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No matter where you are or what you do in the business world, the best piece of advice you’ll hear is to always do your homework. Nowhere is this advice more important than when you hire someone for SEO management. As with any other professional hire, it’s not all about just signing on the dotted line after picking out the best looking resume. When it comes to hiring an SEO company, there’s plenty of diligent research and thorough scrutiny that must be done.

After you’ve engaged in dialogue with an SEO company, you may end up dealing with an SEO expert tasked with managing your portfolio. No matter what, business owners must try to keep a level head and not let an SEO expert try to wow them with tales of how much knowledge they have and how proficient they are when it comes to their work.

The following is a short guide that can help you sniff out a suspect SEO expert when hiring an SEO company:

1. The SEO company in question has no company website. This should set off major alarms, as any SEO expert who’s as good as they claim to be should have their own website available to showcase their work. If the company does not have its own website, chances are it is not as reputable as it claims to be.

2. The SEO expert requires a steep upfront fee prior to the consultation meeting. Many SEO experts regard themselves as the best at what they do, but you shouldn’t let this justify high rates or consultation demands that are set in stone. Many experts will try to use their experience with “major clients” to justify their steep price structure; these are the SEO experts you should be most wary of.

3. The client list is confidential. Many SEO experts make fabulous claims about how many clients they’ve made successful, only to tell their potential clients that their client list is unavailable due to confidentiality concerns. Chances are that the clients of these SEO experts may not be as big as they were made out to be…or perhaps they don’t exist at all.

4. If an SEO expert includes buying back links as a strategy, it’s probably time to walk away from the deal. This method was once popular for gaming Google’s search engine algorithm, but anyone engaged in these practices will eventually be found out and the websites involved penalized.

5. The SEO expert makes big promises, many which end up being impossible to keep. After all, it’s easy to make big promises, but it’s tough to do SEO the right way, with quality link building, quality content and frequent updates being central to SEO strategies. Anyone who promises to guarantee a first page placement is selling a promise they can’t keep, as it’s up to the search engines to put your website at number one. Always read your contract’s fine print prior to finalization to get an idea of what you’re getting into before signing anything.

Knowledge, transparency and proof of tangible results are just a few positive traits you should look for in an SEO company. Experts in search of a quick sale will promise as much as they can, only to fall flat later on. Some companies may even engage in black hat techniques that could easily have your website permanently blacklisted from search engines, a worst case scenario that should be avoided at all costs. In other words, choose your SEO company carefully and with due-diligence.

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