The only guarantee with SEO is there are no guarantees
SEO and guarantees. It's like running with cotton socks, mixing water and oil and drinking and driving. They do not belong together! I have a potential client who is gun shy about working with me because I will NOT guarantee top rankings in organic search. Just recently, I lost another client who was wooed away by a guarantee-driven SEO firm. This is the response I received:
"So (SEO company - I'll spare the name) agreed to work with us on a no results no fee basis. They have pretty much guaranteed me that by the 3rd week in October we will be listed among the top 10 spas in SF on the google search engine - if not nothing lost on our side. We don't have to sign a contract or anything unless we see the results."
My friends at SEO Moz wrote a great article titled "Why Reputable SEO Firms Don't Promise Guaranteed Search Engine Rankings". The article hit the bullseye and is well worth the read. However, there are three points worth reemphasizing.
1. We're dealing with technology folks! In particular algorithms that are constantly changing. The pure nature of the industry means that rankings are in a constant state of fluctuation. Besides, search results vary across different geographical regions and are moving toward more personalized results. So, guaranteeing a top ranking is like hitting a moving target traveling at the speed of light.
2. Rankings don't equal more traffic. Assuring the client the top position in the SERPs is completely useless unless the keyword drives traffic to your website and causes a conversion of some type. Yes, traffic should be the measure of success, not rankings.
3. No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google. I did not say this, the search engine giant also known as Google clearly states this on their SEO guidelines page. If you're still not convinced then I have some swamp land in Florida I would like to sell you.
Ben Franklin was quoted as saying "but in the world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes." It's safe to say that even today that statement holds true even in the world of SEO.