SEO stands for Search engine optimization, is the process of optimizing your website, or its individual pages, with the intention to attract more visitors to your site from the search engines.
It can generally be said, that the higher your site is located in the SERPs, the higher traffic it gets for relevant search phrases, Aka Keywords.
The importance of SEO
Just how important SEO is for your website, depends on your own goals with the site. Internet based businesses are likely to benefit more, then the local hairdresser. The hairdresser would be more interested in localized optimizing, or link submission to relevant niche directories.
Bloggers should consider SEO as an important Internet marketing strategy, to increase their ad revenue. Not all bloggers are at a stage where it pays to participate in advertising networks however.
Its always a good idea to have some focus on SEO, if you have, or plan to get a website for your business. This is a good place to start if you wish to do your own SEO, but generally your web designer should be able to optimize your site.
In other cases where you are using a CMS solution, you may want to consider getting a SEO specialist, or finding a web designer who offer the same services. SEO is a very small area, small enough for the web designer to handle alone.
Things to Consider
Search engines are not always fair in their ranking of sites, the ranking of a site can be effected by a number of things, including Competition in the field, the number of websites that link to you.
Note. Such links are called backlinks.
If there already exists well established sites similar to yours, those will generally also rank higher. Mainly due to the number of incoming links those site have, so they need not necessarily to be better then your site.
Note. This may change with time, but the case was still true as of the writing of this.
Not every company or site, is equally suited for search engine targeting. For example, people are less likely to search for candy, and food on search engines. So if you own a candy or food store, then you would be more likely to benefit from targeted advertising on sites like Facebook, or stumbleupon. This is because people simply don't search for candy on search engines.
In such cases, you would want to focus on the publicity, and awareness of your online store.
We obviously want to get more backlinks, and there are many natural ways to achieve this goal. One of the easiest ways is through Linkbuilding.
What can you Expect
This depends on a number of factors, including what type of services you are providing through your website, your own motivation to maintain the website. I.e. Hire a webmaster to keep it updated, and add new content. And so on.
Some services attract more surfers then others. For instance, a computer hardware store, has far greater traffic potential, then a store selling furniture. You should however keep in mind that still more people are using the Internet to look for information.
Things to Watch out For
You should be very careful when deciding whether to hire an SEO Specialist. Its a shame its necessary to say this, because any SEO should be able to provide quality services, without you having to ask to what extend they follow certain guidelines.
SEOs who contact You
Some SEOs send out emails to admin addresses of domains, presumably to scam webmasters. Be careful if you are considering hiring those.
Beware of irresponsible SEOs, there are some "SEO Specialists" who uses so called black-hat techniques, which may or may not include buying of links to manipulate your placement, spamming on forums, blogs, and guestbooks. Etc.