The "Rank #1 in Google" Scam

A lot of SEO companies offer tempting promises: we’ll get your Web site on the first page of Google. To which you’re supposed to say, sounds awesome — sign me up!

But there’s more to that statement, and what they’re not telling you is critical. I’ll explain… but if you don’t know much about SEO, you might try this post for some background.

First off, Google results are based on the keywords a person searches for. If you search for “Los Angeles,” you get different results than if you search for “cats and dogs.” In fact, the results for “Los Angeles Web site consulting” are different than “Web site consulting Los Angeles.”

So the first problem with the claim above is that it’s incomplete. You’re going to get me on first in the results… for what keywords? Until we decide what keywords I’m targeting, you can’t guarantee anything.

Second problem: What you do matters, but so does what your competition is doing. You can optimize all day long, but if your competition is also optimizing, your rankings might not improve. Granted, smarter, more diligent SEO work can beat out haphazard SEO work. But these SEO companies aren’t promising to be smarter… they’re promising to get you on the first page — a vacant promise if the competition is using the same SEO techniques.

Third: who’s searching for those keywords? You can be first in a results list, but if no one is actually searching with that keyword string, it’s useless. Example: a local business organization recently was proudly telling me that they are “first in Google.” I chuckled a little, then asked what the keywords were. Business Referrals Los Angeles. Wow… that sounds pretty great. Even I was kinda impressed, cranky old bat that I am.

Until I ran a keyword frequency check to see how often that keyword phrase is searched. There are several services out there for this; I used the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. Surprise — there are so few searches for this phrase that that the result was “not enough data.” It’s the old tree falling in the forest scenario: you’re first on the list, but no one will ever know.

So be careful. As I’ve said before, some SEO companies are charging a lot to make fancy promises and deliver very little.