Its simple there is on-page optimisation, and off-page optimisation.
It is clear that search engine optimising a website today has to do with a great deal more than using Meta tags, or sprinkling a few keywords throughout your website. Though this is still a factor, there is a great deal more to it if you actually want to see results.
These two techniques just mentioned, though, are what is considered to be on-page optimisation techniques.
Today, on-page optimisation efforts alone will only achieve the desired results about 20 percent of the time. However, when it comes to keywords that are even mildly competitive, your odds of sucess deminish significently.
If search engines were to rely only on web page content alone as a factor to determine rankings it would be too easy to manipulate their results. Therefore they place a high emphasis on Inbound links from quality sites as they are more difficult to achieve and take time.
Getting inbound links from quality sites is therefore the main focus when it comes to search engine optimisation..