There has been lots of hype with getting your website Google search engine friendly. According to Wikipedia SEO is the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a web site from search engines via "natural" or un-paid ("organic" or "algorithmic") search results as opposed to search engine marketing (SEM) which deals with paid inclusion. There are lots of companies "promising" clients to put their website to be the first one on the search page based on their keyword. But you have to remember no one owns Google and therefore cannot rightfully claim any guarantee regarding ranking position for your website on any keyword search within Google. Furthermore, the reason Google has gained popularity is through the integrity of the returned search results due to the fact that it is almost impossible for web developers to control or significantly affect those results outside of paid advertising on Google. So claims made by other web and SEO companies about the successes they can achieve for you should also be examined in that light.
As far as the setup of your website's pages are concerned, Google is looking for only a few simple things that tell them that the webpage is well formed and it is a 'validated' page - i.e. is not setup to attempt to skew Google's search results by, for example, having keywords in the Meta Tags that do not match the subject of the page or overall content of the website.
As far as the Meta Tags and website content is concerned, Google looks at the following:
The name of the page should be keyword rich and not be full of dynamic page variables. For example, if the page is about web design, the name should be web-design.html, not default.aspx?pageno=567. You can set the name of every page in your website to ensure that it uses the right key words where required.
The Title Tag is one of the primary Meta Tags coded into the HTML that tells the browser window and search engines what the page is about. This should be the same as the name of the page (see above).
This should be the first thing in the main content of your web page. That is, not an image, but words that are the same as the page name formatted with an H1, H2, or H3 style tag (i.e. Heading 1, Heading 2 or Heading 3 format style setting). Google looks at the page name, title tag and first heading tag (which must be the first piece of content) on the page to determine the subject of the page and they like all three to be the same. These also determine the keyword for this page, which is critical for ranking on keyword searches.
The Keyword Meta Tags are primarily used by Google to 'validate' the page. That is, to determine if the keywords that are set in the Meta tags match the content of the page. Therefore, you can take the first paragraph from the page and splits it up into individual words and puts it in the Keyword Meta Tag. You can then put the other keywords which you have selected for your entire site. It helps if the first paragraph has exactly the same words as used in the page name and heading repeated at least twice. For example, "We do great web designs for your business without some of the exorbitant costs of other web designers. What is more, our web designs are to a higher standard than what others will supply."
Other Keyword Influences
The other factors that Google uses to determine your ranking under a particular keyword are the following (in no particular order):
Home Page Name
Usually web designers puts the name of the page into the Title Tag, a good way to get ranked on a few of your primary keywords is to change the name of the Home page from Home to four or five key words (or two word key phrases) separated by commas.
These same keywords can then also be put at the very top of the content on the Home page. To ensure that this does not distract from your primary marketing message on your Home page, the text should be formatted as an H1 Tag, but then inline style tags to reduce the font size, aligning the font colour to that of the page background colour (effectively making the text disappear) and reduce the padding and margin settings to zero (0) (so there is no big gap at the top of the page) should be added.
Having your keyword in your domain also helps with keyword based searches in Google - as Google favours domain/company names over basic keyword ranking. This is why, when you type in your domain name ion a Google search, it will always come at the top of the search results (once it has been properly indexed by Google).
In the same way, you can buy domain names that contain your primary keyword phrases in them (e.g. if you are a web development company you could buy webdevelopment.co.nz or web-development.co.nz). You can point unlimited domain name to your website through your DNS provider or the content management system.
If they land on pages named in the same way as we described naming the home page above, but with the keyword used in the domain name as the first keyword phrase and the page content optimized to this keyword (i.e. the heading uses the keyword and the first paragraph contains this keyword at least twice), this will also assist in ranking for that keyword phrase.
Your website's Meta Tag description is used by search engines in their returned results under your web page's name for your home page. Therefore, this is your opportunity to get your primary sales message across - but it has to be only around 20 words long. Not having a Meta Tag description can adversely affect your ranking.
When a search engine returns results for other pages on your website, they take the first paragraph and return that as the description for the page. This is why it is important to have a clear and concise first paragraph on each and every one of your web pages.
All images should have alt tags added to them that describe the image (using only a few words). This not only helps people who have not downloaded the image to see what the image is about, but also those who are visually impaired to navigate through your website.
Google considers this 'good practice' and therefore this becomes a positive for page ranking.
External Site Linking
This is something you have little to no control over, which is why Google uses it as its primary measure for ranking your website. These are links coming from other websites, not from your website to other sites. The quality of the sites and the relevancy of them to your industry denote the value that Google places on the link. NOTE: having hundreds of link sites (think: 'spammers') pointing back at your website can be detrimental to your ranking.
A method that SEO companies can use to try and enhance your ranking is to create hundreds of keyword specific websites - each with their own domain name and unique content related to a specific keyword or product - pointed back at your primary website. However, this is termed a 'Google Bomb' and if left unchecked will lead to your domain name being Blackballed by Google - i.e. you will effectively disappear from the internet.
When someone visits your home page and then leaves your website without going any further, this is termed a Bounce. The more bounces you have, the less valuable Google considers your website.
This is one of the reasons why 'web marketing' type websites (e.g. http://www.earncrazy.com ) with very long 'home' or 'landing' pages are not a good idea - despite what the 'so called' experts say. Not only do they lack any real credibility - and, after all, marketing is about making someone believe you have a product or service worth spending money on (i.e. marketing is about belief or perceptions and these sites quickly suspend people's beliefs in the way they sound 'unreal' from the very first statement.).
You want your home page to draw someone further into your website. To do this, summaries the key offerings/products or services you have in one paragraph per group or main category that draws the reader to click through to a page with the full information on it. This should then give you around 3-6 short paragraphs laid up well on the home page with links at the end that say something like read more.
Having exactly the same content on many websites is seen by Google as similar to that web page, or even websites, being equivalent to 'spam' sites.
Therefore, even when your agents or franchises copy information or pages from your website - make sure they change it slightly - even just the first paragraph on the page.
Blogs and other 'Free Sites'
Having Blogs, free web pages (e.g. Google pages), company and personal profiles on directory websites (e.g. Finda.co.nz) or social media sites (e.g. facebook.com) can enhance your 'web presence', which is a good thing for ranking. However, be aware that these must be regularly kept up-to-date or they very quickly become useless.
Of course the more of these you have to keep maintaining, the more time and energy you are spending on your SEO and the less time you are spending prospecting for real business. This is why I very rarely recommend that clients spend time doing these types of things, as they simply become a distraction from doing your real marketing.
Overall, web marketing and SEO is about drawing more people to your business. I recommend that unless your business is your website, or you are primarily trying to reach overseas clients, your SEO budget (including the time you spend on it) should be less than around 5-10% of your overall marketing budget.
In other words, try not to get too distracted by SEO, or those who tell you that your website it not 'fully optimized'. More than likely your website is highly optimised and they simply want to sell you something.
Remember, Google owns Google - and Adwords (paid advertising on Google) are a cheap way to pay Google to give you expose on their search engine.