Practice user-friendly programming. The sole objective of search engines it to generate clicks because clicks equal money. Clicks are made by people. Thus, user-friendly equals search engine friendly. Developing your site with the user as your top priority will also optimize it for search engines. Program your site for optimum readability by the user. Use text rather then images wherever possible--as main menu link names, for example. When you do use images, be sure to give them descriptive ALT tags that will help the visually impaired. Remember that search engines index all the text on your site, so include key words in your ALT text as well as your main text.
Develop a target keyword list. It may seem like you need psychic ability for this step, but getting into the mind of your potential users is important. Try to anticipate the keywords that a user would use to find your site. Your keyword list might include industry-related words as well as common phrases for your specialized services. Think in terms of how a lay person would describe your offerings as opposed to an industry insider. You can also use features provided by PPC services like Google AdWords or Yahoo Search Marketing to get alternate key word suggestions. The features are often used to predict click counts and recommend budgets, but also provide suggestions for alternate key words. The suggestions are based on actual search usage, so they offer great ideas. And, you can use the testing features without committing any money.
Maintain good site navigation. Search engines track the amount of time between a visitor's clicks on a results page. So, when a user spends a longer amount of time on your site before visiting the search page again, the search engine assumes your site was helpful for the key words submitted. This will factor into a higher ranking for your site. So, make sure your navigation structure shows the reader how to get where he wants to go and keeps him moving through your site. You've heard of the 3-click rule, but a user will keep on clicking as long as she is finding the information she came for.
Add meaningful page titles. Incorporate a specific title for each page into your development process. Don't just offer a generic title for every page of your site. Because search engines follow almost all the links in your site, your home page is not the only page visitors will use to enter. Make sure the title for each page is relevant to the content it contains. SEO gurus once suggested that you fill your title with numerous keywords in an attempt to move your site up in the search engine rankings. With a user-centered approach, however, the best titles are concise and easily absorbed by the visitor. If your page content reflects the targeted keyword searches you would like to attract, then you won't have a problem incorporating those keywords into a streamlined title.
Write quality page descriptions. You can also add brief descriptions to each page via the use of meta tags. Many search engines still use these meta descriptions as the text that shows up on a search results page after your title. In the absence of a meta description, search engines will often post the first few lines of text that appear on your page or the few lines surrounding the particular keyword highlighted. Meta descriptions, however, give you a better opportunity to control the message you give to the search visitor, and to boost your targeted key words.
Focus on optimized content. Regardless of all the tips and tricks for search engine optimization, the best tool for boosting your search engine rankings is still developing quality content. When writing for your website, be sure to incorporate your target keyword list whenever possible. Don't overdo it, however, your information still needs to be logical and easy to understand for the reader. Remember that users tend to scan a web page in an "F" pattern, generally reading short blurbs that jump out from the rest. So, be sure to include text close to the top of your page--"above the fold" in traditional advertising terms. Not only will it give valuable information without scrolling, but it will include key words in some of the first text search engines crawl. Bullet points are often more digestible for the user than long paragraphs. Also, including text links within your content draws attention to key words and moves visitors to other pages in your site.