When it comes to promoting your business online, one of the best solutions is to take advantage of search engine optimization, also known as SEO. SEO, in a nutshell, is a service that is designed to help your business rank for specific keywords and phrases within (typically) the major search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
The main benefit of high rankings within the search engines can often correlate to more traffic to your website which, in turn, may produce more sales of your products and/or services. This also creates a reduction of traffic to your competitors' web sites which, in turn, can help build your brand within your local area.
Why is SEO important to your business? What it really boils down to is the consumers. Most consumers will head online prior to making a purchase of any service or product. They may be looking for reviews, information, or just a phone number of someone to call. If you can place your site in front of these consumers, especially those that are ready and looking to make a purchase immediately, you will greatly enhance your chance of gaining new clients or customers.
This adds the question of "What keywords should I rank for?" There is no easy answer to this question. Many companies want to rank for their service and city and believe that will be the answer to their internet marketing needs. However, you might find it easier and more profitable to target a term of a specific service in your city. For instance, ranking for "chicago plumber" might get you a lot of searches and traffic, but that traffic may be window shopping or just looking for some information; however, if you target "chicago emergency water heater repair", there is a good chance that the searcher will pick up the phone and call whichever phone number comes up first because they are clearly in need of an emergency service.
Ranking isn't the only piece of the puzzle, though. You also need to make sure that your website is friendly, inviting, and designed to convert your visitors into customers. If you have a site that looks like it was designed in 1998, chances are your visitors will leave your site as quickly as they got there. You need to make sure that your website is up to date and waiting for your future customers.
Once your site is ranked and converts well, the rest likely lies with you and your staff. SEO can help make your phone ring, but after that, it's all in your hands.