SEO (search engine optimization) is analogous to dating, mind-reading, research/experimentation, and providing free informational seminars to promote your business. SEO is analogous to several other things, but these four are some of the most prominent comparisons.
SEO is analogous to dating in that even when you put your best foot forward, many potential customers will take a quick look at your Web page/s and quickly leave. Conversion rates are low across most industries, so you're attempting to attract fickle and picky customers. (By the way, I am often one of those fickle and picky customers).
SEO is analogous to mind-reading, too. You have to guess at and research what your potential customers are typing into search engines when they desire what you offer. It is likely that you will have to step out of your persona as an expert in your field to come up with keyword ideas. Customers are likely using search terms that you, as the expert, find odd and off-topic.
That's where the research and experimentation part comes in. You come up with a group of potential keyword ideas and you use various tools (e.g., Google's Keyword Planner) to see if your ideas match what people are searching. You may end up surprised by how your favorite keyword ideas have zero search traffic. After you find some keywords that are relevant and getting a good amount of search traffic, you plug them in (don't stuff them!) to your written content and then check (with tools like Google Analytics) to see if you're getting quality visits (not bounce visits) to the page with that content.
The concept that some small business owners have the most trouble with is that you typically have to give away insights and industry information to rank well in organic search results. So, SEO is analogous to giving free seminars to promote your business. Lawyers, insurance agents, and many other professionals have been doing this for centuries. I believe that this can be difficult to stomach for two main reasons: (a) it feels like you're giving away trade secrets and empowering more customers to do things themselves instead of making a service call and (b) it's a lot to keep up with. For B, keep in mind that you don't have to put up a trade magazine's worth of content every week. After an initial understanding of content creation is in place, one to three hours a week is often all that is necessary for a small business owner to create content that will help with SEO.
SEO is both art and science, both mystical and clear, and both complex and easy.
Questions and comments are welcome.