SEO is improving your website for users (people who want to read what you wrote on your site).
if its good for the user its good also for search engines. (thats what google recommends)
Go to moz.com and read the beginners guide. Go to google.com and read their beginners guide. SEO is kind of a simple or easy concept to understand but a very difficult practice to make happen. There is a right way and a wrong way to do Seo!
Follow the google guidelines and moz.com guidelines and you will succeed. It takes time! It takes honest, good content thy is of value to people in your target market and relevant to them and timely. You must be disciplined and persistent. Consistent effort over time wins at Seo. It's a marathon!
The easiest way to understand SEO is to optimize website by your own for specific keywords.
Doing SEO by your own I mean't to say learn the SEO basics, have a domain or blog to implement your SEO learning which you can get information from various trusted sources like Moz.com (http://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo), Google Beginners Guide, Forums (DigitalPoint, WarriorForum etc.).
Implement and analyze the results and your findings, have a record of every change to which have had done over your test website whether its a (On-page, Off-page, content optimization blah..blah) and go on....SEO needs practice and some logic understanding of how search engine algorithm works. Once you develop that, you'll rock with SEO :-)
PS: All these steps are just for basic SEO understanding for advanced SEO you need to really get a lot more exposure and experience optimizing websites!
You are Google, and you want to provide "the best results" to your users... finding out what a "best result" means for Google is the key. Having said this, you will find many things around ("Content is King", "Get Backlinks", "Meta Data", etc..) and the reason for that is that SEO is not (and will never be) a static thing, it will continue to evolve always since Google and other search engines are always trying to find the best way to identify what is a "best result". For instance, now being a website that is "Socially shared/liked" is much more relevant than other aspects. This is something after one of the latests updates from Google ("Penguin" update) in which they take a lot into consideration if what you have in your website is shared by users in the social media (under the concept that as more shared it is, it means it should be a good thing to rank higher in SERPs).
Your main focus should be on your prospects. You should bring them the value. Your site is the main communication tool here and it should provide explicit information on your business domain, educate your clientele.
And of course offsite SEO is really important: join relevant directories, participate on forums and blogs within your business field and thus get links and visitors to your website.
I would be glad to help you determine SEO strategy and plan.
First understand Google guidelines regarding website creation and optimization. Here is the link
This will be helpful in learning website SEO...
Try to think in these terms:
1) the search engine tries to deliver the best results to its users. It will tweak in the long term the way it works in the way to deliver that, and the best long term strategy for you site is to have the best answers to user's questions, and that it is recognized over the net as good source of information (links from relevant places pointing to your site).
2) search engines do have some limitations to understand your content, so you should make it friendly for them - use proper markup and semantics, dont use text on images as engines wont read it, avoid text in flash as engines might have trouble reading it too, the same about content generated by scripts...
While you could have a book on that, everything is extension of these rules...
I was going to say go here, http://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo but it seems everyone beat me to it. Good luck and if you have questions about SEO, I can help.
SEO is now over-sold, made over-complicated and used as a good excuse to sell services... Drop me your mail address and I will send you some real simple material to understand this... :)
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): (or - how to rank high in the search engines results so that people will find you and visit your website)
Two types: - On page and Off page
- On page SEO
Accounts for a smaller % of what will make you rank well in search engines. (How much is very dependent on how competitive your keywords, or search terms are). This refers only to what is done ON your website itself. It includes having the proper titles, subtitles, and content (words) on your pages for the search engines (ie Google, MSN, Yahoo and others) to find so they understand what your website is about. It includes less obvious things like proper labeling of photos and images, how you link within your website, having a site map, etc.
- Off page SEO
This is the larger % of what causes search engines to find your site and move it up in the ranks - so that people will find you. If you are not high up (often that means the first page, depending on who is up there with you) people are not likely to find you. You will porbably have several good keywords (KW) - words that people use to search for your products/services. You may rank high for one keyword but not another. There are a lot of reasons for this and what is done off page determines whether you can rank highly for one KW, sevearal or all your of KW - or none!
Off page SEO is what takes the most time. Both in doing it and then in taking time to move you up. Most of the time, this will be an ongoing process to keep you high up. In other words, ongoing marketing is needed, otherwise you will drop in the rankings. Search results fluctuate a lot, new competitors arrive, etc. (The exception is if you are one of only a few sites listed for a given search term, you will stay on the first page - esp. with good on page SEO).
Local Business Directory listings
This is separate from the above SEO. Your business is or should be listed in the various directories such as Google Places, Yahoo, Bing, Superpages, etc. These have become more important as a part of helping you rank well. While your company will often get picked up automatically, those listings are not optimized. There are things that need to be done to the listings to make them complete, add your important search terms, etc. This is an important, but separate piece of helping your website rank high in the search engines.
Suggest starting with these two articles. Then, create content that is the most useful and easiest to use for your audience.
The core is actually pretty simple. Think of it from Google's perspective. Google wants to send their visitors to high quality, relevant pages for whatever the search keyword is. What made Google revolutionary at the time was how they did this. They based search rank on the quality, quantity, and relevance of links your site receives. This still applies today.
Quality means how popular and trustworthy is the site/page linking to you. Hypothetically, if you could get Apple or Google to link to you on their home page, that would be very valuable. Obviously easier said than done, but it's an extreme example. And quality also means any site linking to you shouldn't be sene as spammy, hosting malware, or anything else negative (though this may be out of your control).
Relevance means the site linking to you should ideally be related to what you do. For example, if you have a site that sells computers, getting a link from another computer-selling site would be better than getting a link from an equally popular/trustworthy ballroom dancing site.
And quantity means you want to get as many quality/relevant links as you can. Keep in mind that getting a lot of low quality/irrelevant links may actually hurt you.
Once you've developed a solid link base, you'll want to generate frequent, quality content like Clive mentioned to help capitalize on it. Besides that, there are a bunch of other small nuances to keep in mind. However, the core remains the same. Get quality links and develop a quality site. If you're interested in learning more, I'd highly recommend Moz's Beginner's Guide to SEO: http://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo
I think if you have no real background or done some research into the subject the best bet is some books or resources to help you gain an overview of what SEO and SEM is all about.
As Clive stated - content is King and this is certainly not a set and forget subject but one that requires consistent long term commitment. Here is a book that may help you on the way:
"The New Rules of Marketing & PR" by David Meerman Scott
Understanding what you do and being able to grasp the larger picture of SEO/SEM will help you pick the right "tools" and services. This is a vast field so gaining an overview of the SEO playing field and where you are positioning yourself is Key.
There are also a ton of online resources:
Look for some of the better SEO related sites like http://searchenginewatch.com and http://moz.com/blog
Once you start getting into the material you will find new links and references.
If websites were people, SEO would be a mix of PR, networking and a life coach to build good character. The SEO promise is to make your website more popular by being easier to find.
However, I believe the most important element is building a website with good content that's fresh, useful, as well as archived and easy to navigate. Search engines (and people) like these kinds of websites.
Getting higher-profile websites to link to yours is secondary, but still important.
Paying to get click-throughs is the last resort. It's like paying someone to come and look at you for 5 seconds in the hope they fancy you. Almost creepy. It would be cheaper to paint your website address on your car - especially if you're running a business serving a local community.
The good news is, content is king and if you know your stuff, you should invest time in writting articles. Prove to the world you know what you're talking about. A sort of "build it and they will come" kind of approach.