Wikipedia defines Search engine optimization (SEO) as the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine's search results.
This is a fair description but as Wikipedia delves deeper into the subject you will see that there is much more to it than meets the eye. A simple Google search will give you millions of listings for "experts" that guarantee to have your website listed near the top of any search engine results. First, why is this desirable? Second, how can they guarantee this?
Your internet business depends on two things, people finding you and people returning to your website. Search engine results will allow more people to find you. They see your website on the first page and they click on the link. Returning to your website or staying there fall into the "sticky" category and are discussed elsewhere on Nnvent.com. The bottom line is that higher ranking in these results means more people visiting which means more business for your company.
How can an SEO expert guarantee a high ranking? Well in most cases they can't and this is very misleading. Let us explain. Search engines give you guidelines on how to rank higher in their searches. If followed correctly, then your chances of ranking high are good. If there is very little competition for your type of website, then this will also help your ranking. What the search engines do not tell you is that there are many factors to their search algorithm that they will not share. If others knew exactly how the search results were calculated, then they could control what results were shown. The search engines will not allow this to happen and are constantly modifying and manipulating the algorithm.
Secondly, this guarantee is not possible due to the fact that competition changes every day (if not every minute...). New websites are coming online, old websites are being rewritten, and all websites are competing for your attention. If the SEO "expert" can get you ranked near the top of a search, then to keep you there will take constant attention. Keywords need to be changed, website content needs updating, and traffic needs to be at a high level.
The next time that you discuss SEO with your "expert" listen with the knowledge that it is a complicated process and that no one can give an absolute guarantee on search results. The best that any website owner can hope for is to be listed 90% of the time on the first or second page. This is difficult but achievable for most websites that are properly engineered.