I dig the fact that Google have updated their SEO page. The update includes two key areas: what an SEO might offer & useful questions to ask an SEO.
It's interesting to note that a few of these bullet points seem to edge towards suggesting that an SEO should offer a little bit more than just SEO analysis; content creation or other complementary marketing services are two suggested extras.
In particular, the question "What kind of results do you expect to see, and in what timeframe?" caught my eye.
Have you been to an SEO pitch? How much do you like that question?
I'm always keen to stress that ethical SEO is not usually quick. A common analogy is to pair SEO to a marathon and PPC to a sprint. Of course, SEO can produce results quickly if an otherwise authoritative site has some easy to fix and howling issues (like a disallow: / in the robots.txt).
What about results? Do you talk keyword positions any more? Really? Even with geographic results being increasingly common and personalised results frequent. Perhaps you talk about traffic... but then can you predict search frequencies?
A big company once asked me to predict some search frequencies for their brand term. I asked them whether they were planning another year of TV ads and whether they planned to repeat last year's aggressive London Underground poster campaign. They had no idea. It was pretty easy to point out that those offline advertising campaigns have dramatic effects on their search frequencies and I was in no position to even estimate their brand traffic until they knew more about their marketing plans for the year.
Face it; "What kind of results do you expect to see, and in what timeframe?" is a tough question to answer.
I'm glad Google's pushed it to the fore, though. SEOs who guarantee high positions, quickly, for new sites in competitive marketplaces should get caught out. They'll probably repeat their unlikely predictions whereas better educated and more ethical SEO agencies in the pitch will likely explain some of the issues around the question.