Every business owner wants to rank on page one, spot one on Google. SEO can be a massively worthwhile investment that can single-handedly transform your company's ability to reach more customers more easily and cheaply than your competitors. Using a combination of SEO and social media, I've helped companies grow from $300k a year to over a million in seven months and changed how multi-billion-dollar industries do their marketing.
Yet, for all that, I spend a lot of time talking people out of SEO. The reality is, until you've got about $50,000 a year to invest in it, you're probably not going to get the result you want, and despite good intentions, the typical professional you find won't be able to deliver on their promise. Even worse, for most, if you get the ranking you want and the traffic you desire, you still probably won't get the actual sales conversion you're hoping for.
Fortunately, what matters most to make SEO work for you is also what makes for a highly effective website and increases your online sales dramatically. It's all summed up in one word: value.
Make value-driven content that's compelling, wins your readers' attention, and wows them.
The most important ranking factors never change, everything else does.
By far the most important ranking factors that Google considers are how many people visit your site directly, how much time they spend reading it, and whether or not they visit multiple pages. People visiting your website directly tells Google that you must be credible because people are visiting the page all on their own. The other two are all oriented around the quality of your content and whether or not it actually delivered value to the reader.
Google's prime directive to make its search product better is to provide the most suitable answer to a searcher's question. The better you answer the questions people are looking for, the higher you'll rank and the more your conversion will be. That means that insightful, compelling, and valuable content that's different from your competitors is always going to be the primary driver of search results.
SEO is about editing and promoting content, not ranking.
There are hundreds of optimizations that are all technical. Think of these as edits, similar to how a proofreader edits an article. All that's being done is optimizing and changing the language a little bit and adding metadata, schema (JSON-LD), and other technical aspects to "tweak" how an algorithm processes the data of the content.
The other piece, commonly blasted out as backlinks, is really just another way to say promotion. The more people reference your content, the higher over time it will rank because it's valuable. People try to cheat the system by buying backlinks that are of questionable quality, which means that when a big Google algorithm hits, they start losing all the things they worked for because Google starts eliminating bad "backlink" sources.
An editor can't make bad content good and a promoter can't make bad content popular. That means even with the technical factors involved in SEO, the universal answer is: Make good content that people actually find valuable enough to read.
Forget keywords, write content based on customer questions instead.
The easiest way to focus on what people actually want to read is to do what you do as a professional anyway: Answer questions that matter to customers. When you create content focused around the things that your customers actually ask you, and answer them in the way that you actually do in person, a funny thing happens: You get content that people actually want to read because it matters to them.
If all you did was get in the habit of writing down or recording the questions your customer asks, answer them in the way that works for you in person, and turn those into articles, you'd be miles ahead of the competition in search engines because you've created valuable and insightful content to drive the whole thing.