One of the hardest things about choosing an SEO agency is knowing which promises are realistic. All too often, SEO agencies will make empty promises that are either unattainable, only attainable through the wrong methods, or of no value. Here’s our list of the top six worthless SEO promises to look out for.
- Ranking #1 on search engines
- Staying on top of rankings forever
- Getting extravagant results fast
- Getting consistent results every month
- Guaranteeing link popularity
- Ranking in non-competitive keywords (for the sake of ranking)
1. Ranking #1 on search engines
Anyone promising to rank you #1 in the search engines isn’t being honest with you. There’s no way anyone can assure that with certainty. It is possible to achieve, especially in less competitive niches. Nonetheless, ultimately, it is up to the search engine algorithms to decide that.
Getting to the first page is a lot more doable, but that still depends on variables such as the niche you are in, the age and size of your website, and what the competition is like. Instead of looking for meaningless promises of exact ranking positions, focus on the SEO strategies an agency uses.
If an SEO agency runs a well-rounded SEO campaign, including keyword research and both on-page and off-page SEO, you will have the best chance of achieving the highest rankings possible for your niche and site. Even a good SEO reseller can pull this off.
2. Staying on top of rankings forever
Another red flag to look out for is if an SEO agency promises to keep you at the top of the rankings forever. There’s just no way they can vouch for that, as there are many reasons why you may experience a drop in rankings.
There may be an algorithm update that causes your site to suffer in the SERPs. Even minor algorithm updates can cause this. The good news is that after such updates, it’s usually possible to get your rankings back to where they used to be. A good SEO agency will be up-to-date on algorithm changes and adapt its strategies and ranking techniques accordingly.
Furthermore, your competition will always be adapting, too. If your competitors are a step ahead of you, they may start outranking you. Alternatively, if a more authoritative site starts targeting your top keywords, you may lose your ranking positions.
A good SEO agency won’t promise that you will retain the top positions forever, but they will constantly be researching and monitoring your competitors, so you always have the upper hand.
3. Getting extravagant results fast
SEO is a long-term strategy. It takes time to build up your site’s rankings. It involves a lot of hard work, as good rankings rely on factors such as:
- Lots of quality content
- Domain age
- Backlink profile
If you have a new site with little content, it will be tough to outrank older sites with hundreds of helpful articles. It takes time to attract organic backlinks, too. Even with manual backlink outreach, you can’t get a lot of backlinks overnight. Not only will it look spammy, but you will have to sacrifice quality for quantity.
A website that promises extravagant results quickly may be using black-hat techniques that work for a short while but can get your site penalized in the long run. Those tactics may include using link farms to build mass amounts of links, creating PBNs (Private Blog Networks), keyword stuffing, content cloaking, and more. Once Google discovers what you’re doing, you will lose your rankings and may even get deindexed.
4. Getting consistent results every month
Your SEO results will fluctuate from month to month. You will have some good months, but it’s vital to expect some not-so-good months as well. Don’t let those sub-average months get you down. Remember, SEO is a long-term process, and results are achieved by months of hard work and a persistent approach.
No SEO expert will tell you that they can produce the same results every month. Some months, you might publish posts that don’t rank well, but your posts other months may land on the first spot for your target keyword.
Moreover, you might go for a couple of months without getting the rankings you aim for, only for all your rankings to suddenly shoot up a few months later as Google starts to notice you. Your rankings may increase after getting some high-quality backlinks, too.
However, SEO isn’t a game of roulette. There’s a right and a wrong way to go about it, but there are so many factors involved in the search engine algorithms that no expert can predict exact rankings every month. Many of these factors are hidden from the public, with only speculation and independent case studies to test them out.
Nevertheless, a professional agency will be able to track your results over time and show how, over the months, your SEO metrics and site health have been improving. Detailed reports and accurate KPI measurements are crucial for understanding whether your strategies are working. Commit to being in it for the long run — your rankings might slightly drop one month, but that doesn’t mean they won’t rise again.
The longer you stick to your SEO plan, the more your rankings will increase.
5. Guaranteeing link popularity
If an SEO agency promises that you will get tons of organic backlinks, be wary. With manual backlink outreach, it is possible to aim for a certain number of links. However, some SEO agencies will include lower-quality links just to reach that goal.
When it comes to organic backlinks that come naturally, however, it’s quite impossible to predict how popular any particular article will be. You might go several months without getting any backlink to a particular blog post. Then, suddenly, a high-profile site uses you as a source, and the backlinks start flooding in.
There are steps you can take to make your site’s--or an article’s--link popularity increase. Here are some ways SEO agencies can make your site more attractive to link to:
- Increasing your site’s DA and PA scores by publishing new content
- Publishing original research and case studies (people want to link to the original source)
- Creating infographics and allowing people to use them with attribution
If a site guarantees link popularity, they might be building low-quality links using spammy or black-hat methods and passing them off as organic links. Those links might look natural to you, but they may not be, and Google’s algorithms are pretty good at detecting that.
I mentioned Private Blog Networks before. Private Blog Networks are groups of websites set up for the purpose of linking to the “parent” site. Marketers who use PBNs try to obfuscate the relationship between those “child” sites by using different hosting companies and domain registrars for each one, among other methods. However, it can be difficult to hide a PBN's footprint altogether.
Some unscrupulous agencies may also be paying for links. They might be hiding those paid links in regular-looking articles, but a paid link is a paid link nonetheless, and it goes against Google’s Link Scheme Guidelines.
These types of links may help you in the short run. However, they are not generally worth the risk, as it is only a matter of time before Google catches on to what is happening.
6. Ranking in non-competitive keywords (for the sake of ranking)
Finally, the last empty SEO promise to watch out for is ranking in non-competitive keywords, just for the sake of ranking. This isn’t an empty SEO promise in the sense that it can't be guaranteed, but rather in that it isn’t a promise that comes with much value.
If a keyword doesn’t have a lot of competition, that’s probably because it doesn’t have a lot of search volume, either.
There are keywords with decent monthly search volumes and low competition. An SEO agency using the right keyword research tools will be able to find them. Often, those will be long-tail keywords. Instead of consisting of just one or two words, they may consist of a short phrase.
Nevertheless, for the most part, a keyword worth ranking for will have at least some level of competition.
If an SEO agency shows you ranking reports for non-competitive keywords, that doesn’t mean they have done a good SEO job or that they know how to rank for competitive keywords.
Anyone can rank for keywords nobody is targeting; it doesn’t take as much skill or expertise. When looking for an SEO agency, search for one that can demonstrate ranking achievements for competitive keywords.
It can sometimes be hard to differentiate between empty SEO promises and those that have value. SEO agencies will use a lot of fancy-sounding terms and make extravagant promises in the hopes of snagging customers who don’t know better.
All too often, small business owners without a good understanding of what SEO entails and how much consistency and dedication it requires fall for these empty promises. They’re then left to deal with the fallout alone. Cleaning up the mess left behind by an unethical SEO agency is a lot of work. You need to remove links, disavow links you can't remove, and fix other issues, such as keyword stuffing.
However, by now, you are aware of the most common empty SEO promises to look out for. In general, it’s always a good idea to ask an SEO agency for testimonials, reviews, and case studies. Don’t feel shy to ask them about the methods they use, either.