As your SEO rankings improve and more traffic flows to your online store for free, you are actively attracting customers on the cheap! You can generate more profits and have more marketing dollars to use for your other customer acquisition efforts such as pay-per-click, shopping comparison engines, direct marketing, etc.
It's important for you to get serious about your SEO efforts.
Currently, most customers begin their shopping experiences at search engines. The major search engines are Google (the 800-lb gorilla), Yahoo, MSN and AOL. According to recent reports, approximately 60-70% of all search traffic goes through Google with Yahoo next at around 20% and MSN and AOL around 8-10% each.
Although there is a shift in shopping behaviour as Social Networking (e.g. Facebook, MySpace) and Social Shopping (e.g. ThisNext) have begun to be more of a starting point for a customer's shopping session, these still pale in comparison to the volume of search engine traffic.
A recent study from Jupiter Media stated that 5 out of 6 commercial online purchases came from organic searches versus paid online ads.
Getting Slightly Technical about SEO:
Search engine optimization aims to achieve the goal of getting high rankings from search engines through organic searches. Search engines evaluate websites by using what they call "spiders." These programs scan the websites and collect information about them. They then collate the information and pass it on to the search engine.
Over the years, search engines began using more complex algorithms which took into consideration other factors such as the text that is contained within page titles, the domain name, file and folder names, keyword proximity and other such factors. Although the search engine algorithms are trade secrets unknown to any outside company, SEO experts know several other on-site factors (internal links, page content, recent content) and off-site factors (quality inbound links, anchor tags) are becoming increasingly important to a search engine's quality score for your online store.
Today, newly developed websites don't even need to submit to the search engines to be noticed. Spiders today are capable of tracking down websites even through links that are on the website. The use of a site map or well-placed links can help the spiders to navigate the online store.