From the March 2009 issue of Entrepreneur

Your web startup needs to cut through the clutter and reel in customers, and search engine optimization (SEO) can be just the ticket. SEO helps improve your search rankings so your website shows up higher on Google, Yahoo and other popular search engines. "SEO is really [fundamental]. It should be a line item when you're developing your website," says Greg Bozigian, founder and chief media officer of new media marketing company Visionary View.

Know Your Tools

You'll hear a lot of jargon around SEO. This glossary will keep you in the know.

Black hat SEO: Using unethical SEO techniques to boost rankings. Can result in the banning or penalizing of a site by search engines

Keyword stuffing: Using keywords over and over again in an attempt to artificially inflate your search rankings

Organic search optimization: Nonpaid methods of SEO that naturally boost your search engine rankings

Pay-per-click advertising: A paid search approach to SEO that lets you buy ads on search engines. Usually used in conjunction with organic SEO

Search engine marketing (SEM): A blanket term for paid and organic search optimization methods

SEO is about attracting quality leads and buyers ready to make a purchase. Here are six tips for getting the most out of an SEO initiative, according to SEO expert Steve Wiideman:

  1. Start early. It can take up to six months for competitive search terms to see results through Google.
  2. Content really is king. Make a list of the top 20 search keywords relevant to your business and create content that's thematically linked with those terms.
  3. Don't use the same keywords over and over. Search engines have gotten smart enough to weed that out.
  4. Focus on Google. The magic formula is relevance and popularity. Having a well-written and well-structured website is a big part of the battle. Mentions and links from bloggers and other websites can be a big boost as well.
  5. How do you measure SEO? Create a benchmark. A good SEO expert can actually measure the amount of traffic that results in a lead or in somebody making a purchase.
  6. If you choose to work with an SEO consultant, find one that specializes in the needs of startups and growing businesses. If he or she tries to guarantee you an instant No. 1 ranking in Google, run the other way.

Creating useful content like articles, blogs, forums, metatags, page titles, item descriptions and YouTube videos will help keep your SEO initiative going for the long run. Plan to roll out your SEO strategy over time, tweak it as needed and look beyond keywords to see the big picture.