Two weeks ago the crashing US economy, skyrocketing oil prices, as well as the general unrest in the Middle East was pushed to the bottom of the agenda when the technology blogosphere exploded with the scandal, ridiculousness and/or short sightedness of Anita Hamilton presumed suggestion that paying for iPhone software is bad. There should be free iPhone software "paid" for with ads. I mean, if they really would want money anyway, that is.
I understand you weren't away that this has taken time away from larger world issues. Probably it hasn't. OK, I'll admit: it didn't. But it did seem like that in that part of the blogoshphere though!
When you read the article it's utterly impossible to contribute an "all software should be free" stance to its author, but the idea to comtemplate that she actually did suggest something like that (*gasp!*) is tickling. "Tell me again about the time you paid for software and services, gramps!"
SEO is one of those services for which people and still charge and people still pay. That's special because in theory anyone could do SEO, right? If you do a couple of days of homework you figure out that the title and h1 tag are pure on-page gold and that whether you understand it the simple or the complicated way, almost everything else leads back to getting links.
So why do people buy SEO? What exchanges hands when a client buys SEO services?
I believe two key values are bought, knowledge and experience, which together deliver value through speed and cost-effectiveness.
Having seen most of the tools of the trade I'm convinced I can do all my own plumbing -- but I don't. I know there's information lacking: what type of material is this and what kind of soldering does it require? Does it require soldering even?! And this round thing here behind that pipe, how is that thingamajig called?
By the time I have this all figure out I've lost valuable hours of working time. Although the do iy myself plumbing job seems "free", I'm paying through lost time. That's real money. Maybe I've bought a book (with step by step photos) or a multimedia DVD to learn how to "replace you plumbing in 12 easy steps and 3 days".
Had I hired a plumber I would have tapped into that same type of existing knowledge but in a context where it can readily be applied: the plumber already knows stuff. I don't.
In SEO the same holds true. Yes, the title tag is great for convincing a search engine a page is about keyword X or Y. But how many times should you repeat that word then in the title tag? Should you repeat words even?! If the title and h1 are equally important, should you just repeat the same text and words in both?
And talking about links, does any link count or are some literally a waste of time and effort? Are 5 links from pages that show a green bar of 2 in the Google toolbar the same as 2 links from pages that show 5? And how come people say those values are meaningless? If they're meaningless, why do people pay attention to it? If a certain amount of links can move your site up in the rankings for a certain phrase, can certain links bring you down? Can my competitor do that to me? If so, how can I protect myself?
An SEO company already knows all these things, has researched them, tested them -- and is keeping up to date with it.
What this means is that you buy not testing on your own site: an SEO company will never use your site as a test bed unless you agree to partake in testing something new.
It also means there is a certain level of service results that can be assured within a certain time frame. Where you or your employer needs time to get up to speed and then apply knowledge effectively, the SEO company has everything in place; it's up and running, you hit the ground running. This speed of effective implementation is cost effective.
Again going back to my plumbing example, once I have all the theoretic knowledge and know the names of every thingamajig and thingamabob I will still stumble, fall and yes even fail, simply because I have no experience.
Experience tells you that if you use this tube of stuff on that joint you better wait ten minutes and not the five they claim on the label. Experience makes you check and double-check that the water is turned off instead of finding out it wasn't. Experience is what costs you really big bucks when it's lacking in your DIY project.
Once you've learned what to put in that title tag and what in that h1 it is experience that makes the keyword research behind it fast and efficient. Experience is knowing, just knowing, that this term is better than that one even though both are searched equally often and have little or no competition.
Experience has an SEO professional look at a page for a split second and move on while you try to dig up contact information on the site to put in a link request. Meanwhile the experience SEO is establishing 2-3 links for every so-so link you got.
Experience is routine. Experience is routine knowledge. Experience is a service company's prime asset because there is no other way to come by it then coming by it. Earning it.
Tapping into it by acquiring services is therefore, again, highly cost effective.
To sum up, the advantages of premium SEO services are cost effective, speedy implementation through knowledge and experience.