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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) may be one of the largest and most un-tapped opportunities for your company. SEO is best described and making your site search engine friendly. How much business can you earn from SEO? Potentially millions. The cost/benefit ratio of SEO is likely to out-produce your top salesman and could potentially do more business than your entire marketing department. Will SEO work for every type of company and product? No. But I haven’t found one yet that couldn’t benefit tremendously from it.

Where do you start with SEO? The funny thing is that elements of SEO can be very technical, but most companies don’t even do the basics well, so it leaves a lot of room for ambitious companies to compete. I’d recommend first learning the basics yourself and make SEO your pet project before you assign the management to someone else.

Why shouldn’t you just hire an SEO firm or hire a so-called expert out of the gate? Because it is too dangerous until you know who you can trust. There are too many things someone else can do to hurt your reputation with Google. You need to know who and what you’re hiring. You need to know the difference between search friendliness and over-optimization. You need to know Google’s policies inside and out and it is you who needs to decide on what optimization actions your company takes and at what risk. A little knowledge here goes a long way.

Keep this in mind while you are learning: It will take a few months before things start making perfect sense. Don’t take action until you’re sure you are confident in what you’re doing. Move carefully and slowly for the long term. Focus on the basics and master them before moving onto more advanced areas of SEO. By hiring a firm to get results, they may rely on tricks, schemes and aggressive SEO techniques (“black hat”) which will look great at first, but eventually will jeopardize your good standing with Google and other search engines. Its not worth the risk.

Google can produce 80-90% of your search referral traffic, so focus on developing your relationship with all things Google. Don’t take this lightly; Google can do more for you than a room full of sales people and is willing to work for you night and day for a practically negligible expense as long as you learn how to manage her nuances and meet her needs.

Here is one of my favorite SEO blogs.

Matt Cutts blog (works for Google)

Starting out (first 30-60 days)

> Install Google Analytics (free) on your website.

> Learn every inch of it.

> Use Google Web Master tools (free) and learn as much as you can about it.

> Establish a best-of-breed content management system (CMS) that supports Search Engine Friendly (SEF) URLs

> Re-install Google Analytics in your CMS pages.

> Start interviewing SEO services firms. Do not hire any of them yet. Use the interviews as an opportunity to learn and ask a million questions.

> Write your own SEO action plan from all that you learn.

> Make small changes and wait 2-4 weeks to determine their results before making another wave of changes.

I know I got a bit technical in this list, but it really is 101 stuff, trust me. Start searching in Google for the term SEO and study the sites. Beware of the ones that make it sound technical and out-of-reach. Just ask me for more clarity on any particular issue and I’ll explain in the comments below.

Good luck!