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Other questions I have seen include: will using Flash drop me out of engines? Should I use tables or will that hurt my page ranking? If "low quality" sites link to mine, will Google get annoyed and kick me to second page?
This is, in my opinion, utterly and completely ridiculous. The purpose of web and internet is communication. People write articles, create graphics and multimedia and place them on internet because they have a story to tell or some information to impart.
Of course it is important to promote your site, because part of communication is finding someone to communicate with. However, there are many, many ways to promote a web site. There are as many ways and places to promote as their are stars in sky or electrons on a wire. Just use your creativity and your brain, and you will figure out how to get people to visit your creation, without selling your soul to a search engine.
One of my objections is idea of "theming" a web site. That is not way that web is intended to work and it is not in interest of surfers. When I search on a keyword, I want to find best pages that I can find. If someone wrote a page about their cat but placed it on their site about quilts, then I still might want to see it. In fact, it's possible that this one page has better information than a site devoted entirely to cats.
I have a great example of a site which is one of best on internet by a good man named James Huggins. I'd bet that Google wouldn't appreciate this site very much because it would have a very difficult time figuring out theme. Yet it is by far one of most entertaining and informative sites on entire web (in my opinion, of course).
A major problem with idea of basing ranking of a site on it's popularity is that new or smaller sites tend to drop way down list, even though they are often much better than sites higher on list. It simply is not true that a site which has lots of incoming "quality" links is any better than those sites which do not have as many of them.
Websites are very personal creations, and they should reflect unique viewpoints, opinions and background of authors, artists and creative talent. There is no need to make every site on web look or feel same; There is certainly no need to force every site to fit a set of rules in order to be found by other people.
My advice is to create a web site in which you can be proud. Use all of tools and skills that you have, and use whatever techniques you enjoy. At same time, explore ALL of methods of site promotion, including search engines. But don't place too much weight on engines - they change constantly and they are very fickle. You might sell your soul to get a high ranking one day only to find out next morning that you are gone entirely.
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