The basics of SEO are:
Crawlability: proper HTML mark-up and syntax starting with the document head right down to the <div> structure. If search engine robots can't parse your code then it doesn't matter how relevant it is to the search query.
Authority: content that is popular tends to rank well, this is due to a high signal to noise ratio based on the qualitative metrics that Google's algorithm is taking into account - metrics like organic click-through rate from the SERP, adjusted bounce rate on the page, average time on site, etc.
Links: authority is built over time and through trust. One of Google's leading trust indicators is links back to your site or page from other trusted (authoritative) sources.
At the end of the day Google (and search engines in general) are looking to provide the best experience for their users, delivering the most relevant and useful results as fast as possible.
If your webpage is delivering value, solving a problem, or answering a question then you are off to a good start.
If I could boil SEO down to a simple step, it would be to write for people, and not search engines. If you are constantly worried about every Google update, it signals to me that the content is not high quality enough to do well in organic search
That is a great question. I've been doing SEO more than 6 years. There are two factors in SEO. On-Site SEO and Off-Site SEO. On-site SEO is a techniques that includes adjusting the layout of your website, adding code on pages, HTML scripts, inserting relevant keywords within the content of your website. These edits have a direct influence on how your website behaves in search engines. It is the foundation of your website’s SEO and it accounts for around 30% of your website. Off-site optimization techniques include mant tactics and of the the processes is "link building" or getting links back to your webpages from others. It refers to things that happen away from your website that can influence how your website behaves in search engines. It accounts for roughly 70% of your website’s SEO strategy. But with Google's update, more emphasis will be on high valuable content and social media signals. Here is a great resource for beginners http://moz.com/learn/seo If you have any more questions, just let me know
For Google (and other Search) Only Two things really matter:
This is based on more than 8 years experience and hundreds of successful SEO campaigns we have done at immeidaC.
1. Build a specific page of content for each keyword you want to be found on. Ensure that the title tag, URL, and text all have the keyword. Ensure the text is meaningful to people. One term - One page.
2. Get links to that page. Put it on your site map, put in on your blog, get you friends to link to it, link to it from twitter, put it in your press release etc. Ask your wife to link to it from her mommy blog, ask your husband to put it on his Google+ page. You get the idea. The anchor text of the links should be the keyword.