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View Poll Results: Do You Guarantee Your SEO Services?
Yes 11 31.43%
No 24 68.57%
Voters: 35. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 09-01-2004   #1
Anthony Parsons
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What SEO Guarantees Do You Offer?

I am writing a new page for my site about guarantee's, and thought to myself, "this really needs to be voiced at SEW". I know this type of question has been raised at HR and so forth, but I couldn't find it here. So here goes.
  • Do you guarantee your services or not?
  • If not, why not? If so, why so?
  • What sort of guarantee?

Me!

#1 Yes, I do provide a guarantee on my services.
#2 Because I am very confident in my own ability to achieve what I say I will achieve.
#3 Top 20 results for 80% minimum of the agreed terms in Google, Yahoo and MSN each. Money back on service charge, excluding any third party costs, such as directory inclusions, etc.

************************************************** **

Why am I asking? Because I am curious to see what peoples thoughts are on this subject and the reasons behind their thoughts. So many people just say, "No, you cannot guarantee something you do not control". What rubbish. Why do most say this? Because they read it from someone else, so they just followed suit and adopted that approach. Monkey see, monkey do. Too many sheep IMO.

What is a guarantee? Its a formal assurance that certain conditions will be fulfilled.

So I don't understand how people cannot offer one. What gets me more, is that some only deal with non-competitive terms and still don't offer a guarantee, then try and stuff it down others throats in an attempt to make it a correct practice. Last time I looked, business was about the definition of a guarantee.

We are all customers every day, so what do you look for when you purchase items, especially expensive items or services? I know I look for quality and a guarantee that I am going to get my monies worth. I want to be able to exchange the product if required, get a refund if needed or even be issued a certificate for credit. Some people say, you cannot guarantee what you don't know (ie. the search engine changing their algorithm). What about a car manufacturer? Do they know if your going to drive a brand new car out the drive way, rev the engine excessively until it blows up in the first month and then claim another under warranty? No. They take the risk though to provide that guarantee anyway.

Does a manufacturer know if a toy is going to turn faulty between the factory and the shop? No, but they provide a guarantee anyway. Why? To assure the customer that their money is safe. If you employ an accountant and they miss something or the tax ruling change and your fined, did they do their job? No. Regardless whether something changed, it is their job to ensure they remain current and adapt to changing circumstances. That guarantee of assurance is once again present.

So why is it, that SEO's seem to sit on this side of things and offer no guarantee? Would you spend 10k without a guarantee. Honestly now. Hell no. You would want some sort of assurance that your investment was worth it. I am very interested to hear what people have to say on this matter, without the lame excuse you can't control the search engine algorithm. We all know that, and that's not an excuse as demonstrated with some examples above. I may well be missing something. I do remain cognisant that some are just not comfortable providing a guarantee. Honestly, to me that means you are not confident in your own abilities, but each to their own.

What do others have to say on this matter?
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Old 09-02-2004   #2
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1) No, I don't place a guarantee on my services.
2) Because I'm an in-house SEO and if the boys upstairs didn't think that I was doing my job then I would be fired.
3) N/A

Upon the occasions that I've done freelance, I've never done a guarantee because a) it never came up or b) I think guarantees are worthless because they're so open-ended that in most cases the contractor would be able to get out of it. I prefer to let my previous work speak for itself and I offer a realistic view of what they're looking at in their marketplace.

That being said, I think Anthony that you have a very nice guarantee and applaud you for it.
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Old 09-02-2004   #3
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Here is what I offer (copied from my site):

Keyword Selection - We guarantee to work diligently with you to select and target keywords that are not only relevant to your business but words that people are actually searching for. Some SEM companies may choose "non-competitive" keywords to make themselves look good by getting high rankings for them. The problem is that no one is searching for these words and therefore the client doesn't see the increase in traffic they had hoped for.

Not only will we select and target keywords that will bring an increase in traffic, we will continually review those words to ensure that they remain best words to target.

SEO Strategy - We guarantee to develop a complete and thorough search engine optimization strategy for your web site. We will work to optimize all the vital areas of your site that search engines consider in their ranking algorithms. We promise not resort to spam techniques such as doorway pages, page cloaking, link farms and the like that could end up getting your web site penalized and even banned by search engines. Our optimization strategy will be geared towards long term success.

Ongoing Maintenance - We guarantee to provide ongoing campaign maintenance to ensure that you maintain top positioning in the SERPs as well as experience a continuous and steady flow of traffic and as such, earn a good return on your investment. We will stay committed to the ongoing success of your campaign, making necessary adjustments and improvements along the way.

Customer Service - We guarantee the very best in customer service. We will answer the phone when you call. Your emails will be answered promptly, usually within 30 minutes of receiving them. Tasks such as campaign maintenance or modifications to your marketing strategy will be performed in a timely matter. In other words, you will be able to reach us when you need to. We continually receive praise on how quickly and efficiently we respond to customer inquiries. We are here to serve you. Therefore customer service is our number one priority.

If you are interested in guaranteed positioning and traffic, we can develop a paid search engine placement campaign utilizing programs such as Google AdWords, Overture Premium Listings and others. With these programs, we can maintain control over where and when you site appears. See Managed Programs for more information on these type of paid search engine marketing services.


So you can see it is more of a "service" guarantee than a guarantee of any positioning. If someone wants a guarantee in positioning, I would then make sure I could back up any failed SEO attempts with PPC. Besides search engine algos, there are still many things that can escape your control such as client abusing auto submit or auto rank checking programs, setting up other mirrored sites, making changes to their site and removing optimization, redesigning their sites, having webmaster perform updates, copying over changes you have made, etc., etc.
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Old 09-02-2004   #4
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If I do full SEO, ranking targets will be guaranteed. That's what clients expect - that's what they are paying for.

If you cannot guarantee agree target rankings, then you simply should not be taking their cash, IMO.

Other SEO services have no guarantees, other than provision of service - such as the link building - the links will be built, and you can see where they are, etc.
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Old 09-02-2004   #5
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If you cannot guarantee agree target rankings, then you simply should not be taking their cash, IMO.
Well, there are lots of different models. Some people work on a performance basis, where they are paid as part of conversion. A particular ranking means nothing in that aspect -- what the traffic trend overall like long-term and the conversion.

Ranking guarantees can also be meaningless, if the client is clueless. I've seen so many online pitches where the guarantee is to be on a number of search engines that may include some hardly used, or for long, multiword terms that require little effort to get a ranking since they are so unique -- and likely to bring no traffic. This was a recent breakdown on one such guarantee I did in another thread that highlights some of the problems.

Let me be clear that I'm in no way suggesting your guarantee works like this. In fact, you talk about "agree target rankings," which suggests you'll be working with your clients to figure out what terms make the most sense to get traffic and conversion. But for brand new people, seeking an SEM firm, just saying to look for a ranking guarantee isn't helpful because of the way it can be twisted to be meaningless.
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Old 09-02-2004   #6
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Personally I do not give ranking guarantees for a number of reasons. Some of the more important is that I do not think ranking have much value in itself and another is that there is no way to know what users in the target group actually get to see. If Google, Yahoo and MSN was to provide an accurate, and "legal", tool for this that would make some difference but I still do not think the value is in ranking. But that is just my opinion.

When I do work on performance basis it is always on either actual trafic or actions. And for that I do give guarantees: They only pay for results. However, I do not guarantee the end results. We sometimes make estimates and often set a lower limit - if that limit is not met within a set timeframe the deal is off.

However, most the work I do is consulting. People ask me to find out specific things, investigate issues, analyse websites and help work out strategies. In that process I am just a small piece and as such can not be held responsible alone for the results. Therefore I charge for time spend and give no guarantees on this kind of work - only that I do my very best and such.
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Old 09-02-2004   #7
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Uuummm..... That site seems to be down Danny! I wonder why? These type of sites, the hit and miss, the, "I got rankings for my own obscure non-searched terms in 12 months so I'm gonna open an SEO website" type, suck IMHO. These are the spammers, scammers and so forth that make it hard for legitimate, ethical businesses who are practising via their country / state business guidelines. O' and generally have a clue what they are doing!

The diversity of this industry, and the practices available to achieve / promote a website obviously vary according to circumstance and thus warrant particular guarantee's applicable to their service and a whole bunch of good commonsense. Like honestly, there is no way in hell would I provide my guarantee if the owner touches something, adjusts the site during the contracted period or the like, not a chance. These are not things that should be hidden, but simply state the facts up front. Wack, here it is. You do this whilst I'm doing that and you void your warranty for that page/s. People who work within the SEM industry in such practices as PPC or link building only, well, you could obviously not provide a ranking guarantee, but still a service guarantee.

I think this needs to be brought out, as we can see already, most are offering some guarantee. The reason I think this needs much clarification and input from the industry is that some are just not offering guarantee's at all, because they are confused about what others in the industry are doing. Well, we all know they shouldn't follow, but that can sometimes be hard in an industry like this when you need to start off.

A startup SEO company contacted me recently in regard to how to start, how to get visible quickly, etc etc. Chatting away, something I asked was about guarantee's. This new business was launching providing no guarantee what so ever because the word in the forums is that you can't provide a guarantee for SEO / SEM services. It was at this point I began to lecture and advise differently to rethink their business strategy and approach. This is whats happening when people are saying, don't guarantee, don't guarantee! Again, monkey see, monkey do, and it needs to be voiced.

A good example I provided to this new company was reference PPC. They offered it, and with no guarantee. Why? I asked. "Because you can't guarantee PPC", was the answer. Who said that? That's what you here in the forums (General Speak)! I then went on to explain that they may want to reconsider. If I am spending a suitable amount on PPC with a company, then I would want some sort of service guarantee to ensure each title and description was written uniquely to capture the widest audience, the correct terms are captured and so forth. That is a guarantee. That is something you can advertise and market proudly that you standby and exercise in its full power.

This is very interesting to see the diversity of guarantee's that are coming out here. Thanks. I don't think its right or wrong, but as previously stated, up to each individual for what they feel comfortable with.

Last edited by Anthony Parsons : 09-02-2004 at 01:10 PM.
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Old 09-02-2004   #8
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1) No, I don't place a guarantee on my services.
2) Because I'm an in-house general internet marketing guy (SEO/PPC/design/whatever) and if I wasn't being productive, I would look for a job where I could be.
3) N/A

Last edited by greenleaves : 09-02-2004 at 04:49 PM.
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Old 09-02-2004   #9
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If you cannot guarantee agree target rankings, then you simply should not be taking their cash, IMO.
IMO guaranteeing rankings is missing the mark. I think a guarantee in increased levels of traffic and conversion for relative terms is where the rubber meets the road. In the end all that the client cares about are:

#1 (mostly educated on all of our part) Is my risk level for the SEO techniques I approved at a level I can accept?
#2 Did I get the amount of relevant and qualified traffic I was guaranteed?
#3 Do I have the reporting (proof) of the success of the program?
#4 Did it result in me becoming more profitable?
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Old 09-02-2004   #10
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Yes I am happy to offer guarantees.
When speaking to prospective clients they often have their own ideas of how to measure success. That might be a ranking position for search terms or it may be an increase in traffic or enquiries/sales.
I work with them to accept whatever they want their guarantee to be.
For example. company A wants a top 10 position for a string of keywords/phrases. I will advise them honestly if their keywords are realistic, most of the time they are. I then set aside a part of my fee for consultancy about 20% this is payable on completion of the 'blueprint' of the marketing plan. This is required as conceptually they could take this and do it themselves or give it to somebody else to do, so it holds my intellectual capital. Then make a plan of activities and the results to be expected at differing stages of the campaign for example quarterly. of the remaining fee, 50% is paid during stages/achievements so if I dont meet targets I dont get paid. at the end of the project the remaining 50% of the remainder is released. Effectively I get paid 20% of my total fee.
all other fees have to be earned. This makes me highly focused on achieving results.

The problems with this model are.
1. defering 40% of payment until the end is a pretty big risk for 2 reasons. firstly the company may try to weasel out of final payment, so you need a very clear written statement of achievements and goals signed off at each stage. Secondly what if they are out of business in 6-12 months.

2. you are very much at the mercy of changing search criteria when your fees are spread over a long period of time.

I have to say though that this model is attractive to the customers.
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Old 09-02-2004   #11
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One further point.

There is great difficulty in guaranteeing increase in sales.
With pure SEO all you are doing is getting people to the site which is part of a marketing process.
Actually converting enquiries to sales not only may have a long lead time especially for the sale of services but also is part of the sales process of the organisation. Having your fees being held to ransom because their sales process is no good is a tough situation to swallow.
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Old 09-02-2004   #12
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>What SEO Guarantees Do You Offer?

None, never have never will. [bear in mind I'm an ex-SEO and not a particularly successful one at that].

To me there are two business models worth pursuing, charge for traffic and charge for knowledge.

Charging for traffic is an excellent way to go [its not for me, you have to do reports and stuff] and will have the edge in earnings if the company is set up right. Our own makemetop pretty much lays it out here http://www.searchengineblog.com/barry-makemetop.htm

Myself I prefer the solicitor [lawyer] model. I can't guarantee anything but look at my past cases and make your own judgement. I will charge you X and promise to do my best, thats all you get.

Being totally honest I feel that those "SEO's" who offer a guarantee are doing the profession a disservice. You either charge for traffic or you charge for expertise. If you are charging for expertise you stand or fall on your past work, it is not a profession that I think should be offering guarantees, nor summer specials, nor buy now get 10% off.

We are not in the used car game [well some of us are I suppose ], we are in the lawyer game. Charge accordingly and make the client aware that all you can do is your best, its their judgement whether your best is good enough.

IMHO.
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Old 09-02-2004   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NFFC
>
Myself I prefer the solicitor [lawyer] model. I can't guarantee anything but look at my past cases and make your own judgement. I will charge you X and promise to do my best, thats all you get.

Well said, we have used that motto from inset of our company

Cheers


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Old 09-02-2004   #14
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That is quite an excellent insight NFFC. If you look at a search engine in the same eyes as looking upon a judge within a court, we are the lawyers stating our case to the judge (search engine) to make up their minds (algorithm) and produce the relevant result according to their decision (analysis) and our input (website).

At the end of the day though, if I was sitting here with 5k in hand, my 20 page website and the choice of two SEO's, one that offers some sort of satisfaction guarantee, ranking guarantee or marketing exposure guarantee, and the other that just offers the best they can do, I would be placing my money with the one that offered a money back guarantee if they do not succeed to their set expectations. (This being two like reputable firms)

Though, keeping in mind we all offer unique strategies, and quite honestly, we all look for different things within a business service when even we want to employ someone. If we all weren't indifferent, customers would be limited in their comfort zone on whom to employ.

Something Greenkey also mentioned that rings a bell just the other day actually;

Quote:
When speaking to prospective clients they often have their own ideas of how to measure success.
I sent a client a proposal in which one question they asked was the measure of analysis to each of the desired terms targeted. I had to "add" to my existing warranty and provide them another reassurance (guarantee) that I could capture the target market, and then proceeded to provide documentary evidence from previous cases. This shows that we have to sometimes meet our clients expectations beyond our own abilities, guarantee's and reassurances, providing your comfortable doing this. Me being me, if a client is way out in fairy land and wants something that I know is just stupidity, then they are going to be told this and they can keep their money. Customers need to have trust in their employment choices to some extent.
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Old 09-02-2004   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Parsons
....some sort of satisfaction guarantee, ranking guarantee or marketing exposure guarantee, and the other that just offers the best they can do, I would be placing my money ......


.
Offering just "the best they can do " is over simplifying it.

Presentations and showing facts base upon case study histories is a step further, then saying "we'll try". The only way of showing success is with past successful results within the clients indusrty, just because what we did last year doesnt neccessarily mean it will work this time around, with the speed and changes that are happening on the SE's all the time, any guarantee is set up to be broken depending on how the clients expectations are meet

My 2 cents

Cheers

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Old 09-03-2004   #16
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Top 20 results for 80% minimum of the agreed terms in Google, Yahoo and MSN each. Money back on service charge...
Anthony - how long does your 'guarantee' last for?

Is your guarantee satisfied the first time the client appears in Google, Yahoo, or MSN? Or is it for one week of stable ranking at that position? Or is for a month? a quarter? forever? What?

How would (not 'did' - would) your guarantee deal with Florida? How would it deal with the next update? How would it deal with an extended DDoS attack on your client's sites?

Because thats the issue. You you may have 'faith' in your own ability. We all do. But none of us have control over the rest of the web, and none of us even know when things outside of your control will change.

The whole concept of the 'web' means no one can guarantee anything. Think about it.

BTW - Overture PPC guarantees are easy - you can always guarantee that the client will rank number 1*

* subject to budget.
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Old 09-03-2004   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris_D
Anthony - how long does your 'guarantee' last for?

Is your guarantee satisfied the first time the client appears in Google, Yahoo, or MSN? Or is it for one week of stable ranking at that position? Or is for a month? a quarter? forever? What?
The duration of the contracted period. If the contract is for 3, 6 or 12 months, dependant upon the work, then at the end of that period, all work is to be satisfied in accordance with the contractual agreement.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris_D
How would (not 'did' - would) your guarantee deal with Florida? How would it deal with the next update? How would it deal with an extended DDoS attack on your client's sites?

Because thats the issue. You you may have 'faith' in your own ability. We all do. But none of us have control over the rest of the web, and none of us even know when things outside of your control will change.
That's the risk in providing an assurance. I don't provide a money back guarantee on directory submissions etc. That is clearly stated. I don't guarantee server errors or extended errors. This just happened too me recently where nothing could get this site ranking. I moved the site at my expense to another server, provided the site and demonstrated to the customer what the problem was. The cost of $50 for hosting vs. refunding thousands is marginal IMO. Because I don't guarantee errors, and the client knew about that, but didn't want to believe me, that is why I moved it at my expense. The client was more than happy to refund me the cost and apologise for a crappy host server.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris_D
The whole concept of the 'web' means no one can guarantee anything. Think about it.
Ok Chris, you being Australian, would you go and buy a new commodore at $40k without a guarantee? No. Why? The car is out of the manufactures ability of knowing what is best for the car! The manufacturer can't see whether your abusing the car or not. But they gladly replace the differential that broke whilst you or your son where doing a burnout in it. As long as they can't find evidence a burnout was done to break the diff, they are going to replace it. Why? Customer assurance. Why is the web any different. Every product and service that we know today that have guarantee's are outside of the manufacturer's / service providers control, but yet they provide a guarantee.

Lets go online now. ISP's! They provide you a service guarantee that you will have x, y and z. All electronic online services and connections. Why? Customer assurance again. Why is it good enough for you to expect a guarantee from your ISP when you pay them, but not provide some type of assurance (guarantee) for your online services? This is what gets me about people flat out say, "no guarantee's".

I absolutely respect everyone's decision how they run their business model, and am not trying to stuff guarantee's down your throat or saying you "must" guarantee, but simply find out what sort of guarantee's are on offer, and if not, why not. Some people are saying flat out "no guarantee for online services". Fine, so what if your ISP no longer provides you an uptime guarantee? What if your server host no longer provides your an uptime guarantee? Are you going to use them or go somewhere that does provide an uptime guarantee? Interesting now isn't it when the shoes on the other foot. Two electronic web service that both offer guarantee's. So why can't marketers. Neither web hosts or ISP's know if a worm is about to hit, they don't know if lightning is about to take out their main stack.....the list is endless. They can take adequate means to protect these areas, but cannot completely assure them. What they do do though, is take the risk to benefit their customers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris_D
BTW - Overture PPC guarantees are easy - you can always guarantee that the client will rank number 1*

* subject to budget.


Even PPC required some sort of service guarantee. What if your client is paying $5 a click for a term that you have poorly written or describe that is costing the client either too many non-relevant clicks or not enough for the term because you have just used any old title and description. That is the first thing people see and make their decision to click upon it or go to the next. Ranking guarantee is not applicable with the PPC model, but a service guarantee most definately should be used. Otherwise you could just take my $$$, write absolute crap and I get little conversion, clickthrough or too much at the wrong times...etc.

************************************************** ******

I'm by no means saying that people need to offer a ranking guarantee. I do, but that's the way I run my business. Some do, some offer satisfaction and service guarantee's and then some nothing at all. These other electronic services offer guarantee's. What makes marketing so different?

A #1 guarantee is generally rubbish because 99.9% off the time they are either utilising the PPC model in a deceptive manner to the client or for some obscure long term that isn't even searched. That's the norm, so that is what brings everyone else down. What if someone was willing to legitimately offer #1 guarantee's for their work? Does that make them unprofessional or unethical if they are achieving them within the guidelines of the search engines? I think not. Are you going to pay a fortune to have that guarantee? Yes you are. Another difference between the other 99.9% who offer some rubbish like, #1 guaranteed for $99 a month. We all know that is marketed in such a way to produce unprofessional results and give a client a sense of false achievement.

My ranking guarantee is there for that assurance. My guarantee's extend into the marketing and conversion area, but I don't go near them too much because IMHO, you have less control now over whether someone is going to purchase than obtaining a ranking. You can coach a website to a top position, you cannot coach the user to actually buying. Think about that?
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Old 09-03-2004   #18
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Our guarantees are simple if we don't perform you don't pay

You get x amount of top rankings (page 1 and 2) for x amount a month. We guarantee rankings for your theme groups not any specific keyword.

So we can say we'll give you 500 top rankings. Clients love it because we get tackle all the relavant terms. Best way to do it IMHO because most of the conversions end up coming from more general terms and not the broad 1 - 2 word keywords
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Old 09-03-2004   #19
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Personally I dont agree with this model of top rankings for X fee per month, it implies 2 very serious things.

Firstly when the client stops paying the ranking stops. If their website was truely optimised for keywords/terms then the seo company should be able to walk away after completing their work and the site will still continue to get good placement with minimal maintenance (at least for a reasonable time). The pay monthly model suggests that the optimisation is being done somewhere else not on the clients website, and can be turned off at any time effectively holding the client to ransom. What has probably happened is that the website has had a few keywords added and the keyword density measured, maybe even a smattering of copy writing. Then a large amount of link building is done under the control of the seo company and hidden pages are written that look attractive to search engines, and any hits they get are re directed to the 'real pages'.
By definition if this is the case then the clients website has not been fully optimised. When a client pays to have THEIR web pages optimised it should represent a marketing investment in their business. If it can be switched off where is their investment? At best they are buying advertising through search positioning. At worst they havent bought what they think they have.

Secondly and perhaps more sinister when the client stops paying any off page optimisation is reused/resold to their competitors.
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Old 09-03-2004   #20
Chris Boggs
 
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guarantees

funny I was just writing about this topic in another forum

We are basing promises (not guarantees) purely on difficulty of keywords chosen to target. Often we will suggest targeting more competitive keywords with PPC and using SEO for geographic or product specific searches.

We will give clients money-back if they have legitimate concerns...none yet
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