What your webmaster or advertising firm won't tell you..
We've provided outsourced, third-party Internet Marketing capabilities to many other Web technology and advertising service providers, and they generally fall into 4 categories of service capabilities you absolutely need for your business, but that don't actually provide effective Internet Marketing by themselves.
1 - Web designer/graphic artists - while these professionals are essential for creating your brand identity, attractive graphics and packaging, and all other visual, multimedia elements for use by your business; these folks or firms are "producers" of online content, not "marketers" of it - and typically spend no time learning or implementing search engine optimization for clients.
2 - "Traditional" advertising and communications firms - there are many advertising firms around our DC area who are experts at creating great campaigns that take existing or unique brands, create an advertising "story" and "look" with them, and then place buys in traditional media (like banner ads, tv, radio, newspapers, magazines, etc.). We've found, however, that many of these firms do not yet understand nor provide services that enable optimum exposure of these advertising campaigns on the Internet, and that can be easily found via search engines. In fact, we've seen examples of utterly wasted advertising dollars, when implemented without proper understanding of SEO and search engines - basically, advertisements no one will ever see or act upon.
3 - Web Programmers/Hosters - these professionals are obviously experts in their arena, programming and managing the actual web technology and web pages for clients; sometimes this service is provided by individuals or web programming shops, other times, the website hosting provider provides it. In nearly all the cases we've dealt with specialists in this area, who claim to also offer SEO/Internet Marketing services, it doesn't ring true, and no SEO skills actually exist or are supported by these outfits. This is especially true when seeking SEO skills via outsourcing forums such as "Elance"; we've found that about 75% of the time an opportunity is posted in technical forums seeking SEO/copywriting skills, the responses are (a) technically competent but (b) utterly rejectable from a copywriting and Internet Marketing perspective, especially if the job requires local marketing.
You'll get horridly-written responses from firms (many overseas) claiming to provide great SEO services, such as "You may surly ignore our resent feedback as we were close for renovation" or "We are a team of professionals having a fair understanding on Search marketing - our experience as a SEO company might be less, but our skill sets are unique & diverse". If their proposals and initial impression utterly fail from an English grammar perspective, how could their online marketing possibly succeed?
4 - Copywriters/Authors - these professionals are actually quite good at what they do, and their content is essential to be leveraged for online marketing - they simply don't know what to do with it, how to optimize it using HTML for search engines, and where on the Internet it should be placed, using which tools.
The key takeaway is that in order to absolutely succeed in promoting your business or organization on the Internet, driving more traffic and conversions to your site, and in general establishing a fantastic Internet presence - you do need the kinds of "content" these professionals listed above provide (and by the way, we offer all of these as specialty services). However, you ALSO need the kind of professional online marketing services and management that ONLY firms like ours provide - to pull it all together and smartly leverage for maximum benefit.
Build your site, create your images and write your books - but hire an SEO firm to make sure the Internet knows you exist.