Let's assume you've purchased a domain recently (within the past 12 months) and now you're looking to build a brand new Web site for use on that domain.
Before we get into specific tactics, let's discuss setting realistic expectations and goals for your SEO initiative.
Search engines try to emulate human behavior. If a man you'd never met before came up to you on the street and said "I want to be your best friend," you'd look at him very strangely.
Search engines need to go through a courting process as well. They need to get to know you and your friends. Over time, they'll come to trust you and like you, or decide you're a flake who deserves no attention whatsoever.
Avoid Being Perceived as a Flake
Before you worry about Web site design, start with the hard work associated with building a substantial site. First, develop a list of keywords that are important to your business. Do the keyword research necessary to find out how often those keywords are actually searched on the search engines.
Carrie Hill has an excellent article on keyword research (especially for those who need to avoid paying the bucks to have access to "better" software). As Carrie mentions, do the keyword research first, then begin to determine how to organize your Web site to be found for these keywords.
The organization process is called information architecture, or, simply, how to make information findable, manageable, and useful. If you want to be found for certain keywords, make sure you actually have a page of your Web site with content. Search engines want to rank Web sites that offer the searcher a quality result.
Build a Free or Low-Cost Web Site
Even if you're working with a tight budget, you can build a search engine friendly Web site. In fact, some of the most search engine friendly Web sites -- blogs -- can be free to create. Our company's content management system (CMS) is based on an open source blogging platform: WordPress. I figure if it's good enough for Matt Cutts' blog, it's good enough for us to modify into a CMS.
That being said, you don't have to modify WordPress to make it work for your needs. You can build a very search engine-friendly Web site using WordPress as the CMS and associate custom design templates to use on this platform. Obviously, the side benefit of building a Web site on a blogging platform is that you have blog functionality built-in.
For new Web sites, blogging can be a great way to bake-in depth and substance. Proper promotion can help drive traffic to the site. Promotion also helps you build backlinks (links from other Web sites to your own) if you have compelling posts people will want to link to.
Unique Title, Description, Meta Tags
Since your content is unique, title tags, meta description tags and meta keyword tags for every page should be, too. There are general guidelines to follow. Every search engine optimizer's tips will probably be different.
A good general rule is to have a title tag no longer than 68 characters long (including spaces), meta description which has some marketing fluff as to entice a searcher to click, and meta keywords which are focused on the content of that particular page. Put your most important keywords first in the title and keywords, again minding the content for that particular page.
Search engines love to find things that search engine optimizers have a difficult time in manipulating -- such as domain age -- because they feel like this helps them to keep their index/rankings pure.
One strategy: purchase an existing Web site that has a history, and several backlinks. Even if you don't intend on having your new Web site exist on this particular domain, 301 redirect the domain to your new domain and still pass along some value.
While the age value of the domain can't be passed along, the backlinks associated with that domain certainly can be passed along through 301 redirects. Mind you, some in our industry consider this to be a "gray hat" SEO tactic.
Once you've settled on the domain (assuming you weren't able to purchase a different domain), and you've built your Web site, it's time to begin the process of getting listed in relevant directories and/or creating other methods of gaining backlinks.
Some of the basic directories you'll want to get listed in include Yahoo Business Directory, BOTW.org, Business.com, DMOZ, and try to find industry-focused directories. Avoid those free directories, as they are most often free for a reason.
SEO is not voodoo.
Mind you, what I've covered today is a great foundation to help you be successful with your new Web site's SEO efforts. Don't stop there. Truly successful SEO results are a product of a process that takes months and, in many cases, years to achieve stellar results.
Obviously, budget permitting, hiring an expert can save you a lot of time -- and perhaps even money, so be sure to consider all of your options. I wish you the best of luck.