Well I could spout technical mumbo-jumbo and confuse the heck out of you I can tell you the truth in simple English. Without Search Engine Optimization, there is NO way your website is going to get ranked.
The good news though is that just cause your competitors are getting ranked in top results, doesn't mean they are doing any better. Search Engine rankings are only worthwhile if your website shows up in top results for phrases that people are searching on. Let me repeat that. Search Engine rankings are only worthwhile IF your website shows up in top results for phrases/keywords that people are searching on. Otherwise you can get ranked but no one will be searching for that phrase so no one will come to your website. Capice?
But for search engine optimization to really work, content is important. Content is king and continues to remain so. If your site is not interesting enough or possess information about what customers are looking for then you are out of luck.
I see many sites with old content that is dated, "coming soon" signs, and empty pages. Business owners don't seem to realize the value of good, quality, frequently updated content.If your website content doesn't have those qualities, your website is doomed for failure. And if your content isn't updated often, why would visitors come back?
Remember, it's Web 2.0. No, it's not just a buzz word nor is it rocket science stuff. It simply means "interactivity". Interactive content in the form of informational updates, blogs, and press releases is good for the website's positioning and for educating the prospect or customer. Frequent updates are important too. "Coming soon" signs are bad, bad, bad! Get rid of that.
Invest in good, quality, effective content. It's high time you did. It doesn't arm and a leg but it makes or breaks the ability for your website to achieve top positioning in search engine results.