If you are like 92% of small businesses, you’ll probably have a website by the end of this year. But odds are you already have one.
After all, it’s tough to turn down a slice of the world’s ecommerce pie, valued at a combined $10 trillion in 2017 between B2C and B2B transactions.
As this pie has grown larger, SEO has gained more importance for businesses looking to take a bite -- especially considering that Google processes more than 3.5 billion searches per day, equating to roughly 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide.
Business owners talk with SEO consultants and are often repeatedly told -- even by the most reputable ones -- something along the lines of “We can’t guarantee results.” But the truth is, they can. But you should demand it -- as long as you meet the following criteria:
You have an SEO-friendly product
Yes, SEO is great, but it might not be great for you. Before you even consider asking for a guarantee, think about what benefits SEO can offer your business. Certain products and services just aren’t a good fit for an SEO marketing strategy. For this reason, it is critical to ask yourself who your typical customer is, and determine how that customer goes about finding and buying your product.
For example, completely new inventions are a terrible fit for SEO for the simple reason that people can’t search for your product because they don’t know it exists. In a case like this, the best option is to find distribution channels that naturally complement your product. A second example might be fragrances. When buying this type of product, most people would go somewhere like Macy’s to be able to smell and test it before deciding to purchase. Naturally, SEO brings less value for these types of products that are usually tested and bought in stores.
On the other hand, products and services that people are already searching for -- and buying -- generally work great for SEO. Think of ecommerce websites that sell clothing, sunglasses and accessories, for example. There is already a strong demand for these types of products, which makes SEO an incredibly useful marketing strategy. You can easily verify whether or not people are searching for a product you’re offering by doing a quick search using the Google keyword planner.
You have product/market fit
If you think your business can benefit from SEO, keep this in mind: SEO consultants are not business builders. We can’t take your idea and turn it into a reality -- that’s your job. Rather, we can take your business and help lower your customer acquisition costs by leveraging the organic search results.
With that being said, achieving product/market fit is the second criterium to know whether or not your business is set to reap the benefits of SEO improvements. Achieving product/market fit means that you already have clients paying for your products in a cost-effective way, and are earning a profit from those sales. Essentially, you must have validated that there is already a demand for your product, and that people are buying it on your site. If you haven’t yet achieved this, there is no promise that even the best SEO improvements would yield you results.
You have a strong reputation for delivery
In addition to having a product that meets consumers’ needs, it’s crucial to have a product that meets consumers’ expectations. Strong SEO results rely heavily on the amount of traffic that is coming to your site. So if your products and services don’t meet or exceed the expectations of your customers, they are likely to leave negative reviews that drive your conversion rates down for potential customers in the future, consequently making your SEO rankings worthless.
Even if you get a lot of people coming to your website, most people don’t buy on the first visit -- 92% of them don’t to be exact. Online shoppers prefer to research alternatives, check competitors’ websites and later make a final decision. Therefore, if your website does not have a strong reputation that fosters trust in potential buyers, an SEO guarantee is off the table. While a well-executed SEO strategy may help boost your online visibility, it won’t necessarily translate to more revenue if consumers do not trust your brand.
You have a minimum level of online popularity
Google doesn’t rank sites that are completely unknown -- even if you offer amazing products and services. The way it works is that you must first build visibility into your site before you concern yourself with SEO. Simply put, making people aware of your site tells Google to send more visitors. Thus, a basic level of online awareness is essential before SEO can be effective.
In order to build awareness, you have a number of options. You always need to give people a reason to come to your website besides offering them a product, so start by creating a blog that offers advice on your areas of expertise both to help build awareness and keep people hanging around your site for longer. However, in the early stages of building online awareness, it’s even more important to be helpful outside of your own site. Consider contributing guest articles to other publications using your expertise, or joining communities where your can provide value to your target customers, for example.
As you start to build an online presence, people will begin referencing your work more and more, which will help you gain natural rankings. Traditional online public relations strategies are particularly useful in this regard. The key is to consistently promote new content that drives interest in your business.
You have ample room for SEO improvement
Assuming that you have met the basic criteria to know whether it’s possible for your business to benefit from SEO improvements, you must determine how much room for improvement you actually have. People tend to associate SEO improvements with positive Google ranking shifts. However, this is not always the type of improvement you should be looking for, as having the top ranking doesn’t always ensure valuable clicks. In addition, it is impossible to ensure positive page ranking shifts (thus the reason SEO consultants refuse to guarantee results).
Even without the ability to control page rankings, there may be an opportunity to improve your SEO performance. An easier measure of potential for improvement is to look not at page rankings but at the number of optimized pages on your site -- the number of pages that are indexed by Google and have at least one visitor.
How do you find this? Follow the simple process below:
Step 1: Start by going to Google and typing in “site:yoursitename.com”. Take note of the number of pages listed. This is the total number of pages on your site.
Step 2: Then, go to Google Analytics for your site, and set the time range to the last 90 days. Head to the Organic Traffic Report, which you can find under Acquisition > Campaigns > Organic Keywords. On the Primary Dimension, select “Landing Page,” and take the number in the bottom right-hand side of the report. This is the number of optimized pages that are indexed and receive at least one visitor.
Step 3: Divide the second number by the first number to find the percentage of optimized pages for your site.
After calculating this figure, if you have less than 50% of your pages optimized and meet the rest of the criteria above, SEO professionals should be able to guarantee results -- and if they don’t, you should demand it.
What kind of guarantees should you expect?
SEO professionals often claim they can’t offer guarantees because it is impossible for them to control Google algorithms for page rankings, among many other reasons. And they’re right: we can’t guarantee improvements to your page rankings.
However, if you fit the criteria above and have less than 50% of your pages optimized, qualified SEO professionals will be able to guarantee not that your rankings will improve, but that they can help you get more rankings from new pages optimized -- which in turn will drive more traffic to your site.
For this reason, assuming you fit the criteria in this article, you should demand that SEO companies guarantee a certain percentage increase in organic traffic to qualified clients. In turn, you can expect a corresponding, and substantial, boost in revenue or leads from online sales.
It is normal to expect an SEO company offering a guarantee to require a revenue-sharing or pay-for-performance model, whereby you pay an incentive that is proportional to the goals the company is able to achieve. Given that you meet the criteria, reputable SEO companies should determine exactly what kind of results they can expect to deliver during the business case development part of the sales process. This would reassure you that you wouldn’t be pumping money into ineffective SEO efforts -- but even more importantly, it would give you the opportunity to easily forecast revenue increases and return on investment from SEO.
Knowing where to begin when launching or revamping your SEO strategy can be daunting. There are tons of people offering their SEO services, and it can be tough to tell who is good and who isn’t. Moreover, because most companies don’t offer guarantees, you might invest months of work and thousands of dollars without getting anything out of it.
Nevertheless, if you are one of the companies that fits the criteria in this article, don’t hesitate to demand guarantees from SEO firms -- I guarantee they can help.