Realistic expectations For SEO
Often companies have unrealistic expectations of what to expect after search engine optimization is performed on their site, or simply don't know what to expect afterwards.
Generally speaking, websites can only be ranked highly for a relatively small subset of carefully researched keyword phrases. It is meaningless to say you have a #3 ranking without specifying the keyword phrase. Also, forget about ranking highly for single-word terms, it's just too difficult and you wouldn't want to. The more generic the term, the less qualified the traffic becomes.
A first page ranking (top 10) on a major search engine can provide up to 10 times as much traffic as appearing on the second page! Search engine optimization can get your site better visibility in the search engines by virtue of higher rankings, and thus bring more traffic to your site.
However, with that said, an increase in traffic doesn't necessarily mean you will obtain more customers or make more sales. Getting more traffic to your site from a high ranking is only half the battle. The second part of this is that your website must be compelling and relevant enough to:
1. Keep the visitor on your site long enough to look around. You have about 4 seconds to "hook" a visitor on their first visit, otherwise they will leave your site.
2. You must employ logical, easy-to-use navigation and not make the visitor click much to find what they are searching for.
3. You must have fresh, relevant, and compelling content that clearly lists the benefits or solutions you offer.
4. You must make it VERY clear and VERY easy for your visitor to take the "most desired action" for that page or for the site as a whole. That can mean filling out an inquiry form for more information, registering for a newsletter, purchasing from the site, or simply calling you.
5. You must provide a reason for visitors to return to your site. Do you offer promotions, seasonal specials, new products, updated information, FAQs or something that entices your visitors to return?
Some sites need to be almost completely rearchitected as they are too "search engine hostile". Classic examples are sites that are built entirely, or largely, on Flash, which search engines cannot understand. Sites that utilize frames also pose a problem, as do sites that have a large number of dynamically-generated pages. Some content management systems (CMS) can also pose problems in the way they generate code.
Lastly, nobody can ethically guarantee a #1 ranking (or any specific ranking for that matter) or for any length of time. An SEO can optimize your site's pages perfectly, conduct a great linking campaign, monitor the results, tweak the content, and obtain excellent rankings, or your site's ranking overall may only improve marginally on the keywords you want. There are simply too many variables outside one's control. (The example I give clients is that of hiring a financial advisor. A financial advisor cannot guarantee your portfolio will be at a specific value at a specific date or for any length of time or guarantee you a specific rate of return on your investments. There are variables outside the advisor's control. So it is with website rankings.)
Those companies that do offer a specific guarantee of ranking usually have fine print with conditions that must be met in order to achieve those rankings or else the guarantee is voided. They usually also demand that you sign up for an extended and often expensive site management package. Commonly they will not specify which keywords the guarantee applies for, or will specify really lame keywords that get little traffic. Even so, NONE will guarantee how long you will keep such rankings.