“We’ll get you on page one of Google!”

“Results guaranteed!”

“As a Google Partner, we can promise you visibility on search engine results pages!”

To any business, these guarantees might sound appealing. But at the end of the day, search engines decide which web pages to display to users. There are hundreds of ranking factors that determine the order of Google search results. And results pages constantly change as algorithms update and new pieces of content are published.

That’s why it’s impossible for anyone to guarantee search engine optimization (SEO) results. If you’re looking for a marketing agency to represent you, beware of guaranteed SEO services. Reputable service providers understand that good SEO can produce sustainable growth but that it can never guarantee a specific result.

What are guaranteed SEO services?

Guaranteed SEO services are marketing services that promise specific SEO results like “we can get you on page one of Google’s search engine results.” Though SEO is proven to generate long-term, sustainable results, a provider cannot make these promises.

SEO is a digital marketing strategy designed to improve search engine rankings. It does this by developing high-quality content, correcting technical website components, and generating backlinks. And whether you can rank highly on search engine results pages or generate valuable traffic from SEO is dependant on a lot of factors like…

  • Resources
  • Time
  • Budget
  • Team
  • Industry
  • Content
  • And much more…

Any SEO guarantee is a bold claim that these efforts will work without fail.

In some cases, SEO agencies offer free services until you see a return. But such promises are vague (what constitutes a “return” or “results”?). And providers working for free are in a position to do everything in their power to deliver SEO results so they can get paid. And that can mean resorting to black hat tactics that can deliver results in the short-term, but in the long term, end with your site penalized by Google.

They may also guarantee rankings on the first page of search results or a certain number of backlinks. And while these goals may certainly be attainable, you can’t pay for them like you can pay for an ad. They cannot be guaranteed.

Why you should avoid guaranteed SEO services

Long-lasting results are the major selling point for most SEO industry professionals. PPC ad campaigns can offer noticeable and immediate traffic boosts for a certain cost. SEO cannot. What it does offer, however, is steady and sustainable growth.

It’s true that SEO firms can produce quick results, but this is the exception, not the rule. These are some of the most common reasons why you should avoid guaranteed SEO services at all costs.

No one can guarantee SEO results

Promising SEO rankings and outcomes is misleading because no one knows precisely how search engines determine rankings. The Google algorithm updates constantly (hundreds of times per year). When these updates happen and how exactly they affect the algorithm is mostly a mystery to SEO professionals.

Google itself has stated that there are no guaranteed search listings and that you should beware of any offers that promise a certain position on search engine results pages (SERPs).

You may be hit with a Google penalty

Guaranteed Google search rankings may be the result of black hat SEO tactics. These practices, which violate search engine guidelines, trade short-term gains for poor results long-term. They often result in harmful penalties from search engines, like a drop in rankings or your site being banned from search results altogether.

No businesses are exempt from these standards. Even high-profile brands like Overstock.com and JCPenney have dealt with Google penalties in the past. This can lead to problems like revenue losses and weakened brand perception. These are the three most common scams that Google warns against:

  • Doorway pages: A doorway page is a keyword-stuffed page designed to rank the website for more search terms. They often contain unwanted links which damage your site’s link authority.
  • Link schemes: Link schemes are a link-building strategy that manipulates rankings through paid-for external links.
  • Shadow domains: A shadow domain is a domain that is typically filled with content just for search engine crawlers. It redirects users to your website, but this traffic can easily be rerouted to another site of the SEO’s choosing.

Most penalties are given out on a case-by-case basis. There are several types of penalties that you can receive for violation of search engine guidelines:

The screenshot shows the two types of penalties Google can use against you.

The results you might get from black hat SEO are not worth the risk. You’re better off chasing slow growth with future returns than instant growth with permanent damage to your brand.

Guaranteed SEO results” is too vague

What exactly is an SEO result? Higher rankings? More organic search traffic? Improved conversion rate?

With so many SEO metrics to track and target, the phrase “guaranteed SEO results” is too vague. It ultimately gives service providers the freedom to charge you for whatever they believe “results” are.

Whenever you pay for a service, you should have a clear and measurable outcome. Without proper clarification, you can end up disappointed and unable to justify a refund.

High rankings aren’t always desirable

Paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for guaranteed rankings can get you the top spot on a Google search engine results page. But if you’re a dog grooming business and an SEO agency ranks you highly for the search term “chew toys for dogs with dental problems,” that’s not going to help your business.

Instead of chasing rankings for rankings’ sake, connect with your target audience through meaningful research and optimization. Proper SEO work should help you earn rankings for the right keywords.

This means doing keyword research for terms with promising traffic potential. Ultimately, the goal should be to improve bottom-line metrics that drive relevant traffic to your site.

What to look for in an SEO company instead

Avoid tempting SEO promises and consider how the company works instead. You should always shop around for online marketing services. There are many qualified agencies and freelancers to choose from.

Your research should focus on how the company communicates, what its SEO strategy entails, and whether it can demonstrate its effectiveness. These are some of the top qualities to look for in an SEO company, rather than chasing falsely guaranteed results.

A proven track record of success

In the SEO industry, it’s very common for brands to post case studies of their past successes. Case studies explain the results of a marketing campaign and how they were generated:

The screenshot shows a testimonial example.

For privacy reasons, a brand may not publish client results online. If an agency doesn’t have any case studies posted, ask to see their portfolio. Whether during a consultation or through a dedicated web page, an agency should have proof of the effectiveness of their services.

Social proof

SEO firms should know all about the importance of social proof for improving brand perception. If a firm lacks evidence of their reputability, it may be because they don’t have any. Top brands proudly display their credentials and recommendations where and whenever they can. While shopping around, look for things like:

  • Glowing customer testimonials
  • Awards won
  • Logos of well-known clients
  • Certifications and membership of professional organizations (Better Business Bureau, Google Partner, etc.)

The screenshot shows social proof examples from Shopify.

Do a little bit of research in the search engine as well. Are there any complaints with the Better Business Bureau or negative reviews on platforms like UpCity? A lack of recommendations or the presence of unfavorable ones will help inform your decision.

A clearly defined unique selling proposition

When vetting candidates, do you understand what they’re offering? Every brand should have a unique selling proposition (USP) that shows how they differ from the competition.

In this example from FATJOE, the USP is that they are the best at blogger outreach because their links come from legitimate bloggers. Why is this effective? It assures users that they’re getting results from a credible source:

The screenshot shows FATJOE's unique selling proposition.

Imagine that the H1 tag read: “We Get You Backlinks, Guaranteed.”

Well, a lot of brands do that. But are all of them getting natural, relevant links from real bloggers? When brands don’t have a clear USP, they either don’t have a competitive advantage or don’t know what it is.

No matter the reason, only consider brands that are confident in their service offering. Whether it’s industry connections, top-notch design skills, or a proprietary tool (among other USPs), they should be able to clearly define it and explain it in detail.

An understanding of the Google algorithm

An SEO professional without an understanding of the Google algorithm won’t be able to produce lasting results. For example, every provider should know that the Google algorithm has recently undergone a major mobile-first update:

The screenshot shows the different Google algorithms.

They should be able to explain how their services cater to this change. Any services that you pay for need to work for all types of devices unless your goal is specifically geared toward desktop or mobile-only optimization.

Consider SEO services as a long-term investment. If your provider doesn’t keep up-to-date with the search engine algorithm, their strategy won’t deliver sustainable results.

Experience in your industry

Knowing how much experience an agency has is very important. It influences how much you should pay for SEO services. Note that experience doesn’t necessarily mean the amount of time they have worked in the industry.

Have they worked on a project similar to yours? Do they know your specific market, competitors, and barriers to entry? This knowledge and experience can have a major impact on the success of your campaign, especially if you are in a highly specialized industry.

A professional website with quality content

SEO agencies are going to be involved in adjusting your website for SEO. If a brand that offers search engine optimization services doesn’t feature high-quality web design and content, why should you trust them to optimize your site?

Any potential service provider should have a professional website with quality content. You should easily find contact information, services and/or product pages, and relevant information about the company (history, credentials, etc.). Read their blog. Is it valuable? Professional? Regularly updated? A provider should practice what they preach.

A clearly defined niche

The best SEO companies are the ones that specialize in a particular area. This includes specialties such as:

Agencies that specialize often produce better results. They are highly trained and focused on SEO techniques in a particular area instead of a jack-of-all-trades type of SEO. Before paying for any services, identify which areas of your website need improvement the most.

For example, if your backlink profile needs enhancement, you should research companies specializing in link building and outreach. If your click-through rate (CTR) is high but your sales aren’t increasing, look for firms specializing in ecommerce SEO.

Focusing on the weakest areas of your site allows you to allocate your resources most effectively. Instead of paying for an agency to perform multiple SEO services, you get the ones that make the biggest impact.


Any service you purchase should have a clearly defined outcome. This is necessary for two reasons:

  1. It gives you a framework for monitoring your investment.
  2. It sets a clear expectation with the service provider.

The screenshot shows an example SEMRUSH's plans and pricing page.

Before any work begins on your website, make sure that you’ve established clear SEO goals. Also, have a transparent method for evaluating the project’s progress over time.

Ask potential firms how they plan to keep you up-to-date on progress. What’s their reporting style? How will they work with your team? Do they use technology that will integrate with your current marketing tech stack? These factors and more are crucial to ensuring you get results that boost your bottom line.

Good communication

Any potential candidates should be able to answer your questions. They should respond promptly to emails and phone calls and do so consistently. Spotty communication can be a sign of bigger issues down the road. This is especially the case if you are hiring them to perform multiple services.

Don’t work with companies that lack good communication in the beginning. If you haven’t even started a project and have difficulty reaching the provider, imagine how hard it will be once the work begins. The last thing you want to do is pay a fee for SEO services and then have difficulty contacting the agency/freelancer.

A consultation before you sign on the dotted line

Before you make any payments or sign a contract, you should know what you’re getting. Most companies share this information by offering free quotes or consultations:

The screenshot shows how MOZ demonstrates their value up front.

These assessments should first address any problems with your current site. The potential agency should be able to describe areas of opportunity they see and then go into detail on things like the:

  • The approach that they will use
  • Pricing structure
  • Method for tracking progress
  • Project timeline
  • Number and/or frequency of deliverables

This is also the time to ask any questions you have about the services. What do they cover, and what happens if the strategy needs to be adjusted? Always have a clear idea of what you’re paying for before you sign any legal documents.

Get a complimentary SEO audit

Many agencies and contractors promise guaranteed SEO results, but that’s misleading. Due to the constantly updating Google algorithm, the many factors that affect each industry and business, and the vagueness of the term “SEO results,” you should never expect a definite outcome. Properly vetting multiple service providers before selecting one will help you receive the best possible results.

Want to see how you’re doing with SEO? Get an instant SEO audit below. Or, schedule a free consultation to see how intent SEO can boost search traffic revenue by 700%.