We spend our days doing search engine optimization work for a variety of clients and industries. Doing so has sharpened our axe considerably in the SEO space and has also sensitized us to some tactics that are less-than-savory. Below we set the record straight on a few statements we run across on an all too frequent basis.
"We guarantee placement"
It's unfortunate that many fly-by-night SEO services "guarantee" top 10 placement for "up to 3 phrases" when anyone worth their weight in SEO knows that a guarantee is only is good as the man who sells it (finally, a Tommy Boy quote in a blog post). Never believe anyone who guarantees SEO rankings. On the flip-side, you need to make sure that the SEO firm is going to deliver results...either through a performance based compensation program or related method.
"We do SEO"
Search engine optimization requires experience, education, and much trial and error. Web developers are not SEOs. Marketers are not SEOs. Reading a book or subscribing to a blog on the topic does not make a person/company proficient in SEO. Having an arsenal of clients with demonstrable results does. Make sure your SEO firm can back up their talk with walk.
"We submit your site to over 650,000 search engines!"
That's great, assuming 650,000 search engines get used. There are about five search engines that get nearly 100% of the traffic, so don't get wooed by promises of large scale submissions. 649,995 of them don't really matter.
"You need to change your meta keywords"
If an SEO talks to you about meta keywords, slowly walk away.
"Creating a microsite is the key"
Maybe. Microsites often get abused a variety of ways. Depending on the term(s) being targeted, a microsite may be the answer, but it's definitely not a universal solution. And if you are looking to use microsites for link juice, check out this video from Rand Fishkin first.
Unfortunately, many companies are so green to search marketing that it is easy for SEO companies to use slick talk and a myriad of acronyms to woo their way into a contract. Before you dive into an SEO relationship, be sure to ask for examples of past results, clearly define processes and expectations, and give yourself an out should your SEO be all smoke and mirrors.