There are approximately 6.89 billion pages indexed on the World Wide Web as of July 10, 2012. Out of the 7 billion people that currently populate the Earth, about 2.26 billion are Internet users as of the end of 2011.

When a start-up company thinks of creating a website, having to compete with this staggering amount of web pages for the attention of people numbering less than half of that seems like a futile task. What makes the seemingly monumental feat of capturing the astounding but limited number of people’s interest is Search Engine Optimization or SEO.

It is true; there are already tons of articles online giving tips and lessons on the basics of SEO. But with the ever-changing and dynamic world of the Internet, of search engines and of online marketing, there’s no other way to rise above the competition than to hire an experienced and highly-skilled professional, or a company filled with such.

Why hire an SEO company?

Through good SEO, a website will have increased Internet visibility, as it will turn up in the first couple of pages in search engine results. This is crucial as a majority of Internet users do not bother go past the third page.

If the SEO is done properly, the amount of visitors for the site would increase, and these visitors would eventually turn into actual customers who will spend on the product or service being sold.

The problem is that some companies look to cut costs, having their web designers or programmers use what little they know of good SEO. Some just try to learn it by themselves while balancing their main workload. This results in poor returns, costing more than hiring SEO specialists with years of experience and updated knowledge.

SEO is Not Cheap

What should be made clear at once is that SEO does not come cheap. It takes plenty of time and effort to come up with an efficient SEO plan, and for that plan to come into fruition. To illustrate in detail, here are seven major reasons:

1. Strategy Development

Before starting any money-making endeavor, there first needs to be a well thought out plan to ensure profit. SEO consultancies will want to discuss what exactly a company aims to achieve.

It is not simply about getting to the first page of a search engine result. Identifying the precise target market, understanding what the target market is looking for, and finding the best way to deliver what they want are just some of the things that need to be discussed during the consultation.

2. Website Design

Much like any structure, the foundation of the website will dictate how high it can go. The SEO will have to check each page in the entire website to see its potential faults and strengths, and this can be a time-consuming process if the company has a huge network.

If a website is designed first before an SEO consultancy is hired, it might be done without having crucial components like proper page linking in mind. The worst case scenario would mean having to tear down the whole website and create an entirely new one.

3. Keyword Research

One of the essential elements of SEO is knowing which keywords will get picked up by search engines and will lure eyes onto a certain website.

Certain keywords are highly competitive, which means that much bigger and more established websites have already staked their claims on them. To use those same exact keywords for a new website would invite disaster, unless the company can match or exceed the resources of those on top.

SEO consultancies will be able to point out which keywords should be used in content, in author bios, and in HTML tags to raise a website’s profile.

4. Content Creation

Once people have decided to visit a website, they need to get what they are looking for. Search engines have a way of checking for relevant and original content, so they can direct searchers to helpful content while they filter out useless information.

Providing content that people will find useful requires highly competent individuals. Getting quality work from such individuals also requires financial investment.

5. Search Engine Registration

Having a website appear in one popular search engine can be simple, but knowing which search engines can be harnessed to deliver more visitors requires the expertise of an SEO specialist. They recognize the possibilities of smaller search engines, the system updates of the bigger ones, and the changes that need to be applied on a website to rank in all known search engines.

6. Link Building

Another important process in increasing prominence for a website is through finding other relevant sites that can link back to the website being promoted. Being part of a larger network multiplies the number of visitors to one, as it is exposed to a bigger audience. It also strengthens its credibility, as it has been given the trust of other credible sites.

SEO specialists do the hard work of indicating which websites are relevant and reputable but not directly competing with the one being promoted. They also have to cooperate with the other businesses, giving and taking to guarantee both sides benefit from the partnership.

7. Traffic Checking

Getting visits and generating interest on a website is different from earning money from the number of site visitors. The underlying reason for hiring SEOs is to profit off the attention given to the website by converting curious visitors to paying customers.

Professional SEOs can track the quantity of people visiting and how many of those have started shelling out money as proof of their effect on boosting sales.

It also does not necessarily come at a fortune. What companies looking to hire SEO consultants need to know is that they will be paying for what they want to accomplish.

The danger lies in going for SEO “companies” that charge very little and promise much. These companies often employ inefficient and/or unethical methods to artificially improve a website’s page rank. These can cause more harm than good, as search engines are now penalizing websites and pages that make use of improper practices.

Disadvantages of Hiring Unreliable SEO Practitioners

• Outsourced Content Writers

Labor overseas is much cheaper, so these companies outsource their content development team to cut costs. In the process, they end up with numerous fast writers who have little to no grasp of the niche, target market, or nature of the website or business.

Some even end up with writers who do not have mastery of the English language and culture. Articles abound with typographical and grammatical errors. Search engines have ways to detect such content and filter them.

• Spam Generating Software

Because of how little they charge, it should be expected that they do not put in much work. They utilize software that can produce hundreds of automated emails, comments or forum topics that link to the website they are “optimizing”.

People will be able to tell that these are spam as they are mostly incoherent, repetitive and irrelevant statements linking over and over to certain websites. This builds a bad reputation for that business as they will be known for spamming. Search engines will then start penalizing the website.

• Black Hat SEO Techniques

These are techniques that try to cheat the systems of search engines. They require knowledge of how search engines operate, but only very little effort in carrying them out.

Examples of which are the use of programs to plagiarize content from other websites wholesale with simple rearrangement; keyword stuffing or the practice of using keywords repeated innumerable times in one page; and hiding keywords in backgrounds and cloaking pages with different content to deceive search engines.

Again, search engines are continuously evolving and upgrading to be able to catch such unscrupulous practices, banning websites that commit them.

In a nutshell, cheap SEO services only result in costing a business, either through no returns or through strict website penalties. Legitimate SEO companies might cost more initially, but their long-term effects offer handsome returns not only in sales, but in the company’s overall online reputation.