If you are like me, you are regularly receiving unsolicited email from various quarters, telling you about the latest and greatest SEO solutions on the planet. Just buy the book, or guide, or download the promotional whitepaper and this expert will offer you the latest "Secrets" to search engine success. Google it. At last count I saw millions of results! Well, it's not a very well-kept secret anyway.
One reason for the mysterious "secret" is simple: Google and other search engines do not publish their algorithms, and they are known to change without notification. Another reason, of course, that everyone is clamoring for the top spot, is because that's where the eyeballs track. Plus, if you monitor your placement closely, you'll find that it will change at least somewhat, even from one day to the next.
Of course, aside from your own blog, your ability to add in-bound links can be limited, but here are some principles you should stick to that will make a difference right off the bat:
Make sure your web site or blog uses CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) rather than "inline styles." In short, inline styles (boo, hiss!) clutter your content pages with information that should be tucked away in a style.css file. Google only cares about your content, not what fonts and colors you are using.
Use key words in your page titles, headings and links to other content in your site. We know that Google "weighs these" as part of the keyword density of your site. Of course this assumes that you have a handle on your keywords, and this certainly takes some thought and analysis. Likewise, you want to avoid so-called keyword stuffing, as Googlebot has been around the block a time or two and can sniff it out and penalize you. It's really a common sense thing, don't try and trick the Google!
Whenever possible, use keywords in your URLs. Sounds easy, right? It may not be if you are using an outdated CMS or blog system that builds links that are full of squiggles and look like www.blahblah.com?p=1234&abdc. If your web site is built and linked manually, then it is easy, just www.blahblah.com/my-important-keywords. The standard preference is to use a "-" hyphen between words rather than an underscore or a space.
You almost never want to only put keyword text as an image. It not only makes it a pain to update them in the future, but it is completely opaque to search engines. Seems like common sense? Maybe, but there are cases when particular graphics fall into the "I absolutely must have them or I will just die" category. In these cases, you should label it with an "alt" tag. The general idea is that alt tags function to describe the image and they can contain your keywords. Keep in mind, though, that alt tags aren't "weighed" in the same way as paragraph headings and other parts of your site.
Again, you don't need an SEO secrets BFF to help you with basic principles. Just use some common sense website optimization considerations, and some analysis and footwork to get a good understanding of your marketing keywords. There are some great self-help tools available at www.seochat.com.