Let me first start by stating what this is and my purpose for writing it. I know there are several guides on here already, but I feel that most of them don't quite fill in the gap and demystify SEO. I don't attempt to know everything, as only google does. However, this is information I have done my research on and has worked for me personally. When choosing your keyword, you might generally worry about its competition. To me the competition tells me not how impossible it will be to reach page one, but how much work I need to put in and how lazy I'm allowed to be. It's really simple how it works though, no matter what keyword you choose, and no matter the competition, you won't get anywhere if you don't put in the work. With that being said, choose your keyword, and regardless of what others say, this will be the most important initial step; choose a domain that contains your keyword. Want proof this works? I have a keyword with high competition and 368,000 monthly searches. My domain is barely a month old, has 80 backlinks, and is at the top of the second page of google. It is new and has a PR of 0, yet is ranked #12 for a high competition keyword with very little backlinks. This brings us to link building, which as everyone knows will make or break an SEO campaign. The basics are as follows, when figuring into the ranking of a site, its PR (Page Rank) is a determining factor. Every site that contains a link back to your site, counts as a vote. Your site gains a link back when it gains a hyperlink pointing to your site. Ex Code: <a href="http://www.mysite.com">Ancher Text (your keyword)</a> A site containing 100 backlinks will generally out rank a site containing 0 backlinks. However it is only a part of the equation. Other determining factors are, keyword in domain (mentioned above), PR of sites containing link back to your site, and the value of the link back. What I mean by the value of the link back is actually based on two conditions. Amount of other links on page Is link rel="nofollow" If say your backlink is amongst 100 other backlinks, the value of your backlink will be lower than if it were amongst 20 other backlinks. No one other than google knows exactly how big of a role this plays. But it should at the very least be taken into consideration. Now we get to the big one, rel="nofollow"; there is much debate over this event. Many will say a nofollow backlink is still worth something, many will say it has no value. Here is what google has to say about it: Taken directly from http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=96569 Code: [I]How does Google handle nofollowed links?[/I] In general, we don't follow them. This means that [B]Google does not transfer PageRank or anchor text across these links[/B]. Essentially, [B][U]using nofollow causes us to drop the target links from our overall graph of the web[/U][/B]. [...] [I]What are Google's policies and some specific examples of nofollow usage?[/I] Here are some cases in which you might want to consider using nofollow: Untrusted content: If you can't or don't want to vouch for the content of pages you link to from your site â€” for example, [B][U]untrusted user comments or guestbook entries â€” you should nofollow those links. This can discourage spammers from targeting your site, and will help keep your site from inadvertently passing PageRank to bad neighborhoods on the web[/U][/B]. In particular, comment spammers may decide not to target a specific content management system or blog service if they can see that untrusted links in that service are nofollowed. If you want to recognize and reward trustworthy contributors, you could decide to automatically or manually remove the nofollow attribute on links posted by members or users who have consistently made high-quality contributions over time. Paid links: A site's ranking in Google search results is partly based on analysis of those sites that link to it. In order to prevent paid links from influencing search results and negatively impacting users, we urge webmasters use nofollow on such links. Therefore one can assert from the above nofollow links are of very little value to google. However they do state that other search engines may handle nofollow links is â€˜slightly different ways'. So I do not make the claim that they are completely useless, however I would not expect a lot to come from them. More on the PR, as was stated above, a site with 100 backlinks will generally out rank a site with 0 back links, of course it all depends on the value of the backlinks. A backlink from a site with a PR of 0 will not compare to a backlink with a higher PR. So in summary, the first thing you want to do in order to rank well for a keyword, is put that keyword in your domain. Secondly, start building backlinks. Sites with a high PR, low amount of links on page, and gives you links that are not rel="nofollow" are your ideal choice. Don't worry so much about the sites not relating to your niche, rather choose sites that are high quality. Of course your welcome to go for quantity rather than quality. Terms: AnchorText - Keyword as name given to backlink. Backlink - A hyperlink linking back to your site PR - Page Rank (of current page, an h indicated, no pr found so use pr of domain) Rel="nofollow" - <a href="site.com" rel="nofollow">keyword</a> - Tells google site is untrusted, analyze accordingly I apologize if I have left anything out or have caused any confusion. Comments are welcome and questions will be answered. If anyone else has something to contribute, once verified it will be edited into this guide and of course credit given where credit is do.