An SEO I generally respect recently published a post on their blog titled, “SEO Guarantees Should Not Exist”. Of course I felt the need to reply to this statement and the rational behind it. First – let’s read the original post. You can do so at http://www.searchengineoptimizationjournal.com/2010/04/23/guarantees/. OK – now that you’re done reading, here is my reply to Nick.
Got your post sent to me in your newsletter and of course had to respond (Note to Beanstalk’s blog readers: incidentally the newsletter is worth subscribing to as generally I find Nick’s comments to be worthwhile and while I may disagree with him from time-to-time; he’s a solid SEO with some great advice). Not to argue the point on guarantees (as that could be done ad nauseam and neither side is going to agree with the other) I do have to point out two fundamental flaws with your post.
You quote Google with the following Q&A:
Q – “Should I believe SEO agencies that promise to make my site rank first in Google in a few months and with a precise number of links?”
A – Official Google Answer: No one can make that promise; therefore the short answer is no, you should not.”
Stating that one cannot guarantee #1 is very different that guaranteeing top 10 or 20. This logic is flawed as it uses one statement to prove a completely different argument. I’m sure there are many companies offering guarantees that would agree that they cannot guarantee #1 and thus – they too would agree with Google but not with your post.
Inherently I also have to disagree with the following statement:
“Rankings in general as a measurement for SEO is an old flawed metric”
Everyone is going to agree that there are other metrics BUT when it comes to SEO (and I’m talking pure SEO as defined by Dictionary.com as “The process of choosing targeted keywords and keyword phrases related to a Web site so the site will rank high when those terms are part of a Web search”) rankings are the measurement.
Now – once you have the rankings (i.e. once your site is in front of people’s eyeballs) then yes – we need to look at ways to increase clickthrough rates of the site when it does appear and yes, we need to look at traffic and look for ways to improve conversions BUT this is not SEO. SEO is the ranking of the site in the organic results and to not make measuring those rankings the core metric is just downright silly. This is like saying, ” The purpose of the Olympics is to rank athletes but heck, isn’t their personal health the real measure? Let’s just judge them by how long they live.” I think we can all agreement that that would be a very unpopular decision and rightfully so – it’s measuring the wrong thing.
Since pure SEO is the determining of appropriate keywords and then the ranking of them – rankings aren’t just a metric – they’re the metric. Once attained we get into the myriad of other metric and let’s be clear – the real purpose of website promotion is the business that it generates and SEO is a piece of that. It’s important to followup the SEO process with clickthrough rate optimization and analytics and testing when applicable but SEO, pure SEO, is about rankings. It’s step one and rankings are the measurements. To not use them is a disservice to the client and distorts what SEO really is.
Past his however let’s be clear, guarantees can be misleading and rankings aren’t the whole story – I’ve seen sites rank well and perform poorly and vice-versa and I hold not ill-will to Nick – there’s a reason that I’m subscribed to his newsletter and obviously read it but if you’re ever told not to take ranking or that they’re irrelevant – you’re being mislead. It’s not field of dreams, first you need to get in front of the visitor with rankings – then tweak that content to maximize the effectiveness of them.
As an aside, you may rank for phrases you weren’t targeting, this is part of the SEO process as well when done correctly but rankings fo phrases you’re not tracking isn’t the same as not needing to track the phrases you’re targeting.
SEO news blog post by Dave Davies, CEO @ 5:49 pm