I was talking with a person recently who does carpentry work. I told him I make websites more productive with SEO and content development. He said, "I have a website, but I don't get any business from it. All my business comes from referrals."
He is probably wrong. What he doesn't seem to realize is that even when a customer is referred to him by a friend, I'm sure the customer looks up the carpenter's website to verify that the carpenter's insured, licensed, been around a while, has a land address, is no fly-by-night con artist.
It also helps if the website contains before and after photos of his carpentry projects, a photo of the carpenter and an interesting bio, and website content that answers questions people have about various relevant topics. That's just to start with. There is much more that should be included.
So the website is a partner in the sales transaction; it's a vital part of the chain of events that transformed a person with a need into a paying customer for that carpenter.
If he had no website, or if his website was poorly designed, that would make a bad impression on the customer, and would very likely reduce the number of referrals that turned into customers for him.
You may think your website is just an internet presence, something you're supposed to have, but you're not sure if it's really doing anything for you. Your website should be a salesperson, working hard to attract web visitors -- and to convert visitors into customers.
Part of my work in SEO is advising companies to analyze the effectiveness of their website in terms of achieving conversion goals (product purchase, call phone number to set up appointment, sign up for newsletter, visit store, watch a promo video, etc.)
We do a benchmark study prior to the SEO work and content development. Then we do subsequent studies to measure the ROI, which is accumulative and gradual, not instant riches beyond your wildest dreams. It's incremental.
As you keep adjusting SEO factors and building new content, Google starts ranking your webpages higher, and the pay-off begins to snowball.
Most websites just look okay, but tend to have a lot of underlying code problems and slim content issues that impede effectiveness. They don't attract qualified customers, nor do they do a good sales job.
So it's rather easy to get a substantial competitive advantage by implementing Google Hummingbird compliant SEO.