Hiring a SEO Company? Beware.
In early 2011, JCPenney used to be at the top of Google for nearly anything they sold, from bedding to luggage to clothing. But a month later, after the NYTimes wrote this expose, they were dropped off of the top 50 results. Why? Because they hired a dishonest SEO company who was using black-hat SEO link-building tricks that caused Google to penalize their website, dropping it off the search engine results for the same keyword terms. Specifically: there were thousands of paid links created on hundreds of websites across the web, all of which lead directly to JCPenney.com, which tricked Google into temporarily moving them to the top of the results. Afterall, Google wants to show the most popular and useful websites to it's searchers, so it was tricked into thinking JCPenney was the most popular of all via these paid links. Well, Google doesn't like to be tricked, and if it finds that the links are fake or generated solely for SEO, it will eventually sniff out the fakes and will penalize the website by lowering it's ranking or removing it from it's index entirely. JCPenney claims that they were not aware of the black-hat tactics, and promptly fired the company, but the damage was already done – JCPenney would have a long hard road to climb back into the search results.
Be Careful – Hiring a SEO Company may not be your best bet.
I always tell my website design clients to be very careful in selecting a SEO company. If, like JCPenney's SEO company did, they build fake inbound links to your site, it could eventually hurt your website. Why risk it?
Build Content for SEO
Rather than hire a SEO company, I recommend hiring a SEO website designer who knows how to research keywords to figure out what people are searching for, and then help write and build webpages or content that is optimized for those specific keyword phrase searches. You want to figure out what people are searching for that you'd want them to find your website for, and then write and build lots of content around those keyword terms to help people find your website. If you build an online empire of information relating to what you want to be found for, and make it useful, shareable content, people will start bookmarking or sharing your content via social media and websites and Google will rise you in the search results because it sees you have a useful, current, constantly evolving website.