I recently received the following question from a business consultant:
Most SEO companies are a scam! They promise to put you on the front page of Google and guarantee you a top spot. I talked to a friend that knows the inside scoop at Google and they said this is not possible. My friend said that all you need is good content on your webiste.
Having spent over 10 years in the Search Marketing field I would like to respond to this.
First, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has become a “catch all” phrase to describe the craft of marketing a business online. What SEO technically means is the practice of improving a web URL’s positioning in the ORGANIC (free) search results for a given keyword. Anybody that claims they can guarantee you a position in these FREE results is either misrepresenting the truth, or talking about a search term that is NOT competitive. Here is what Google Representative Matt Cutts has to say on this topic and I agree 100%
It is common for Search Engine Marketing companies to make the claim that they can guarantee to place your business on the front page of Google, Yahoo and Bing. What they are talking about is the PAID advertising positions. This is NOT SEO technically, but is a service that SEO companies often provide.
The point is, anybody can get a guaranteed slot on the front page of Google (with or without an SEO company) as long as they are willing to pay for it. So the claim in this context is not a lie, or a scam, or even deceptive as the average consumer does not know the difference between SEO, SEM and all those other crazy acronyms our industry has created.
Content is absolutely one of the most important factors in a websites ability to rank for a given search term. However, great content alone will not guarantee a website position in the search engines. There are literally hundreds of factors that the search engines use to calculate which web pages should be displayed for a given search term. A competent Search Engine Marketing firm will use a “best practices” approach to help the search engines understand (and rank) your great content. Additionally, any Search Marketing Company worth its salt will spend as much (or more) time talking about ways to improve your businesses conversion practices. It does not really matter if visitors arrive at your website if they don’t buy.
Lastly, there are no secret “Google SEO operatives.” It is believed that there are only a handful of Google employees that know the full formula to their ranking algorithm, and they are not talking about it to anyone, ever. Can you imagine the NDA they have? Google provides a host of tools to help clarify the practices they deem acceptable (and encourage) when it comes to marketing and optimizing your website.
A great place to start your SEO quest is the official Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide!
Thanks to Google for making it crystal clear that business website owners should either become or hire a professional consultant to address all of these elements.
My interpretation of this question is that SEO = BAD! And I believe your average business owner would receive the message the same way. Passing that perception along could potentially rob a business owner of the opportunity to make their business flourish online.