1. Sorry this does not exist. There are companies that offers "the basics", however, a couple of hundred dollars course and "how to" use some tools is not "industry certified" but only "promoting company certified". (particularly when there is currently is no industry standard).
A simple fact - SEO is about ongoing knowledge and skills developments that initial certification only gives you a right to learn... more
2. A_Web_Guy has some good tips - ask for referrals and then contact them.
3. Don't rely on self promotion only - all companies (not just this industry) promote their best, and never show the negative results or lackluster results.
4. Never rely on a single SEO - A reputable company's services will stand against scrutiny - an amateur will not.
5. Request a sample contract of "precisely" what the consultant/firm will do and what they don't do. If the language is SEO lingo based and not comprehensible to someone without a background in SEOing --walking away. If no contract available -- walk away.
6. And the biggest consideration - "your business has value"... remember that! SEO services do not produce "magical instantaneous results" that generate magical quality visitation and your end goal (most of the time) more sales.
As such you should ask yourself one question?
Is the consultant/firm looking for a business relationship with you or a once only get my fee in advance relationship, and on to the next client?
My pet peeve - never let an SEO place their link on your site in advance producing satisfactory results - this is a warning sign! This should be reserved for relationships that do produce quality services and only at your discretion (it is YOUR site... not theirs.
In addition - equal linkage -- if the SEO requires a link on your home request the same link on their homepage, if on all pages you should get the same thing or a equal value in return - e.g. referral fees (promotion is promotion).
That link (and in many cases on every page of your site) is referral business (many times over) and your leverage in the business relationship.
Also -- if you do get scammed - add the link yourself and then link it to an article about your own experience.
Above all - it's your business and your site - you are responsible. If it doesn't make sense - question the validity from others.
[edited by: fathom at 2:11 am (utc) on April 8, 2003]