Guaranteeing SEO Results is Like Guaranteeing Stock Market Returns

When we talk to clients about SEO, they quickly ask, "Where will we rank?" and "How soon will we rank there?" and "What guarantee can you give me?" I've found that analogies work well in explaining technical topics to non-technical clients, so I decided to start comparing SEO to the stock market, and the SEO specialist to an investment advisor.

SEO Differs from Design and Development

SEO differs from web design and development in many ways. Design appeals to the client or it doesn't. Functionality works or it doesn't. The businessperson (client) can evaluate those areas pretty quickly. Designers and developers have a high level of control over them, and can alter them relatively quickly.

SEO is different. SEO specialists have limited control over how a website ranks, because search engines (such as Google) control their algorithms. SEO specialists can only follow best practices so the search engines view sites favorably. Also, SEO takes time. It can take months to see results. Because we have such limited control, it's impossible to guarantee results; we can only increase the likelihood of good results.

SEO Compared to Stock Market Investing

Now think of investing in the stock market. Investment advisors can't guarantee you'll make money, because they don't control the market. They can only follow best practices to increase your likelihood of success. You can blame them if they give bad advice or make bad investments, but you can’t blame them if they follow sound investing principles at an appropriate risk level. You must trust that they know what they're doing, and allow time to see results.

You can see the parallels. Expecting an SEO specialist to rocket your site up through the rankings within a week is like expecting an investment advisor to multiply your investment within a week. Either one may be possible, but only using highly risky methods that aren't sustainable in the long term.

Also, expecting an SEO specialist to accurately predict where you'll rank and how soon you'll rank there is like expecting an investment advisor to predict what dollar amount you'll hold by a certain day. Either can be roughly estimated based on known data, but there are too many unknowns and factors beyond control to expect accuracy.


After I had written most of this post, I googled “seo is like investing in stocks” just to see if others had written about this, and found the excellent post Investing in SEO the Warren Buffett Way. I highly recommend it.

If you’re interested in learning how SEO can help your business in the long term, just like investing in stocks is a sound long-term investment choice, let’s talk.

Featured image by Rafael Matsunaga

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8 comments on “Guaranteeing SEO Results is Like Guaranteeing Stock Market Returns”

  1. I've never seen seo and stock market watching compared like this before so I'm really interested by it. Very nice read, thanks so much for sharing.

  2. Very well said, when it comes to investing, there will always be a risk. I agree that SEO takes times, but it has a long term effect if done properly.Most of the clients want to rank their site immediately, but it won't happen unless you're doing a black hat activities and we know that this tactic is very dangerous and more risky. If Google will trace this kind of activity, they will penalize your site and immediately remove the site from the search engine.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Vince. You're right; just as with investing there are high-risk ways to increase an investment faster, in SEO there are high-risk ways (often black or gray hat) to increase ranking or traffic faster. The high risk can be devastating in both areas. And in SEO, black hat tactics aren't simply about additional risk, they're about actually violating the terms of service of the search engines, so they're unethical as well.

  3. Thanks for writing about this Chad, I also searched \"SEO is like investing in stocks\" and I found the article you mentioned and also came across yours after typing \"SEO and Stock Market\".

    Glad to know there are articles to the similarities I see, thanks again! Great Article

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