Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is regularly mentioned by marketers as one of the most effective tactics for generating leads or sales from your website. While most marketers understand the importance of SEO, many see the process as a highly technical discipline that they prefer to hand over to experts. Thus, to no surprise, SMEs especially want to outsource their SEO to trained professionals.

I guess, we have all searched at least once for SEO firms online and were overwhelmed by the thousands of vendors, offering "incredible" or "fast" results for attractively low monthly fees or even a simple one-time purchase only. What sounds too good to be true, probably is - so be careful. Many of these "professionals" and SEO experts are counting on clients' SEO ignorance to get quick cash without delivering long-term, sustainable SEO improvements. Even worse, some of the practices used by SEO firms can actually hurt your business in the long run.

How can you make sure that you are not hornswoggled?

Here are five very obvious signs to be alert to before hiring a SEO firm. Most probably their offer is not worth its salt when the SEO provider is:
1. Making promises that are too good to be true;
2. Using "Black Hat" SEO techniques (see Buzzword);
3. Targeting the wrong keywords (see Keywords are the Foundation of SEO)
4. Promising to list your site in hundreds of online directories and employing shoddy linking schemes;
5. Offering a one-time fix with no on-going maintenance.

The fact is that SEO should be a company's constant focus as it is much more than just a few structural fixes and a one-time content generation push. MarketingSherpa's 2012 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition already highlighted that marketers who have a formal SEO process that they routinely carry out tend to convert 150% more leads than marketers that don't. It means that even if you outsource SEO, part of the work remains with you. Tactics used should be understood, defining keyword and the content creation and so on have to be handled by you.

By MediaBUZZ