Everyone involved in creating a website should understand the basics of search engine optimization, including the designer. That being said, SEO is not some secret sauce you pour on your website that will make you rich. All it does is help people find you.
I like to work with organizations that are honest and truthful about what they offer. Turns out, that is the best start for good SEO. On the nascent internet of the turn of the century, you could game search engines by stuffing meta tags with repeating search terms. Those days are long gone, and search engines actually work very well now.
As with all marketing, the most important task is to identify your target audience. Who are you talking to? Write your content with a specific visitor in mind. You are better off with one hit from someone truly interested in your business than 100 hits from people who are not prospects. As you craft your message, use words that your target audience will be searching for. Don’t be boring! People are not looking for a string of keywords, they are looking for a connection. Show that you understand who they are.
Now, make sure that your page titles and your headings contain keywords that define the essence of your organization. Words in these places carry more weight with search engines, and are also seen by visitors before they read the paragraphs.
One of the best ways to raise your ranking is to have other reputable websites link to yours. This is also the hardest to accomplish. You must have relevant content and take the initiative to ask other websites to add a link to yours. It also helps to have links on your website to reputable outside sources.
Website structure with short, clean URLs and a sitemap are also helpful. For more details, this is a great article: http://blog.kissmetrics.com/seo-guide/