You must not confuse SEO with these sponsored ads also known as PPC Pay per click or Google Ads. You can have your website on the front page of Google with sponsored ads and you pay for each click you get. One worry with them is that your competitors could spend all day clicking your ads which will cost you. Some people get success from this but from my experience you get plenty of clicks but much less conversions into sales. Organic search engine results are more targeting to your audience. And if stats are to be believed then more than 87% of users only click natural listings anyway. Every person I have ever asked has said they tend to ignore the sponsored ads and only click on natural listings. Plus with SEO you are building up yours sites PR (page rank / popularity), you are getting more and more pages indexed (known to Google) and your building your brand awareness which can’t be taken away from you. Whereas sponsored ads do nothing for your site and if you stop your site is not better off from when you started.
So can you do SEO yourself? Well yes of course you can, many companies do, but the results will be only as good as how experienced the person is doing it is. I come across many sites where I am told the old SEO guy did this and promised the other without any results. I take a look at the site and I realise that the so called SEO guy should not be calling himself an SEO expert as the site is not optimised at all. There are a few very important aspects to be considered when optimising a website or page and only a seasoned expert will be able to spot these and do it correctly. So unless you’re willing to work alongside an SEO expert then my advice would be to outsource the job itself.
How much does it cost? Well if you’re serious about having a successful website and want to get real targeted traffic then SEO should be part of your monthly marketing budget. The larger the budget the quicker you will see results, however if you have a site that has been around a while a smaller budget can work well. You can spend a thousand pound a month on SEO or a couple of hundred. If your site(domain) is brand new, it takes about a year of work to get results at a budget of say £200 a month. Whereas if you spent £500 a month you should get some results much quicker. Also all of the above depends on how competitive your targeted market is. If you’re trying to target locally then a smaller budget will suffice.
Finding a reputable company will be tricky though, and I really have your sympathy here. They are hundreds of so called SEO companies out there which are bogus or think they know SEO but don’t. Be wary if a web development company offer SEO because many web companies like to advertise SEO but very few know what they are doing. It really is a specialised skill. When you do find a company, check their credentials, look at their portfolio, ask for a reference. You will find a freelancer much cheaper than larger companies, so try looking for an SEO freelancer, plus you will get much better customer support.