These are what I believe to be the top 10 most important things (not necessarily in order) that you need, in order to get your website found in the search engines.
There are many other factors as well, but if you follow these guidelines, you'll stand a much better chance, and you'll be off to a good start.
1. Title Meta Tag
The title tag is what displays as the headline in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). It's also what displays in the top blue band of Internet Explorer when your site is displayed.
Your title tag of your website should be easy to read and designed to bring in traffic. By that, I mean that your main keyword phrase should be used toward the beginning of the tag. True there are websites being found now that do not use the phrase in the title, but the vast majority still do as of this writing.
Don't make the mistake of putting your company name first, unless you are already a household name, like Nascar or HBO. People are likely searching for what you have to offer, not your name.
Your title tag should be written with a capital letter starting the tag, and followed by all lowercase letters, unless you're using proper nouns. Some people prefer to capitalize every word, too.
2. Description Meta Tag
The description tag is the paragraph that people will see when your page comes up in the search results.
Your description tag should be captivating and designed to attract business. It should be easy to read, and compel the reader to act right now and follow your link. Without a description tag, search engines will frequently display the first text on your page. Is yours appropriate as a description of the page?
A proper description tag is what people will see below your title. You should make proper use of punctuation, and with readability, use your subject and geographical references.
3. Keywords Meta Tag
The importance of Meta keyword tags fluctuates from month to month among different search engines. There is a debate in the SEO community as to whether or not they help at all on certain search engines. In fact, in the summer of 2004 it appeared as if they were losing importance altogether.
However, you'll NEVER be penalized on any search engines for using relevant targeted keywords in moderation, and they can only help you with most, especially Yahoo.
Avoid stuffing your keyword metatags with too many keywords. Just use relevant tags that apply directly to the content of that particular page, and don't overdo it.
4. Alt Tags
The small yellow box that comes up when your mouse cursor is placed over an image is called the ALT tag. Every relevant image should have an alt tag with your key words or phrases mentioned in the tag.
A proper ALT tag goes after the file name, and before the Align indicator.
* - The ALT tag is no longer being considered for ranking purposes by some search engines. That said, it still cannot HURT you, and will still help you with some engines. My recommendation is to continue to use them, but be sure to avoid keyword stuffing. Besides, who nows when the pendulum will swing back the other way?
5. Header Tags
The text of each page is given more weight by the search engines if you make use of header tags and then use descriptive body text below those headers. Bullet points work well too. It is not enough to merely BOLD or enlarge your text headlines.
6. Link Text
Search engine spiders cannot follow image links. In addition to having image links or buttons on your web pages, you should have text links at the bottom or elsewhere. The text that the user sees when looking at the link is called the link text. A link that displays products does not carry as much weight to the search engines as a link called oregon widgets. Link text is very important, and is actually one of the most frequently overlooked aspects of web design that I've seen.
7. Site Map
Using a site map not only makes it easy for your users to see the entire structure of your website, but it also makes it easier for the search engines to spider your site. When the search engine spiders come to visit, they will follow all of the text links from your main index page. If one of those links is to a site map, then the spiders will go right to the sitemap, and consequently visit every page you have text linked to from that site map. On the site map page, try to have a sentence or two describing each page, and not just a page of links.
8. Relevant Inbound Links
By relevant, I mean similar industry or subject related sites. Right now, no single strategy can get your site ranked higher faster than being linked to by dozens of other relevant websites. It used to be that the quantity of incoming links mattered most, but today, it's much better to have three highly relevant links to you from other popular related websites than 30 links from unrelated low ranked sites. If there are other businesses in your industry that you can trade links with, it will help your site enormously. Link to others, and have them link to you. It's proven, and it works. To see who's linking to you, in Google type the following...
9. Your Content
Not to be forgotten of course, is the actual content of your webpage. It must be relevant helpful information that people want to read. These days, each webpage should be laser focused on one specific product or subject, in order to rank highly for that search phrase. The days of writing one webpage to appeal to dozens of search terms are long gone. Ideally, each page should have between 400 to 650 words on it. Too few, and the search engines won't consider it to be relevant enough. Too many words and the search engine spiders may have a hard time determining the actual subject or focus of the page.
Use your keywords or phrases often, and use them at the beginning of your paragraphs wherever possible. Don't overuse them and make the page sound phony, but don't write a page about a certain subject, and not mention that subject repeatedly either. Reading it out loud to yourself is a great way to judge how natural your text sounds.
Concentrate on writing quality pages that actually appeal to the human reader. Write pages that provide the reader with exactly what they are looking for; that is, information about the exact search phrase they've entered.
10. Avoid Cheating
With all of these tidbits of information, it's tempting to think that you can stuff 100 keywords into your title, or create a page with the phrase oregon widget company being used 100 times in headers, text links, ALT tags, bullet points etc. but that cannot help you. In fact, it can penalize you, and get your website banned from certain search engines.