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To be successful with Google you do need to have a site that is fairly 'straight' - almost to the point of being conservative - in terms of its design features.
One single thing that will improve your chances with Google is having links to your site on other sites. If you have enough of these the Google crawler will find you quite quickly - there's no need to make a submission. If no other site links to yours the crawlers will have a hard time finding it. They may eventually get there, but it will take much longer.
Of prime importance is to get listed by DMOZ
click here, which is staffed by real people. A human being will look at your site and listing by them is crucial, because DMOZ supplies free databases to any search engine or directory that asks. They all do ask, and the DMOZ data is the hidden power behind much of the internet's searching results.