Seems like everybody is selling SEO. You wake up one morning, and your dog has a new gig selling SEO door-to-door. He's partners with a pony. You're already getting robo e-mails from SEO companies. Soon they'll be robo-calling you 24/7. I haven't yet seen my first SEO billboard. It's coming. But really, do you need all this insane SEO? Not necessarily. If I were you, I'd look at this just like at any decision to put money back into the business.
The benefits are close to zero if you fall into the following category. You've been around a long time and have a well-established domain. You have a sophisticated marketing and sales operation that uses many different channels. Through a variety of traditional means you have become very well known as an Internet destination among your target audience.
You already own tip-of-the-mind awareness among current and future customers. You feel some security in that you see no signs that your competitors are out-gaming you on the Web. Your market is all about relationship selling. Your overall competitive position? Stellar.
What you need is something we'll call decorative SEO. It has mainly to do with your image. You do need to have your site to look great down to the tiny details. That means clean, descriptive URLs. Tidy, snappy page titles. Short, clean and catchy page descriptions. These things are fairly cheap because they don't require any research. It's more a pure creative process.
Now, however, let's say you are trying to get a new company off the ground. Or you have a company that has enjoyed moderate success, but now you're itching to jump to lightspeed. Or you have strong evidence of competitors out-gaming you to steal market share. Then you should seriously considering investing in total-immersion SEO.
Up front this means extensive research into your likely Google keywords. Permutations of your keywords will form the actual framework of your renovated, or entirely new, website. They also will be the basis for other get-found strategies, such as search engine advertising, social media and Internet video. The person doing all of this can't be just a clever copywriter. There are many other very complicated aspects to total-immersion SEO. Which is why SEO companies can get away with charging the rates they do.
One way of lowering the cost is to hire a site builder who knows how to build in the SEO from the ground up. Having it done later is way more expensive. Don't be snowed by aggressive sales pitches. Buy SEO like you would buy any other commercial product. Ask the hard questions about whether the value is worth the price.