Search Engine Strategy - Where to begin?

Hi all,

I have just completed the first stage of development on a holiday booking engine project. We are currently trying to get participant to sign up to become members of the site so that they can sell their own holidays online. Each member will have their own section within the website (done in asp/sql server db) and the front-end of the website will be going live within the next few weeks once enough members have signed up.
My problem .. I have been instructed to develop a search engine marketing strategy for the site (we already has many similar domain registered). Is there any basic checklist of things i should follow first. I understand many of the basics of making pages search engine friendly but dont know where to start on submitting the site and developing other sites and subdomain sites. These other site would be dynamically create the information from the central database with members sign up information i presume. I would be very grateul for any help on giving me an overview.
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fgictAsked:
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humeniukConnect With a Mentor Commented:
"I understand many of the basics of making pages search engine friendly"
That is a good place to start.  Given that there is a lot of misinformation floating around, you may want to review this good tutorial anyway: http://www.seo-guy.com/tutorial.html.  From a design perspective, it has to be clear and uncluttered (both visually and in terms of your coding) so that it is easily accessable and navigable by users (and SE crawlers).  For a basic one-page overview of some of the elements related to the design aspect, see http://earthskater.com/library/seo.asp.

You also need to carefully select the keywords you will optimize your website for.  The best way to think of keywords is as words that someone looking for the kinds of services you offer would type into a search engine to find those services.  You want to put some serious thought into which keywords best represent your website and then use them in your Page Title tag, your Heading tags, your Alt tags, etc. as outlined in the earthskater link above.  You also want to use them in your website content (very important).  Try to use the 'early and often', but never at the expense of compromising the relevance and clarity of your content.

"... dont know where to start on submitting the site ..."
Most search engines have somewhere that you can submit your URL (ie. www.google.com/addurl.html) although this is of dubious value.  The reason this is of dubious value is that if you don't have a quality website with incoming links, a lot of search engines will ignore your site, even if you submit it.  At the same time, if you have a quality website with even one decent incoming link, the search engines will find you, even if you never submit it.

Incoming links are extremely important.  Most search engines use the number and quality of links to your site as an indication of the relevance and importance of your site.  How do you get links?  First and foremost, you build a quality site with relevant content as above.  If you create a valuable information resource, people will link to you.  You can also exchange links with other websites.  However, make sure they are also quality websites with content that is related to yours.  A link from a poor site won't benefit you at all and remember to avoid Link Farms AT ALL COSTS.  Not only will you not benefit from their link to you, SEs will penalize you for linking to them.  The best place to start is to get your website listed in the appropriate directory at the Open Directory Project (www.dmoz.org).  This ensures that your site will be crawled by Google and numerous other SEs and legit directories.

"... and developing other sites and subdomain sites"
The important thing to remember here is that other domains and subdomains are treated as separate websites by search engines.  They have to be optimized and promoted in and of themselves and each should have a clear independent purpose.  If you are operating multiple related websites (domain or subdomain), you also want to make sure that they are not presenting largely the same content.  Most search engines will penalize websites that provide duplicate content.

That's a fairly basic overview.  One other thing, though - make sure you post your URL here in the Online Marketing TA as soon as the site is available.  You'll get a lot of very good tips specific to your website's strengths and weaknesses.
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duzCommented:
humeniuk -

Good answer! One small point.

>The best place to start is to get your website listed in the appropriate directory at the Open Directory Project (www.dmoz.org).  This ensures that your site will be crawled by Google and numerous other SEs and legit directories.

Although an essential thing to do it is not "the best place to start" because it may take months to get listed in dmoz.  The best place to start is providing a link from a frequently spidered page already indexed by the search engine(s).  

- duz
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humeniukCommented:
Thank you, duz.  A compliment from you means a great deal.

Thank you for the DMOZ clarification.  You are, of course, correct.  The very first thing you should do is get that initial link from a good & established site (arrange it before the site goes live so it's there from the very beginning).  An Open Directory listing is extremely helpful, so when your site is ready (and you've read the submission requirements), submit your site to the appropriate category and then get on with doing everything else you need to do to promote your site.
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