Two great questions that get asked often, and I will answer both of them for you today. SEO can be defined most simply as this.
The practice by which you make your website more relevant in the eyes of search engines for a particular topic, keyword, or keyword phrase.
The takeaway here is relevant. In an area of 100 Italian Restaurants, are you more relevant to that search then the other 99? If not, why?
Search engine optimization does not apply any magic formulas, or deeply guarded secrets. Check out SEOmoz´s SEO Beginners Guide. It is the act of applying good practices into a webpage, such as Titles, Descriptions, Headers, URL, Body Copy, that allows search engines to understand the topic. The on-page SEO is simpler than off-page.
Off-page SEO requires link building, social networking, blogging, PRs, and more. While the on-page is for the most part set it and forget it, off-page is a monthly activity. The only time you would need to change on-page SEO is when keyword trends change, you rework the site, and when you add new content such as blog post.
Lastly, the ´Why Do I Need SEO´ is quite easily understood. If you sell a product or service, you must be found, period! This is the same rather you are online or brick an mortar. Putting a TV, newspaper, radio, or print advertisement together is how most brick and mortar locations get found, while Organic Search and Paid Search (PPC)is how your site will get found. If you want more traffic to your website, you need to rank higher within search engine result pages (SERPs) or buy ad space, while also getting more people on the internet to talk about, and link to, your website.
Google sends 78.43% of all search traffic
The second position receives 11.94%, the third 8.47%, the fourth 6.05%, and all others are under 5%.
If you have an advertising agency to handle your advertising, I would suggest you apply that same logic to your search engine optimization needs. First, learn the basic strategies of SEO, which I will outline in my next post, then hire a search engine optimizer to evaluate your site (this should cost under $500 for small to medium sites). If (s)he returns a report that makes sense with what you have learned, then consider a 6 month or year contract. Be sure to set goals and expectations. I will cover this in a follow up post ´What to Expect from an SEO Firm´.
I hope this helped to give you a basic idea as to what search engine optimization is from a definition point. In several followup post, I will talk in more detail about the components of SEO and how to apply them.