I don’t know how many times I’ve told people that you should run away as fast as you can from anyone who guarantees you top rankings in the search engines. There are only two ways to do that: Through paid search advertising or by cheating. The first approach is perfectly legitimate but it will cost you and is appropriate in certain circumstances but generally unwise as a long-term approach to getting search engine traffic. The second approach could very well get you banned from the search engines entirely, as BMW found out last week by showing the Google search engine keyword-stuffed content but showing actual visitors to their web site entirely different content.
The reason you should be wary of guarantees is that they usually come from the mouths of cheaters. In the Internet marketing business we call them "Black Hat" search engine marketers. Whoever was doing the search engine marketing for BMW was using tactics that Google expressly prohibits in order to "game" the search engines into making their site rank well. It got them banned and when BMW fixed their sites by removing the offending practices from their site, they were reincluded in Google’s search results. But if you’re not BMW, it may take you a long time to get back into a search engine’s good graces.
I tell potential clients that I don’t and I won’t guarantee them top rankings. The initial statement usually shocks them until I explain why. There are things I could do to get a client top rankings in the search engines very quickly but they would likely get that site banned somewhere on down the road when the search engines change their ranking formula to address my "spamming" of their search results. The general rule is, if what you’re doing is deceptive, the search engines are probably not going to like it–even if they don’t already expressly prohibit it–and may ban your site as a result.
My approach to "organic" search engine marketing, as opposed to paid search advertising, is to ensure that a web site’s content is as easy as possible for a search engine to read and to help match quality content with search engine users queries. This approach best serves my clients’ interests and it happens to serve Google‘s and Yahoo‘s and MSN‘s interests as well because it helps their users find quality content.
The search engines want their search results to have high quality and accuracy or people will find a search engine that works better. And, as demonstrated in the BMW case, they are perfectly willing to defend their interests.