It’s not an uncommon question from clients to seek some kind of guarantees or commitment from an SEO company on the returns they can expect to see from their (typically significant) SEO investment. Given also that SEO isn’t tangible in the sense that you receive a small car for the money you’re spending, but rather the promise that your search rankings will improve and subsequently then also your customer inquiries. But what’s the value of a promise, and why are so many SEO’s afraid to commit to this?
I like to answer this question by way of analogy against Google’s official means of marketing, on their AdWords advertising platform.
“The difference being that AdWords is a statistics driven, fully transparent marketing platform which generates revenue for Google when you use it. SEO, by comparison, is a black-box / closed algorithm with over 200 moving parts to it, all controlled by a search engine who doesn’t get paid when you do SEO for a website, and who are constantly evolving this algorithm to try and out-think the strategies used by SEOs to influence their search rankings in favour of their clients.”
Most SEO practices aim to merely accelerate Google’s Webmaster guidelines without tripping any of Google’s “unethical link building” monitors, which when done correctly, can have an amazing impact on your website’s visibility within the search engines and subsequently also in the volume of targeted and commercially valuable traffic (aka customers) to your business. But the simple fact of the matter remains that SEO’s are not Google, nor can they control or even hope to influence how the search giant decides to modify their search algorithm in order to make their service to their customers more reliable. For this reason, any SEO who claims to guarantee an ROI with their proposal is just writing cheques their business can’t cash.
That said, it’s always a fun marketing pitch to say “if we increase your traffic by X then your inquiries will also increase by Y”… the operative statement there being “IF”. On the proviso that the SEO can deliver in improving search rankings and the Google gods also don’t throw any curve balls along the way, then an ROI could be guesstimated for a prescribed SEO campaign.
So in closing, I’ll just say that the mark of a good SEO isn’t one who was lucky enough to improve rankings while the Google algorithm waters sat calm and uneventful, but rather the one who is able to keep across the rapidly evolving search algorithm changes and quickly adapt their SEO strategy to accommodate any of Google’s latest requirements, to achieve an overall positive ranking trend for their clients. For this reason, an SEO shouldn’t simply be a transitive 3 month service engagement but rather a strategic marketing partner who’s in it with you for the long run.