How can I explain to clients that rankings can’t be guaranteed?
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How can I explain to clients that rankings can’t be guaranteed?

We have a question
from Colorado today. The question is: “With a lot of
my potential clients, the first words out of their mouth when
building a site is: ‘Can you make my site #1 on Google?’
This question is extremely annoying to me. How can I respond in
a professional and honest manner?” It’s a fair question. I think one thing you can do is
send people to the page that we have on Google about search
engine optimizers and how to find a good search engine
optimizer, because I think we say directly no one can
guarantee a number one ranking on Google. So, you can say, right from the
horse’s mouth, right from Google, no one can guarantee
a number one ranking. The fact is that if you’re like
a plumber, you probably don’t want to rank number one for
plumber because you’ll get calls from across the world
and across the United States where you don’t even serve. You probably want to rank
number one for the plumbing in, you know, Sunnyvale,
California, or the specific city that you’re interested in. And the fact is that:
Can you rank my site number one on Google? That question often leads
to people doing slightly deceptive stuff. I could probably rank number
one very easily for “change my default printer on Firefox
using Lennox Ubuntu,” right? That’s a very long-tail phrase. Not many people are using all
those different words, so it’s not that hard to
rank number one for. So a few SEOs get into the mood
where they say, yes, we’ll rank you number one, and it’ll be
for a five-word exact phrase with very strange,
obscure words. And some people are like, oh,
I’m going to rank number one, and they don’t stop to think
about are those the phrases that they want to rank for. It’s much better to rank number
three, four, or five for a phrase that converts well, gets
a reasonable amount of traffic, and is relatively targeted to
what you’re interested in compared to completely
off-topic stuff. And I’d be happy to tell people
that a lot of times if you’re a client of an SEO, you don’t
have the intuition to say, what’s going to be the
phrase that converts well? What are going to be
the phrases that have buying intent? What are the phrases that you
really should pay attention to as compared to the trophy
phrases that you think you want to rank for. So search engine optimizers
have to deal with this a lot. If I had to say any one thing,
I would say, look, don’t focus on ranking number one,
especially if it’s a phrase that’s not going to
be all that usable. Look for results that will
stand the test of time. Look for building a great site,
and then you can build into the results that you
really care about. And as a fallback, feel free to
point them to that Google page on search engine optimization,
and then they can read Google saying the exact same
stuff themselves.


  • Thomas Hey'l

    When I hear this question, I usually answer: "Yes, I can. But what for?" So, your's is a good explanation at hand that perfectly explains that being #1 for "kroklowafzi semememi" (a german fun poem of Christian Morgenstern, not fictive) or common terms like "XP not booting" is pretty much of a difference. And being in the top 10 for about hundred related queries – single term too – is almost impossible. Why? Customers don't believe the worm has to taste the fish, not the fisher.

  • circusmort

    @larssonk22 Yeah I'd like to know about that too, indeed, do any of the popular javascript methods of hiding and displaying text on a single page like accordions, carrousels or dropdowns. I'm sure they could all be used for some serious BlackHat seo despite perfectly legit design purposes.

  • 03gemini03

    this video will be a very big help for me on explaining it to my superiors as well :)) — now they can all believe that even Google says that no search engine optimizer can guarantee a client #1 position, especially to super annoying clients that wants to rank #1 on all their targeted keywords yet have lame, poorly-structured website/s. thanks for the vid!

  • TheGuppyes

    @kleinpau usa la opción de subtítulos de youtube y listo, yo lo hago así. Use the subtitles option for spanish translation.

  • Darius D'Silva

    how can i show the client that there has been an improvement their website rankings without they keeping track of it themselves.

  • Holmpage Web Design

    Excellent, concise and useful explanation from "the horse's mouth". I am going to post this on my blog, as it is a common question I get from clients.

  • Miguel Puig

    Interesting, but how to deal with a client that tells you: "My competitor from my hometown is first when you write the word -plumbing- how can I be the first?"

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