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November 11, 2009
Watch Out for SEO Consultant Red Flags

So many businesses get confused when talking to SEO consultants that they give up and never optimize their website. Part of the problem is that they simply don't know whom to trust for SEO services.

Trust is always a tricky issue, and one that is emotionally charged based on our individual experiences with others. In SEO, trust issues are further magnified by the fact that there's no one-size-fits-all solution, nor one method that all SEOs use to perform their craft.

Where does this leave the person or company who needs an SEO consultant, but doesn't know whom to trust? One SEO tells them something, and then another tells them something completely different. Who is right? Who is wrong? Whom should they hire? Whom should they beware of?

Here are 5 SEO consultant red flags to watch out for:

1. The SEO consultant promises you the world. Good SEOs will under-promise and over-deliver, not the other way around, so be wary of those who don’t set realistic expectations.

2. The SEO consultant only optimizes for keywords for which very few people are searching. Make sure your potential SEO consultant has a proven record of success for keyword phrases that bring lots of targeted traffic to their clients. Be sure to check references to learn whether they actually improved their clients' bottom line in some way.

3. The SEO consultant asks you to make changes to your website which makes it worse for your users rather than better. This one sounds crazy, but a good portion of SEOs think that it's all about the search engines and not the users, and stuff keywords all over your website where they don’t belong. Never, ever, ever let an SEO company do something that you feel worsens your site's overall usability or readability. That’s not SEO, its search engine spam.

4. The SEO consultant won’t explain what they will do and why. If they want you to just blindly trust them and not ask any questions, it should set off a major red flag. Sure, you don't need to know every last detail or to micromanage your SEO campaign, but your consultant should be able to explain their reasoning for why they want to do the things they recommend. If they can't, or if their answers don't make sense, then run (don't walk) to the nearest door!

5. The SEO consultant uses only automated methods to achieve their goals. Automated tools can definitely make an SEO campaign go more quickly and easily, but there are many aspects to SEO that cannot be automated. Since SEO is both art and science, creativity should always play a big part. It's difficult to be creative when everything you do is automated.

Make sure to educate yourself on SEO as much as you can before you decide on your SEO consultant. This will help you learn the right questions to ask, as well as to get a feel for SEO best practices. There are many SEO consultants who do great work. Look for one that uses methods you believe in, is within your budget, and who will work hard to help you accomplish your website goals!

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As an SEO Consultant, Jill Whalen has been providing her no-nonsense, practical SEO advice since 1995. If you learned from this article be sure to sign up for Jill's popular High Rankings Advisor SEO Newsletter to keep up with the latest information in the ever-changing world of SEO. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen, "Like" her at Facebook, and "Circle" her on Google+.

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