SEO is short for search engine optimization. It is the process of improving the organic rankings of your website in a search engine results page (SERP).
In a search engine results page, the organic rankings are found below the paid listings. They are also referred to as the "natural" search results.
Organic rankings can be improved by implementing any number of white-hat and best-practice SEO techniques. These techniques include creating a search-engine-friendly website, identifying target keywords, publishing high-quality content, and attracting high-quality links. Websites at the top of the search results are typically managed by a SEO team responsible for applying SEO techniques on a consistent basis.
White hat SEO can be described as an ethical, search-engine-friendly, and best-practice approach to improving your search rankings.
Black hat SEO (the opposite of white hat SEO) can be described as a collection of efforts applied to improve your rankings that violate search engine guidelines and terms of service. Black hat SEO techniques include keyword stuffing, cloaking, or using private link networks. Penalization is a common consequences of black hat SEO, whereby the violating URL can be de-indexed from the search results for using unethical techniques.
It's difficult to predict how long it will take for your website to rank higher in search results. Factors include the age of your website, your competition, content, and location. In some cases, a proper SEO campaign can yield results in a matter of weeks. In other cases, it can takes months and even years of SEO before your website reaches the top of the search results.
SEO can be performed on an hourly basis, at rates between $75 and $130 per hour. SEO can be performed by both freelancers and agencies. Most SEO experts charge a monthly retainer for SEO services between $750 and $2,000 per month.