This article has been updated and combined into a newer article, found here: On-Page Search Engine Optimization Techniques. We are keeping this older one up for archival purposes only.
The one of the biggest factors in your search engine ranking is going to be your keywords, or what words appear on you pages. While search engines once used to rely on keywords found in your meta tag to rank your page they now have more sophisticated software that analyzes the text on your page and not only checks for keywords or phrases, but also checks that they are in a proper form and not just repeated over and over again.
Keywords have always been an integral part in determining your search engine rank. In early days the search engines would simply count how many time a word was used on each page and whichever page used it the most would get the top listing. This resulted in people repeating words thousands of times on their pages, usually with a text color the same as their background to make the words seem invisible. Now not only do search engines ignore, or even ban, sites that repeat keywords, they also will do it with sites that have text the same color as the background.
Search engines still factor in the volume of keywords to determine rankings so you need to fill your page with as many keywords as possible, while still keeping standard language structure.
For instance consider the following passage:
Welcome to Ray's Photography Resource. Photography is a very complicated skill and you don't always know or remember all of the techniques you need to produce a better product. Or maybe you are have trouble keeping up on industry news and recently developed new techniques. If so you can find the answers you seek here. We have articles on many different topics from this industry, and we add new ones every week. We can help you find the right equipment with our extensive reviews section. Finally we can offer you a place to display your work for others to see. Whether you're a professional or amateur we have what you need.
On the surface it sounds fairly typical but from a keyword perspective it is horrible. The only place I even mention words related to the topic of the site is in the first two sentences, the rest of it could have been written about anything.
Now consider the following passage and notice the difference:
Welcome to Ray's Photography Resource. Photography is a very complicated skill and you don't always know or remember all of the lightning or developing techniques you need to produce better photos.. Or maybe you have trouble keeping up on photography industry news and recently developed photo editing processes. If so you can find the answers you seek to your photography related questions here. We have articles covering all facets of photography, from lighting, to film, to lenses, to editing, and we add new ones every week. We can help you find the right camera, lights, film, or editing software with our extensive reviews section. Finally we can offer you a place to display your finished photos for others to see. Whether you're a professional photographer or an amateur we have what you need.
The second passage has significantly more keywords and more repetitions of those keywords. What you need to do is model your content like the second passage. Try to fit as many keywords as many times as possible without resorting to simple repetition. People will hopefully use more than one word or phrase to find your site so make sure you get some variety in there, just so long as it relates to your topic.