Have you been approached by Internet marketing companies with promises of higher keyword rankings in less time? Don't be fooled by common shady practices. Know when your being scammed and the best ways to spend those pretty marketing dollars when it comes to Search Engine Optimization. To the average person, SEO may sounds like something out of a science fiction movie and therefore shy away. However, it's a monster marketing tool that is well worth your dollars, if used correctly. But beware, there are marketing companies out there exploiting business owner's lack of SEO knowledge to make a quick buck. What to look for. Often Internet marketing companies will send you, what seems like, alarming information explaining that you aren't ranking for a set of keywords as shown in the real example below. They list out keywords that pertain to the client and seem relevant to their marketing. Next to these keywords, they show where the client is ranked. They also give you an average keyword ranking which is irrelevant. So what's the problem? The problem is the keywords they recommend receive little to no traffic. Putting your marketing dollars into this SEO campaigns would be like becoming the Mayor of a ghost town. The status feels good, but there's absolutely no one around.\u00a0 So as the business owner you must ask yourself, what good is it to be ranked #1, when there are no visitors to find you? How to check the quality of an SEO proposal. Luckily there are tools available online to assist you in researching the validity of these reports. We simply used Google's Free Keyword Planner to look up the same recommended keywords. As you can see in the image below, all the keywords have absolutely no traffic to record. Proving to us that it is an extremely poor SEO proposal and a manipulation of the client. In short, you will get ranked number one, but you won't receive any new business. What else can you do to check an SEO proposal? Ask questions! What is the search volume for these keywords? Obviously you want to make sure there are enough searches to make it worth your money. How difficult or how long will it take to get ranked for these keywords? The level of competition will be a strong predictor of how difficult it will be to rank for a particular keyword. Keywords have a low, medium, and high ranking. Low keywords have very little competition, therefore you can rank fast for little money, but search volume will be minimal. High keywords are extremely competitive, cost more money and take more time, but have the most traffic and will generate the most results. What sort of SEO strategies do they have? Avoid cookie cutter companies and look for ones that are going to design a strategy uniquely for you. Also look for SEO companies that are going to spread out your keywords among the different competitive levels to create a balance in your investment. How do you keep up with the rapidly revolving changes online? On average Google makes between 500 and 600 changes every year to their ranking algorithms. These are the mathematical equations that determine how search engine results appear. If the company you are working with doesn't have a dynamic system that can quickly adjust to the algorithm changes you probably don't want to work with them. In conclusion... always do your own SEO research. As a small business owner, make sure you are doing your research when it comes to SEO. It is no longer a science fiction term, but a tool that could mean the difference in the success of your business. Also, just because a marketing company is large and well known, does not mean they have your best interest in mind. Make sure to get second and third opinions before making big marketing decisions. No one will ever care about your business as much as you do, make sure you are doing all you can to protect it.