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The Myth of "Guaranteed #1 Ranking" in Search Engine Marketing

You've seen the ads: ... #1 Ranking! There are no ... in search engine ... and website ... If anyone tells you ... you should check quickly to make sure they don't ha

You've seen the ads: Guaranteed #1 Ranking! There are no guarantees in search
engine marketing and website promotion. If anyone tells you different, you
should check quickly to make sure they don't have their hand in your wallet.

Suppose you sell widgets. You want to sell more widgets, and the way to do that
is to make sure that more people know about widgets, and that you are the place
to buy their widgets. You might decide to buy a half-page ad in a national
magazine to tell your story. When you place that ad, you are "guaranteed" your

With a magazine advertisement, you know what the magazine's circulation is, who
reads it, and which page will feature your ad. The magazine can guarantee all
that, because they own the medium.

Search engine marketing is qualitatively different. When you work with a search
engine marketing firm to promote your website, they cannot guarantee where your
listing will appear. Certainly there are types of online ads where there are
guarantees in place: banner ads priced at "cost per thousand impressions",
pop-up ads, and so forth. These are like traditional media buys, where you are
working directly with the owner of the medium where the ads appear, but this is
not search engine marketing.

Even so-called pay-per-click search engines cannot guarantee your position. In
Google AdWords, for example, it is not just the price you pay for a given
keyword that determines where you will rank. They also bring in other factors,
including how often your ad is clicked-on, to determine which ad will be listed
first. Just throwing money at them will not necessarily get you into the #1

The bottom line is this: search engine marketing professionals do not own the
search engines. They can tell you that you will achieve #1 ranking on a given
search engine, or they can tell you that the moon is made of green cheese, but
there is no way they can make either of those happen. When you tell Time
magazine you want your ad to be on the back cover, and you pay them enough
money, they will guarantee you the back cover. If you tell your search engine
marketing people you want to be #1 in AllTheWeb, they cannot guarantee you that
result. They can recommend changes to your site that will increase the
likelihood of your ranking higher, but that is a long way from a guarantee. If
you don't control the medium, you can't guarantee the result. Since your search
engine consultant doesn't control the search engine, there is no way they can
guarantee your position.

The ranking algorithms of the search engines are a closely-guarded secret. The
search engine wants to give top ranking to the site that is the best match to an
individual visitor's search query, not to the site that was able to "beat" the
system. That is where the value of real search engine marketing comes in.

While the search engine marketing person cannot guarantee you a position, what
they can do is to apply years of experience to tell you what has worked in the
past, and to help you make it work today. In many ways, "organic" search engine
optimization is really a matter of editing web pages or whole sites to make them
the most search engine friendly they can be. Making sure that a given page has
just the right combination of keywords, title, links, and so on, is really at
its base simply a matter of making that page the best web page it can possibly
be. The page that will rank the best in the search engines is also the page that
will make the most sense to the human visitor. Rather than relying on tricks to
try to make the page rank high, it is a matter of just making the page the most
focused and on-message that it can be. The bad news is that this doesn't
guarantee which position in the search engine rankings that page will occupy on
a given day. The good news is that the page will always rank well.

The search engines change their algorithms from time to time. If today's rule,
for example, is that just the right combination of text in the title tag will
make or break a site, and you know this is true, then all you have to do is to
tweak the title tag to fit within that rule, and you will automatically rank
very high. Today.

Suppose that tomorrow, however, that rule is changed. Suppose that now the most
important factor that the search engines use to rank a site is the content of
the META Description tag. All the work you went to yesterday to fix the title is
now useless. All of your attention is now focused on fixing that description

Clearly, over time the focus of the search engines will vary. The best way to
deal with this is to not deal with it! This means that rather than tweaking a
site one way today and another way tomorrow, the best way to approach optimizing
a page or a whole site is to not try to beat the system. Instead of trying to
"psych-out" the search engines, why not add value to the site? A "common sense"
approach to search engine optimization, looking for long term results, is the
way to go. When you try to help a site rank better by making it the best it can
beFree Articles, everybody wins.

Article Tags: Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine, Engine Marketing, Cannot Guarantee, Search Engines

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Dale Goetsch is the Technical Consultant for Search Innovation Marketing
(, a Search Engine Promotion company serving
small businesses and non-profits. He has over twelve years experience in
software development. Along with programming in Perl, JavaScript, ASP and VB, he
is a technical writer and editor, with an emphasis on making technical subjects
accessible to non-technical readers.

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