Welcome Descartes, to Webmaster World and thanks for posting.
I believe optimization is best built into the structure and form of the site. Get to know the search industry or partner up with someone who knows and is good and maximize the sites you create, to their fullest potential from the structure on through.
Know that content rules. Either wear all the hats and forget the rest of your life or partner up with folks who are very good at what they do such as copywriters. Content works itís way through a whole site. Itís the thread that holds it all together. We carry it out into advertising and promotion.
Know that navigation is more then moving from one page to the other and create paths that make sense more than as a pattern. Think about each link and ask yourself why itís needed. Put it through a little test and if it passes Ė then link.
Learn about themes, and niche and targeted traffic. These are important keys to structuring a successful site.
I suggest in your spare time you learn about Crosslinking, Interlinking and Reciprocal Linking [webmasterworld.com].
Read, research, test and remember there is no such thing as a bad question around here. You just have to know the right place to ask it. It that vein I hope you read this Welcome to Webmaster World [webmasterworld.com]. Nothing beats these forums for current and timely information. The level people take it to share is incredible.
Peace be with you and happy learning.