I get a lot of phone calls and emails all pretty much of a similar tone. They all ask if they could do all this seo work themselves and save money? Are seo companies just a rip-off? Do they just resell linkbuilding methods that they buy for $20 off of an online forum?
The answer to all these questions is yes. Can you do the seo work yourself? Definately. But although buying a few article blasts, web2.0 creations, directory submissions etc. may all help increase backlinks. They may have zero effect on your rankings or make a dent in your traffic stats. And this is because seo has become a little more sophisticated these days.
If you can create the right links at the right time and using the correct variety of anchor texts, then you can do it yourself. The problem is that most business owners do not have this knowledge, so maybe using a good seo company is worth doing in this case.
As to the question, are seo companies just a rip-off? Well that is another yes, but only some. You see starting an seo company is as easy as knocking up a quick website and then becoming a reseller for all these low cost linkbuilding services that are floating around. If an seo company is set up this way then you may as well spend an hour doing it yourself and save on their markup. To find out if an seo company is real, do a little researc. How long have they been in business? Can they show some real results? Does their own website have good rankings for multiple keywords?
If you can get answers to all these questions then ask them what they will do if you hand over your hard earned cash. You would expect at the very least the following:-
Market niche analysis
A timetable and strategy of what they will do for you
Onpage checking and possible modification
Varied and timed link building
At least monthly report
A contract that can be cancelled at any time.
If an seo company cannot (or will not) offer this then walk away and find another one. There seem to be hundreds around anyways!
So in summary, link building is easy and can be cheap. Unfortunately you will not kid search engines with these kind of practises anymore. A little more sophistication and effort will be required. The good news is that there are companies (us included) that have been around for a long time, have proven results and can offer cost effective and worthwhile results.