I’m sure you’ve seen the ads or other websites promising guaranteed SEO results, such as:
I have, too, and I cringe each time.
Here’s the truth about such a claim: no one can guarantee anything when it comes to organic (or natural) search engine results.
With that being said, however, I can definitely estimate certain results with a reasonable expectation of success.
Sounds like double-speak, you say? Allow me to explain.
It’s probably obvious to most that being the first result anyone sees will hold an advantage over lesser results.
But how much of an advantage does the 1st spot hold over, say, the 3rd spot? Or the 5th? Or how about the 10th spot? It’s still on the first page, right?
The actual stats may surprise you:
* Statistics courtesy of Chitika.com
(1st: 32% | 2nd: 17.6% | 3rd: 11.4% | 4th: 8.1% | 5th: 6.1% | 6th: 4.4% | 7th: 3.5% | 8th: 3.1% | 9th: 2.6% | 10th: 2.4%)
As you can see, the website in 1st place will get 32% of that traffic. If you’re competing for strong search terms, this can mean a LOT of traffic to your website.
If you’re in 5th position, you can expect to see about 6%.
The good news is that 6% of meaningful traffic is a start and can work out to a few sales.
The bad news is that 6% of useless traffic isn’t worth the time spent on getting it.
This is an important distinction, and one that a lot of the larger SEO companies fail to make while they sell you on their latest “SEO Package” and 6 month contract. Crappy keywords – or keywords that very few people actually use in a search – are virtually useless. Anyone can rank for those and they are basically a waste of time. More to the point, you really shouldn’t be paying anyone to do that for you.
Let’s say I’ve been working all day at my computer and decide that I’m in the mood for some chicken wings, so I do a quick search for “best wings Toronto” and get the following results:
As you can see, this is an extremely competitive search term and one that would be difficult to rank highly for.
Now we will do another search, but this time we’ll use some seriously obscure search terms:
Having gone from 34 million to 57 thousand results, it should be obvious that this string of keywords would be useless if you were hoping to lure chicken wing enthusiasts into your restaurant or bar.
Note to reader: There aren’t really that many results. It just gives you an idea about the amount of competing websites.
And especially when you consider that not one of those results was for an actual restaurant or bar.
Ranking for terms that no one actually uses is not only useless, but a waste of time and your money as well.
Ever heard the saying that ‘the devil is in the details’? It couldn’t be more true when dealing with promises of first-page search results.
For example, you might sell clothing and want to launch a Christmas line of “personalized stockings“. After doing a bit of research, an SEO company might decide that it is easier – by about 50% – to compete for something like “embroidered Christmas stockings”.
Now, “personalized Christmas stockings” and “embroidered Christmas stockings” may sound like the same thing – and they kind of are in a semantic sort of way – but they do not fetch the same amount of traffic. When it comes to search, specific terms really do matter.
Another example might be something like “Roofing Services”. Anyone who owns a home (or building of some sort) usually has a roof and most roofs will need to be shingled or repaired at some point. But what is the difference between trying to compete for “roofing” vs. “flat roofing”? Quite a bit, actually, and coming up high for something like “flat roofing” is not the same as coming up for “shingle roofing”.
If anyone promises you guaranteed SEO results or rankings, you need to ask “for which keywords”.
If we were to pretend that this is a logic puzzle, the question might look like:
If some of your website traffic are sales, and all of your sales come from website traffic, then all of your website traffic will be sales.
Whatever that means, the point should be clear that having a lot of traffic that won’t convert is worse than having a small amount of traffic that does convert.
Put another way, 10 hits a month from people looking to buy is better than 200 hits a month from people who are just looking for free information.
If we look at it this way, placing high in the search engine results only matters if the traffic you get will purchase your products and services.
Make sense so far?
So, let’s say you want to compete in the world of “women’s shoes”. You could create some content that focused on that term, and you would currently be competing with 133,000,000 results in Google.ca alone.
Plus a ton of keyword-related Google Ads and paid advertisements.
If we use Google’s ‘Keyword Planner’ to see just how competitive those keywords are, here’s what we get:
There are a lot of monthly searches being performed for “women’s shoes”, but, and as expected, there is also a ton of stiff competition for those keywords as well.
That means a lot of competition from a lot of online businesses that have been competing for those keywords for a long time. In simple-speak, you would be starting the race far behind all of them.
Very far behind, in fact.
A lot of those websites have tons of pages with relevant content and Google has placed various amounts of “trust” in a lot of them. To surpass what they already have established in terms of search engine relevance could take years, a lot of time, and a LOT of money, too.
So, again: anyone promising you a top-ten, first-page result in Google for competitive keywords is either incompetent or is intentionally misleading you about SEO.
No one can guarantee anything when it comes to organic (or natural) search engine results.
In the world of SEO, ‘niche’ means ‘smaller and more attainable’ and is the nice way of saying ‘stay away from markets that are too competitive for you’.
In order to compete at all, you have to at least be in the game and starting off with ultra-competitive keywords probably won’t get you any positive results.
Competing within various smaller markets usually means developing a set of ‘niche’ keywords, as doing so will allow you to strengthen your online presence for more varied search terms.
What does that mean?
Basically, you widen your search terms.
So, instead of “women’s shoes”, for example, you might try “women’s casual shoes” and see what the competition is like for that.
If we go back to the Google Adwords planner, we see that broadening this search term has reduced the amount of monthly searches:
If it’s still too steep, we can widen them even more until we find something that we can compete with.
Over time, and as you begin to rank well for the broader terms, you can work your way back into the tougher search terms.
If you were to search for “women’s casual walking shoes Whitby”, for example, we see that the competition drops to about half of what you get for “women’s shoes”. Change that to say “Oshawa” instead of “Whitby” and you get even fewer results and monthly searches:
As you can see, the amount of competition gets smaller as you broaden your search terms and my job is to find a niche where you can compete and still get a reasonable amount of targeted traffic.
Anyone can do well with search terms that no one searches for, after all.
Another little-known fact to small business owners is that your website’s domain name needs to have been online for up to a year before anyone can do anything with it in terms of SEO.
It takes Google a while to reliably index your website (typically 6-9 months), so if you’ve just purchased your domain name and are hosting it for the first time, don’t expect much from any search engine results.
And don’t let anyone tell you differently and charge you money in the process.
Another variable that comes into play is not just what you do, but what your competitors are doing.
Have they optimised their websites for those search terms? Or are they simply benefiting from having been there for a while with little competition?
You don’t have to be the best website out there.
You just need to be better than your competition.
Using search terms properly, formatting them well and creating content that people want to read goes a long way toward doing well in the search engines. and so does keeping an eye on your competition.
If you think about it, Google ranks websites it thinks are best for a given search term. That in no way implies that they are in fact the best options and you can find a lot of wiggle-room in that fact if you pay attention to what your competitors are up to.
It’s hard to offer guaranteed search results when the SERPs can randomly change the same results for the same keywords.
One day you may be 4th and the next day, 7th.
If nothing else, this seems to tell us that few things are set in stone when it comes to Google Search and guaranteeing anyone anything specific is that much more difficult.
When it comes to organic rankings, you are looking for consistency.
Ever notice that you’ll get a whole set of different results if you search using your mobile phone?
One reason for this is that mobile search results tend to be local.
Another reason is that more mobile users are logged-in and see more personalised results based on past viewing experiences.
And do you even have a responsive or mobile website in place? Without one, Google won’t include you in any mobile search results.
So how would you go about offering guaranteed SEO results for those searches?
One easy way to offer you guaranteed SEO results, albeit a misleading one, is to use paid search programs like Google Adwords.
Anyone can use a PPC campaign to get on the first page for a given set of keywords: just find some niche terms that aren’t extremely competitive and you’re off to the races.
The problem is that the results won’t be natural and will end as soon as you run out of money.
Which is sort of the opposite of what we’re trying to do here.
If someone is pushing guaranteed SEO results on you and won’t clarify whether they will be using paid search, dump them fast.
The short answer is “no, not really”.
There are always variables involved, such as what you sell, how you sell it, where you sell it and how competitive your market already is.
The real skill to all of this is being able to come up with the correct niche keywords and phrases and creating content around them that will target the correct people in your market. We can always expand our targets later, but to start off with there are no quick-fixes or magic potions.
If someone was offering me guaranteed SEO results, I would definitely want to see what they’ve come up with in terms of which keywords they will focus on and how strong the websites were of the main competition. Even niche keyword strings aren’t a guarantee of anything if the competition is strong, right?
Until Google decides to share its secrets with all of us (and they never will), figuring out how to rank well in the organic search results will remain an educated guessing-game of trial-and-error.
And now you know why guaranteed SEO results are misleading at best and a lie at worst.
Let me take care of these things while you take care of your business!