I love this question. It’s easy for an SEO agency to haughtily stick their nose in the air and say “No, and anyone who tells you they can is dishonest.” What you don’t hear from many agencies is why the guarantee (and the question) is meaningless. Number one on Google doesn’t mean what it used to and here’s why…
Did you know that your search results will appear differently than for other people based on your search habits, geographic location, and demographics? Did you know that a site you’ve visited recently gets a very large boost in your personal search ranking results because you’ve visited it, and Google’s search algorithm knows that if you’ve visited a site before, especially multiple times, you’re likely to want to see it again? Some agencies will use that knowledge to create a false sense of confidence in clients. Here’s the real story.
Understanding the Effect of Location and Individual Preferences on Search
What is a search engine like Google trying to accomplish? What Google wants more than anything else is for you, the searcher, to find exactly what you are looking for in the first position, every time. Google knows that the closer they get to that goal, the more often you will turn to Google as a resource. For that reason, great effort goes into understanding who you are, where you are, and what you are most likely to want to see.
If you were to search your own business’s keywords, those results would probably show a higher ranking than if a new customer did the same search. With search engines increasingly focusing on location and individual preferences, your business may rank #3 organically for one user and #8 for another user with different user history and location. Location is sensitive. The same search one mile apart can yield different results.
There is also a significant difference between rankings for a geographically modified search like “Cosmetic Dentist in Arlington TX” (shown in Diag. 1 below) and a search simply for “Cosmetic Dentist” (shown in Diag. 2 below) from a device located in Arlington. Which are you more likely to search? Would that answer be likely to change based on the type of device you were using when you searched? Take a look at these search results and note the only search result that stays the same is position A in Local. Otherwise, the results are completely different.
How to Measure SEO Success
First and foremost, the purpose of SEO is constant and continued improvement of the quality and quantity of visits to your website from organic, direct, and referral sources. Continued improvement of the results of those visits, such as phone calls or form submissions, often referred to as conversions, are also a great metric for measuring success.
The most commonly discussed result is an improvement of visibility in organic search for high value searched terms or ranking high on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for your business’s most valuable keywords. While certainly, this is important, it is more important when discussing SEO to remember and focus on the overarching purpose. In doing so, you begin to understand better why at any given time your SEO agency is focused on any individual tactic.
Organic Traffic and Increased Visibility
The truth is, no one can guarantee you a particular spot in the search rankings. While we do work hard to drive rankings for high value and high volume search terms, we also focus on improvements in organic traffic. This results in visibility improvement for an extremely broad base of terms rather than a limited number of terms showing up on page one.
The ultimate goal of SEO is to drive more traffic to your website and convert the visitors into real customers. The more you, the client, and we, the agency are on the same page, the better we can work together to effectively increase your rankings, visibility, traffic, and ultimately convert users into happy clients.