By Michael Fleischner
Succeeding with search engine optimization is a function of understanding the basics. Search engine optimization consists of two different disciplines. The first is called on page optimization, what you do on your web pages to succeed, and off page optimization. By mastering both of these areas of optimization, you can have search engine success.
In order to be successful with your search engine optimization efforts long term, you should always start with on page optimization techniques. On page optimization refers to everything related to your actual web site and web pages from a search engine optimization perspective. This includes factors like web site age, URL, Meta tags, on page links, etc. It's important that you start with on page optimization because it ensures that your pages will be fully recognized by search engines.
The place to start when thinking about on-page optimization is with URLs and the overall structure of your web site. The reason we want to start here is because the URL is one of the most visible aspects of a web site. However, I would caution you about putting too much emphasis on the domain name as that is only part of the on-page optimization game. It definitely helps with Yahoo and MSN but not as much with Google.
A really good manner in which to implement a sub-domain strategy is by evaluating your keywords and identifying a small handful of sub-domains to implement. Select your most important keywords to set up as sub-domains and focus your efforts on a top level domain with direct links to your subdomains. This ensures that your sub-domains are crawled on a regular basis and appear within search results.
While considering the subdomain strategy, you can also implement another URL strategy that is equally as effective. Although it's been debated in search engine optimization circles, I've implemented both a sub-domain strategy as well as the following strategy and they are equally effective. Instead of implementing a subdomain simply create a page that includes your keyword as part of the url. For example: yoursite.com/yourkeyword where your key word is the actual keyword or keyword phrase you are trying to optimize for.
Your website url is only one of may on-page optimization factors you should be paying attention to. When I'm asked which factors are the most important to any search engine optimization effort, I usually emphasis clean code and fast load times. Search engines like Google want to make sure browsers have a good experience. If they started serving up really bad web sites in the number of ranking, you wouldn't be using their search engine. Check your site for coding errors and measure how long it takes for the pages to load.
Once you've covered on page optimization attributes associated with a high ranking web site, you should focus on off page optimization. Off page optimization is really a function of how the search engines see your site and how other web pages link to your own site. Off page optimization is often equated to link building as building external links to your site is at the core of search engine optimization.
Begin your search engine optimization efforts by focusing on on-page optimization. This creates a very strong foundation that you can build on for years to come. After that foundation is set, focus on off-page optimization techniques. These tactics can vary over time but should always include some type of link building effort. As you create more inbound links, your search engine results will continually improve.