Damn. I just got off the phone with a good friend who got taken by a dishonest search engine consultant. He’s trying to sell his own books. He’s getting into the blog thing, and–I wish he’d asked me–ended up spending several thousand dollars for just about nothing.

What’s really tough is that if you’re going to do a do-it-yourself business, one of the 21 million onesey-twosey businesses in the United States, you just can’t get around the need for an Internet presence.

Dealing as I do with startups and more startups, it seems to be pretty much unavoidable these days: You really shouldn’t be seriously looking at starting a business without understanding the basics of search engine placement, buying keywords (Google AdWords and its competitors) and basic analytics.

True, there are still some businesses outside the influence of the Web, but fewer every day. Even the most standard brick-and-mortar businesses, such as dry cleaners, restaurants, plumbers and whatever, depend more every day on Web searches. The Yellow Pages are no longer enough.

Here are a few good buzzwords to know: SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” People buy keywords and keyword searches. Google AdWords and Google Analytics are the giants, but they have competition.

An honest consultant would be a good thing and, of course, there are lots of them. I’ve known a lot more honest ones than dirtballs. Unfortunately, though, it’s hard to tell when you’re on the outside looking in.

I’d recommend starting, at the very least, with doing some homework yourself. I just did a search for Google Analytics Tutorial and got a lot of interesting results. And then I did a search on Google AdWords Tutorial and got some interesting results there as well (looks like you should start with the Google offerings for sure).

Then I went and searched Amazon.com books for “google adwords” and “google analytics” and got some attractive hits.

The point is, this is your business. Spend some time. There’s a lot of help for free on the Web; and a few good books, for $10 to $20 each, is a much better investment than struggling with this.

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.