Search Engine Workshops - Intensive hands-on search engine marketing training during a 2-, 3-, or 5-day workshop Search Engine Workshops Home PageRegister for onsite search engine marketing workshopsContact us for more information about our onsite search engine marketing workshopsLost? Find it in our site map.

Search Engine Workshops . . . the premiere onsite search engine marketing workshops in the world! Click here to go back to the index of SEO articles.

Topics covered at our search engine marketing workshopsDates for future search engine marketing workshopsRegister for onsite search engine marketing workshopsArticles on search engine marketingTestimonials from our search engine marketing workshop guestsSearch Engine Workshops PartnersCommonly asked questions about search engine marketing and our workshopsLinks to useful sites and search engine marketing informationAbout Search Engine Workshops

How Can You Tell if a
Search Engine Marketing Firm
Is Legitimate?

by Robin Nobles

Have you ever gotten e-mail similar to this:

“Hi Web Site Owner,

“We noticed that your site isn’t found under the keyword phrase, ‘freckles on English bulldogs.’ With our proprietary software, we can determine your rankings in the top 32,727 search engines, and we guarantee we’ll get you top 10 rankings for every keyword phrase that’s relevant to your business.”

Okay, I exaggerated a little, but you know what I mean. You’ve gotten these e-mail too.

What do e-mail like this do for the search engine industry? Regretfully, it often lumps us together with e-mail spammers and snake oil salesmen who promise the moon but can’t deliver.

It even causes some people to question the professionalism of the industry in general.

So, how does the “average” person know which search engine optimization firms are legitimate? How do you know who you can trust, versus who should be tossed in the same category as the “get rich quick schemes” that never work?

Let’s look at a few suggestions.

Read: “Fees and Concerns of Professional Search Engine Optimizers.”

This article, which I wrote a few months ago, offers information on guarantees, pricing structures, and other topics of interest to professional SEO’s.

Keep this in mind: As a general rule, it’s virtually impossible to guarantee a top ten ranking across the board, as there are way too many factors, including off page factors such as link popularity, that come into play with a successful Web site. However, some of the pricing structures are fashioned around rankings, which means that you literally pay for your rankings. You’ll find the article at this URL:

Does the SEO firm hire Certified Search Engine Marketers?

Though certification alone doesn’t guarantee that the optimizer can achieve top rankings or that the optimizer stays away from shady practices, at least you have a “guarantee” that the person has completed organized and legitimate training and that his or her skills have been certified. All certification isn’t alike, however, so be sure to verify that the certifying agency is legitimate and keeps up with the constant changes in the industry.

The Academy of Web Specialists is the best choice for an online certifying agency. For "on location" training and certification, choose Search Engine Workshops, which I teach with John Alexander.

In the next few months, the Academy will be setting up a job databank of past students, which will be an invaluable resource when shopping for a professional SEO firm.

Purchase a copy of the Buyer’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization & Positioning Firms.

Does the SEO firm adhere to the guidelines and suggestions as outlined in the Buyer’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization & Positioning Firms? This excellent guide will help you understand the various pricing and SEO packages that are currently available in the industry, and it even rates 68 firms.

However, just because a firm isn’t listed in the Guide does not mean that the firm isn’t legitimate. The Guide’s authors recognize that it’s a work in progress. In fact, they plan on increasing the number of listed companies to 75 when they update the Guide in March of 2002, and they constantly ask for recommendations of additional companies to add.

So, if you’re considering a search engine optimization firm, read the Guide to see how the firm “stacks up” against those firms that are listed in the Guide. Use the Guide as a source of information on what to ask the SEO, and listen carefully to the answers. If anything sounds “fishy” or too good to be true, you may want to move on to a different firm.

What type of information is available in this comprehensive manual?

  • Guidelines for pricing and evaluating services;
  • A “best practices” questionnaire;
  • Reasons for hiring an outside firm versus doing it yourself;
  • “Leveling factors” that allow you to compare apples to oranges, as much as possible. In other words, it’s very difficult to compare one search engine optimization firm to another, because pricing structures and services often vary considerably. This Guide, however, allows you to compare different firms by focusing on specifics that can be compared across the board.
  • Rough math to determine how much search engine optimization is worth to your online business; and,
  • Evaluation, comparison pricing, and rating of the included SEO firms.

When reviewing the Guide, remember that opinions vary greatly in what’s “legitimate” and what isn’t. One example lies in the comments related to automated submission software. While I totally agree that manual submissions are the best, let’s be honest here. Manual submissions aren’t always feasible.

In that situation, software programs that mimic a manual submission should be chosen. Examples are WebPosition Gold’s Submitter, Search Engine Commando, and Commando Pro. In fact, Gold’s version (1.6) does everything possible to emulate a manual submission and even improve upon it. So, in my opinion, firms that use Submitter or these other programs shouldn’t be penalized in the rating structure of the Guide.

How much does the Guide cost, and where can you buy it?

The cost of the Buyer’s Guide is currently $119, and it can be purchased through:

In Conclusion . . .

If you’re considering hiring a professional search engine marketing firm, do your homework, both in terms of the firm itself and what’s currently being offered in the industry. Remember that the most expensive firms aren’t always the best, and the most well-known firms aren’t always the most legitimate.

Look to see if the SEO’s skills are certified by the Academy or Search Engine Workshops. Then, pick up a copy of the Buyer’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization & Positioning Firms. Study those guidelines carefully, and run any firm that you’re considering hiring through the Guide’s “Best Practices Questionnaire.”

Robin Nobles teaches 2-, 3-, and 5-day hands-on search engine marketing workshops in locations across the globe ( as well as online SEO training courses ( They have recently launched localized SEO training centers through, and they have expanded their workshops to Europe with Search Engine Workshops UK. They have also opened the first networking community for SEOs, the Workshop Resource Center (WRC).

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed
under a Creative Commons License.

Search engine marketing is the key to unlocking access to the world.

Unlock extraordinary traffic potential!

Search Engine Workshops
. . . the premiere onsite search engine marketing workshops in the world!

Click here to go back to the index of SEO articles

Search Engine Marketing Workshops | Site Map | Affiliate Program

Privacy Policy | Terms of Service


Search Engine Workshops - The premiere onsite search engine workshops in the world.