We get this one a lot. There is a lot of bad information floating around out there from people who call themselves "SEO experts," but you have to be very careful dealing with these people and the tactics they teach. They paint the picture that there is a secret, magic formula that can be applied to shoot your site up in search engine results. Anytime you see anything promising to get you on the first page of Google, for example, you can be sure that it's a rip off service, whether they realize it or not. A simple rule of thumb with dealing with "SEO experts" is if it sounds too simple, it most definitely is. Most of their techniques are outdated and entirely ineffective, and a lot of them will flat out get your site blacklisted by search engines. Google, for example, is a very intelligent search engine and simply does not fall for SEO tricks. It also takes action against sites when it sees that they're clearly trying to game it because of the high potential of them being spam sites. Additionally, most search engines, including Google, have not released the incredibly complex indexing and ranking algorithms. They're guarded like the recipe for Coke Cola, so anyone guaranteeing you placement is an immediate red flag.
All that to say this: there are correct ways to increase your search engine ranking by abiding by the principles search engines expect legitimate sites to go by, but they do take time. Trying to force the rank up is tricky business and if done improperly can cause problems rather than increasing your search engine result placement.
There are a few things that are widely known and confirmed by search engines like Google:
1) Sites shouldn't only be built so that visitors can easily and quickly digest the information, but also for search engine crawlers. The actual original meaning for the phrase "search engine optimization" referred to optimizing the structure of a site so that a search engine's crawler (a bot that jumps from site to site, link to link, collecting content and information about a site) can easily access and utilize the information on it. This process does impact how your site is placed in search engine results, but not directly. After optimizing your site for search engine crawlers, you can't convince a search engine to rank your site better by what you do on your site. Position in search engine results is not directly in the hands of a site owner because that opens a search engine up to the possibility of being manipulated by a site owner. This is a lesson search engine developers learned very early on.
2) Search engines typically place a Web site in their result sets according to that site's "reputation." Reputation is determined by factors outside of the direct control of a site owner. This allows search engines to provide users with more realistic and accurate results. Some of the factors that effect your reputation are inbound links. If you have a hundred sites linking to YOUR site, search engines can see that your site is probably somewhat reputable. That in itself isn't enough though. Sites are hijacked every day by malware and forced to link to spam sites in an attempt to fool search engines into giving those spam sites better reputation / result placement. People still do silly things like link exchanges that create inbound links, but don't necessarily demonstrate real popularity of a site.
Now, if you have a site for a specific subject and other sites of the same subject link to it, this impresses search engines. At this point, search engines can see that the inbound links are trustworthy demonstrations of a site's popularity / reputation because of their relevance. For example, if you have a site for your cookbook and all the content is about your cookbook, cooking, and recipes, and you have a hundred random sites linking to you, like gaming sites, retail sites, art sites, and so on, search engines won't put much stock in those inbound links. However, if you have cooking sites, recipe sites, and other cookbook sites linking to YOUR cookbook site, search engines can see that your site is considered a reputable authority on cooking and rank you well when people search for keywords related to cooking.
There are many other factors involved, but the most important is creating relevant, inbound links to your site. It's difficult to do, but fortunately difficult malicious folks to fake too. Fortunately, we build our sites to be optimized for search engine crawlers, so you're good to go as far as that goes. What you want to start doing at this point is create as many relevant, inbound links as possible. Inbound links in general will help, but it would be good to try to have at least 20% relevant links, 80% anything else (Links from Twitter, YouTube, forums, etc) Also, the hardest part is getting started. Building inbound links is a process that speeds up exponentially because as you create more inbound links, you're also bringing more human attention to your site, which in turn creates more inbound links as people start linking to you on their own.
There are other considerations like content strategies, targeting intended audiences, and on and on, but that's a basic top down explanation of how search engines place sites and how to appeal to their system legitimately.