Have you ever searched for something on Google or another search engine and noticed that your query yielded 43,567,392 results, or some such astronomical number? Obviously, you didn't examine all these results, or you wouldn't be reading this... you'd still be examining them. You probably didn't get past the first page of results and certainly didn't go beyond the third. You clicked on one of the first listings and ignored the rest.
Many people assume that getting a web site will flood their business with new customers merely because so many millions of people are "on-line" these days. That's like assuming that because billions of people use telephones, your phone will ring off the hook if you get one. If you had a prominent ad in every Yellow Pages Directory in the world, it might, but otherwise, no one knows you exist.
Search engines are the Internet's Yellow Pages. Millions of people use them every day. Most people don't go beyond the first page of search results. Getting a top 10 listing on a search engine is like having that big Yellow Pages ad. Not getting one is not even as good as being in the white pages - most of your potential clients will never find you.
Back to those 43,567,392 results. How did the sites you saw near the top of page one get there? Probably not by accident. They got there because someone knew how to get them there. That is the purpose of search engine optimization.
How about those services that spam you with offers to submit your site to thousands of search engines for a nominal fee? Only a few search engines yield any significant traffic, and then only if your site is properly optimized to suit their ranking criteria and you have attained significant link popularity. Submitting is not enough. In fact, it isn't even necessary. If other sites link to yours, the search engine "spiders" will follow those links to your site and index it.
There are very few secrets in this business - just a lot to learn and then a lot of work to do. Many of the pros share tips and ideas with one another every day on forums such as Cre8asite. If you're pressed for time, the best use of a forum like that might be to post an occasional question and have an expert answer it promptly.
My favorite learning resource is Planet Ocean®'s e-book: UnFair Advantage Book on Winning the Search Engine Wars and their monthly newsletter, Search Engine News. They are well-organized, relatively concise, and updated regularly. So if you have the time, learn what you can from my site and from the resources I've mentioned, buy SEO software, and plunge in! But if you have a business to run and would rather hire a specialist to improve your search engine rankings, I hope you'll contact me.