When, shopping for a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) company/specialist you need to be aware of a few things.
If someone offers you fast results they may be pulling your leg. If you aren't listed on search engines the average time to be index takes around 4 weeks. Someone offering submissions in less then that is coning you. Websites that are already listed and are just being updated will have a faster result.
A guarantee isn't always reinsurance. Just because a site states they can get you in the #1 spot doesn't mean they can deliver. Or, they may have you listed under an obscure keyword or phrase. Most legitimate SEO's will tell you no one can guarantee a top stop on all keywords and phrases. Search Engine optimization is not an exact science. Trail and error along with constant tweaking will help bring your site closer to your goal.
Most SEO's should give you some information on where your site stands currently. You links, keywords, where you rank on major search engines etc.. Or, do one yourself. My article "Google's Helping hand" show you free tools that can help you evaluate where you are on search engines. Don't go into any SEO work blindly. Know where you stand before and after.
Price is never an indication of how good a service is. More isn't always better.
Shop around try to get the most for your money, but be realistic. If it seems too good to be true then it may just be. Be prepared to shell out some cash. SEO is not cheap. You should think of SEO as advertising. It should be contestant as should all of your advertising efforts.
Ask questions! Do not be afraid to ask what will be done to increase your ranking. Most SEO's will have no problem telling you what they will do. They may not want to reveal their whole SEO operation. But, they will give you some insight to what they will do. Talk to more then one SEO company. Compare what each has to say. Do some research on your own. Find out if these companies have been reported to the Better Business Bureau. If the company or persons have had any articles or reviews written about them. Ask around. Try to have some idea of the company or persons creditability.
A few additional things to keep in mind are:
Is SEO there main business or is it a sideline to other businesses. SEO is a full time job. Especially, keeping up with the constant changes.
Do they have a specialist?
Do they outsource?
How much do they really know?
What are there view points on link farms and doorway pages?
Will they do anything to get you links and traffic? Even though search engines frown on those practices.
Can they explain to you clearly how their plan of action?
Are they looking to take small steps with you?
Or, are they trying to sell you the biggest SEO package possible?
Follow this outline when you are searching for someone to optimize your site. In the end it will be worth it.
Joe Balestrino's site is http://www.mr-seo.com where he offers affordable SEO, submissions and other articles on SEO and marketing. His other site http://www.jnb-design.com offers affordable web design and free lifetime hosting.