Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can be incredibly complex and seemingly elusive, however, it is vitally important to your website. So, what is SEO? In a nutshell, it's the location of your website within the listed result of a search engine. Those sites deemed most relevant and most visited filter to the top, while others are lost in an endless list of links. The difference between a page one and page three listing is like the difference between making the cover of Time Magazine and a classified listing in the local newspaper.
If SEO is so important, what can we really do about it? After all, doesn't Google decide who is on top and don't people pay big bucks to get there? Yes and No. All search engines sell advertising space. This space should be clearly marked as Ads and SEO has no effect over these. However, the majority of the results are what are called "free" or "organic" results. And while you can't effect your ranking over night, good SEO habits practices consistently over time will produce results.
Here are a few tips for creating an SEO friendly website:
You may have the best content in the world on your website, but if a search engines can't get to it, you won't get credit for it. For a search engine to reach your content, you must have a path to each page. A path can be a navigation item or a link in the content area, but the path must exist. If you have pages on your site that can only be reached by typing in the URL, Google won't see them. Takeaway: Make every page on your website linkable from another page on your website. No islands.
For you to get SEO credit for your content, your site's content must be indexed by a search engine. While search engines have become incredibly intelligent, they have limitations to the type of content they can read. Content presented as HTML text can be indexed, as well as the tags applies to images and other files. However, Google can't interpret your images. While you and I can see a picture of a puppies and interpret it to be cute or precious, search engines see nothing. Likewise, you may have great content compiled in a FLASH video, PDF or other document, yet search engines won't index the content. Takeaway: Reformat your quality content in text form for your website. In this case, a picture is worth no words.
Remember that great new word your leadership team coined - Leaderosity. While words like this make for good messaging and presentations, they carry little value in the SEO world. When writing content for your website, think about the user's perspective. What will the user be searching for? What is the main theme of this page? Takeaway: Use keywords and buzzwords in your content, but stay away from complete originality.
If you begin following these few basic steps, you will see the SEO friendliness of your site begin to go up. For more information on SEO, see SEOMoz's beginner guide to SEO. I found it to be a great resource.