SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is the practice of optimising your website in a way that will make it appear more relevant to the search engines for a specific set of keywords.
Keywords are the words and phrase that best describe your offering, be that services, products or information. For our website those keywords are "Web Development", "Web Design" and of course "CRM Development" as that is what our business specialises in. For our site we are not particularly interested in the words "Web" or even "Website" without the words "Design" or "Development" attached to them for selling services. This is because keywords need to match what your potential customer would be typing into their search engine's search box, so a search for "web" might yield anything from the things that spiders create, to the world wide web, and the plethora of information that topic comes with. If, however we were to focus on the words "Web development", we would be looking for more specific searches, and ones more likely to yield us interest. If we take that further, we might choose to optimise for "drupal development in South Africa", or "web development in KwaZulu-Natal", or "web design in Durban", as all of these are targeting our location as well.
Keyword research is about the most important part of SEO. They should form the base of your entire SEO strategy.
What search engine's count?
The thing with search engines is that a lot of the smaller ones are not in fact unique. That is: they use Google or another big engines to give them results. This means that one only really needs to care about how some engines work. Google, Bing and Yahoo are about it at the time of writing this. If you are getting to the top of those, you are getting to the top of them all for the most part.
Getting to the top of Google's search results cheaply
The plain fact of the matter is that if you are looking to optimise for popular keywords, such as "website design", getting high in rankings is next to impossible on a small budget. There are large corporations with massive budgets, pouring massive time and money (same thing really) into optimising their sites for high competition keywords. Some of them are our customers, and spend thousands every month tweaking and changing their sites to always stay ahead of the game in the search engines. Fact is, these people get the bulk of the available web traffic, so this investment continues to be worth their while. Your best bet if you simply do not have a big budget for this, is to look for keywords that yield the same sort of customer by selecting keywords that have lower competition. In particular your "long tail" keywords
As much as lower budget SEO service providers would have you believe they can get you to the top of Google for less than R5000 investment, if your keywords are competed for by big players, they absolutely cannot do that. All those SEO "gurus" can do is take your money and then shrug and say it was never guaranteed.
So SEO is not cheap. Now that we've established that, (and remembering that if you are selling "cow tail ice-cream in Durban", that statement is rendered untrue as you will probably be the only one selling it, and will therefore definitely sit at the top of every search result out there), let's get down to what is possible on your budget.
Remember, just as everyone comes to you and asks "how much is your xyz service", and you say "depends how big an xyz you want", there is an SEO answer out there for you, even if that answer is advice about getting traffic to your site through media other than search engines.