything in this world — things that are too good to be true are suspicious, if not a bald-faced lie.

We’ll bring it down a notch and give you the harsh reality that the “first SEO guarantee” is nothing but a myth. It’s a marketing tactic designed to provide false hope to people new to SEO.

Related: On Page SEO Services

What SEO is NOT, and what exactly is it?

First, let’s brush up on the basics by understanding SEO. Maybe saying it aloud can help us understand it better: search engine optimization.

Let’s dive into what it means to optimize content and any other misconceptions about search engine optimization itself.

So, SEO is:

A set of techniques and practices that work with Google’s search algorithm so you can improve your search rank naturally. This word is nothing new in the digital marketing field.

You should identify what kinds of content Google prefers. For example, in their guidelines here, we know that Google likes digital marketing content that provides value to users and keeps them on the page longer.

That’s why engaging content (even if it has only 500 words) with straightforward language, natural target keywords, related terms, and an easy to skim format tends to appeal to Google’s eyes.

But, doing all of it might seem backbreaking. That’s why an SEO company that provides guaranteed SEO services chooses to take a shortcut by putting keywords in white text on a white background so users can still read look-so-natural paragraphs.

Or, they would create links to your websites from “link farms” to aggressively tell Google that your site was popular and worth prioritizing.

SEO is not about beating the system.

SEO is never about tricking, outright manipulating Google. The strategy should always be organic and doesn’t bring overnight success.

So, SEO companies or agencies offering guaranteed SEO services for only 90 days or less are either behind the times or just outright playing on you. Either way, you should reconsider working with them.

Understanding SEO agencies: white hat SEO vs. black hat SEO approach

The organic way of doing SEO is called white hat SEO, while those dirty tricks to fool Google and offer guaranteed SEO services are called black hat SEO.

The only way an SEO technique promises the first page would be if they were somehow playing dirty with the search results to improve a website’s search engine rankings.

Sorry if I burst your bubble, but no SEO agency – not even a company has that power except Google.

Think of an SEO company as a weather forecaster. They can give you the forecast, but they can’t control what the weather will be like on any given day. The same goes for SEO agencies and their ability to guarantee results.

The white hat SEO approach

An ethical or “white hat” SEO company will never blatantly offer you guaranteed SEO services because they know that they can’t control the ebb and flow of the algorithm.

That’s why they focus on creating a variety of high-quality content that can make your website more valuable and authoritative, such as explainer videos, infographics, e-books, you name it.

They can do their best to improve your website’s search engine rankings by giving recommendations and strategies, but their tactics have to change when the algorithms change too.

The black hat SEO approach

A “black hat” SEO agency, on the other hand, focuses on giving SEO services that aim to improve a website’s ranking in any way possible, even if it means breaking the rules. This includes keyword stuffing, link buying, hidden texts (we’ve discussed this), and creating doorway pages.

A screenshot of a website page with a hidden text

It is often used by people who are trying to game the system.

They want to get their website to the top of the SERPs as quickly as possible, even using shady tactics that Google frowns upon.

Why a legitimate agency can’t guarantee SEO rankings…

No one can guarantee to rank #1 on Google. That’s what Google’s guidelines say.

Any legitimate SEO agency will tell you that there is no way to guarantee rankings because rankings can vary depending on various factors, including competition, ever-changing algorithms, and even the goal of your business.

Let’s break down why rankings can’t be guaranteed.

Google’s documentation warns against an SEO guarantees

Every legitimate SEO agency must know that Google has pretty straightforward guidelines for optimizing a website.

They’ll tell you that it’s an ongoing process, and although you are likely to get on the first page and get the best SEO services possible with their efforts, they cannot always guarantee it.

Google developers said so

Google expressly warns against SEO agencies that claim they can guarantee rankings or that they have a special relationship with Google on a guideline:

A screenshot of google developer page

What kind of content does Google love?

Google just wants to ensure that you provide your visitors with valuable information and help them with the answer they’re looking for – and not solely aim to sit on the top page of the SERPs.

It’s about what you provide to your visitors and how you do it.

Google’s algorithms then evaluate how helpful and valuable your content is to its users — then they’ll decide your rank.

Don’t be surprised to see billion-dollar firms (with mediocre quality content) getting outranked by smaller businesses in SERPs. A higher budget equating to a higher ranking is a classic SEO myth.

Be careful of the red flag

So, when a sales weasel says to you on their landing page or during a one-on-one consultation, “Because of our special relationship with Google, we guarantee top placement….”

You know that it’s a red flag 🚩

Of course, legitimate, successful SEO agencies can provide you with best practices and give you the expectation to rank on the first page for a certain number of keywords within a specific time frame. That’s completely fine and not necessarily a red flag.

What’s not okay is where they give outlandish a ranking #1 guarantee for a highly competitive keyword in a short time frame.

SEO is a long-term strategy

There’s no such thing as an overnight success for SEO. You can’t simply work with an agency and expect they will say a Harry Potter spell, “Accio first page of Google.”

What a legit SEO company will tell you

There’s no such thing as an overnight success in SEO practices. Good things take time.

A legitimate SEO agency will never focus on guaranteed results. They will straightforwardly tell you that SEO isn’t a quick fix. It’s an ongoing strategy that requires constant work and maintenance.

They don’t only need to implement all the strategies and best practices they have.

But, they also have to take effort and time to research and understand the industry your business is in, take stock of your current website, find the right content strategy for you, research your competitors, look for measurable keywords, and much more.

All of them indeed take a lot of time to do. Even after the implementation, the search engine will take more time to consider all the changes.

After all, Google is sure they provide their users with relevant and problem-solving search results. It doesn’t rank websites so quickly to avoid making mistakes.

How long does it take to rank on Google?

More than 95% of published pages don’t even rank in the top 10 SERPs in the first year.

According to the Ahref study, only 22% can make it to the top 10 within the first year. Read more about it here: How long does it take to rank on Google?

It all depends on what keywords you aim for, how competitive those keywords are, your website’s domain authority, the overall quality of your content, etc.

There’s no one-size-fits-all SEO strategy

SEO is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Think of it this way: when you visit a doctor, you want them to give you the correct diagnosis with appropriate treatment.

The doctor can’t just give the same medicine to a patient with the common flu and a patient with tuberculosis disease.

SEO works just the same. You can’t simply provide one solution to cover campaigns that have been affected by different issues.

Why does SEO need to be fully customized?

What works for one website may not work for another. Rankings can vary depending on the industry, the target market, and the keywords you are targeting.

An SEO agency should consider all these factors when creating a strategy that works for you.

They’ll make sure they understand your business and your goals for SEO. That’s how they can develop a custom plan of action based on their findings.

It doesn’t stop with a one-time analysis either – your SEO agency should continually update you on any changes, track the ranking, analyze the strategy’s performance, and make changes as needed to ensure you are getting the best results.

For example, On The Map Marketing does custom SEO work for clients, which means starting at what the client’s websites need the most right now for growing – not where they have fun executing on. Generally speaking, an SEO audit is super helpful before an agency works on your site.

A screenshot of on the map seo page

They’ll find holes in your strategy before they can develop relevant solutions to fill those gaps.

Search engines’ algorithms are constantly changing

Search engine algorithms are fickle. Only search engines themselves control the algorithms used to rank web pages.

One keyword can rank well after only a few weeks, and others can take months. It depends on factors such as search volume, competition, and more.

Google has provided best practices to make your website more user-friendly for its search engine.

But, one thing is that how the algorithms work remains mysterious.

How often does Google change its algorithm?

Most experts estimate that Google changes its search algorithm around 500-600 each year— meaning about 1-2 every day.

Of course, most of the changes and updates aren’t major and have a groundbreaking impact on SEO. But, each of them may change the way you should approach your optimization strategy.

Even if you’re doing everything “right,” according to Google, your rankings can still drop for reasons beyond your control. This is why first-rank SEO guarantees are nothing more than hot air.

Search engine rankings are dynamic

Not only do algorithms change constantly, but rankings are also dynamic. Just because you rank number one today doesn’t mean you’ll stay there tomorrow.

How is it dynamic?

It’s not uncommon for a website to wake up one day and find that its ranking has dropped– sometimes by several positions.

In addition, how your website ranks on any particular search engine is partially based on users’ web search history.

For example, if you’ve been searching for a particular keyword on Google for the past few weeks, you’re more likely to see results related to that keyword higher up on the list.

Search engines also take into account your geographical location when determining rankings.

So, your results may be different if you’re searching from another country or region than where the website is based.

For example: Search for something on Google using your computer and then explore the same thing using your friend’s phone. You’ll get different results.

Here’s the desktop result when you search using the keyword “credit cards.” with the location setting in Indonesia. The first organic page that ranks #1 is HSBC.

A result page of keyword credit card in indonesia

Meanwhile, when you use the same keyword on a mobile search with the location setting the United States, Netwallet ranks first (after all those PPC ads).

A result page on mobile search for keyword credit card in us

All of this goes to show that rankings are far from static. They’re constantly changing, based on various factors, and there’s no way to guarantee rankings.

Rankings could be a vanity metric for your business

SEO is important, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of online success. Just because your website ranks number one for a particular keyword doesn’t mean you will get a ton of traffic or make a lot of sales.

What’s more important than being #1 on Google?

It’s possible that the keyword you’re ranking for isn’t being searched very often. Or, the people who are searching for that keyword might not be interested in what you’re selling.

In other words, rankings could be a vanity metric for your business– it might look good, but it doesn’t mean the world.

This is why it’s essential to focus on more than just your google rankings. It’s not all about purely throwing your money at SEO.

It’s about effectively utilizing your budget across your content strategy, links, and technical development of your website.

That’s why a legitimate SEO agency will not only focus on your website ranking. They will track and look at your website’s traffic, leads, conversion rate, and other important metrics as these are more reliable indicators of how SEO is impacting your bottom line.

Wrapping up: What to do instead?

Unethical SEO companies try to game the system, which may work for a while. When Google figures this out, they impose stiff penalties.

Rankings are just one small part of the SEO puzzle. Don’t be fooled by companies that aggressively promote guaranteed SEO services and the first-rank listing. It’s simply not possible.

What do you need to look for?

No agencies can control the algorithms – and bold claims about things that are hardly in control of the agency are not worth listening to, let alone investing in.

Instead, focus on finding an agency to help you achieve sustainable growth for your business. A legit SEO agency will not have some sort of timeframe.

They know that optimization takes time. It takes patience. It takes brilliant content.

So, instead of working with an agency obsessed with ranking a keyword, it’s always better to find one that can guide you through creating better content for better optimization and contributing to your business longevity.

Author bio:

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Andre Oentoro is the founder of Breadnbeyond, an award-winning explainer video company. He helps businesses increase conversion rates, close more sales, and get positive ROI from explainer videos (in that order).

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