Snake oil, as originally made from the Chinese water snake, was actually an effective remedy for ails. When the Chinese immigrated to the America in the 1800's, they shared this treatment with others. The oil being high in Omega Fats helped soothe pain from a day of hard labor.
Quickly, someone found quick and cheap methods for production of a similar product and began selling it to idealistic masses. On roadsides and at fairs, fancy-looking salesmen demonstrated miracle healings and even dramatically sliced open snakes before a crowd, supposedly assuring its authenticity.
Today's snake oil salesmen come in the form of (some) web design sites and design freelancers. The salesmen promise high traffic through the miracles of Search Engine Optimization and wrap it in pretty design templates. They even splay the insides open, assuring you of authenticity.
People want it to work quick, easy and for little cost but still get the same results as businesses who hire web development experts. But there is no miracle solution.
Some of these peddlers talk about keywords and high rankings. In earlier stages of SEO, tricks such as repetition of relevant words could bring you closer to the top of the search page. As Google and other engines modify their processes, however, it becomes a much more convoluted and, in some cases, secret formula.
The website dealer may offer a cheap template design, showing strategies that are tried and true. You may be mesmerized by the promise of immediate results. But search engines can tell when a site has been made by a template, and, therefore, dock legitimacy points (read: lower ranking).
A trick you find one day, may not work the very next day. And it may not work for the reasons you think. Currently, SEO relies on interconnectivity and specific requirements per page, per site and per outside connection. But it's constantly changing.
The person handling your website must be an experienced professional who doesn't just familiarize him or herself with the tricks, but has an understanding of the history and development of technology. They can predict changes, and when the unpredictable happens, they can quickly accommodate it.
Have a conversation with your so-called experts. If they talk in generalities, beware. Even if they have "proof." However, if they talk about the characteristics of your industry as well as you, your company, your customers, your needs, you may have someone who actually knows what they are talking about. If they listen to your wants, show you what you need, and then provide customized solutions, it's much more likely you aren't being duped.
The real stuff can be much more expensive, but in the long run, the investment pays off. And you haven't wasted your time with the cheap stuff.