"Over the last dozen-plus years, unscrupulous SEO [companies] have given the entire search engine optimization industry a bad rep," writes Stoney deGeyter at Search Engine Guide. "It seems like every few months some high-profile person in the Internet world says something about how SEO is snake oil, sending ripples throughout the SEO community."

When you get burned by SEO—when a company has failed to deliver what it promised or, worse, cheated you—it's perfectly natural to decide SEO isn't worth the trouble. But before you write off all of search optimization, deGeyter has this advice:

Consider what proper SEO could do for your company. In the age of Google and Bing, a company without an SEO strategy is at a significant disadvantage. DeGeyter recounts an experience with his mechanic, who was unable to diagnose his truck's problem—but kept the $80 diagnostic fee anyway. "Now I could swear off auto mechanics forever because of that one bad experience," he says, "or I could find a new mechanic that is more reputable and trustworthy." Practically speaking, he had to go with Plan B.

Use what you learned to find the right SEO provider. This means doing your research; getting recommendations; checking references; verifying the results candidates claim; and interacting to detect any potential communication problems. "Being diligent isn't foolproof," he notes, "but it is a fool suppressant. By taking the time to look into each of these areas you'll be far less likely to pick another lemon SEO." More than likely, you'll pick a winner.

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