Being a growth industry, SEO is full of cowboys who see optimising websites as ideal 'get rich quick' fodder even if they don't actually produce results for the client.
I've sometimes followed these people through the system and it goes a bit like this:
1) Person X talks a website owner into doing the SEO work for them. The price is low and there are 'guaranteed money back' carrots and sky high promises of number one rankings, buckets of traffic and too much business to handle.
2) Person X knows nothing about SEO but next thing you know he pops up on a Freelancer website like this one and he's punting for someone to do the work at a price even cheaper than he has quoted – usually from India or the like.
3) He finds Person Y who has also made lots of sky high promises that everything will be done and he gets to work.
4) Now he doesn't really know much about SEO either – perhaps he had a couple of lucky cases which made him feel like a 'guru' so after a few weeks person Y gets no where.
5) Person Y then goes to the forums in search of help and ends up in threads like this one where he may, or may not, strike lucky.
SUBSTEP: Person Y may go back to the freelance boards and search for someone even cheaper and add yet another layer of hopelessness!
6) Person Y throws in the towel and tells person X he can't do it but he did make some improvements so he's keeping some/all of the money.
7) Person X goes back to the website owner and makes fantastical excuses about why it wasn't possible (market changed, Google updates, etc) which means the money back guarantee doesn't stand any more and he'll have to invest a whole lot of cash to really get the results he wants.
Usually we are talking about no more than a few hundred dollars so the cost of suing outweighs the lost funds, especially as the website owner may not be confident about what exactly he is suing for.
As you'll notice here the freelancer and Person X have been paid and the client has got nothing, all in 7 easy steps. Now this is a heaven sent industry for cowboys and sharks, it is little wonder there are so many of them about.
Don't get me wrong – there are legitimate people who use the freelancer route with success. I am not disrespecting the route, I am flagging how the less desirable use it.