Getting found in the Internet and ranking well in search engine result pages requires popularity for the most part. If your site is associated with or linked to by other domains the odds of success for your site is higher. Consider links as votes or referrals. The more the better. The better quality the better.
Signals of trust or authority are vital to allowing your content to surpass or out rank rival content or products. In addition the sheer quantity of links is also huge factor as well. The two together comprise of nearly half of the signals or ranking factors Google looks at. Diversity of where the websites link to be it, many other pages other than the root domain, as well as differing anchor text or link titles, which takes the link aspect total to over 50% of top SEO professionals consider the top three ranking signals.
Be advised each of these goals has specific nuances to consider.
So, now that you've got all your links set up (yeah right) then your content or usage of keywords begin to matter. Say what? That is generally the reason a website cannot truly be a superstar such as in sports. Very rarely is there a content phenomenon found online. Products yes, but those take time to spread. Even the largest of the Internet powers took years before the masses or an average Joe knew of them.
So, enter your keywords. They are used as your ticket to ride. If your information architecture IA is set up and your keywords are set up with some work done on matching the search query order of operations then and only then might your website start to take flight. This is confirmed by many other the web design techniques that are seen as not being search engine friendly. eCommerce websites that have a mastery or total control of their product databases can leverage those databases and convert them into keyword usage. Taxonomy, category structures, navigation, headers, internal link structures, content and link titles can all be used to push keywords into the search engines. This take some level of sophistication and mastery and for some is the most difficult part of on page or on site SEO.
If you have a lot of links, authoritative links, great keyword usage you may begin to rank high. Now you have to depend on users clicking on your website and you have to have higher than average or growing results and now that statistic becomes a ranking signal or factor! Wow, no wonder Google is making a killing on Google Adwords.
OK, continuing on now the amount of time folks spend on your website, bounce rates and such are recently becoming a large factor in ranking high. If your server is slow, users may bounce and thus lower these signals, so you had better get the best server environment, load balancing or what whatever is needed to have very fast page load speed. This does make sense sense since the Google release of Caffeine. Click back rate comparison related to your competition is a engagement metric that most assuredly only available to search engines themselves, scary huh?
Google has access to registrant information. Opinion is that they keep tabs on the variables associated with that they apply a ranking factor.