I believe that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is to a website what a map (or driving directions) is to a car driver. Let me explain.
If you are driving from Michigan to Florida, even without a map, you’ll eventually get there! It will take you longer; with lots of stops to ask for directions, turning around due to wrong turns you may end up taking, getting stuck in long traffic backups due to construction, and taking a longer path because you just don’t know the short-cuts that can shorten the trip to your destination. So, like I said, you will get there! It just will take longer than you expected, may cost you more than originally planned, and will leave you with frustration over a long and tiring trip. (Now if you enjoy wandering around and in general taking three times as long to get somewhere, then this analogy becomes pointless, :)).
Similarly then, without Search Engine Optimization, your website may eventually get ranked in search engines. But like the driver without a map (or directions), your website may take years to get any kind of placement in search engines. If that happens, you will also have a lost opportunity cost from not making it in front of the customers who were searching for what you sell and thus losing out to your competition that does show up. Lastly without Search Engine Optimization, you will have to spend more money on offline and online marketing (pay per click, banner ads, etc.) to generate visibility for your online presence.
And if you end up getting the wrong directions (as in, getting an SEO practitioner who really isn’t an SEO practitioner), then beware! This will result in you spinning your wheels even longer, thus leading to more frustration not to mention loss of productivity and potential revenue.
As you create your 2009 business plan, do set aside a budget for Search Engine Optimization, identify a Search Engine Optimization expert who knows what he/she is doing, and get on the world wide web with a set of driving directions (as in Search Engine Optimization!) that will get you in front of searching customers, lots of targeted traffic, and a ton of conversions in the form of clients.
Here’s to your success in 2009!