SEO, or search engine optimisation for anyone that doesn't know what it stands for, is the process of giving the search engines the necessary information they require to allow them to rank your site for various keywords.
Search engines use complex algorithms that take into account more than 200 factors. Here I have listed some of the top ranking factors that they use:
Domain authority is basically the amount of quality and relevant backlinks you have pointing to your website. These can range from a listing on a local directory to people writing about you on their blog.
The more links you have the better provided they are from good domains and they are relevant. If you sell mens suits but have a backlink from an angling site then the search engines might find that a bit fishy!!
Also if you are listing your website on sites such as directories or relevant forums \ blogs etc make sure you are doing this from an advertising point of view. What I mean by that is use your domain name or company name. If you try to stuff keywords into the anchor text this will be seen as trying to cheat your way up the search engines rankings.
Backlinks pointing to your website from other sites are important but so are links on your own website. Making sure you have a good internal link structure is really important. This is important for search engines but it is also helpful for people who are navigating around your site. The easy it is for someone to find what they are looking for the better for you as people do get fed up quite quickly.
I am sure you will have heard the term "content is king" well with search engines this wasn't always the case. Search engines were initially built with a huge focus on giving backlinks high priority and you could get away with low quality content.
However that has all changed and now high quality content is absolutely necessary if you want to rank high on the search engines.
The more competitive a sector you are in the more content you will need.
Meta tags tell the search engines what each page is about. The meta tag title is a short description of each page whereas the meta description is a longer explanation of what you will find on the page. Search engines tend to ignore the meta keywords tag because people in the past would spam as many keywords in to it.
I find that images get forgotten about. Developers will put some really nice images on your website but then forget to either name the image appropriately or not bother adding an alt tag which tells the search engines and visually impaired people what the image is. You can see what the image is but they can't.
Ranking Factors for Local SEO
All the factors above are important if you want to rank a website for your local area however a few additional things that will help include adding your site on local directories, make sure you are using schema tags and make sure you keep your Google my business page up to date.
Focusing your efforts on just 1 or 2 of the ranking factors above is unlikely to get you high rankings on the search engines. The competition to be ranked on page 1 of the search engines is usually quite high so making sure you have as many ranking factors covered is crucial.