The guidelines are pretty tough for the beginner to understand, so I wrote an article that condenses them, leaves out the hard stuff, and adds some of what I've learned along the way.
Here's a link to "How to Create a Website Google Will Like."
Long story short:
- Be honest.
- Provide value to the user.
- Don't link to crap.
- Don't do dumb SEO tricks.
- Stick to one topic.
- Be organized.
- Don't write for the search engines.
- Make a great experience for the visitor.
Here are links to Google's own pages where they tell you what they're looking for when they decide how to rank a site: