There's an article in the Ecommerce Times today about how small businesses are using SEO (and paid search engine advertising) to attract customers to their web sites.
Many of my clients and prospective clients ask if they should only optimize for search engines or only pay for search engine advertising. My response is usually to consider paid search and SEO part of the marketing mix, the important word here being "mix." While you can optimize your site for a handful of terms, you can pay for placement for an unlimited number of keywords. Some keywords, such as those including your brand name or business name, are just too valuable not to bid on and optimize for. I recently wrote a counter-argument to those that say SEO by itself is enough. To learn more about this, read my article about the search engine marketing mix.
The Times story also highlights that most businesses need assistance in selecting the right keywords. In my experience, most business owners choose very broad terms when they pay for search engine advertising or optimize their web sites. There's a very small chance that a small real estate brokerage will rank highly for the term "real estate." Enter the trained professional who can find out what real web searchers are searching for and who can roll up their sleeves and do competitive research.
A key search engine statistic to remember is that an estimated 62% of web searchers click on a result on the first page returned after their search. Whether it's a paid search engine advertisement or a natural listing gained through SEO, your web site better be on that first page.