First we’ll assume that you have a website already built. Let’s walk through the site together and look for ways to improve it:

1) Know who your audience is. Do you know who is coming to your website now? If you have access to your web logs and a decent web stats program, it should be able to give you some clues. Don’t have access to the logs? (Have you tried asking your hosting company? Still no…?) Then use a 3rd Party solution to help you. A good free solution is: www.statcounter.com. Take a look at your “referrers” — these often tell you what keywords people are using to get to your website. Are they the keywords you WANT associated with your site? If not, you’ve got to change it.

2) Use great keywords in your website. Keywords are the words that people use in search engines, that hopefully find your website. This topic alone can be an article, and a livelihood for some companies! Try Google Suggest to see if there might be some keyword combinations that you should be using. The number of requests for those can be seen as you type. Your goal is to get a unique set of keywords for your website. If you use generic keywords, like “website programming”, there are thousands of other websites competing for that. Try to narrow it down, say, “Hawaii web development“, not as many people might search for it, but those that do, will get to your site quicker, AND, be a better fit for what you offer!

3) Graphics are great, but don’t help all that much with your ranking. If you have a website that uses graphics or Flash for a large part of the navigation or banners, or wherever you keyword might be, try changing it to text. Search engines love text. The more text, with your keyword in it, the more search engines will have something to associate with your site. And make sure to include those keywords you found in step #2 in the text! If you have to use lots of graphics, make use of the ALT tag in HTML as a way of describing what the image is. (More details here: http://www.htmlhelp.com/feature/art3.htm )

4) Metatags — not as important as before, but might still help you. Metatags are special codes written in the HEAD section of the HTML that list your keywords and the description of the site. Here’s a helpful link: http://vancouver-webpages.com/META/mk-metas.html that will help you build some of your own.

5) Submit your website to search engines. Several search engines; including Google and Yahoo, allow you to submit your URL to them for free. Try: http://www.google.com/addurl/?continue=/addurl for Google and http://submit.search.yahoo.com/free/request for Yahoo and http://submitit.bcentral.com/msnsubmit.htm for MSN. (Note that some of the search engines charge you to submit to them, so there are lots of companies out there willing to submit your URL for a fee. Deal with reputable companies only (like Microsoft’s www.submit-it.com ), or, do it yourself.)

That should get your started, and all for free with just a little amount of time spent. If you are using a free host for your website, you might be getting advertising with it, along with their own special metatags (or worse). If you are serious about your business, pay for hosting. Hosting on a reputable company like Yahoo start at around $10/month for a basic site — http://sbs.smallbusiness.yahoo.com/webhosting/compare.php — without advertising (unless YOU add it!).
Good luck!

Additional Amazon Resources:
The ABC of SEO | Search Engine Optimization for Dummies | Bulletproof Web Design : Improving flexibility and protecting against worst-case scenarios with XHTML and CSS