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"What is SEO and why should I care about it for my business?"

That's a reasonable question to ask of anyone you're considering hiring for this purpose. You might wish to compare their answers - and mine - to help in your decision-making process.

SEO Ranking Factors

Simply put, SEO (search engine optimization) is the practice of optimizing your website and your business to appear higher in online search results by properly utilizing - and meeting the criteria for - what are referred to as "SEO ranking factors".

For example, optimizing your website, your Google My Business listing, or the information and attributes associated with your YouTube videos helps them appear higher on the search engine results pages (SERP) in Google search results. Optimizing your Yelp business listing helps it appear higher on the SERP in Yelp search results, and also increases the likelihood that a Google search produces results in which Yelp mentions - and even highlights - your business. Contrary to popular belief, SEO isn't just for your website. Everywhere your business appears online can be optimized for improved search results.

There are hundreds of SEO ranking factors that help determine where your website and your business appear in search results. Among the most important of these are the quality, quantity, relevancy, and originality of the textual content your business provides online. You don't have to be - or hire - a professional content writer to perform well in this area. Good writing skills, combined with a solid knowledge of your business and its target audience, can provide you with an SEO edge over your competition. And if you need assistance with this, whomever you hire to do your SEO should have the ability to provide it. As it applies to your website, this practice is particularly effective if combined with proper use of heading tags and well-constructed title tags and meta description tags. (Yes, I know some of this might sound a bit technical, but that's okay ... if you hire a good SEO professional, he/she should understand its importance and implementation, and be able to explain it to you in greater detail if you like.)

Another very important - and typically overlooked - consideration is that every search engine and every site has its own unique set of SEO rules and ranking factors. For instance, Google has one set of SEO rules for Google search, and another set of rules for its Google My Business listings. Yelp has its own set of SEO rules, as do Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, craigslist (yes, even craigslist), ad infinitum. Knowing - and playing by - those rules is an essential part of effective SEO.

Of course, these few paragraphs just scratch the surface. As you might expect, there's much more to SEO. Some of its elements are relatively simple, while others are considerably more involved and complex. In considering anyone to do your SEO, I recommend asking tough questions (nicely, of course) and requesting straight answers to help you determine whether they're legitimate SEO experts, or just out to get your money.