Let's talk about the ways that don't work over the long run. Back to the search engines for a sec. Their goal is quality content, but they evaluate that content using proxies - for example, using links as a proxy, using traffic as a proxy, and using social activity as a proxy. Of course that's all in addition to the evaluation of the content itself.
Manipulating the search engines
So the easiest way to manipulate search rankings in the short run is to manipulate things like links, traffic, and social activity. This is where the claims originate that you might read in emails or sales letters that sound like this: "Get #1 search ranking in 3 days guaranteed!" Of course, discounting the fact that some of those headlines are blatant lies or are at best misleading, some times it is possible to exploit the current algorithm to get temporary high search rankings by doing things like getting a certain kind of link (whatever is most valued by the search algorithm by default this month or day), driving a certain kind of traffic, or getting a certain level of social activity.
For example, perhaps the search engines choose to use links from a certain web domain as a proxy for the quality of the content. As soon as a savvy seo programmer discovers this, he begins to sell links from the certain web domain. A few days or months later, the search engines discover that is occurring and devalues the links from that domain, totally destroying the ranking value obtained from that tactic. This is just one example of thousands of different types of things people do to manipulate search rankings. And every time the search engines discover this, they change the formula.
Changing your SEO with the changing tides of the algorithms
The problem is, having to change your own method of marketing every month in order to get traffic is no way to build a solid business. Imagine building an offline business, perhaps a sandwich business, in an environment where each month you have to change the way you advertise. And because you don't know ahead of time which way will work each month, it is totally hit or miss whether you will get customers this month or not. So one month you have really good sales, hire lots of sandwich makers, and then next month sales drop off completely, you have to fire almost everyone, get behind on your rent and salaries and nearly go bankrupt, then the next month sales explode again, you don't have enough workers to make sandwiches and deliver them, people gripe and complain about your service, and so on and so on. You couldn't run an offline business like that, could you? But the truth of the matter is, many web companies that rely on manipulating search rankings to get their traffic, experience this each month. High sales when they guess which tactic will work this month, and horrible sales when they guess incorrectly.
But there is a better way - simply build your content out in such a way that the search engines will give you rankings based on solid, long term strategies that are in line with their stated goals and policies.
Build your own SEO naturally
Now, before I give you the strategy for how to do this, I want to make something really clear (and I alluded to this earlier): if you choose to do what I am going to teach you in a mechanical fashion, trying to find ways to automate all the steps, your actions themselves will appear to be manipulative to the search engines; the search engines will discover your manipulations, and will disable the algorithm in such a way that your efforts will be useless. It is critical that you keep in mind in everything that you do for your search engine marketing, that the search engines' goal is this: great content that naturally propagates online and gets natural levels of traffic and social involvement. If you do anything to inflate the natural propagation, traffic levels or social involvement, you will be creating a manipulative environment that when discovered by the search engines, will be disallowed.
And one more thought before I teach the system: it is easy to begin to feel that the search engine is your enemy, and that you have to fight a war with the search engine, and that deception is one of your weapons, and that the more savvy and deceptive you are, the more likely it is that you will win the war. I believe that attitude is pervasively destructive, and will result in your losing your war.
Instead, view the search engine as your friend, the friend that will promote you endlessly if you provide it what it wants. You see, the search engines are privately owned entities, which means that, in the confines of the law, their prerogative is to run their search engines the way they want to. And that includes excluding you from participating. Which is actually a good thing, because it means that if your competitors do things that are against the policies of the search engines, they will be excluded from participating in the traffic available from the search engines. I was personally elated when the search engines began to exclude millions and millions of my competitors' web pages and content pages from their search results due to the violation of their policies, because it meant that my own pages could rank higher because I was no longer competing with unscrupulous marketers who were manipulating the search rankings.