Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is often sold as money and sales for free. The traffic is free and it converts! Kinda...
The traffic from a #1 ranking on the right keyword phrase is free and typically plentiful. But getting anywhere near that #1 spot is almost always an expensive proposition both in terms of time and dollars. When you get that #1 spot, if you chose the wrong keyword, then all you have is traffic not sales.
Consider the quote in the image - we're not making a pig fly we're changing a pig into an eagle. Now consider the level of effort required to do that. SEO cannot make a bad website rank well. Ranking #1 in Google for a profitable keyword requires a complete overhaul of most sites along with an active backlink building campaign and an active social engagement campaign. The complete overhaul of your site's internals is the genetic engineering mentioned in the quote. The backlink building and the social engagement are necessary extras.
Does that sound free or easy to you?
What SEO is
SEO is a long process of constantly out competing your obvious industry competition. Additionally, you will need to simultaneously out compete SEO firms and internet marketers who spend all day studying and working SEO with nothing to lose. If their experimental site gets de-indexed they just create another and start again.
SEO is a game where the costs are constantly increasing and the payout period is constantly decreasing. The high quality sites always win in the end so start with the attitude that your site needs to be high quality with short page load times. Add in active engagement on social sites so that your followers/customers are building natural backlinks for your site. (You can often get quite a bit of traffic from social sites as well.)
SEO is about authority as perceived by Google's search algorithm. That algorithm changes continuously but Google always wants original content presented with pictures and videos.
SEO is not:
In my experience, SEO driven traffic converts at a much lower rate than AdWords driven traffic. People clicking on an ad expect to be pitched something and when the ad is well constructed you get people to your site who are interested in what you are selling. When you capture SEO traffic it is often traffic looking for information rather than a product. They are often still in the research phase of their buying journey.
It isn't always bad to have people using your site for research purposes. If you can position your site as the authority within a given niche then people will come to you first when looking to purchase something. This allows you to capture that interest early in the process and, if you are clever, convert it to sales.
Often times, SEO traffic is difficult to covert to sales so it can just mean a lot of server load without any sales. More traffic is not always a blessing. So we are back to being careful about the keywords you target.
Gabe Spradlin Gabe has a BS in Mech Eng and an MS in Elec Eng. Control Systems was the emphasis of my Masters. The Master culminated in a very long and esoteric thesis about automatically identifying anomalies in International Space Station telemetry. Eventually he ended up using Controls to point lasers very precisely at targets a long, long way away. Some lasers were used to talk; others to put holes in things. In 2009 it was time to start an aerospace consulting business. By 2010 it was time to shift from aerospace to online entrepreneurship. He has worked in his pajamas .... errrrr .... basement ever since.